Stoppage-time goals from Ravi Shamsi and substitute Steve Diggin gave Banbury United the perfect start to 2019.
The Puritans bounced back from successive Evo-Stik League South defeats over the festive period to beat Alvechurch 3-1 on New Year’s Day at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.
Greg Kaziboni’s ninth goal of the season gave United the first half lead in Tuesday’s premier division central clash but Mitch Botfield equalised before the break. Dave Bellis was sent off after the restart but Alvechurch looked to have held out for a point until Shamsi and Diggin scored in stoppage-time to deservedly earn all three points.
As expected, manager Mike Ford made several changes to the starting line-up with Harry Whitehead coming into central defence. That meant Ricky Johnson went up front in place of Diggin, while Edmund Hottor started in place of George Nash and Mark Bell replaced Amer Awadh.
A mistake from Zack Foster allowed Johnson an early opportunity but his first time volley was deflected wide and Shamsi worked an opening but shot straight at Dan Crane. In between, Alvechurch had a couple of chances, Manny Agboola had to be alert to thwart Josh March after he broke into the box before saving from Lee Chilton.
And it was Chilton who went close to breaking the deadlock when he cut in from the right flank and hit a screamer from 25 yards which crashed against the bar. But United broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Johnson nicked the ball off Ash Carter and released Kaziboni who side-stepped Foster on the edge of the box before drilling a low angled shot into the far corner of the net from 15 yards.
Agboola came to United’s rescue after Charlie Wise gave the ball away in a dangerous area. Agboola saved well from Bellis despite seeing the ball late through a crowd of players before quickly thwarting March from the rebound.
But Alvechurch equalised in the 38th minute when United failed to deal with Chilton’s inswinging corner and following a scramble in the six-yard box Botfield managed to poke the ball over the line from barely a yard out.
United twice went close in quick succession after the restart. Kaziboni seized on a loose pass and Crane failed to gather his shot but Johnson was unable to turn in the rebound. Shamsi’s shot was parried by Crane but Giorgio Rasulo slipped at the crucial moment as he looked set to net from the rebound.
United had a let-off when Chilton’s corner was met by Kyle Morrison whose header was only parried by Agboola, Botfield looked set to score from the rebound but Shamsi cleared his close range effort off the line.
Alvechurch were reduced to ten men on the hour mark when Bellis got a straight red card for a high challenge on Kaziboni.
United improved as the half progressed, pinning Alvechurch back for long periods with the man advantage and went close several times during a good spell.
Whitehead had a shot charged down before Rasulo released Awadh who saw his shot deflected wide. From Shamsi’s ensuing corner Crane saved from Johnson and following a scramble, the Alvechurch keeper superbly tipped over Rasulo’s shot.
Alvechurch were hanging on for a point and took as long as they could to disrupt United’s play. Kaziboni cut inside but could only fire over and Shamsi should have done better after being picked out in the box by the influential Rasulo.
But United won it two minutes into stoppage-time when Shamsi’s corner was only partially cleared to Rasulo. His shot was tipped away by Crane but only back to Shamsi who fired the ball past the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Scorer then became provider when Matt Taylor released Shamsi who raced down the left and his cross was headed home by Diggin.