Home return could prove to be pivotal in bid for survival

Simon Boardman gave Banbury the lead at Henley
Simon Boardman gave Banbury the lead at Henley

Banbury’s first home game of 2017 already looks like being their most important of the season.

Steve Brooker’s side entertain basement boys Guildford in what looks like a must-win game if Banbury are to survive in the South Premier Hockey League.

Banbury returned to action needing three points to stay clear of the division one relegation zone but met with a 2-1 defeat at rivals Henley who went above the visitors.

Yet another different line-up saw Banbury welcome back second team captain Nick Best to strengthen the squad. But the winning magic had gone out of the new formation as the visitors squandered a first half lead and plenty of chances to settle the issue.

Banbury got away to a strong start with attacks down both sides through wing-backs Pete Lamb and Louis Harris.

But they were not able to convert a chance until a left-sided move saw the ball come wide from Richard Foreman to Kyle White who was able to beat his man and cross for Simon Boardman to score in trademark style at the far post.

But the elation of converting the early pressure was short-lived as the home side snatched an equaliser through skipper Ed Foster.

Henley made a stronger start to the second half and took the lead through Sam Heaver early on, converting a well-rehearsed set move to score from a penalty corner which followed their own left-sided move.

Ill-discipline from Banbury in the first half had gone unpunished as three players spent time in the sin-bin with consequence. But more sin-bin time in the second half disrupted Banbury from making a better recovery from the early blow of conceding so early.

However, with Kieran Symons switching to right wing-back, Banbury began to make more progress stretching the home defence. But two cleverly crafted crosses from White failed to connect with the stretching forwards.

With Banbury back to full strength but beginning to tire in the last quarter they increased the pressure. It took an outstanding save from the Henley keeper to keep out George Brooker’s crashed reverse stick-shot.