Howards at the double as Puritans take it to the final day

Banbury United's Joel Meade and Histon's Luis McCoy challenge at Spencer Stadium
Banbury United's Joel Meade and Histon's Luis McCoy challenge at Spencer Stadium

Banbury United’s fight for Evo-Stick Southern League survival will go to the final game of the season.

The Puritans beat Slough Town 3-0 in Tuesday’s rearranged premier division clash at Spencer Stadium where all three goals came in the second half. Leam Howards bagged a brace and Marvin Martin also got on the score sheet to earn the required three points and improve their goal difference.

United now trail Frome Town by three points and are just one goal worse off than their relegation rivals ahead of Saturday’s final fixtures. To stay up United must win at Chesham United and hope St Neots Town beat Frome.

Manager Paul Davis told his players before Tuesday’s game that this was the semi-final and Saturday was the final.

Slough made the better start and put United under some pressure early on mainly due to Guy Hollis’s long throw-ins. The visitors went close from a corner when Ed Smith’s header went straight into Leigh Bedwell’s arms.

United’s first chance fell to Kynan Isaac who shot straight at Luke Williams after good approach play from Jordan Green. But Isaac should have scored moments later when he was picked out by Shepherd Murombedzi but his attempted chip over Williams was comfortably saved by the keeper.

An open first half saw Adam Martin volley wide, Chris Henry shoot straight at Bedwell from the edge of the box and Smith also force the United keeper into action. Smith went close again just before the break when he fired wide from the edge of the box.

United made a better start to the second half and good move involving Jordan Green and Isaac ended with Murombedzi shooting straight at Williams. But it took a good block from Bedwell to thwart Danny Read after he exchanged passes with Adam Martin and broke into the box.

But United broke the deadlock in the 51st minute through Howards who raced on to Isaac’s searching pass and, despite being driven wide, he clipped the ball over Williams and into the far corner of the net.

Smith had a chance to equalise moments later but shot over under pressure from Tom Ryan. But United had their tails up and looked far more of a threat having taken the lead.

United doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when Slough failed to deal with Isaac’s corner and Martin pounced to hammer the ball into the roof of the net.

Smith fired straight at Bedwell as Slough looked to get back into the contest but Tom Fishwick went close when he headed across the face of goal from another Isaac delivery.

And Howards increased United’s lead in the 76th minute. Murombedzi’s corner caused problems for Williams who could only help the ball on to the bar and United’s top scorer pounced to score from close range.

The outstanding Isaac cut into the box and saw his low drive turned around the post by Williams as United continued to look for more goals. Three were enough and now it’s all down to the final game.