FA Trophy: Gray denies Puritans late on to force a replay

Giorgio Rasulo gave Banbury United the lead at Swindon Supermarine
Giorgio Rasulo gave Banbury United the lead at Swindon Supermarine

Banbury United face a replay in the Buildbase FA Trophy following Saturday’s 1-1 first qualifying round draw at Swindon Supermarine.

Giorgio Rasulo gave the Puritans the first half lead at the Webbswood Stadium but Brad Gray hit a scorcher late in the second half.

Manager Mike Ford opted for Jack Self in midfield in place of George Nash. Lee Henderson returned from injury in central defence, so captain Ricky Johnson started up front with John Mills and Rasulo dropped back into a wide midfield berth.

Both sides had early chances, Luke Williams fired over and it took a reflex save from experienced keeper Kevin Sawyer to keep out Rasulo’s fierce angled drive.

Marine had the best chances as the half developed with Gray instigating most of them down the right flank. Dan Williamson’s low cross found skipper Stuart Fleetwood who fired just wide from 15 yards and Manny Agboola turned a low drive from Luke Williams around the post.

The ensuing corner was only partially cleared and Ryan Campbell hit a fierce half-volley from 30 yards which almost caught out Agboola who did well to keep it out.

United gradually got into the tie as the half progressed but found it difficult to create decent openings and it was Marine who still posed the greater threat.

Former Puritan Conor McDonagh burst into the box but was thwarted by Charlie Wise before Agboola was quickly off his line to save at Fleetwood’s feet following a quick counter-attack.

United had a couple of chances with halftime approaching as Greg Kaziboni began to cause problems with his pace. Self shot over from 25 yards and Babz Jarra misread a long ball which fell to Mills but he fired well over from a promising position and Sawyer saw Johnson’s header late from a corner but was still able to save at his near post.

Just before the break a swift break saw Rasulo sweep the ball cross-field to Kaziboni, his deep cross found Mills who set up Johnson but his close range effort was blocked.

United broke the deadlock in the 44th minute when Mills ran across the box, he was held up but the ball ran free to Rasulo who curled a beauty into the top corner of the net from 15 yards.

After the restart, Mills shot wide from 25 yards and Johnson’s first touch let him down after being picked out in the box by Rasulo. In between, McDonagh headed wide at the far post from Gray’s deep cross.

Substitute Joe Selman began to have an influence on the right flank and Marine’s best move of the second half saw McDonagh and Fleetwood combine to set up Gray whose rasping drive just cleared the bar. McDonagh went close moments later when he cut into the box but his low drive flew past the far post.

That signalled the start of a good spell for Marine and McDonagh’s deep cross was met on the volley by Gray but it went straight at Agboola. United were on the back foot for most of the second period but looked solid in defence.

Self almost doubled United’s lead when his deft chip nearly caught out Sawyer who just managed to tip the ball over. From Rasulo’s ensuing corner Johnson headed wide at the far post.

But the equaliser Marine had been threatening arrived in the 85th minute when Williams found Gray who hit a 25-yard rocket which flew past Agboola and into the top corner of the net.

Both sides had chances to win it late on. Mills failed to convert Kaziboni’s low cross at the near post in the final minute of normal time and Gray fired straight at Agboola in stoppage-time.