Brooker knows the next two games will be crucial

Steve Brooker is not giving up on Banbury making a late bid for promotion.
Banbury's Jonny Stirrup retains possession against Winchester. Photo: Steve ProuseBanbury's Jonny Stirrup retains possession against Winchester. Photo: Steve Prouse
Banbury's Jonny Stirrup retains possession against Winchester. Photo: Steve Prouse

Banbury nearly threw away a three-goal lead but ground out a 3-2 victory against Winchester to keep their National League hopes alive as they move up to fifth, just outside the promotion places in division one.

With five games to go including against closest promotion rivals London Edwardians, it remains possible if Banbury re-establish their winning run with visits to Henley and third place Bromley & Beckenham in the next two weeks.

Banbury started confidently against Winchester despite missing influential Louis Harris for two games and their pressure told when Simon Boardman was tripped as he broke into the visitors’ circle and Josh Nunneley was able to grab with the lead from the penalty spot. Banbury continued to press and create chances but relied upon another great performance from keeper Scott Reynolds, including another stunning save off his face mask, and went into the break having failed to make the best of their chances which should have gained a three-goal cushion.

Banbury made a far better start to the second half bringing a great save from visiting keeper Dave Sawes just after the restart to deny the initial drag-flick and again from Steve O’Connor on the follow up. But the defence fouled, conceding another penalty which was calmly put away by Nunneley.

Moments later a piercing midfield cross pitch pass was picked up by O’Connor and Tyson Nunneley with the cross deflected home by Jonny Stirrup.

But Banbury failed to press home the advantage and conceded a goal to Ben Hibberd at a penalty corner and the within a minute Kieran Molloy finished a move down the right. With Banbury struggling and suffering a series of player suspensions to the sin-bin it became a matter of hanging on as centre back Harry Camp again gave a huge performance to help maintain the slender lead and claim the points.

Brooker said: “We have performed below our best but come away with the points and keep the promotion bid alive for the two upcoming crucial away fixtures. We need to rediscover our form of previous weeks and we can still see the prize that would be a great boost for club to claim its highest league position ever. We know what we need to do – keep winning.”