Puritans remain in top spot after ninth win on the spin
New leaders Banbury United beat Bridgwater Town 2-1 in Tuesday's Evo-Stik Southern League clash at Spencer Stadium.
Felipe Barcelos, with his third goal in as many games, and an own goal from James Burns, earned the Puritans all three points as they made it nine Division One South & West wins on the spin.
But, just like Saturday’s game against Winchester City, the points should have been in the bag long before Reeko Best reduced the arrears had United not squandered so many chances including a penalty miss from Ricky Johnson.
Despite being delayed en route to Spencer Stadium, Bridgwater were well organised and denied United any space early on with Mike Ford’s side having to rely on set-pieces to create any openings.
Andy Gunn forced Jake Viney into action to punch away his header from Zac McEachran’s corner and Duran Martin’s low drive was deflected over for a corner from which Jack Westbrook’s goalbound header was cleared off the line by Jamie Adams.
But that all changed in the 21st minute when Barcelos raced on to Darius Browne’s excellent pass down the left, cut inside Micky Duffy before beating Viney at his near post.
Boosted by the goal, United looked more confident and Gunn headed Browne’s free-kick wide at the far post. Another excellent move ended with Callum White firing into the side-netting while Johnson headed straight at Viney from McEachran’s corner.
A lively Bridgwater outfit continued to show glimpses of what they could do in the final third but United had a great chance to double their advantage. Johnson turned inside Josh White but should have set up Barcelos instead of shooting into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Viney came to his side’s rescue just before the break when Barcelos set Johnson free in the box but the Bridgwater keeper saved bravely at his feet. George Nash fired wide from the edge of the box as United looked for that important second goal.
It nearly came immediately after the restart when Hopkins crossed and Johnson glanced a header wide of the far post. At the other end Burns fired a free-kick around the wall but past the upright with Jack Harding untroubled.
Defender Ben Palmer went close to an equaliser when he turned well in the box but Harding managed to push his effort over the bar.
Viney had a fortunate escape when his clearance was returned with interest by Johnson but the keeper managed to get back in time to catch the ball and spare his blushes. But United grabbed the crucial second goal on the hour mark when Browne’s inswinging corner flew off the head of Burns and nestled in the far corner of the net.
United went close again when Michael Hopkins got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back but McEachran fired over from a good position.
Johnson saw his 69th minute penalty well saved by Viney after Tom Hopkins brought down substitute Leam Howards in the box. Viney then produced an acrobatic save to palm away Martin’s first time effort after he was nicely set up by Barcelos.
McEachran jinked into the box but saw his shot deflected wide of the post before Bridgwater reduced the arrears in the 84th minute. United failed to clear their lines and Best drilled a first time shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the box.
That made for an edgy final few minutes but United should have calmed the nerves when two late chances came their way. Johnson headed over from a deep cross from substitute Ollie Stanbridge and Howards lifted the ball over the bar in stoppage-time Nash’s low cross.