Town edged out in pulsating New Years day derby clash
The Blues defeated by the Puritans in 5 goal thriller at the MoodChimp Stadium
Match Report by Kevin Hand Photos by Granty
Game sponsored by: Jeremy McGinn&Co Local Independent Estate Agents
* Oh, it is excellent
There was a lively atmosphere and a sense of anticipation at the Mood Chimp for this opening fixture of the calendar year 2018. And the crowd was not to be disappointed with this absorbing and pulsating encounter. The Blues was the form team at ‘Citadel MoodChimp’ but the Puritans, despite an unlikely home loss to Dunstable on Boxing Day, had outstanding away form.
Town was without Summerfield (injured) and Thomas (suspended) so the pack was reshuffled again. Staying with a flat back four Evans came in at left wing back and Bako in midfield. Town captain, Jimmy Fry, chose to kick off towards the Knights Lane End meaning Banbury keeper, Jack Harding, had to deal with a low, fitful January sun. The pitch was playing well and was attribute to the club and volunteers.
There was a bright start by the Town boys as the outstanding Stephens found space on both sides of the pitch. As early as 3 minutes he cut in from the left but his shot was blocked by Puritans’ defender, White. On 7 minutes Fry fed the lively Eli Bako whose cross was diverted for a corner.
At the other end the dangerous Ricky Johnson, Puritans’ captain, had a goal bound shot blocked by Francis. Almost immediately (on 18 minutes) Town was ahead as Bako passed to Marsden. Marsden’s shot was blocked but it fell invitingly to Stephens whose sublime volley left Harding clutching thin air. Almost immediately Stephens broke down the right but his cross just eluded the onrushing Taylor.
Banbury gradually worked themselves into the game with Tom Winters keeping Jimmy Fry up to his mettle and Connor McDonagh on the right severely testing Charlie Evans. On 25 minutes it was Winters who crossed to Johnson whose powerful header was pushed aside by Connor. Seven minutes later and the scores were level. Following Banbury pressure the ball to Winters just outside the area and his right footed volley was emphatic.
Town might have been ahead again on 37 minutes as Stephens raced down the right who then delivered an inch perfect cross. It fell to Grocott near the penalty spot but his side footed strike sailed harmlessly wide as he lost his footing at the vital moment. It was end-to-end stuff leading up to the break. Stephens found Taylor cutting into the box from the left and when he was brought down the home crowd were looking for a penalty and a red card. But the assistant referee adjudged that Taylor had strayed off side to the relief of the Banbury fans. Half time Bovrils left both sets of fans with much to discuss.
The second half proved no less entertaining with both teams impressing going forward. On 51 minutes Jordy Ngathe found Winters on the left and his cross was headed in by the ever-dangerous Johnson. Town responded and Stephens had his own header from a corner cleared off the line. Despite Banbury pressure Town was level just after the hour. Grocott was fouled on the right half way into the Puritans’ half. Grocott swept his cross deep into the box and Taylor pounced and drove home from no more than 6 yards.
Conor McDonagh nearly restored Banbury’s lead but Recci blocked and at the other end Ahenkorah found Taylor close in and in a central position only for the ‘big man’ to completely miss his kick.
It seemed as though the game might be over for Town on 81 minutes when a long ball fell to Leam Howards inside the penalty area. It looked like a routine clearance for the usually reiable Recci but he allowed the ball to squirm away and Howards gleefully restored Banbury’s lead.
Off the pitch there was some unseemly and unpleasant chanting at both ends of the ground. At one point referee, Robert Hathaway (related to The Bard on his mother’s side?) had to ask for stewards to stand behind Louis Connor’s goal after an object appeared to be thrown. We await referee’s report with interest. This was in stark contrast to the excellent football on the pitch and the good and gentlemanly conduct of both sets of players.
The last minutes of the game were to prove as entertaining as the previous 90. In additional time Taylor fired against the Banbury upright and from the rebound Charlie Evans was foiled by the Banbury keeper. From the resulting corner Louis Connor sprinted forward for one last concerted effort but for Town this was a day of great heroics but, ultimately, a valiant loss.
Man of the Match: Ben Stephens
* Oh, it is excellent Act 2 Scene 2 Measure for Measure