Banbury head to Wycombe looking to extend their impressive run in the South Premier Hockey League.
Josh Nunneley marked his return with a goal as Banbury chalked up their sixth win in succession, a 4-1 victory over division two title rivals London Academicals to consolidate second position and open up a gap between them and the chasing pack.
Banbury trail leaders Tunbridge Wells by three points but are four clear of Guildford and West Hampstead.
Banbury got off to a strong start putting together promising attacks and looking solid in defence until midfielder Steve O’Connor sustained a sharp blow to the hand which put him out of action for the remainder of the first half. But Banbury filled the gap with Matt Bull moving up from defence and Nunneley returning.
And it was Nunneley who scored the opener after 20 minutes, slamming home his parried penalty corner drag-flick with a reverse-stick shot.
With their formation disrupted, the home side lost some of their rhythm and the visitors levelled with Dave Kockerling finishing off a penalty corner before the break and only a series of saves from home keeper Fergus Dunleavy kept Banbury in the game.
With O’Connor bandaged up, his return to centre half settled the side to win a penalty corner duly put away by Kieran Symons to restore the home side’s lead just after the restart. With confidence restored, Banbury rediscovered their attacking style when a move down the right found George Brooker whose pass into the D allowed Joe Allan to double the lead.
The Banbury defence was rocked by Academicals as they poured forward and it was only outstanding performances from defenders Nunneley, Harry Camp and Louis Harris that kept the visitors at bay. With the game coming to a close in a snow storm, veteran Richard Foreman’s hard work on the left was rewarded as he rounded it off.
Manager Steve Brooker could barely conceal his delight and said: “We have come through a very tough test against determined opposition to consolidate our improving position. Trips to close rivals over the next three weeks may well determine our future in the league.”