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F.A. Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Banbury United

Gardner (68), Baird (84), (90) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Hunter (18), (58), Bell (32), (46)

(0) 3

(2) 4



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Next Match


Colin Hunter



Workington (A) 15.10.05

Hednesford put their name into the hat for Monday's fourth qualifying round draw after weathering a late storm from Southern Premier League hosts Banbury United in today's seven-goal thriller at the Spencer Stadium

Chris Brindley's men were still smarting at their tame display and subsequent defeat at home to local rivals Stafford Rangers last weekend that had ended their recent run of good form. Brindley was forced to make one change to his side that had started against Rangers as Ross Adams was ruled out due to injury and was replaced by Steve Brannan. This saw the end of a long sequence of games that had seen the back four of Adams, Mark Branch, Lee Barrow and Richard Teesdale start the first ten games of the season

Banbury had beaten local rivals Brackley Town 5-2 in the previous round to set up today's tie against their Southern Premier League opponents from last season. Manager Kevin Brock made one change to his side from the one that had beaten Mangotsfield United 2-1 in their last game as Chris Jackson came into the side in place of Ady Fuller

On a bumpy and uneven pitch, the all-green clad Pitmen were the more dangerous of the two sides in the opening exchanges as they looked to make a quick start to the game. Lee Williams whipped in a free kick in the fifth minute that was flicked on at the near post by skipper Lee Barrow but saw his header drop well wide of the far post

Three minutes later, Branch made an assertive run down the left after Colin Hunter played him into space, crossing into the near post where Andy Bell stretched to reach the ball but could not turn it home from close range

In the eleventh minute, Banbury had their first sight at Whittle's goal as Jackson swept the ball out to Andy Baird on the left-wing. He cut back inside of Adams and attempted an audacious chip over the head of Whittle from twenty-five yards out, but the former Oldham Athletic man stretched to reach the ball and caught it at the second attempt

Four minutes later, Whittle made an outstanding stop to deny Banbury the opening goal of the afternoon as he turned Darren Pond's well-struck volley from twenty yards out around his post for a Banbury corner. A tremendous save from the stopper

Two minutes later, the host were denied the opening goal by an offside flag after Pond had sent Matty Gooderick clear with a fantastic pass, turning the ball past Whittle from close range but being pulled back by a late flag against him in the build-up

Banbury were made to pay for missing this glorious chance a minute later as the Pitmen took the lead through winger Hunter; a long throw from the right by Brannan was nodded on at the near post by Steve Anthrobus. Bell picked up the loose ball and laid it off to Hunter, who volleyed the ball home with a crisp left-footed shot that beat Simon Tricker in the Banbury goal from twelve yards out

This acted as a catalyst for a bout of Hednesford pressure on the Banbury goal as they went in search of a second goal in quick succession; Williams played a quick free-kick into the path of fellow midfielder Rob Heath on twenty-one minutes, with the former Stafford Rangers man driving a low shot well wide of goal

Three minutes later, the impressive Hunter got away from Kieran Sullivan's attempted tackle and made his way into the Banbury penalty area. He looked to pull the ball back into the path of Bell, but a last-ditch challenge from Ollie Stanbridge nicked the ball away from the Hednesford striker

On twenty-six minutes, John Gardner's raking long ball forwards for the Puritans sent Baird haring off down the right-wing to reach the ball ahead of Branch. His low, hard cross into the near post was aimed at the incoming Gardner, but Whittle was once again in control as he made a timely save at the Banbury forward's feet

Just after the half-hour mark, the Pitmen extended their lead and took a real stranglehold on the game as delightful play in midfield saw Heath pick the ball up and send Anthrobus away down the left-wing. The big striker took a couple of touches before unselfishly playing the ball into the path of Bell, who tapped the ball home past Tricker from close-range. The Banbury defence claimed offside against Bell in the build-up, but the referee was unimpressed with the appeals and awarded the goal

The hosts will have felt a little hard done by at the scoreline at this point in the game, as they had very much been in the thick of the action but had been punished by two moments of step two quality. The hosts responded through a Gardner free-kick on thirty-five minutes that was floated into the far post, where Jackson made a late run into the penalty area to beat Teesdale to the ball but headed just wide of the post

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Baird's neat turn past Barrow saw him create a pocket of space on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area but lifted his effort high over the crossbar and into the sizeable Banbury crowd gathered behind Whittle's goal

The game could have been over as a contest on forty-two minutes as the Pitmen went agonisingly close to a third goal; Williams' near post corner was flicked on by Teesdale and into the path of Anthrobus, whose glancing header was cleared off the line by Jackson

