Smart finish stuns Banbury as leaders get off the hook

Banbury's Pete Lamb comes away with the ball against Old Cranleighans
Banbury's Pete Lamb comes away with the ball against Old Cranleighans

Despite an outstanding second half display, Banbury were left empty-handed against South Premier Hockey League leaders Old Cranleighans.

Banbury lost 5-4 in Saturday’s see-saw fixture with division one leaders Old Cranleighans despite a remarkable comeback in the second half at NOA.

But that was not quite enough as a another bizarre umpiring award reversed an original decision for the second week running which would have ruled out a late winner for the leaders.

Banbury got off to promising start when a left-sided move created a penalty corner that resulted in Jaz Singh having the chance to slam home a long range shot when the practiced move broke down to give the home side a deserved lead.

But the visitors forced their way back into the game and equalised only five minutes later when a move down their left opened up the home defence to leave keeper Fergus Dunleavy with no chance to stop the close range finish from Jay Harman.

Despite more heroics from Dunleavy, the visitors took two more chances that came their way through Matt Murphy and Jack Smart to establish a 3-1 lead.

With the first half coming to a close, the visitors were awarded yet another penalty corner and, with Josh Nunneley banished to the halfway line for an early line break, Murphy grabbed his second goal of the half and the leaders took a three-goal lead into halftime.

Banbury launched themselves back into the second half with renewed vigour to find Barney Williams finishing a parried penalty corner to reduce the deficit four minutes after the restart.

That goal lifted the home side with Simon Boardman marking his return to the side to crash home just before the hour mark.

As Banbury forced their way forward they claimed another penalty corner only saved on the line by a defender’s foot with Nunneley then slotting home the resulting penalty to level matters.

Banbury went on to force the pace but with only a minute to go Smart reached above his head to put a deflected high ball from a penalty corner into the net.

The umpire disallowed the attempt but then changed his mind as the visitors regained their lead to keep them in top spot while Banbury slumped to eighth place as they continue to try and establish themselves.