Howards bags a brace as Puritans stay in contention

Leam Howards lets fly during Banbury United's 4-0 victory over Histon NNL-150418-190047002
Leam Howards lets fly during Banbury United's 4-0 victory over Histon NNL-150418-190047002

Banbury United beat Histon 4-0 in Saturday’s Evo-Stik Southern League clash at Spencer Stadium to keep alive their slim hopes of staying up.

Two goals from top scorer Leam Howards, taking him on to 18 for the campaign, Kynan Isaac and substitute Carl Tappin earned the Puritans all three premier division points.

United simply had to win the game and hope Frome Town lost at Slough Town. But Frome drew 1-1 and now Paul Davis’s side can only get above them on goal difference, even if they win their two remaining games. The first of those two games is Tuesday’s rearranged one against Slough at Spencer Stadium where the Puritans must win and try to reduce their four-goal deficit on Frome.

Davis selected what was effectively a front five and, knowing the urgency of the situation, his players were quickly out of the blocks and began to make early inroads.

Isaac had an early chance when he was picked out by the returning Jordan Green but shot straight at Enol Ordonez and then fired over after good build-up play from Green and Leam Howards.

But the Puritans broke the deadlock in the 19th minute with Green again the provider, releasing Isaac who got the better of Danny Rumens and Evan Key before lofting the ball over Ordonez.

Hicham Abdellah went close when he cut in from the left and forced Ordonez to tip over his fierce strike as United looked for the crucial second goal. Geoff Mitchell had Histon’s first chance when he turned well in the six-yard box but saw his close range effort blocked by Jack Westbrook.

Isaac went close again on the stroke of halftime when his snap shot had Ordonez struggling to palm the ball around the upright. But Tom Ryan should have doubled United’s advantage shortly after the restart when Isaac’s corner fell kindly for him only for the central defender to fire over when it looked easier to score.

That miss could have proved costly but Howards grabbed United’s second goal in the 59th minute. Isacc’s corner wasn’t cleared and Joel Meade’s shot was turned over the line by Howards despite the efforts of Ashley White to keep the ball out.

Histon briefly threatened, Leigh Bedwell saved with his feet from Ayrton Bevins who then shot wide at the near post from Mitchell’s low cross. Eugene Libertucci’s effort was deflected past the upright and from the ensuing corner Bevins headed wide at the far post.

But Howards put the result beyond doubt in the 83rd minute when he cheekily back-heeled the ball over the line after a shot from substitute Jacob Walcott fell to him in the six-yard box.

White was dismissed in the 85th minute after picking up a second caution and Tappin hit the fourth goal two minutes later, firing home the rebound after Ryan’s shot was blocked. Mitchell blazed over in stoppage-time with the goal at his mercy and Bedwell’s clean sheet could yet prove so crucial in a week’s time but only if United can beat Slough on Tuesday.