Banbury United ended 2014 with three points against a top four side and they kicked off the new year with a point against another one in the 0-0 draw with Redditch United at Spencer Stadium.
Although the Puritans never really looked like winning Thursday’s Evo-Stik Southern League fixture few could argue they didn’t deserve their premier division point. But it took a couple of crucial saves from Leigh Bedwell to earn it as the keeper reproduced the sort of form that has made him a fans’ favourite.
Skipper Luke Cray was taken ill pre-match so Jacob Walcott took over at right-back with Darius Browne being promoted from the bench to make up a front trio with Leam Howards and Jordan Green.
Both sides had chances in a lively opening, Tom Ryan headed over from Walcott’s corner while George Carline had a header saved by Bedwell and Liam Spink fired over from 25 yards. Simeon Maye broke through on the right but fired straight at Bedwell.
United look a much more solid outfit with the hardworking Declan Hartigan in central midfield. And they went close when Browne released Carl Tappin who flashed a shot across the far post with keeper Sam Horby getting the faintest of touches although the officials missed it.
Redditch got on top as the half progressed and substitute Leavi Oshungbure should have done better when he burst into the box but Bedwell was equal to his effort. United always looked a threat when Green got on the ball and went close just before the break when Tappin tested Hornby from the edge of the box.
United were slow out of the blocks after the restart, allowing Redditch to take the initiative and they were nearly made to pay when Sammons broke through but his lob over Bedwell landed on top of the net. United recovered and twice had good opportunities from free-kicks which Ben Whitehead failed to make the most of.
Manager Paul Davis threw on Joel Meade who went up front to add some height to United’s front line. United had a couple of chances with Whitehead sending in a teasing free-kick which eluded everyone before volleying wide from the edge of the box.
Redditch began to apply more pressure as the half progressed and had a couple of decent openings. Bedwell twice denied Sammons from point blank range and from the ensuing corner Carline fired over.
No-one could question United’s application as they continued to hold their own. Marvin Martin was a steadying influence at left-back and never put a foot wrong while the versatile Jack Westbrook and Ryan looked solid and Walcott was a more than capable replacement for Cray.
Substitute Leigh Phillips missed a great chance with his first touch, firing over from close range after getting on the end of a low cross from Jordan Jones. Moments later Kyle Turner broke through with just Bedwell to beat but Ryan’s presence was enough to make him shoot wide.
In a pulsating finish, both teams went for the winner and Carline almost grabbed it in the final minute of normal time when his fierce drive was superbly tipped over by Bedwell. That save preserved a hard earned point for the Puritans ahead of Saturday’s trip to Poole Town.