Puritans’ play-off hopes put to the sword at Stratford

Banbury United striker Ricky Johnson missed a penalty at Stratford Town
Banbury United striker Ricky Johnson missed a penalty at Stratford Town

Banbury United’s play-off hopes were dealt a huge blow as they saw their five-match winning run come to an end.

The Puritans lost 2-0 in Saturday’s Evo-Stik Southern League derby at Stratford Town. First half goals from Will Grocott and Mike Taylor earned Stratford all three premier division points while Ricky Johnson missed a second half penalty for the Puritans.

United got off to the worst possible start, going behind in the sixth minute when a low cross from Taylor was struck home at the near post by Grocott.

United worked their way back into the game and soon had the better of proceedings.

A cross from Tom Winters was only cleared out to Marvin Martin but his fierce shot went wide. And a corner from Winters fell to Luke Carnell 12 yards out but Niall Cooper tipped the ball over the bar.

United continued to have the better of the half but they were unable to create clear opportunities and three minutes before halftime Stratford doubled their advantage. A free-kick from Grocott found Wayne Thomas, his fierce shot was saved by Jack Harding but Taylor was on hand to knock the loose ball home from close range.

Stratford almost scored again in stoppage-time when a cross from Grocott saw Taylor’s header saved by Harding.

After the restart, Stratford went close again when Taylor hit the side-netting from a narrow angle. But United soon had the better of the game again and Manny Duku had a penalty appeal waved away, picking up a caution in the process.

Duku flicked the ball over Liam Francis but fired wide from 15 yards and substitute Conor McDonagh was put through but shot over the bar from a narrow angle.

United missed a glorious chance to reduce the arrears in the 82nd minute when Justin Marsden needlessly handled the ball inside the area. But Johnson’s fierce spot-kick straight down the middle was saved by Cooper.

After that it was relatively comfortable for Stratford and they went close to extending their lead when a Grocott’s free-kick went just wide.