Puritans promise much but fail to recover from setback

Banbury United's Leam Howards fails to make the most of this opening against Swindon Supermarine at Spencer Stadium
Banbury United's Leam Howards fails to make the most of this opening against Swindon Supermarine at Spencer Stadium

Three second half goals from Ash Taylor, Connor Waldon and Luke Hopper sent Banbury United slipping to a 3-0 opening day Evo-Stik Southern League defeat at the hands of Swindon Supermarine.

The visitors deserved to take all three points with their second half performance in Saturday’s Division One South & West opener at Spencer Stadium. The Puritans, although starting brightly, faded as the first half progressed and never fully recovered once they had gone behind.

Mike Ford’s new-look side showed glimpses in the first half with Mark Bell, Leam Howards and Zac McEachran producing United’s best moments. But the visitors, with Ryan Stanners running the midfield, took control and ran out comfortable winners in the end.

Bell enjoyed plenty of the ball early on and his quickly taken free-kick released Howards on the left flank, he cut into the box before firing wide from a tight angle. Howards’ pace caused Supermarine problems but he failed to get his shot away after racing on to another searching pass.

Supermarine began to get more of the ball as the half progressed with Hopper and Bradley Gray at the heart of their best attacking moves and Waldon headed wide from a corner. United went close when the lively Bell cut inside Kyle Lapham with ease but his low cross evaded Ricky Johnson and Howards before keeper Matt Bulman claimed the ball.

Hopper headed wide at the far post before Gray’s deflected effort had on-loan Reading keeper Joe Tupper scrambling across to his near post. The creative Stanners had a bigger influence as the half progressed and his shot on the turn flashed past the upright.

Tupper, deputising for the unavailable Jack Harding, denied Hopper as the visitors looked the more likely to break the deadlock and it took a decent save from the young keeper to keep out Chris Taylor’s curling effort after more good approach play from Stanners.

United relied increasingly on the trickery of Bell and McEachran on the flanks and the pace of Howards. But Johnson went close when his downward header from Bell’s corner bounced up and scraped the bar before the ball was scrambled clear.

Chances began to come as the game opened up and Stanners volleyed into the side-netting just before the break and then fired over on the turn. And it took a last-gasp tackle from Jon Steedman to thwart Waldon on the stroke of halftime.

But the visitors broke the deadlock two minutes after the restart. Tupper saved well from Stanner but from Gray’s ensuing corner the unmarked Ash Taylor turned the ball in from six yards.

Boosted by the breakthrough, Supermarine grew in confidence and Hopper flashed a shot wide. United struggled to get back into the game and the visitors had chances to double their advantage with the hosts surviving a couple of scrambles in the six-yard box while Chris Taylor curled a free-kick over.

Howards continued to pose United’s only real threat and his low cross was nicked past the near post by Johnson. But Waldon doubled Swindon’s advantage in the 63rd minute when he remained composed in the six-yard box to beat Tupper after the impressive Stanners and substitute Josh Morse combined well.

The third goal arrived in the 82nd minute when Hopper was upended by Steedman in the penalty area and Hopper sent Tupper the wrong way from the ensuing spot-kick. Tupper denied Morse late on, as well as Chris Taylor and Hopper in stoppage-time to keep the scoreline down but Ford will have to quickly pick his players up for Tuesday’s trip to Marlow.