Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium
Monday 2nd January 2017
2017 got off to the worst possible start for Leamington as they were defeated with almost the last kick of the game at Banbury United. Neither side had really done enough to merit winning a typically cagey local derby, but substitute Mark Bell capitalised on a moments hesitation in the Brakes defence to stab home the injury time clincher in the first league meeting between the two sides for a little over 4 years.
Still missing the experience and influence of Jamie Hood and Darren Pond, Paul Holleran was able to bring Callum Gittings back into his starting eleven as Brakes looked to get back to winning ways following the disappointing Boxing Day draw against Stratford Town.
Neither side provided much forward momentum in the opening exchanges, though Richard Gregory’s shot was spilled by Puritans keeper Jack Harding, his team mate Luke Carnell slicing the ball behind for a corner.
The hosts forced a couple of corners, a hopeful ball being lifted back towards goal from the second one which Tony Breeden dealt with comfortably. Connor Gudger then fired in a cross from the left from which Jack Edwards directed a header towards goal which lacked the power to trouble Harding.
Banbury must have thought they were about to take the lead when a mis-hit shot from busy striker Martin Asiedu Ofosu found its way through to midfielder Callum White at the far post. He looked to have a decent chance to slide the ball past Breeden but Gudger slid in with a superb challenge to deny him.
The second half saw Leamington attempt to step up the pace in search of a winner, but too often passes were going astray and there were not enough attempts on the Banbury goal. Courtney Baker-Richardson came closest to scoring when he did well to hold off Marvin Martin on the right before cutting onto his left foot and crashing a low drive off the base of the post.
Asiedu Ofosu was causing problems for the Brakes defence with his pace, and almost engineered a chance for himself with a mazy run towards goal which was halted by a good challenge from James Mace.
Zac McEachran lashed a shot well over the bar for Banbury, while Andy Gunn blocked a goalbound effort from Leamington substitute Ryan Rowe. Richard Taundry curled a free kick into the arms of Harding after Ahmed Obeng had been brought down around 25 yards out, but just when the game looked like ending honours even Banbury worked their way in down the right, the ball was fizzed dangerously into the six yard box and Bell stabbed home at the second attempt to send the home fans into raptures, leaving the travelling Brakes support pondering what the new year would bring, with their lead now down to just two points at the top of the table. With a tough run of fixtures to come in January they need to regain that winning habit once more, and quickly.
Banbury United: Jack Harding, Jack Westbrook, Andy Gunn, George Nash, Luke Carnell, Callum White (14 Eddie Odhiambo, 66), Conor McDonagh (16 Darius Browne, 84), Martin Asiedu Ofosu (12 Mark Bell, 74), Zac McEachran, Marvin Martin.
Subs not used: 15 Sam Humphreys, 17 Jacob Blackstock.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda (15 Ben George, 80), Dan Preston, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson (12 Rob Thompson-Brown, 61), Callum Gittings, Richard Gregory (14 Ryan Rowe, 73), Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng.
Subs not used: 16 Tom James, 17 Nathan Olukanmi.
Referee: Mr Daniel Lamport
Assistant Referees: Mr Ioannis Christodoulou & Mr Ireneos Christodoulou
Brakes Man of the Match: Connor Gudger.