Banbury United’s Emirates FA Cup run is over for another season.
The Puritans lost 3-2 against Shildon in Saturday’s third qualifying round tie at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.
Adam Burnicle bagged a brace for the Northern League outfit who came from behind to knock the Puritans out in a thrilling cup tie. In front of a crowd of 700, the County Durham side overcame the task of facing a side two tiers above them to book their place in Monday’s draw.
It had looked so good for United after Tom Winters gave them the first half lead but they could not hold on to their advantage long enough to make it count. Burnicle struck twice either side of player-manager Dan Moore’s superb header before substitute Ricky Johnson gave United renewed hope late on.
Manager Mike Ford reverted to a 4-4-2 with a twin spearhead of Jefferson Louis and Conor McDonagh while Tom Bradbury partnered his captain Luke Carnell in central defence.
Straight from kick-off Winters’ intended cross caught out keeper Nick Liversedge who was relieved to see the ball land on top of his net. United kept on the foot front, not allowing the visitors to settle, but Moore created an opening before firing well over from the edge of the box.
United went close when a flowing move ended with Winters crossing low for Louis who was thwarted by Dom Curl just as he looked to certain to convert from six yards.
Shildon quickly broke and Lewis Dodds released Burnicle who cut inside and his low drive was touched on to the post by Jack Harding. That signalled the start of Shildon’s best spell in the opening half.
But United still had the better chances. Winters’ corner found Carnell whose header was cleared off the line by Billy Gruelich-Smith and the ball fell to George Nash on the edge of the box but he could only volley over.
United broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when McDonagh released Louis who managed to shake off Groves and get in his cross. Liversedge could only help the ball on and McDonagh laid it back to Winters who hammered a shot into the far corner of the net from 15 yards.
But the lead lasted only three minutes. United had one scare before they failed to clear the danger and when the ball came back into the box Burnicle took one touch before turning and firing a low drive past Harding from 15 yards.
United had a great chance to reclaim the advantage just before the break when Winters beat James Harwood and crossed to Louis whose first touch let him down as he was about to pull the trigger from ten yards.
Shildon, driven on by Dodds who was having more of an influence in midfield, also had a couple of chances themselves. Gruelich-Smith cut inside but his shot lacked the power to trouble Harding and on the stroke of halftime Sam Hodgson released Burnicle whose lob evaded the United keeper but bounced wide of the post.
United twice went close straight after the restart. Louis got into the box but shot into the side-netting and Carnell’s downward header from another Winters’ corner took a wicked deflection but Liversedge managed to tip the ball over the bar.
With their tails up, United went close again when Louis headed straight at Liversedge from an excellent position.
But it was Shildon who went in front in the 56th minute with a cracking goal. United cleared the initial danger but Dodds provided an inviting cross for Moore whose flying header flew over Harding and into the far corner of the net.
Louis headed a free-kick from Winters straight into the arms of Liversedge as United looked for a quick response. But Shildon increased their advantage in the 66th minute when Gruelich-Smith’s cross found Burnicle who turned and fired another low drive past Harding from 15 yards.
Ford made a double substitution in a bid to salvage the tie, throwing on club captain Johnson up front in place of McDonagh and Jack Self in place of Matt Peake-Pijnen. But United had a let-off when Burnicle capitalised on Carnell’s hesitancy but Harding was quickly out to smother the danger.
Winters missed a great chance to reduce the arrears when he somehow failed to get on the end of a Louis cross at the far post when it looked as though he must score. Winters then saw his 20 yard shot take a deflection in a crowded box and beat Liversedge but Dan Groves cleared the ball off the line.
United pulled a goal back in the 81st minute when Winters’ deep cross found Johnson and his header crept over the line despite Curl’s last-ditch effort to keep it out.
United piled on the pressure in the closing stages and from another Winters’ corner, Carnell’s header was cleared off the line by Marc Ellison. The ball was put back into the box by Winters and only partially cleared as far as Bradbury who could only fire over the bar.
United kept pumping the ball into the box in desperation and in stoppage-time Johnson’s header went wide of the target and that was the final chance as the whistle went and Shildon’s players and fans celebrated a famous victory.