Banbury face crunch match after winning run is ended

Banbury's Steve O'Connor takes on Trojans' Harry Warren during Saturday's defeat
Banbury's Steve O'Connor takes on Trojans' Harry Warren during Saturday's defeat

Banbury head to Guildford for what could prove to be their most important fixture of the South Premier Hockey League campaign.

But Steve Brooker’s boys go to third-placed Guildford on the back of their first defeat in nine outings in division two.

It will take more than that if we are to achieve promotion

Banbury manager Steve Brooker

Brooker was disappointed that his side’s impressive eight-match winning sequence was ended in a below-par performance against Trojans. Banbury went down 1-0 to a solitary goal from Ben Ferrier and remain second but just three points ahead of Guildford.

Banbury paid the price for another series of missed chances against Trojans who made the long journey up from the south coast worthwhile. Banbury are now six points behind leaders Tunbridge Wells and Saturday’s game at Guildford could prove to be the promotion decider.

As in recent weeks, Banbury started brightly against Trojans and missed chances that could have given them an early lead. But they were not converted and the game became a dour midfield struggle with neither side finding the inspiration to break the deadlock.

In the closing stages of the first period Trojans got the all-important goal when Ferrier converted a penalty corner, beating home keeper Fergus Dunleavy on his near post.

The second half continued in the same vein with both sides fighting out a midfield battle and without either being able to build a decisive advantage. Keeper Dunleavy and impressive centre back Harry Camp kept the visitors at bay that was not enough as the Banbury midfield and forward line could not reproduce their form of recent weeks.

The imaginative running of Joe Allan could not break the visitors’ defence, George Brooker was unable to find his golden touch of the previous game as his reverse-stick shot was deflected wide.

Kieran Symons had a rare barren spell and it took an hour for Banbury to gain their first penalty corner. But Symons saw his penalty drag-flick rattle the post and bounce harmlessly away.

Banbury changed formation to try to force a goal in the dying minutes but could not find the back of net and dropped points for the first time since November.

Brooker was in gloomy mood at the end of the game and said: “We all knew the winning run could not go on for ever. But we have let ourselves down with a below-par performance.

“It will take more than that if we are to achieve promotion. However, our good run has built a three-point cushion, now we must perform to retain the lead when we travel to Guildford.”