Banbury Town United V Basingstoke Town Tuesday 31st January 2017 Attendance – 244
For those 14 fans who travelled by train and the others who travelled by car to Banbury last night, they would have seen our best away performances of the season, against a team who sat 6th in the table at the start of the evening and who were probably expecting to do the double over us and pick up another 3pts, they were going to be sadly mistaken.
The starting line-up;
Though he did absolutely nothing wrong on Saturday, Aaron Redford was put on the bench as Brown played a 4-2-3-1 with Alex Tokarcyzk in goal, Marcus Johnston-Schluster right back, George Bennett left back, Joe Gater and David Ray centre backs, Dan Collier drafted in alongside Charlie Kennedy in holding midfield, Michael Atkinson in for Artwell on the left, Sam Deadfield in the hole, Nana Owusu on the left and Aaron Jarvis leading the line solo up top.
The hosts had already established a reputation for playing the ball out from the back and Brown brilliantly countered that by having his team press very high up the pitch.
And to their credit, in the most energised performances I have seen from us all season, we did it from whistle to whistle.
We made a lively start, hassling the hosts whenever they had the ball, giving them no time at all.
Jarvis who really does look stronger with every game and tonight he made lots of intelligent diagonal runs, as got into the box more as well as down the channels, got in front of defenders and tormented the entire Banbury back line.
Deadfield too, was in decent form as well. Though not the biggest, he doesn’t half put himself about and his first touch was much improved tonight and he brought a blend of controlled aggression and inventiveness to the heart of midfield.
First half, we didn’t actually carve out many chances despite our dominance.
But 16 minutes in Kennedy hit the post after a Jarvis effort from a corner was blocked.
And Deadfield tried his luck with a speculative effort from outside the box which went wide.
Atkinson and Owusu were also providing width, Johnston-Schluster silenced me by making a run on the overlap (though Atkinson never fed him the ball) and in the heart of midfield Collier brought an assured passing which complemented Kennedy’s tenacious bite.
It was still goalless at the interval, but the general feeling was we had had the better of the first half but, worryingly, once again we had nothing to show for it.
But as in our previous away performances, we again came out confidently and went straight at Banbury.
In the 51st minute, Deadfield fended off a foul outside the area to supply Jarvis who was brought down inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty. There was no protest by the Banbury defence. The Basingstoke fans were delighted with the penalty decision, however, much to the dismay of the fans, the linesman’s flag was up for a Jarvis offside. After consulting the linesman, the referee rescinded the penalty decision but pulled play back to the original foul, deeming no advantage to have accrued. Many thought it was the right decision.
With Jarvis and in particular Bennett, who had an excellent game – and seemed to launch into an impromptu pogo at this point – making a right nuisance of themselves in the wall, Owusu appeared purposely to strike the ball through the valve as it swerved wickedly from left to right in the air, cleared the wall, and flew into the keeper’s far top left-hand corner giving him no chance. Yet another free-kick piece of wizardry from Owusu, who must be getting a name around the league for his free-kick qualities.
For once we had the lead our possession deserved, and for once our opponents had no option but to desperately press forward, leaving themselves vulnerable at the back.
They came at us when they could – and Tokarcyzk made a save low to his right as a shot flew towards the corner through a sea of bodies, but to be honest, I thought it was one of our most controlled performances as we held firm and looked dangerous on the break.
Redford came on for Jarvis in the 79th minute and continued to harry and press the Banbury backline to great effect.
And skipper Ray – who had had another good game – had to go off injured in the 84th minute, but Kennedy dropped to centre back with Will Shaw coming on into midfield and the hosts were unable to exploit the situation.
After what seemed an eternity of stoppage time, the whistle went for a famous victory leaving me, for one, reflecting that, though we are only mid-table, it is inconsistency borne out of inexperience, not a lack of ability in the squad, that best explains our position.
Performances of the night, were again another 90 minute effort by Nana Owusu and probably the fans chosen man-of-the-match George Bennett, who has now put in back-to-back strong performances and now seems to have earned his spot at left back.
Not only have we now won three consecutive league games for the first time this season, but actually three away games on the bounce, something that most things could not have envisaged, when we were getting tonked at Merthyr, Leamington, Chippenham and Weymouth. We are still down to the bare bones with only three on the bench, but the confidence in this young team is starting to show.
Let’s hope we can kick on from here and start to seriously climb that table.
Man-of-the-match George Bennett
Match Report – Contains large extracts by Ian Davies, with included text from Martin French.