Banbury let it slip ahead of a trip to the leaders

At 1.15pm on Saturday, Banbury were sitting pretty in the South Premier League promotion race.

Banbury's Louis Harris battles for possession with Blackheath & Eltham's Ethan Faulds
Banbury's Louis Harris battles for possession with Blackheath & Eltham's Ethan Faulds

They were six points clear of third-placed Guildford with four games to play and leading by two goals against a Blackheath & Eltham side who they had trounced in the first half of the division two campaign. But it all looked very different by the middle of the afternoon.

The visitors made their long journey up from south London worthwhile, going home with all three points after a closely fought game that ended in a 3-2 defeat for Steve Brooker’s boys.

Banbury enjoyed a good first half, making use of a full playing squad of 16 for the first time but were never at their fluid best with over ambitious passes being intercepted. Eve so, George Brooker’s crashed pass into the D found a foot to gain a penalty corner, slotted home by Kieran Symons to give Banbury the lead.

Ten minutes later found centre back Josh Nunneley charged into the D only to be brought down with the award of another corner and Symons bagged his second goal.

But Blackheath were a team transformed in the second half and completely disrupted Banbury’s game. The league’s top scorer Chris Harden completing a hat-trick of open play goals in a disastrous 12-minute spell that the home side may come to rue at the end of the season.

With ten minutes left, Banbury replaced centre back Harry Camp with an extra forward and finally began to look more dangerous, winning a series of short corners and it was only stunning saves from the keeper that kept Symons at bay.

Banbury were awarded a penalty following a deliberate foul to thwart yet another attack but the normally reliable Nunneley fired wide.

Brooker said: “We’re extremely disappointed at having squandered our hard-earned six-point cushion. With Guildford winning and a visit to the leaders this week we have made our run towards promotion more difficult than it needs to be.

“We put in a below-par performance, allowing Blackheath back into a game that should have been out of sight by halftime. It’s still in our hands but we will have to do better if we are to deserve the promotion we’ve been fighting for.”