Top scorer Jefferson Louis was spot-on to earn Banbury United an Evo-Stik Southern League point in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Kettering Town.
Lindon Meikle gave third-placed Poppies the first half lead in the premier division fixture at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium but Louis equalised from a second half penalty.
As promised, manager Mike Ford rang the changes, giving Charlie Wise and Jordy Ngathe their first starts at the expense of Luke Carnell and Charlie Hawtin in defence. There were also changes in midfield with Jack Finch and Elliot Sandy returning so George Nash dropped to the bench along with Conor McDonagh.
United almost got off to the perfect start against Kettering with Sandy twice going close against his former club. Sandy’s 25 yarder was tipped over by Paul White before he glanced a header wide from a Tom Winters’ corner.
United maintained their bright start and a neat move involving Louis and Winters also ended with Sandy firing straight at White.
United went close again when a deep corner from Winters found Johnson whose header was clawed away by White and Louis headed the rebound towards goal but Liam Bateman cleared off the line.
Against the run of play, Kettering broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute when Ben Toseland’s deep free-kick caused confusion between Johnson and Jack Harding. Meikle was quickest to react and poked the ball over the line from barely a yard out.
The goal sparked Kettering’s best spell of the first half before United regrouped and made sure they stayed in the contest. But United survived another Toseland free-kick which got Harding in trouble in his six-yard box, Rhys Hoenes headed the ball goalwards and it was scrambled clear to Gary Mulligan whose effort was blocked.
Meikle should have doubled Kettering’s lead on the stroke of halftime when he cut inside at pace but chose to try and pass instead of shooting from a good position and the opportunity was gone.
United struggled to get going after the restart as Kettering kept a tight grip on proceedings and looked comfortable despite their slender advantage. Stifled all over the pitch, the Puritans badly needed something to change the course of the game, either from the 11 players on the pitch or those off it.
The second half deteriorated into a dour affair but United equalised in the 77th minute. Michael Richens impeded Darren Pond just inside the penalty box and Louis drove home the ensuing spot-kick.
Goals change games and that was the breakthrough United needed while Kettering must have been kicking themselves for allowing it to happen.
Stung into action, Kettering upped the tempo late on but United had their equaliser and were intent on making sure they sure clung on to their point. Substitute Rene Howe blazed over from a stoppage-time corner after Harding’s punch fell to him but United saw it out.