FA Trophy: Ciardini’s extra-time winner knocks Puritans out

Jefferson Louis knocks the ball past Farnborough keeper Aiden Upward to score Banbury United's opener
Jefferson Louis knocks the ball past Farnborough keeper Aiden Upward to score Banbury United's opener

Nic Ciardini’s extra-time winner knocked Banbury United out of the Buildbase FA Trophy.

The Puritans lost 3-2 against Farnborough in Saturday’s delayed second qualifying round replay at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.

Jefferson Louis gave United the first half lead but skipper Josh Huggins equalised before the break. Perry Coles put Farnborough ahead from the spot but Louis sent the tie into extra-time from a late penalty only for Ciardini to win it.

Any Farnborough victory was always going to be contentious given what had gone on the previous week. And the sight of Huggins sitting down in front of the Town End ‘driving a car’ at the final whistle hardly helped matters and was not worthy of a club captain.

That produced the anticipated reaction from some home supporters. But then again, it was the FA’s decision which gave Farnborough an advantage which they made full use of at the second attempt.

Jack Finch was injured and replaced by Jack Westbrook, Elliot Sandy was cup-tied so Darren Pond came in while Tom Winters took Ravi Shamsi’s place and Louis returned up front with Jack Self dropping to the bench.

Louis had the ball in the net after being set-up by Conor McDonagh but the experienced striker had moved into an offside position. Louis almost made amends when he cleverly let a cross-field pass from Winters drift across his body before unleashing a low drive from the edge of the box which just went past the post.

But United broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when the same combination linked up again with Louis making it third time lucky this time. Winters delivered a pin-point cross for Louis to chest down and slip the ball past Aiden Upward from six yards.

United went close to doubling their advantage when McDonagh’s cross was mis-punched by Upward and George Nash fired the loose ball goalwards only for Jake Evans to block it.

Jack Harding picked up from where he left in midweek with another fine save, this time denying Ciardini with an outstretched leg after a low cross from Coles evaded the United rearguard.

But Farnborough got back on level terms in the 36th minute with a somewhat fortunate goal. A quick break ended with Connor Calcutt releasing the over-lapping Huggins and his miscued cross looped over the stranded Harding.

United upped the tempo after the restart but were rocked in the 59th minute when Farnborough took the lead. Coles skipped into the box after exchanging passes with Jack Barton and was tripped by George Nash.

Coles picked himself up to send Harding the wrong way from the ensuing spot-kick and leave the Puritans with it all to do. That was the sign for manager Mike Ford to throw on midweek hero Leam Howards, sacrificing a midfielder in the shape of Pond for an extra attacker.

McDonagh exchanged passes with Charlie Hawtin before seeing his low drive saved by Upward as United pressed for a quick reply. But it took another excellent stop by Harding to keep United in the tie, saving from the prolific Jamie Cureton and Ciardini fired the rebound well wide.

Howards turned Huggins on the left flank but saw his angled drive blocked before winning the Puritans a 74th minute penalty when he turned well in the box and his cross was handled by Barton. Louis sent Upward the wrong way from the spot-kick and it was game back on.

Ford sensed a winner and sent on Shamsi to try and provide it but Farnborough also fancied their chances and Keith Emmerson fired over from 25 yards. Shamsi flashed a shot wide from the edge of the box following a neat build-up and Cureton curled a shot wide at the other end as both teams tried to win it in normal time.

Louis nearly did just that but his curling effort was palmed away by Upward. Cureton missed a great chance in stoppage-time when he scraped the bar with the goal at his mercy after Harding had thwarted Coles in the six-yard box.

Ciardini put Farnborough back in front eight minutes into the first period, side-footing home an excellent cross from Barton at the far post. Shamsi whistled another effort wide from the edge of the box but Cureton had two chances in quick succession to finish it off, his first effort was blocked in the six-yard box before he fired over from the rebound.

And in the final minute of the first period, Barton released Cureton but, with only Harding to beat, he lifted the ball over the bar from ten yards.

Coles got a straight red card for kicking out at Tom Bradbury. United piled on the pressure, Louis had a close range pile-driver bravely blocked by Emmerson from point-blank range and Farnborough held out.