Banbury United made it six straight wins to book their place in Monday’s draw for the next round of the Emirates FA Cup.
The Puritans produced a scintillating second half performance to beat Tiverton Town 4-2 in Saturday’s first qualifying round tie at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.
Trailing at the interval to Levi Landricombe’s opener, United turned the tie around in the second half. Goals from Jefferson Louis, on the score sheet now in all six games, a couple of crackers from Darren Pond and Ravi Shamsi, plus a late header from substitute Conor McDonagh saw United through in a thriller.
Both sides started brightly and carved out a couple of early openings. George Nash tested Martin Rice from distance and Jack Harding had to be alert to thwart Landricombe after he arrived in the box unattended.
United began to probe and Shamsi showed some trickery before firing wide from the edge of the box. Ricky Johnson failed to convert a far post header after Rice didn’t deal with a corner from Tom Winters who also shot straight at the keeper from the edge of the box.
But in between United had another let-off when Callum Hall’s long pass found Landricombe who beat the offside trap before shooting straight at Harding. Another corner from Winters almost provided the breakthrough when Luke Carnell’s header was blocked on the line.
But Tiverton broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark and it was that man Landricombe who made no mistake after being gifted a third opportunity. Rice’s goal-kick was completely missed by United’s central defensive pair and Landricombe took full advantage, drilling the ball into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
United went close to a swift reply when Winters crossed low and Louis saw his effort blocked. But, rocked by the setback, United found it difficult to get back into their early rhythm.
Tiverton threatened once more before the break but Jamie Nash’s header was comfortably dealt with by Harding.
Manager Mike Ford knew the size of the task his side faced to get back into the tie and threw on McDonagh at the start of the second half. United certainly got off on the front foot and Pond had a shot blocked.
United twice went close in quick succession. Pond found Louis who turned well in the six-yard box but Rice made a point-blank save and McDonagh could only put the rebound into the side-netting.
It was all United in the opening stages of the second half as Tiverton were asked some serious questions. Louis exchanged passes with Winters but his shot lacked the power to seriously test Rice.
But the experienced striker made no mistake in the 64th minute when he rose majestically to head home a pin-point cross from Charlie Hawtin.
Tiverton were wounded and United went for the kill. They sensed another goal and it arrived two minutes after the equaliser.
Tiverton failed to deal with another Hawtin cross, Winters laid the ball back for Pond who hammered it home through a crowd of players from the edge of the box.
United looked for the crucial third goal and they began to open up Tiverton with ease with Shamsi and Hawtin enjoying plenty of freedom on the right flank. Shamsi cut in from the right and fired straight at Rice but there was nothing the keeper could do about another Shamsi special in the 78th minute.
Picking the ball up, Shamsi side-stepped one defender and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net. It was Shamsi’s last and most memorable contribution as he was replaced by Jack Self.
Now it was all about protecting what they had but Tiverton reduced the arrears in the 81st minute when Landricombe latched on to another long pass and lobbed the ball over the advancing Harding.
Game back on? United were having none of it and restored their two-goal cushion five minutes later when substitute Sam Humphreys’ near post corner was headed home by McDonagh.
Landricome missed a glorious opportunity to complete his hat-trick in stoppage-time and put the tie back in the balance but he blazed over from six yards and that was that. The perfect start continues.