Puritans finally get back to winning ways on home soil

Leam Howards scored Banbury United's second goal against Royston Town
Leam Howards scored Banbury United's second goal against Royston Town
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Banbury United finally picked up their first home Evo-Stik Southern League victory since August when they beat Royston Town.

The Puritans beat Royston 3-0 in Saturday’s premier division clash at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium.

Conor McDonagh gave United the second half lead with his 13th goal of the season and Leam Howards, making only his second start, sealed the three points before substitute Jefferson Louis headed home his 17th goal of the campaign.

With Tom Bradbury ill, Ricky Johnson dropped back into defence while Howards started up front with top scorer Louis only returning to the bench. Darren Pond was back from suspension in place of the injured Jack Finch and Elliot Sandy replaced Sam Humphreys while former Puritan Scott Bridges lined-up in the visitors’ midfield, wearing the captain’s armband.

United had a couple of early chances, Tom Winters blazed wide and then provided a pin-point cross for in-form striker McDonagh but he headed wide from a good position. Royston’s first chance came when James Potton put Josh Oyinsan away but Johnson recovered well to make a last-ditch challenge and win the ball back on the edge of the box.

Oyinsan was gifted another chance moments later when Charlie Hawtin got caught in possession. The ball ran free for Oyinsan but Jack Harding was quickly out to thwart the Royston striker.

Those chances apart, the first half struggled to get going with both sides guilty of giving the ball away too easily. It developed into a mediocre battle with little to warm-up the hardy supporters in bitterly cold conditions.

But Royston should have broken the deadlock following another error. Jordy Ngathe’s ambitious back pass was intercepted by Sam Corcoran who released Oyinsan, he raced into the box but his shot thumped against the bar.

United went close when Royston failed to fully clear George Nash’s free-kick, Luke Carnell headed the ball on but McDonagh blazed over from a tight angle.

United squandered a golden opportunity to make the breakthrough in the 36th minute when McDonagh threaded the ball through to Howards who just got to the ball before Josh Tibbetts and was clipped in the area. But the Royston keeper redeemed himself by saving McDonagh’s weak spot-kick.

And United almost went behind themselves just before the break when Oyinsan and Potton combined to set-up the overlapping Gus Scott-Morris, who had burst into the area, but Harding pulled off a superb save from ten yards.

After the restart, Oyinsan headed straight at Harding while Potton glanced a near post header wide of the far upright.

But United finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute with McDonagh making amends for his previous penalty miss. Royston failed to clear, Sandy and Howards kept the ball alive in a crowded area and when it ran free McDonagh drilled it past Tibbetts from ten yards.

Royston went close to a quick response when Potton’s low drive from the edge of the box was saved by Harding. Potton went close again when he exchanged passes with Lee Chappell before firing wide from the edge of the box following good work from Bridges.

Scorer almost turned provider when McDonagh beat Chappell and crossed to the far post where Winters headed goalwards but Ed Asafau-Adjaye cleared off the line for a corner. Winters’ ensuing corner found Johnson whose header was also cleared off line, this time by Chappell.

But Royston failed to fully recover and United doubled their advantage in the 63rd minute when Sandy’s goalbound shot from the edge of the box was diverted past an unsighted Tibbetts by Howards.

McDonagh flashed a near post header past the far upright from Ngathe’s cross and Johnson also headed wide while in between substitute Josh Castielione fired wide from the edge of the box at the other end. And Adam Marriott also went close after coming on, jinking his way into the box before dragging his shot wide from ten yards.

But the visitors never seriously looked as though they could get something from the game and United grabbed their third goal in the 88th minute when Humphreys exchanged passes with McDonagh before crossing for Louis to head home at the far post.