The game, overall, had been a fairly even one, but the Pitmen will have been much the happier with their performance and the scoreline against a Puritans side that were a threat on the counter-attack, particularly down the flanks

Any half-time team rally call from Brock was instantly dismissed by the Pitmen as they extended their lead just thirty-two seconds into the second half as Williams played the ball through to Bell down the right-hand channel, with the striker showing great composure to take a touch and draw Tricker out of his goal before slotting the ball underneath him and find the corner of the net from ten yards out

Banbury looked for an immediate response through Stanbridge's header from a Gardner cross on fifty minutes, but he miscued his effort and could only head over Whittle's crossbar

Hunter continued to torment right-back Wayne Blossom with his trickery down the left for the Pitmen, turning the defender inside out with a great turn of pace on fifty-four minutes before clipping a cross into the path of Anthrobus, who could only scuff his miscued shot wide of goal standing on the penalty spot

Four minutes later, the visitors increased their lead to what appeared to be an unassailable four-goal lead as Branch's deep cross from the left found Teesdale at the far post, who headed the ball back across the face of Tricker's goal and into the path of Hunter, who headed home from close range via a touch off the post

Despite the tie now looking over as a contest, the hosts continued to press and gave the Pitmen more headaches at the back then they had expected in the final half-hour of the game. On sixty-two minutes, Stanbridge found Gardner with a fine pass, allowing him to run at Brannan down the left. He pulled the ball back to Gooderick, who in turn laid the ball off to Baird - his quick turn was enough to beat Barrow, but his effort was pushed away by Whittle


On sixty-five minutes, Tricker's long kick forward was missed by Teesdale and dropped at the feet of Gooderick, whose half-volley cleared Whittle's crossbar by a matter of inches

They did pull a goal back two minutes later, however, as Gardner intercepted a loose pass from Brannan and drove into the Hednesford penalty area, getting the better of Barrow before slotting the ball past the advancing Whittle


Any potential Banbury comeback seemed to be shot down three minutes later as Gardner's eventful afternoon continued with a red card for the player as he was sent off for reacting badly to a challenge from Brannan and elected to dish out his own form of retribution on the youngster by punching him. This was deemed as violent conduct by the match officials and the forward was given his marching orders

With the game now seemingly drifting to a tame conclusion after the red card, the Pitmen made a change to their personnel with fifteen minutes remaining as Paul McMahon came on in place of Grant Beckett

With eleven minutes of the game remaining, a break from the Pitmen saw Anthrobus and Bell link up well in the Banbury half and play Hunter into acres of space on the left to run into. He got to the byeline and pulled the ball back towards McMahon, who was eased away from the ball by a timely challenge from Pond to deny the substitute a tap-in

Two minutes later, the away side made their second change of the afternoon as teenager Craig Marshall replaced Anthrobus for the remainder of the game alongside Bell and McMahon up front

On eighty-three minutes, the ten men of Banbury pulled a further goal back as substitute George Redknap won the ball from Brannan and made his way to the byeline down the right, picking out Baird with a fine cross that the striker headed firmly past Whittle from close-range

Even with a second goal back, it still looked highly unlikely that the Puritans could rescue a replay from the game but continued to plug away against a dithering Hednesford defence. On eighty-seven minutes, a throw-in from Tommy Kinch found Stanbridge just inside the Hednesford penalty area, whose low cross-cum-shot skipped across the face of goal before being cleared by Teesdale

In added time, Banbury were handed an opportunity to reduce the deficit further when they were awarded a penalty kick; Redknap fired a shot in from the edge of the area that hit the hand of Barrow, prompting the referee to award the hosts a penalty kick. Baird stepped up and sent Whittle the wrong way from twelve yards to make the score 4-3


Alas, time ran out for the hosts to launch a final attack as the Pitmen held on to seal their place in the next round; the visitors should have had this game wrapped up much earlier on and Brindley will be unhappy with the way his side allowed their lower-division opponents back into the game late on, especially as they were a man light for the final twenty minutes of the game. The Pitmen return to Conference North duty next weekend when they make the long trip to Borough Park to face first-time opponents Workington

Banbury United: Tricker, Blossom, Kinch, Sullivan, Pond, Jackson, Stanbridge, Lamb, Gooderick (Redknap 61), Baird, Gardner  (71)       Subs Unused: McKay, Potter, Bridges, Burnham

Hednesford Town: Whittle, Brannan, Branch, Barrow ©, Teesdale, Williams, Beckett (McMahon 75), Heath, Anthrobus (C. Marshall 81), Bell, Hunter    Subs Unused: T. Marshall, Brindley, Szewczyk

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