Meade is spot-on as the Puritans win the Oxon Senior Cup

Joel Meade and the Banbury United squad celebrate their Oxon Senior Cup victory NNL-150805-001736002
Joel Meade and the Banbury United squad celebrate their Oxon Senior Cup victory NNL-150805-001736002

Banbury United lifted the Oxon Senior Cup for a sixth time with a penalty shoot-out victory over North Leigh in Thursday’s Oxon Senior Cup final.

The two sides finished all square at 4-4 after normal time. No goals followed and the game went to extra-time with Joel Meade scoring the vital spot-kick for Paul Davis’s side.

United trailed 2-0 at the Kassam Stadium before getting back on level terms before the break. Leam Howards put them in front in the second half with his 22nd goal of the season only for Callum McNish to strike twice late but Tom Ryan’s last minute equaliser sent the game into extra-time.

Both sides had a couple of early chances. Kieran Sanders should have done better when he shot wide from a good position while Jacob Daffern missed the target after he got on the end of Hitcham Abdellah’s low cross.

North Leigh broke the deadlock in the eighth minute when former Puritan Michael Hopkins crossed from the left and top scorer Jamie Cook headed past Leigh Bedwell for his 23rd goal of the season.

United responded well from going behind with Kynan Isaac cutting inside before firing straight at Matt Bulman from the edge of the box while Jack Westbrook headed over at the far post from Meade’s deep cross.

But Sanders doubled his side’s advantage in the 21st minute after Shepherd Murombedzi lost possession in the North Leigh half. Mark Gee’s side broke quickly, Elliot Osbourne-Ricketts found Stuart Hole on the right, Cook did well to hold up his low cross and laid the ball back for Sanders to beat Bedwell from ten yards.

Two goals down before the midway point, things looked bleak for the Puritans. But United found a way back into the game in the 25th minute when Isaac was fouled in the box by Andy Caton as he tried to get on the end of Abdellah’s low cross and Jacob Walcott scored from the ensuing penalty.

Ten minutes later United were back on level terms, Isaac’s cross fell to Jack Westbrook who hit a glorious dipping volley past Bulman from 25 yards. Goals change games and from looking right out of the contest, United had their tails up and finished the half on top.

But it took a perfectly timed last-gasp tackle from Meade to thwart Hopkins after he cut into the box. Meade had to get it spot-on or it would have been a penalty and a red card for the central defender.

Cook had a penalty appeal waved away on the stroke of halftime when he was challenged by Bedwell and from the ensuing corner the ball was cleared to Osbourne-Ricketts who fired wide from the edge of the box.

North Leigh got back on the front foot after the restart and Cook fired over but it took a smart save from Bulman to keep out Isaac’s free-kick from 20 yards. It was anyone’s game in an open second half with the tie finely balanced and both defences in generous mood.

The second half was crying out for a goal and it arrived from a predictable source on the hour mark. Howards latched on to a clever reveres pass from substitute Carl Tappin to beat Bulman with a first time shot from a tight angle.

United went close to increasing their advantage when Isaac’s neat back-heel put Walcott away and his low cross found Abdellah in the six yard box but his close range effort was deflected for a corner by Caton.

That intervention proved crucial when North Leigh equalised in the 74th minute, United failed to clear Hopkins’ low cross and the ball fell kindly for McNish to fire home. And McNish restored North Leigh’s advantage in the 82nd minute when he curled a superb 25 yard shot around Bedwell and into the far corner of the net.

It was a goal worthy of winning any game but United were not finished, Ryan was pushed up front as an extra striker and he headed home Abdellah’s cross in the final minute of normal time.

Bedwell was equal to Hole’s free-kick in the first period but, with both sides tiring, there were few chances. Isaac continued to look the most likely to conjure up a winner for the Puritans in the second period but it took a superb save from the back-pedalling Bedwell to tip over a deft 30 yard chip from Sanders.

And so to the penalty shoot-out.

Bedwell saved from Hole but Bulman denied Walcott. Cook, Isaac, Osbourne-Ricketts and Westbrook all scored. Bulman slammed the fourth spot-kick high into the roof of the net.

Tappin sent Bulman the wrong way before Bedwell denied Morgan Williams and Meade won it for United.