Spot-on Shariff scuppers Puritans with late penalty

Greg Kaziboni gave Banbury United the lead
Greg Kaziboni gave Banbury United the lead

Nabil Shariff returned to deny Banbury United all three Evo-Stik League South points.

The Puritans were unable to maintain their 100 per cent home record as they were held 1-1 by Stratford Town in Monday’s Premier Division Central clash. Greg Kaziboni gave United the first half lead but Shariff’s late penalty earned Stratford a point which they just about deserved on their second half display.

United should have had all three points in the bag by then, having dominated for long periods but they lacked the cutting edge that they had in their previous two home games.

Mike Ford named an unchanged starting line-up for the fourth game running while former Puritans Shariff and Albi Skendi lined-up for the visitors.

An even opening period saw United gradually get on top and they took a 16th minute lead when Kaziboni cut inside and beat Nathan Vaughan with a low drive into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards.

United twice went close in quick succession, Ravi Shamsi’s free-kick was charged down and Jack Self’s follow-up was blocked by Jamie McAteer for a corner. Stratford struggled to fully deal with Shamsi’s ensuing corner and Kaziboni’s volley went just over.

Boosted by the breakthrough, United turned the screw in search of another goal before the break and Stratford had to work overtime to stay in the contest.

United went close again when Shamsi’s corner was returned into the six-yard box by Lee Henderson and Charlie Wise’s header was tipped on to the top of the bar and over by Vaughan. Lewis Gabbidon tried his luck from long range but fired high over the bar.

Stratford’s only threat was of United’s own making and came when Jordy Ngathe played a loose pass in the box, Michael Taylor turned the ball into the net but the offside flag had already been raised.

Stratford enjoyed their best spell as the interval approached but never really looked like unlocking United’s rearguard. And from their first corner of the game they nearly fell further behind when James Goff’s long clearance found Shamsi who worked the opening but shot straight at Vaughan.

After the restart, Bradley Maslen-Jones had a shot charged down and from the counter-attack Kaziboni robbed Skendi and released Shamsi but, with Steve Diggin free in the middle, he could only find Vaughan with his low cross.

Stratford were brighter in the second half but it took a finger-tip save from Vaughan to turn over Gabbidon’s header from Jack Self’s cross following a short corner. At the other end Goff had to be alert to deal with Edwin Ahenkorah’s close range effort as Stratford looked to get back on level terms.

United needed that second goal in a more equal second period and Stratford sensed an equaliser. It almost came from William Grocott’s corner which Taylor headed over and moments later Wilson Carvalho dragged his shot wide from the edge of the box.

In between, Skendi’s crucial last-gasp challenge thwarted Gabbidon in the six-yard box as he looked to convert Shamsi’s cross. And from Shamsi’s ensuing corner Henderson headed wide.

But Stratford equalised in the 74th minute following a spell of pressure. Grocott’s low cross saw Self bundle Shariff over in the box and the former Puritans’ favourite sent Goff the wrong way from the ensuing spot-kick.

Charlie Wise headed wide from Shamsi’s deep corner as United looked to get back in front. They nearly did when Kaziboni pulled the ball for substitute Amer Awadh but he couldn’t beat Vaughan at his near post.

In a late bid to snatch all three points Ford threw on Ricky Johnson who had one chance deep into stoppage-time but he could head Charlie Hawtin’s deep cross wide of the far post.