Johnson spot-on as Puritans extend winning run

Ricky Johnson grabbed the only goal for the Puritans at Didcot Town
Ricky Johnson grabbed the only goal for the Puritans at Didcot Town

Banbury United fans can start to pencil in the Evo-Stik Southern League play-off dates after Mike Ford’s side made certain of being involved in the end of season drama.

The Puritans picked up three more points in Saturday’s Division One South & West clash at Didcot Town. Ricky Johnson’s penalty was all that separated the two sides as Jack Harding kept a clean sheet for the third game running.

Johnson was again pressed into service as a central defender with illness ruling out Charlie Wise and skipper Andy Gunn still suspended.

There was a first league start for Jacob Blackstock who fitted in at full-back in place of Callum White while Duran Martin was on the bench after he returned from international duty with Antigua & Barbuda.

There were few opportunities for either side in the opening period. Mark Bell shot over from 25 yards before Mark Janes shot wide from the edge of the area. Felipe Barcelos set up George Nash on the edge of the area but he blasted well over.

On the half hour mark Didcot went close when a long throw from Andy Ballard was flicked on by Luke Carnell to Adam Learoyd but the former Puritans defender saw his effort superbly saved by Harding as he tipped the ball away at full stretch.

United’s best spell finally produced the breakthrough in the final minute of the half when Zac McEachran was brought down in the area and Johnson converted the ensuing spot-kick past former Puritans’ favourite Leigh Bedwell via the post.

After the restart Didcot went close when a corner saw Learoyd’s header at the far post go just over. Janes beat Harding from a narrow angle only to see the ball go just wide of the far post.

A long clearance from Harding saw Barcelos race clear but, with just Bedwell to beat, he knocked the ball past the keeper but the ball hit the post and came back into the keeper’s arms. United defended well in the latter stages and held on to book their place in the play-offs.