Howards hits late equaliser to earn Puritans a worthy point

Leam Howards came off the bench to earn Banbury United a late point against Slough Town
Leam Howards came off the bench to earn Banbury United a late point against Slough Town

Leam Howards came off the bench to earn Banbury United a point against high-flying Slough Town in the Evo-Stik Southern League.

The Puritans twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Slough in Tuesday’s premier division clash at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.

James Dobson gave Slough the early lead but Elliot Sandy cancelled that out with his first goal for the club. Jack Harding kept United in it in the first half before Chris Flood put the Rebels back in front in the second half only for Howards to grab the late equaliser.

Ravi Shamsi returned to the starting line-up following his three-match suspension but Darren Pond and Tom Winters were ruled out while Jefferson Louis only made the bench.

Second-placed Slough started brightly and took a seventh minute lead before United could settle into the contest.

Dobson raced into the box after exchanging passes with Flood on the left. Dobson’s first effort was superbly saved by Jack Harding but he was quickest to react and buried the ball at the second attempt from six yards.

United responded well to going behind and began to get on the ball. But Harding came to his side’s rescue twice in quick succession as the movement of Slough’s front men caused United problems with their quick inter-passing around the edge of the box.

Harding was quickly out to save at the feet of Warren Harris after he played a neat one-two with Dobson. The same combination threatened again, this time it was Harris releasing Dobson who was thwarted by another good save from Harding at his near post.

Flood fired over from another Slough attack as they threatened a second goal. But United equalised in the 25th minute when Jack Finch released Sandy who coolly took the ball around Jack Turner and slipped it into an empty net.

Boosted by the equaliser, United rediscovered their confidence and began to compete on equal terms. Goals change games and United finally began to ask questions of Slough.

A quick break, instigated by McDonagh, ended with Charlie Hawtin delivering a superb cross but Shamsi failed to get enough contact on the ball and his glancing header went wide.

United went close after the restart when Turner came and failed to claim Self’s free-kick under pressure from Luke Carnell but the keeper recovered in time to save Sandy’s shot. At the other end Lee Togwell fired just wide of Harding’s far post from the edge of the box.

The second half was a more open affair with both teams looking to get their noses in front and United had the best opening. Shamsi kept the ball in play in the corner, skipped past George Wells and ghosted by Mark Nisbet but failed to seriously test Turner from a good position.

Slough struggled to create openings as easy as they did in the first half but United almost created one for them. Carnell miscued Dobson’s low cross towards his own net but quickly recovered to block the follow-up from Harris and United cleared the danger.

That signalled the start of Slough’s best spell in the second period and they regained the lead in 77th minute. A patient build-up ended with Wells curling in a superb cross for Flood to glance his header past Harding and into the far corner of the net.

Manager Mike Ford threw on Howards and he almost scored within seconds of entering the fray, racing clear to get on the end of Self’s searching pas before firing over from 15 yards.

Howards certainly offered something different for Slough to deal with - pace - and they had to sit deeper to cope with it. The only time they didn’t they were punished when the young striker put United back on level terms for the second time in the 86th minute.

Nathan Smart’s back pass was seized upon by Howards who skipped past the advancing Turner before slipping the ball into an empty net.

United saw out the five minutes stoppage-time to earn a well deserved point but it felt more like a victory.