Johnson bags four goals as Puritans return with a bang

Ricky Johnson's penalty beats Larkhall keeper Kane Mannings
Ricky Johnson's penalty beats Larkhall keeper Kane Mannings

Ricky Johnson hit four goals as Banbury United thumped Larkhall Athletic 5-0 in Saturday’s Evo-Stik Southern League clash.

The Puritans had all three points wrapped up by the halfway point having raced into a 4-0 interval lead in Saturday’s Division One South & West clash at Spencer Stadium. Johnson moved on to 20 league goals with his fourth hat-trick of the campaign as United marked their first former players’ day in style.

Around 50 past players turned up and saw today’s crop comfortably see off a Larkhall outfit which reached the play-off final last season.

Despite the enforced break, United were soon into their stride and took just two minutes to get their noses in front when Mark Bell’s inswinging corner was helped into his own net by Neil Arndale.

Kane Mannings had to be alert to thwart Leam Howards after he raced clear but Bradley Norris fired over after Oliver Price headed down Josh Egan’s feee-kick. Norris also curled a low drive around the post as Larkhall recovered from the early setback.

Bell saw his low drive palmed away by Mannings and Howards was quickly on to the rebound, chipping the keeper from an acute angle with the ball landing on top of the bar. Moments late Zac McEachran threaded the ball through to Howards but Mannings saved at point-blank range.

United doubled their advantage from a 23rd minute penalty, McEachran cut in from the left and his low cross was handled by Jack Camm. Johnson sent Mannings the wrong way from the ensuing spot-kick before grabbing his second goal six minutes later, turning in the box to score from ten yards from Bell’s low cross.

Joe Raynes saw his 20 yard drive deflected over the bar as the visitors tried to find a way back into the contest. But Johnson completed his hat-trick in the 40th minute when he headed home a pin-point cross from Miles Welch-Hayes.

With the points in the bag, Ford threw on new signing Felipe Barcelos and Darius Browne for the restart. Barcelos was keen to show what he could do, exchanging passes with Howards before firing wide from just outside the box.

Barcelos then delivered a superb cross which Johnson helped on to Howards and his shot on the turn was blocked by Price with more than a hint of handball. Howards had another close range effort blocked and Johnson blazed over after another sustained attack which Larkhall somehow survived.

Browne teased and tormented the visitors and from another of his crosses Johnson headed straight at Mannings while Andy Gunn had what looked like a perfectly good header from a Barcelos free-kick ruled out for offside.

But Johnson finally got United on the score sheet again with four minutes left, getting on the end of a low cross from Barcelos to beat Mannings from six yards.