Ford laments missed opportunities to stay in contention

Banbury United striker Conor McDonagh is pursued by Hitchin Town defender Dan Webb

Banbury United striker Conor McDonagh is pursued by Hitchin Town defender Dan Webb

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Banbury United boss Mike Ford was left to rue missed opportunities as his side lost ground on the play-offs.

The Puritans dropped two points in the 1-1 draw with Hitchin Town in Saturday’s Evo-Stik Southern League clash. United are now three points adrift of the final play-off place after failing to take advantage of Slough Town’s Good Friday defeat while Merthyr Town picked up maximum points.

We had opportunities to put the game to bed and that has been our failing in tight matches to get across the line

Puritans boss Mike Ford

Zac McEachran gave United the first half lead in the premier division clash but substitute Jonny McNamara equalised late in the second half.

Ford said: “That point for Hitchin was probably more important than it was for us. We had opportunities to put the game to bed and that has been our failing in tight matches to get across the line.

“It was very quiet at the start of the game and there seemed to be a lot of tension about the place. Hitchin clearly came here not to get beat and we took time to get into our game.

“We spoke about playing in their half of the pitch but we just ended up kicking it long. Then we started to play, got the goal and being 1-0 up I felt we did enough to win it.

“Hitchin’s goal was very fortuitous, the clearance fell into their striker’s path but he finished well. It was disappointing to concede in the manner we did because I felt we set up well defensively.”

And Ford explained his decision to put striker Ricky Johnson back in defence in the closing stages, adding: “I didn’t want to lose the game late on, if we had then we’d be out of contention for the play-offs. If you go a goal up against Hitchin and concede two in the last few minutes you’re dead and buried.

“Emotionally, it was important we didn’t lose the game and I wanted to make sure we didn’t. I’ve been a manager for a long time and it was the right thing to do.”