Lewars’ extra-time winner sends Puritans through

Nathaniel Lewars grabbed the extra-time for the Puritans against Ardley
Nathaniel Lewars grabbed the extra-time for the Puritans against Ardley

Substitute Nathaniel Lewars grabbed the extra-time winner as Banbury United finally saw off holders Ardley United 4-3 in Tuesday’s Oxon Senior Cup semi-final.

The Evo-Stik Southern League strugglers should have been out of sight before the holders cancelled out Leam Howards’ first half opener from Ricky Johnson’s penalty. Tom Ryan looked to have won it late on for United but substitute Andrew Prescott sent the game into extra-time.

United should have had the tie in the bag long before then but they squandered numerous openings while the UHLSport Hellenic League outfit kept themselves in the game with some resolute defending.

Both sides tested each other out early on without creating any real openings. Jon Gardner’s snap shot was deflected for a corner and from Darren Beckett’s ensuing delivery Chris Jackson headed over.

Hicham Abdellah should have broken the deadlock but he shot wide from Darius Browne’s low cross at the end of a quick counter-attack instigated by Howards.

Ardley enjoyed more possession but United created the better chances and Luke Cray saw his header tipped over by Jack Harding from Marvin Martin’s cross. United grew in confidence and went close again when Howards and Browne combined on the left but no-one was able to apply the finishing touch.

Ardley failed to heed the warning and United took the lead in the 25th minute. Ardley failed to deal with Abdellah’s free-kick and Cray’s goalbound shot was deflected to Howards who beat Harding from close range.

Johnson was pushed up front to partner Troy Bryan but United almost doubled their advantage when Ardley failed to deal with another Kynan Isaac corner and Martin’s shot was cleared off the line by Darren Beckett.

United picked up from where they left off after the restart with the pace of Browne and Howards causing Ardley problems. Browne crossed for Howards who saw his shot blocked and Isaac then created an opening in the box but saw his effort deflected for a corner.

Another quick break ended with Howards setting up Browne who tested Harding with a low drive as United looked for the crucial second goal. Isaac should have got it when he beat substitute Adam Beckett and cut inside before shooting weakly at Harding.

Browne exchanged passes with Isaac and raced through but allowed Jackson to make a last-ditch challenge to block his shot and Isacc turned inside before firing over.

Ardley struggled to cope with Browne, Howards and Isaac but they were still in it. Isaac was put clear by Browne but Harry Brock whipped the ball off his toes and Jacob Daffern shot wide from close range as the chances kept coming.

Ardley’s first chance of the second half came when United failed to deal with Brock’s cross and Johnson’s overhead kick thumped the bar. But Ardley equalised in the 81st minute when Johnson was impeded in the six-yard box by Leigh Bedwell and brushed himself down before squeezing the ensuing spot-kick under the keeper.

Ryan restored United’s advantage in the 85th minute when he rose to head home Abdellah’s inswinging corner. Lewars saw his shot roll agonisingly wide after Harding lost possession on the edge of his box.

But Prescott made United pay for a second time in the 90th minute when he thumped home the rebound after Johnson’s header came back off the bar following a corner.

Martin shot straight at Harding in stoppage-time but Ardley got their noses in front three minutes into the first period of extra-time when Connor Ingram broke free and beat Bedwell at his near post. Isaac was upended by the impressive Ollie Stanbridge five minutes later and substitute Jacob Walcott scored from the ensuing spot-kick.

United regained the lead two minutes before the end of the first period, Harding tipped Isaac’s low drive around the post but from Abdellah’s corner Lewars rose to head home.