Banbury United were floored by Evo-Stik Southern League basement boys Dunstable Town on a Boxing Day to forget.
Dunstable came from behind to win 2-1 in Tuesday’s premier division clash at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium. Jack Self gave United the lead but that was soon cancelled out by Kieran Ogden and Peter Kioso grabbed the second half winner.
Oxford United trainee Niall Clayton retained his place between the sticks, there was a recall for Matt Peake-Pijnen in a back four in which Charlie Hawtin partnered Luke Carnell in central defence with Jordy Ngathe making up the quartet. But midfield general George Nash was ruled out through illness so Self came into the starting line-up.
Having won at Dunstable at the start of the campaign, United had an excellent opportunity to complete the double over the Bedfordshire outfit who arrived at the foot of the premier division.
But the visitors began brightly with some neat build-up play without troubling Clayton and it was United who had the first chance with Conor McDonagh firing over from the edge of the box.
United broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when McDonagh released Tom Winters who skipped past Kioso before pulling the ball back for Self to convert from six yards.
But once again, United failed to hold on to their early advantage. United had a warning when Clayton punched away Andrew Osei-Bonsu’s low cross but the ball came back into the six-yard box where the young keeper saved with his feet from Arel Amu.
But United failed to fully recover their composure and Dunstable duly equalised in the 19th minute. Osei-Bonsu’s deep cross picked out the unmarked Ogden at the far post and the central defender planted a downward header past Clayton.
McDonagh twice went close to restoring his side’s advantage, seeing one effort deflected into the side-netting and then forcing keeper Nick Hayes into action after turning well in the box. Carnell’s header from a Winters’ corner was comfortably saved by Hayes while Winters shot wide from ten yards.
United continued on the front foot but too many promising moves broke down in the final third. And it was Dunstable who twice went close when a surging run from Osei-Bonsu ended with Ryan Young picking out Amu whose shot was blocked before the over-lapping Kioso fired over after joining in the attack.
Manager Mike Ford rang the changes at halftime, replacing Ngathe with Elliot Sandy for the restart, the former Brackley Town man partnering McDonagh with Johnson going back into central defence and Hawtin reverting his familiar right-back berth.
Sandy’s impact was almost immediate, releasing McDonagh who turned inside his marker before curling the ball just wide of the far post.
The changes initially gave United more impetus but Dunstable stuck to their task and began to enjoy more possession as the half progressed, growing in confidence against a home side lacking in it.
Ford had seen enough and threw on Leam Howards in place of Sam Humphreys. Six goals in midweek, one would have been enough for Howards and United a week later.
The best chance fell to Winters, McDonagh won possession, advanced and played the perfect pass into the path of the winger but his mis-hit shot lacked power and was deflected for a corner. Winters’ ensuing flag-kick found Carnell whose header just cleared the bar.
But Dunstable rocked the Puritans by taking a 62nd minute lead. Another quick break from the impressive Osei-Bonsu saw him find Young who saw his low drive parried by Clayton but Kioso tucked away the rebound from a tight angle.
Anxiety grew and United’s frustration was clear to see as McDonagh and Daniel Trif squared up after the United striker was fouled and a melee ensued involving every outfield player.
The hard-working McDonagh tried his hardest to get his side back on level terms. But Dunstable always looked a threat on the break with the pace in their side and Osei-Bonsu fired straight at Clayton following one such foray.
Peake-Pijnen’s volley tested Hayes before McDonagh was thwarted by the Dunstable keeper from a tight angle and from Winters’ ensuing corner Carnell again headed over. Johnson was pushed back up front in a desperate bid to salvage a point in the four minutes of added-time but it was too little too late.