Goals in each half from the returning Ricky Johnson and player of the moment Zac McEachran earned Banbury United all three Evo-Stik Southern League points against Yate Town.
The Puritans extended their impressive Division One South & West run in Saturday’s 2-0 success at Spencer Stadium to move up to fifth in the table.
United welcomed back three players from injury. Charlie Wise, Johnson and long-term absentee Mark Bell who started on the bench.
Howards missed an early chance when he fired wide from Callum White’s low cross. At the other end Darren Edwards headed wide at the far post from Jake Cox’s deep cross and Brett Trowbridge’s shot was deflected wide.
But any doubts over Johnson’s match fitness were dispelled in the 21st minute when he rose superbly to head home McEachran’s corner for his tenth league goal of the campaign.
Howards had another chance after being released by McEachran but Ben Reed narrowed the angle to save at his near post. In between, White had to alert to thwart Alex Fiddes after he gathered a wayward pass from Jack Harding and worked his way into the box.
The visitors probed for the remainder of the half without seriously threatening to get back on level terms and United always looked dangerous on the counter-attack. But United survived a double scare just before halftime, Edwards shot narrowly wide and from Harding’s ensuing short goal-kick Wise gave the ball away and was grateful to see his keeper bravely block Nathan Gore’s close range effort.
Duran Martin had the final chance of the half when he fired wide from 25 yards and shortly after the restart Johnson raced into the box to beat Reed but the assistant’s flag had already gone up.
Yate survived a goalmouth scramble following McEachran’s corner with Andy Gunn and White having close range efforts blocked.
With Jon Steedman replacing Darius Browne for the second half and Ollie Stanbridge moving back into midfield it looked as though manager Mike Ford was looking to consolidate and catch Yate on the break. And that appeared to be the case as United allowed Yate to have longer periods of possession in their own half, only closing down when the visitors ventured across the halfway line.
But Yate should have equalised midway through the half when substitute George Box raced down the right flank and pulled the ball back for Fiddes who fired wide from ten yards.
Bell made his reappearance from a long-term injury as United looked to catch Yate on the break in the closing stages as the visitors pushed forward.
Gunn missed a great chance when he blazed over from six yards after substitute Louis Joyce helped on a cross from White. But the impressive McEachran deservedly wrapped the points up in the 83rd minute when he took advantage of some hesitancy between Matt Villis and Jamie Laird to nick possession, advance and drill the ball low into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Substitute Kane Ingram tested Harding with a late free-kick but United created more chances. Bell went close when his goalbound shot was blocked after more good work from McEachran while Joyce fired wide in stoppage-time.