Carnell and Duku on mark to keep Puritans’ play-off hopes alive

Luke Carnell gave Banbury United the lead at Cinderford Town
Luke Carnell gave Banbury United the lead at Cinderford Town

Goals from Luke Carnell and substitute Manny Duku earned Banbury United a 2-1 success at Cinderford Town to keep their Evo-Stik Southern League play-off hopes alive.

But Merthyr Town hit two late goals to secure victory at St Neots and keeps the Welsh side firmly in the driving seat for that final premier division play-off spot.

Manager Mike Ford had to make do without George Nash, who was ill, but there was a place in the starting line-up for the returning Tom Winters with Eddie Odhiambo coming in to replace the injured Callum White.

Cinderford had the better of the opening exchanges, a snap-shot from Craig Norman saw Jack Harding tip the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner Shane Perry’s header again saw Harding come to United’s rescue with a fine finger-tip save.

But United made the breakthrough in the 15th minute when Conor McDonagh turned well on the edge of the box and Giles Cutlan tipped the ball around the post. The ensuing corner from Winters was cleared back to the winger and he returned the ball into the centre where Carnell headed home from 15 yards.

While Cinderford had their fair share of possession, United always looked dangerous going forward. A good run from McDonagh down the left led to Jack Self hitting the post from a narrow angle on the edge of the six yard box.

Just before the break Winters broke through on the left, taking the ball inside before stroking the ball just over as Cutlan came out to narrow the angle.

But straight after the restart Cinderford went close when Nick Harrhy hit the post. As the half developed the home side threatened the equaliser with United having to work hard to keep them out.

But United doubled their advantage in the 79th minute when a quick break saw Self put Duku away and he struck the ball over Cutlan from the edge of the area into the top corner of the net much to the delight of the large away contingent.

Five minutes later a neat move put Norman clear and he made no mistake striking the ball home from just inside the area into the bottom corner of the net. It was an anxious final few minutes but United held out to keep alive their hopes of that final play-off place.