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Banbury United 1 Hitchin Town 1

Saturday, April 15 2017

Hitchin snatched a late equaliser at Banbury to maintain the gap between them either side of the play off "dotted line". 

The Canaries started in blustery conditions with the same side that won the Herts Senior Cup but they did welcome Matt Lench and Jonny McNamara back on the bench.

Banbury had the wind at their backs in the first half and took the game to Hitchin as Winters probed down the left and both full backs tried the get forward.  At the other end, Robbie Burns had a couple of efforts from the edge of the box but they lacked power and were easy for Jack Harding to collect. 

Zac McEachran threatened with his running from midfield and Ricky Johnson nearly got to the end of one of his shots that was heading wide.

Kane Smith was a threat to Banbury as he nutmegged Marvin Martin to find space near the byline - only for his cross to drift wide. He then got in a shot after playing a neat 1-2 with Brett Donnelly on the edge of the box.

Michael Johnson came out decisively to punch a freekick from Jack Self before the same player set up Conor McDonagh for a shot that was scuffed and collected by the keeper. However just before the break, Banbury’s Man of the Match McEachran cut in from the right past Dan Webb and directed the ball inside the near post to give the Puritans the lead.

HALF TIME Banbury United 1 Hitchin Town 0

Hitchin had to make a change for the restart as Donnelly had taken a knock and was replaced by Liam Brooks. However Banbury started the half buoyed by the goal and Eddie Odhiambo set up McEachran who cut inside again but this time lacked power behind his shot.

Josh Bickerstaff had to clear from Ricky Johnson after the Banbury forward was left in space when Walster failed to clear a ball across the box. The striker also went wide first from a header and then with a shot.

Mark Burke responded to Banbury’s dominance and brought on Lench for Walster, with Bickerstaff dropping back into defence. The change almost paid off straightaway. Smith and Lench combined for the latter to fire in a cross that Westbrook cleared, and then Lench cut back for Brooks to fire over.

Kane Smith also sustained a knock which saw McNamara come on and Dowie drop back. Hitchin were fashioning chances as the substitutes started to use the width of the pitch but the Puritans had the best chance to put the game beyond doubt. Winters was put in on the left by McEachran and he bought a great save from Michael Johnson. The ball ran to Ricky Johnson but he snatched at the chance and fired over when he should have done better.

Banbury paid for that profligacy on 80 minutes when Burns shot from the edge of the area. The effort looked like an easy take for Harding but it got a ricochet and landed with McNamara - who the home defence felt was offside. However the substitute kept a cool head and slotted the ball wide of Harding to level.

There was a feeling that the Canaries had got out of jail and they nearly punished Banbury even further. The lively Brooks fired a low shot across goal which Harding saved well and then Lench did well to keep a shot down but it was blocked. As the whistle blew, this was a case of a point gained rather than two dropped but possibly at a price with Donnelly and Smith looking in doubt for Monday and Rolfe destined to miss the end of the season after picking up another yellow card.

FINAL SCORE Banbury 1 Hitchin 1 

Banbury United - Harding, Odhiambo, Martin, Nash, Westbrook, Carnell, McEachran, R Johnson, McDonough, Winters; subs - Duku (for McDonagh), Bradbury (for Winters), Bell, Browne, Blackstock
Hitchin Town - M Johnson, Smith, Walster, Dowie, Webb, Wright, Rolfe, Kirkpatrick, B Donnelly, Burns, Bickerstaff; subs - Spence, Brooks (for Donnelly), Lench (for Walster), McNamara (for Smith), King

Banbury United - McEachran (44)
Hitchin Town - McNamara (80)

Yellow cards
Hitchin Town - Rolfe

Attendance 740

Colin, photo Peter Else

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