Jack Westbrook's second-half header gives Banbury United the bragging rights over Stratford Town
Stratford Town 0
Banbury United 1
Southern Premier Central
STRATFORD Town were left disappointed after falling to a 1-0 defeat against a resolute Banbury United side on Bank Holiday Monday, reports William Rogers.
A header from Puritans captain Jack Westbrook continued his team’s fine start to the season, as they cemented their position towards the top of Southern Premier Central.
Bards goalkeeper Liam O’Brien, who made several saves from the tricky Banbury attackers, was understandably disappointed after the match, but wanted to remain positive with their FA Cup campaign beginning this weekend away to Carlton Town.
“We have had two clean sheets, two wins and it’s disappointing to give away a goal from a set-piece,” he said. “We were unlucky. On another day we could have scored three or four.”
Banbury’s vociferous travelling support stood behind O’Brien’s goal for the full 90 minutes, with the home keeper enjoying the rivalry and playing in front of so many people.
“It’s all part and parcel and I was having a little dig back at them,” he added.
Over 700 fans flocked to the Arden Garages Stadium to witness the local derby between two teams who had started the new season in fine form.
Stratford made one change coming into this game from their 4-0 victory against St Ives Town, with midfielder Enoch Andoh coming in for Ahmed Obeng, who had picked up some minor niggles throughout the week.
In calm, overcast conditions, the match began with Stratford forcing the early pressure on their visitors, yet both teams had spells in possession, even if few chances were created.
The first major chance came for the home side in the seventh minute when Ashley Sammons, one of Stratford’s best players on the day, hitting the base of the post from the edge of the box.
Both teams attacked well down their respective left sides, with tricky wide men Will Dawes for Stratford and Benjamin Acquaye for Banbury causing their opposite men problems all afternoon.
Dawes’ work rate and tracking back received widespread applause from the crowd, with Andoh finding it difficult to match his counterpart down the right.
As the first half continued, Banbury grew into the game, with chances for Chris Wreh and Kelvin Langmead, who was dangerous all afternoon from set-pieces, as well as a loud penalty shout leaving referee Andrew Ellis unmoved.
The new initiatives to let the game flow were clearly implemented by referee Ellis, yet there were certain occasions in which he tried to play advantages, depriving both sides of great opportunities from set-pieces.
As the first half drew to a close, Stratford looked to be the brighter side, with chances for Jack Self, Jaanai Gordon and Jordan Williams, but they still couldn’t force a major save out of Banbury goalkeeper Jack Harding.
Banbury came out firing for the second half, which proved to be a feisty affair for both sides, with yellow cards throughout.
Acquaye continued to torment the Stratford backline, winning several free-kicks and firing a shot over the bar from a long throw in.
Just after the hour mark, Westbrook rose well to meet a Giorgio Rasulo corner and fire his side into the lead, with their solid defence making a comeback seem unlikely.
Samuel Brown and Thomas Sharpe, the two Banbury centre backs, dominated the isolated Gordon, not allowing the Stratford striker to improve on his goal tally for this season.
The game continued in a similar pattern following the goal, with Henry Landers, the Puritans top goal scorer this season, being denied by O’Brien when through one-on-one.
The final part of the game became a scrappy affair, with several bookings for Banbury for fouls and time wasting.
Stratford began to get forward as they pushed for an equaliser, yet the ball continued to not drop in their favour in the Banbury penalty box.
After an exciting and feisty affair, the match petered out in injury time, with the Banbury fans throwing a flair onto the pitch, much to the uproar of the locals.
Despite this, the small travelling section made for a great atmosphere to a match between two teams who will be vying for promotion in the spring.
STRATFORD: O’Brien, Turner, Hopkins, Fry, Magunda, Williams, Andoh (Grocott 53), Self (Obeng 59), Gordon, Sammons, Dawes (James 82). Unused subs: Howards, Vann
BANBURY: Harding, Roberts, Brown, Sharpe, Langmead, Westbrook, Landers, Rasulo, Wreh, Babos, Acquaye. Unused subs: Rowley, Taylor, Pattison, Reilly, Johnston