Heading in right direction if players can keep their focus

Banbury United's Leam Howards holds off North Leigh's Lewis White at Spencer Stadium
Banbury United's Leam Howards holds off North Leigh's Lewis White at Spencer Stadium
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Banbury United boss Mike Ford will be making sure his players keep their focus – and their heads – as they look to take another step towards promotion.

The Puritans cemented their Evo-Stik Southern League play-off place with a 3-1 victory over rivals North Leigh but Ford felt his players let the occasion get to them.

We’ve got to make sure we stick to playing the way we have all season

Puritans boss Mike Ford

United have two difficult trips coming up, Saturday’s fixture at Bishops Cleeve followed three days later by the rearranged game at Tiverton Town. And then comes the big clash with Winchester City at Spencer Stadium, not that Ford is looking that far ahead.

Ford said: “I don’t want the players to start looking too far ahead, there are two important games before the one with Winchester and all our focus should be on Bishops Cleeve. They made it very difficult for us at our place earlier in the season.”

Mark Bell will miss the game with Winchester when he begins a three-match suspension which will also rule him out against Bridgwater Town and Mangotsfield United following his red card against North Leigh.

Ford said: “We coped without Mark [Bell] earlier in the season when he was injured but obviously I’d rather have him available. The goal he scored against North Leigh illustrated what he can do and what he gives us.”

And Bell’s dismissal is something Ford wants to avoid happening again as it could cost valuable points on another occasion.

He said: “There is no hiding from the fact that we are one of the fancied teams in this division and opponents see us as a big scalp now. That could make it harder if we get dragged into doing things the opposition want us to.

“We’ve got to make sure we stick to playing the way we have done all season, that is what has got us to where we are now. Against North Leigh, I felt some of the players got too emotionally involved at times.

“We didn’t play out from the back as much as I like us to and we need to be calmer and more thoughtful in our play for future games.”