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Hitchin Town 1 Banbury United 2

Saturday, April 14 2012

Relegation threatened Banbury beat nine-man Hitchin to keep alive their hopes of staying in the Premier Division.


29- John Frendo red-carded
47- Josh Blake heads Banbury ahead 0-1
63- Dean Gilbert sent off
64- Ricky Johnson nets from the penalty spot 0-2
76- Marc Leach scores from penalty 1-2

Weather: Bright, crisp

Pitch: Good

Attendance: 347

Photo by Martyn AnnettsThere is no doubt that the turning point of this niggly contest came after half an hour when John Frendo was sent off for foolishly stamping on veteran striker Howard Forinton.

Frendo’s red card, his third of the season, dramatically changed the dynamics of the game and handed Banbury the initiative. Frendo is now likely to be suffer a lengthy suspension that will delay his start to the 2012-13 season.

That said, Banbury – desperate for the points – looked the more determined side in the opening stages. Forinton had two chances to score, a long-range lob that landed on the roof of Martin Bennett’s net and a shot that brought a good save out of the Canaries’ keeper.

But the best chance of the half fell to Frendo – who else? – who met a Tom Pepper cross but saw his close range volley saved by Banbury goalkeeper Andy Kemp. Callum Donnelly was also denied by Kemp when he stopped a 25-yard drive.

Then came Frendo’s dismissal, which stopped Hitchin in their tracks. Two minutes after the break, the Canarie received another blow when Josh Blake, unmarked and free to meet a corner, sent a header into the net to put Banbury in front.

For a while, it was all going Banbury’s way and when Josh Cole saw his shot handballed off the line by Dean Gilbert, earning the Hitchin skipper a red card in his 200th appearance, Ricky Johnson extended the visitors’ lead from the penalty spot.

Nine man Hitchin refused to capitulate and in some ways, they played their best football with the odds stacked against them. In the 75th minute, Donnelly was tripped in the area and a penalty was awarded. Marc Leach stroked home the spot kick to pull a goal back.

Hitchin induced some nervousness in relegation-haunted Banbury and a coiuple of headers – from Zak Burke and Leach – threatened to spoil their day. It wasn’t to be, and at least Canaries’ fans can console themselves that the result may just mean the Puritans and their happy band are on the Hitchin fixture list again next season.

The teams

Hitchin: Bennett, Fontenelle, Pepper, Gilbert, Leach, Lee, Donnelly, Gregson (Morgan h/t), Burke, Frendo, Lewis
Subs not used: Williams, Pedrycz, Edgerley

Banbury: Kemp, Williams, Kinch, Polk, Thackeray, Coleman (Angus 90), Edmond (Howell 69), Cole, Johnson, Forinton, Blake (Eyre 83)
Subs not used: Richardson

Referee: A.Da Costa

Assistants: J.Marin & J.Marasca

Photo: Martyn Annetts

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