McDonagh puts Puritans on the way to three welcome points

Conor McDonagh gave Banbury United the lead at Merthyr Town
Conor McDonagh gave Banbury United the lead at Merthyr Town

Conor McDonagh grabbed his second goal in successive games as Banbury United claimed their first Evo-Stik Southern League victory in eight outings.

The Puritans won 3-1 at Merthyr Town in Tuesday’s premier division clash, their first success at Penydarren Park for 34 years. First half goals from McDonagh and Luke Carnell put United in control before substitute Ryan Prosser reduced the arrears late on only for Leam Howards to come off the bench and seal the three points.

With Jefferson Louis unavailable, Ricky Johnson played up front, Tom Bradbury moved to centre-back and Charlie Hawtin came back into the side at left-back. With Darren Pond suspended and Jack Self unavailable, Sam Humphreys returned and produce an impressive midfield display.

United began the game well and Johnson headed Hawtin’s cross from the left just wide. A good build-up saw Humphreys set up Johnson with an excellent pass but his shot from ten yards was straight at Cameron Clarke.

A Tom Winters corner found Johnson in the six-yard box but under pressure his header went just over the bar. But the goal United had been threatening arrived in the 23rd minute when Johnson put McDonagh through on the right and his fierce shot from a narrow angle flew past Clarke into the back of the net.

Moments later Winters crossed in from the left but McDonagh’s shot from ten yards was superbly saved by Clarke. But United doubled their lead in the 27th minute when a corner from Humphreys was headed home by Carnell from six yards.

The excellent Humphreys set-up McDonagh but his effort was well saved by Clarke at the expense of a corner. The resultant corner from Winters saw Johnson’s header cleared off the line by a defender.

The chances kept coming, two efforts from McDonagh on the edge of the area went wide and just before the break a good run through the centre by Humphreys ended with his shot from the edge of the area being saved by Clarke.

Although United looked in control after the restart the chances began to dry up. Even so, Hawtin’s cross from the left saw Johnson’s header hit the bar and go over and on the hour mark a surging run through the centre from the half way line by McDonagh ended with the striker firing off target.

Bur Merthyr reduced the arrears in the 82nd minute through Prosser. Merthyr had the ball in the back of the net again 60 seconds later but the assistant referee’s flag up went up for offside.

Merthyr still sensed they could get something out of the game and it looked like United might rue those missed chances in the first half. But, with Merthyr pushing forward and leaving space at the back, Howards caught them on the break and raced down the left before lifting the ball over the advancing Clarke and into the empty net.

Merthyr nearly had the last word in the second minute of stoppage-time a Prosser header from close range hit the post. But United were already home and dry with three welcome points in the bag.