Banbury United – 2
Bath City – 0
Banbury United saw their FA Cup campaign come to an end on Saturday as National League South side Bath City scored a brace of belters before half time to seal the game, and frustrate their hosts who found it difficult to create chances against a well drilled defensive unit. A game of few chances played in constant rain rarely sparkled for the home faithful, Ross Stearn scoring both of the City goals which were venomous strikes that gave United keeper Jack Harding no chance what so ever, and the visiting custodian Ryan Clarke had very little to do over the ninety minutes.
Stearn was a constant threat during the afternoon until he was substituted to a rapturous farewell by the numerous black and white adorned supporters towards the end of the game, and an early attack saw he and Anthony Straker combine well down the left before the former fizzed the ball across goal but Harding was first to meet it to gather the danger. Ryan Brunt then tried his luck from the edge of the area but ballooned his shot way over the top, and a corner moments later from their left was met by the head of Robbie Cundy but he headed straight at the United keeper.
It took the hosts fifteen minutes to create anything for Ricky Johnson to attack, a cross from the right met his head at the back post but under severe pressure he could only steer wide, and Greg Kaziboni with Ravi Shamsi then threatened as a good run from the former saw him feed Shamsi on the corner of the Bath area, a clever flick saw him escape his marker but just as it seemed he was in on goal a covering defender got across to block and eventually clear. Despite Banbury looking fairly comfortable dealing with their visitor’s the first goal arrived on the half hour mark.
A fierce shot from Adam Mann forced Harding away to his left to parry two handed but the ball landed perfectly for Stearn to run in and rifle into the roof of the net from close range. The goal raised the confidence in the away side and they strove forwards looking for more, a free kick was slung in from out on their left and sliding in at the back post Frankie Artus was inches away from doubling his sides lead, but just three minutes before the break Bath did secure their second. A corner was headed clear but lurking on the edge of the arc Stearn came across to meet the ball perfectly to smash a dipping drive past Harding and into the back of the net. H/T: 0-2
Jordy Ngathe was introduced to the game at half-time for Banbury and he enjoyed a lot of the ball down the flank but the City defence were quite happy to deal with anything their opponents threw at them whilst hitting on the counter attack when they could. The United substitute got down the right early in the second period and found Jack Self on the edge of the penalty box but he could only lift over the top, and another cross from the same player saw a mass of bodies clambering to get a touch at the back post but the ball just rolled agonisingly away for a goal kick.
Shamsi then got down the left and from almost on the byline he flashed the ball across the goal face where the ball seemed to fly parallel with the crossbar as it sailed away to safety with no one up to get the killer touch, and with it the home side seemed to sense from there the game was done. As Bath reasserted themselves, Harding was forced into a superb double save on sixty-nine minutes when Stearn attacked down the left and his low drive saw the keeper push away with both hands, a follow up then saw him have to fling himself back the other way to block and a defender was luckily on hand to thump away.
A vicious drive from distance from Mann had Harding beaten all ends up but as the ball flew past him it hit the goal support as it bounced wide, another stinging volley then saw Charlie Wise in front of his goal somehow manage to flick away for a corner which must have resulted in a headache afterwards, Mann then tried again from twenty-five yards but way over the top. A United attack was broken down deep in the Bath half and despite the calls for a foul from the home support Sean Rigg collected the ball and headed for goal, he ran the length of the field before diagonally shooting across Harding and about two feet wide of the back post.
Rigg then tried from distance but cleared the stand, and with seven minutes left the misery for the Puritans was compounded when a tackle on the edge of the Area saw Lee Henderson collect a second yellow card of the afternoon and sent for an early shower. There was time for Brunt to drag an effort across goal and wide, but the final whistle saw those from the West Country singing in the rain!
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