Stourbridge 2-0 Banbury United
Brave Puritans fall just short
Manager Mike Ford made one change to the side that beat Barwell 6-1 with George Nash coming into the team for Edmund Hottor. Lee Henderson was named on the bench after a period out through injury stretching back to November. Having had the best of a 0-0 draw against Stourbridge at home in December Banbury were looking to become the first side this season to beat the league leaders at home.
It was a tight competitive game from the start. A Ricky Johnson challenge in front of the Stourbridge bench saw tempers flare but referee Chalkley was not swayed by calls for a red and only booked the Banbury captain. Stourbridge had the first chance when Kaiman Anderson headed wide after being set up by Leon Broadhurst. 20 minutes in and a Luke Benbow shot from outside the box tested Manny Agboola.
However, Banbury came increasingly into the game with the running and trickery of Kaziboni, Shamsi and Awadh making life difficult for the home team. Four successive corners were won which created half chances but nothing clear cut. Awadh had claims for a penalty waved away after being put through by Kaziboni who also drew a good save out of home keeper Wren on 42 minutes when his shot was deflected.
No goals at the break but Stourbridge went ahead nine minutes into the second half. Banbury carelessly conceded a free kick on their right. Luke Benbow saw Agboola off his line and retreating and curled a shot in off the near post.
The visitors sought a quick reply with Shamsi drilling in a rising shot from the right-hand side of the box that Wren clutched at his near post and as play continued to open up Banbury went close again in the 61st minute, Shamsi sending over a fine cross from the left that was well cleared by Brown at the back post under pressure from Johnson.
Banbury had a great opportunity to get back on level terms with eight minutes remaining. Awadh released sub Steve Diggin through the inside-left channel. He advanced into the box with Wren narrowing the angle but slid his low shot inches wide of the far post to let off the home side.
In the latter stages Banbury looked to go more direct with Wise pushed forward alongside Johnson. In added time Diggin lofted a ball up but Johnson could only direct his header straight at Wren.
In the third minute of stoppage time Stourbridge made the game safe. With Banbury pushing men up for the equaliser, George Nash was caught in possession near the half-way line and was bundled off the ball by Greg Mills. With the visitors looking for the foul that wasn't given, Mills strode on into the box and sent a low angled shot across Agboola into the opposite corner of the net.
This was a case of what might have been for United, who played well for long periods without reward. The game turned on two incidents, Stourbridge's first goal and Diggin's missed chance. A draw would have been deserved.
Stourbridge: 1. Wren, 2. Westlake, 3. Brown, 4. Christophorou, 5. Pierpoint, 6. Forde (Sub Tonks 86'), 7. Anderson Sub Yafai 70'), 8. Broadhurst, 9. Benbow, 10. Thompson-Brown (Sub Birch 88'), 11. Mills.
Subs not used: Steele, Maher.
Banbury: 1. Emmanuel Agboola, 3. Matt Taylor, 4. George Nash, 5. Charlie Wise, 6. Ravi Shamsi, 9. Ricky Johnson, 12. Amer Awadh, 15. Eddie Odhiambo (Sub 8. Edmund Hottor, 73'), 16. Greg Kaziboni (Sub 10. Steve Diggin, 73'), 17. Harry Whitehead, 18. Giorgio Rasulo.
Subs not used: 14. Lee Henderson, 17. Ryan Macdonald, 20. Matt Timms.
Attendance – 701
Man of the Match as selected by Puritans Radio – Amer Awadh