Banbury United 3-1 Alvechurch
United leave it late to claim the points
Banbury bounced back from their defeat at Halesowen with a much improved performance against a resolute Alvechurch. However it took two injury time goals to earn all three points and ensure 2019 started so well.
Manager Mike Ford made a number of changes to Saturday's starting line-up with Ricky Johnson back up front, Harry Whitehead in at centre-back and Mark Bell and Edmund Hottor in midfield. George Nash, Amer Awadh and Steve Diggin were on the bench.
Alvechurch had the better of the opening minutes and came closest to scoring when Lee Chilton cut in from the left and hit a powerful shot from outside of the box which came back off the angle of bar and post.
Banbury struggled at first to get any fluency in their play but took the lead on 20 minutes. Coming out of defence, Ashley Carter was dispossessed by Ricky Johnson's great sliding tackle and the ball broke kindly for Greg Kaziboni. He advanced into the penalty box and his right-footed shot went across keeper Crane into the net.
Alvechurch responded well and Manny Agboola had to act quickly, hacking the ball clear whilst still prone after he had saved an initial shot. However, the visitors earned a deserved equaliser on 38 minutes when Banbury failed to deal with a corner and Mitch Botfield was able to poke the ball home from virtually on the goal line. The teams went into the break at 1-1.
Banbury started the second half in more positive fashion. Kaziboni was allowed time to run and shoot and Crane could only parry his effort to Johnson but he couldn't get a clean connection on it. Moments later, Alvechurch gave Ravi Shamsi possession and his shot was saved by Crane. It fell nicely to Giorgio Rasulo near the penalty spot but his shot was also blocked.
At the other end, Kyle Morrison's near-post header from a corner was saved by Agboola. Botfield had a second chance from the rebound which the Banbury keeper did well to smother at close range.
Alvechurch were reduced to 10 men on 61 minutes when referee Cooke adjudged Dave Bellis's challenge on Kaziboni to be worthy of a straight red.
Banbury were denied by Crane on three occasions in one play following a corner – first saving well from a Johnson header, then again as the ball ping ponged about the six yard box and finally tipping over Rasulo's follow up shot.
Alvechurch frustrated Banbury's attempts to find a winner until injury time. A Shamsi corner from the right was headed out to Rasulo, Crane again saved but the ball fell to Shamsi and he fired a shot across the keeper into the far corner to give Banbury the lead. There was still time for Banbury to claim a third with Matt Taylor releasing Shamsi down the left. His first-time, volleyed cross was headed home from close range by a stooping Steve Diggin to send the Puritans' fans home happy.
Banbury: 1. Emmanuel Agboola, 3. Matt Taylor, 5. Charlie Wise, 6. Ravi Shamsi, 8. Edmund Hottor (Sub 4. George Nash, 62'), 9. Ricky Johnson, 11. Mark Bell (Sub 13. Amer Awadh, 60'), 15. Eddie Odhiambo (Sub 10. Steve Diggin, 84'), 16. Greg Kaziboni, 17. Harry Whitehead, 18. Giorgio Rasulo.
Subs not used: 2. Darius Browne, 19. Ryan Macdonald
Alvechurch: 1. Daniel Crane, 2. Joshua Ezewele, 3. Zack Foster, 4. Rahis Nabi, 5. Kyle Morrison, 6. Ashley Carter, 7. Dave Bellis, 8. Mitch Botfield, 9. Aaron Lloyd (Sub 12. Paul Evans, 66'), 10. Josh March (Sub 14. Andre Carvalho-Landell, 74'), 11. Lee Chilton.
Subs not used: 13. Thomas Turton, 15. Kieran Cook
Attendance – 462
Man of the Match as selected by Match Sponsors Castle Cars – Ravi Shamsi
Photo: Steve Diggin scores Banbury's third.