Fleet’s last-gasp winner sinks Puritans in thrilling final

Ricky Johnson beats Oxford City keeper Craig King to give Banbury United the lead. Photo: Steve Daniels NNL-190430-204707002Ricky Johnson beats Oxford City keeper Craig King to give Banbury United the lead. Photo: Steve Daniels NNL-190430-204707002
Ricky Johnson beats Oxford City keeper Craig King to give Banbury United the lead. Photo: Steve Daniels NNL-190430-204707002
Banbury United’s season ended in heartache as they lost 4-3 to Oxford City in the OFA Senior Cup final at Court Place Farm.

Ricky Johnson gave United the early lead, which turned out to be his last action of the game, former Puritan Zac McEachran equalised after the restart only for Amer Awadh and substitute Greg Kaziboni to put Mike Ford’s side 3-1 up. Jack Self’s shot was turned into his own net by Eddie Odhiambo, Kabongo Tshimanga equalised from the penalty spot and Reece Fleet won it at the death.

Mark Jones’ side had plenty of possession in a cagey opening before United took an eighth minute lead and it was all of City’s own making. Self’s short back pass was intercepted by Johnson who got to the ball before Craig King and beat the keeper with a low first time shot into the bottom corner of the net.

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But the United skipper was injured in the process following his collision with King and was unable to continue, having to be replaced by Kaziboni.

City went close when McEachran released Tshimanga who burst into the box but fired wide of the far post with Jack Harding closing down the angle.

City had a lot of possession but United’s pace troubled them. Awadh won possession on the halfway line and went on a typical mazy run but his rising shot was comfortably saved by King while Kaziboni raced past Joe Oastler but his chip went well wide.

Tshimanga missed another good opportunity when Lee Henderson’s misplaced header fell kindly for him but his shot on the turn went wide of the upright. A neat move involving McEachran and Fleet ended with Kyran Wiltshire’s shot being blocked by Whitehead.

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City twice went close in quick succession. Josh Ashby’s corner saw Oastler’s far post header punched away by Harding but United failed to fully deal with it and the City captain fired over from 20 yards.

United grew in confidence as the half progressed and continued to pose a threat on the break while maintaining a good shape throughout the team. United enjoyed more of the ball towards the interval and began to frustrate City who needed a bit more to get back on level terms.

Both sides had a chance before the break. Tshimanga was denied by Harding from close range after the ball was deflected into his path following a quick break before George Nash won the ball and put Kaziboni away, he turned inside his marker but his chip cleared King and the bar.

But City drew level a minute after the restart when McEachran found space in the box before giving Harding the slip and rolling the ball into an empty net.

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Despite the early setback, United stayed in the contest and went close to restoring their advantage when Giorgio Rasulo’s close range shot was saved by King after Harry Whitehead’s long throw-in caused problems in the six-yard box.

But they went back in front in the 55th minute when Matt Richards and George Nash combined on the edge of the box to set up Awadh whose deflected effort wrong-footed King and ended up in the back of the net.

The game opened up as City searched for another equaliser while United looked to make the most of their threat on the break. Another quick inter-passing build-up from City ended with McEachran’s shot being pushed away by Harding.

At the other end Rasulo’s free-kick found Edmund Hottor in the six-yard box but he couldn’t keep his shot down under pressure from Ryan Case.

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Ashby’s corner was only cleared as far as McEachran on the edge of the box and his first time volley was saved on the line by Harding.

But United increased their lead in the 67th minute when Kaziboni latched on to Rasulo’s header and, spotting King off his line, chipped the stranded keeper from 25 yards. But City reduced the arrears two minutes later when Bobson Bawling got into the box and his low cross found Self whose toe-poke was diverted by Odhiambo into the far corner of the net past the helpless Harding.

City upped the tempo in the closing stages and their pace began to stretch United as they looked to open them up. Awadh’s strong running had City on the retreat but his 20 yard shot flew over the bar.

Bawling exchanged passes with Fleet but Harding palmed away his near post effort before the pressure finally told in the 83rd minute when Richards fouled Ashby in the box and Tshimanga converted the ensuing spot-kick.

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City had their tails up and Thsimanga burst into the box but his fierce drive was deflected over by Henderson. Harding came to United’s rescue when he saved from the dangerous Bawling after he exchanged passes with Tshimanga.

But City won it in the 89th minute when United failed to fully clear from a deep free-kick from Eddie Jones and the ball fell to Fleet on the edge of the box who picked his spot to beat the diving Harding.

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