Evans denies Puritans all three points with stoppage-time strike

Top scorer Ravi Shamsi gave Banbury United the lead against Redditch United
Top scorer Ravi Shamsi gave Banbury United the lead against Redditch United

Banbury United ended a run of three straight Evo-Stik League South defeats but had to settle for a point against Redditch United.

The Puritans drew 1-1 with Redditch in Tuesday’s premier division central clash at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium. Top scorer Ravi Shamsi gave United the first half lead with his 14th goal of the season but Robert Evans struck a superb equaliser in stoppage-time.

And the point came at a cost with Charlie Hawtin and Northampton Town loanee Sean Whaler picking up injuries.

Hawtin was forced off by a late challenge from Michael McGrath late in the first half and Whaler was stretchered shortly after coming on in the second half and was taken to hospital by ambulance with a suspected broken ankle.

Manager Mike Ford gave a debut to Joe Iaciofano while Matt Taylor returned and former Puritan Leam Howards started on the bench for Redditch.

The first chance fell to United when Giorgio Rasulo exchanged passes with Taylor before firing over from the edge of the box. With Rasulo prompting from midfield, United enjoyed plenty of possession but both sides struggled to create openings.

Redditch showed some neat build-up play in the final third but failed to seriously threaten United’s rearguard. An uneventful first half came to life in the 27th minute when Shamsi seized on a loose pass and drilled a low drive past Adam Whitehouse and into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards.

Boosted by the breakthrough, United looked more confident and Harry Whitehead’s goal-bound header from Rasulo’s deep corner was blocked while Ricky Johnson and Iaciofano both failed to get on the end of a dangerous low cross from Amer Awadh. Iaciofano turned well on the edge of the box before seeing his effort deflected wide as United finished the half well on top.

McGrath was fortunate to escape with just a caution for a late challenge on Hawtin which left the full-back on the sidelines up to the interval, meaning it was United who were reduced to ten men for the remainder of the half when it should have been Redditch.

Hawtin failed to appear for the second half and had to be replaced by Eddie Odhiambo. Evans headed wide from Robbie Bunn’s corner as Redditch looked to take advantage of United’s enforced change.

Redditch went on to enjoy plenty of possession while United found it difficult to pick up their game after the restart. Jack Storer released Richard Batchelor who pulled the ball back for McGrath who blazed over.

Good approach play from the industrious Iaciofano released Johnson who couldn’t quite take advantage as Evans got back to nick the ball on the edge of the box.

But United suffered another injury blow when Whaler had to be stretchered off after racing into the box and shooting straight at Whitehouse. It looked as though Whaler’s ankle had given way as he was about to shoot.

In the closing stages Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham’s overhead kick was comfortably saved by Jack Harding. But Redditch equalised two minutes into stoppage-time from a well-worked corner when Bunn picked out Evans on the edge of the box and his superbly struck volley flew past Harding.