Match Report | Banbury United 0-0 Blyth Spartans

Graham Fenton’s Spartans earned their first away clean sheet of the 2023/24 campaign by claiming a first draw in the process in a stalemate National League North matchup against Banbury United on a pleasantly warm Saturday afternoon in Oxfordshire.

A change of shape was implemented to the starting line-up as JJ Hooper returned to lead the attacking line. In contrast, Harrison Clark slotted into the right of a three in the backline alongside Finn Cousin-Dawson and Jack Bodenham in defence as Rhys Evans began the fixture in a right-wing back role with JJ O’Donnell on the opposite side. 

Early pressure from the hosts sent Spartans retreating in the opening two minutes as they aimed to utilise gaps on both flanks into the final third to create crossing opportunities.

Puritans striker, Ken Charles, was presented the first opportunity as he emerged to rise highest in the penalty area and connect a header with an out-swinging cross, however, his attempt rose over Alex Mitchell’s crossbar. 

The first change of the game for Blyth came just after 14 minutes; a well-worked passage of play involving Jordan Hickey, Elliot Forbes and Nicky Deverdics in midfield saw the latter deliver a sumptuous chipped cross for the onrushing JJ Hooper, but the Spartans frontman failed to make a clean contact on goal and eventually, the offside flag was raised on the near side. 

Back-to-back efforts prevailed for Banbury as the clock ticked past 20 minutes; Adi Yussuf was picked out at the far post by Lawson D’Ath but he was unable to direct his diving header on target before Emmanuel Maja forced Mitchell into a strong, palmed stop from a powerful driving effort on the edge of the box. 

Will McGowan utilised his seamless agility on the ball and dropped his shoulder to beat Tai Fleming on the edge of the box to create a sight on goal, unfortunately, his curling effort fell narrowly wide of the right-hand post just before the half-hour mark. 

The concluding action of the half saw Hooper advance on goal and strike an effort wide while under pressure from Emmanuel Maja, in the process he seemed to tweak a muscle which resulted in a substitution seeing assistant manager Jon Shaw take his place as an outlet up top. 

Half-time: Banbury United 0-0 Blyth Spartans

Twelve minutes into the second period, Spartans crafted their best chance on goal throughout the period of the game as Shaw harried Fleming and picked up a loose ball inside the penalty area to tee up Hickey who then saw a low strike saved by the feet of Harding. 

Another excellent chance was presented just after the hour for Spartans as Deverdics raced to the byline to play the ball across the face of goal; it was cleared by a Puritan defender but only as far as O’Donnell who unleashed a right-footed shot which drifted inches wide of the target. 

Banbury substitute Aidan Elliott-Wheeler injected pace into the final third for the hosts when with 15 minutes left of play, he darted inside from the left flank to form an opening beyond Spartans substitute Joe Oliver to strike a low effort marginally wide from 20-yards. 

Charles passed up a glorious chance to give his side the lead just moments later as a scramble at the depth of the Spartans 18-yard box saw the ball worked out into his stride but he blazed over the crossbar with a first-time effort.

On 80 minutes, Maja drove forward and hit a chipped effort on goal from 35-yards which required Mitchell to back peddle and tip over the crossbar before the following set-piece saw Jack Tompkins drag a strike wide. 

Deep into added time, substitute Harry Arnison thought he had sealed a victory on the road for Graham Fenton’s side, however, he rattled the upright from point-blank range when connecting with a header to Deverdics’ neat chip on the right of the penalty area. 

Full-time: Banbury United 0-0 Blyth Spartans 

Banbury United | Jack Harding, Jack Tompkins, Simeon Maye, Tai Fleming, Lawson D’Ath, Ken Charles, Adi Yussuf (Craig Hewitt, 68’), Tope Obadeyi (Aidan Elliott-Wheeler, 68’), Emmanuel Maja, Lee Henderson, Louis Hall. 

Subs not used | Jack Davies, Finn Tapp and Josh Barlow. 

Blyth Spartans | Alex Mitchell, Rhys Evans (Joe Oliver, 62’), Harrison Clark, Finn Cousin-Dawson, Jack Bodenham, JJ O’Donnell, Elliot Forbes, Jordan Hickey (Harry Arnison, 85’), Nicky Deverdics, Will McGowan, JJ Hooper (Jon Shaw, 41’). 

Subs not used | Michael Hogan and Charlie Aitken. 

Attendance | 701 (48 away)

Referee | Harry Jones

Graham Fenton’s post-match assessment of Saturday’s stalemate against Banbury United

Spartans next face off against Bishop’s Stortford at Croft Park on Saturday with an early afternoon kick-off of 1pm.

Posted by BSAFC Media Team