Lait hits late winner as the leaders edge it against the Puritans
Substitute Chris Lait struck the late winner as BetVictor Southern League leaders Tamworth edged the top-of-the-table clash at Banbury United.
Lait came off the bench to grab the only goal of Saturday's Premier Central clash at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium. It was tough on United who, for long periods, looked as though they might take all three points.
The returning Ravi Shamsi went straight into the starting line-up but former Puritan Greg Kaziboni had to be content with a place on the bench for the leaders.
Shamsi was soon involved, firing past the post from the edge of the box before releasing Morgan Roberts whose drive was deflected wide. Tamworth enjoyed more possession in a cagey opening but Kynan Isaac and Morgan Roberts had plenty of joy down the left flank. United created the best chance when the visitors failed to clear Giorgio Rasulo's corner and Jasbir Singh just about dealt with a volley from Claudio Dias.
The first half developed into an end-to-end affair with both sides quickly looking to turn defence into attack and United began to impose themselves on the contest. United created another decent chance when Charlie Hawtin could only head wide at the far post after Shamsi helped on a cross from Morgan Roberts.
Despite enjoying good spells of possession, Tamworth struggled to create decent openings. Tyrell Waite's fierce drive was blocked by Lee Henderson just before the break but that chance apart, keeper Jack Harding wasn't troubled. In stoppage-time Jack Westbrook picked out Shamsi who turned well in the box but he fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.
The game opened up after the restart. Ryan Beswick's free-kick flew over the bar but United twice went close in as many minutes. John Mills twisted and turned in the box before seeing his shot deflected wide and Rasulo cut in from the left and his fierce drive was blocked.
But Tamworth went closest to breaking the deadlock when Beswick's free-kick hit the post and Rhys Hoenes could only blaze wide from the rebound when he should have done better, albeit from a tight angle. A loose pass from Singh saw Morgan Roberts release Shamsi who cut into the box before firing wide of the near post.
United continued to create the better openings and Isaac picked out Mills who turned well before shooting straight at Singh. Tamworth's chances from open play were few and far between before another Beswick free-kick was comfortably gathered by Harding.
Kaziboni entered the fray and went close when Lait picked him out but the former Puritan's shot was blocked by Jack Westbrook. Both sides looked as through they didn't want to settle for a point and went for the winner.
Tamworth produced some late pressure and Harding kept out a header from substitute Aaron Forde before quickly recovering to thwart Jordan Gough from the rebound. But Tamworth won it in the 88th minute when United failed to fully deal with Kaziboni's cross and Lait struck the loose ball into the roof of the net from ten yards.
Connor Roberts was pushed up front in stoppage-time and almost grabbed a point when he shot over before being denied by Singh as he tried to get on the end of Hawtin's searching pass.