National League North roundup: Leamington end Banbury’s unbeaten start

Leamington vs Banbury United

Non-League football continued on bank holiday Monday,as the National League North Matchday 6 commenced just 2 days after Matchday 5. King’s Lynn looked to cement their place at the top of the league, away to Peterborough Sports, as the Linnets continue their battle for a return to Step 1 of non-league football.

Boston United searched for their first win of the season at home to Kettering Town, whilst I once again went to observe Banbury United, as they looked to continue their unbeaten start to their first campaign in the National League North, away to Leamington.

Leamington 1-0 Banbury United

Leamington vs Banbury United, New Windmill Ground – By Harry Ware

Banbury United lost their first game of the season away to Leamington in the National League North, bringing an end to their 18-match unbeaten run in competitive games since January.

The Puritans were unchanged from the side which beat Hereford 3-1 just 2 days ago, with Giorgio Rasulo captaining the side who were backed by many fans who could be heard throughout the game.

Leamington lined up with on-loan Burton Albion Goalkeeper Callum Hawkins between the sticks, with former Coventry City midfielder Devon Kelly-Evans also in their starting eleven, who would go on to cause Banbury lots of problems throughout the game.

Despite Banbury being perhaps the favourites, it was Leamington who dominated much of the first half, winning plenty of corner kicks which Banbury struggled to defend. Leamington’s experienced defender Theo Streete provided a useful option in the air from set-pieces.

Banbury struggled to break down a compact Leamington defense, who denied them from playing through the middle with a deep line, with Banbury having most of their success through the middle this season.

The Puritans struggled to register many shots on goal, with a lack of aerial threat in attack, perhaps missing the presence of former striker Chris Wreh, who was pivotal in Banbury’s success last season. The need for Banbury to play outwide ultimately meant more crosses into the box, which had a huge lack of end product, with Banbury having to adapt to a game style they have rarely used since last season.

Banbury found it hard to cope with Devon Kelly-Evans, whose pace and vision for a pass was too much for the Banbury back line and midfield at times, which inevitably made a difference just before halftime, as Kelly-Evans made a diagonal run across midfield to the right side of the pitch, chipping it back post to Louis Hall, who placed a header into the bottom right-hand corner leaving Banbury goalkeeper Jack Harding flat-footed.

The half-time whistle went shortly after, and with everything not quite going to plan for Banbury, change was needed in the second half.

As expected, Banbury piled on the pressure throughout the second half, being more aggressive in challenges for the ball, whilst attempting to keep possession of the ball more than they had. However, despite being more dominant in the second half, United were still getting frustrated when attacking, perhaps lacking a plan B in the final third.

Theo Streete played a crucial role in a solid defensive display by Leamington. They had the advantage in the air, with none of Banbury’s crosses in the air posing any threat. Going wide was one of Banbury’s only options throughout the whole game, as Leamington executed their game plan well, overcrowding central parts of the pitch in order to push Banbury outwide.

In a bid to get back into the game, Banbury brought on on-loan Harry Parsons and winger Jack Stevens in attack, providing more pace and fresh legs in the Banbury attack, however still a lack of aerial presence. Central defender Kelvin Langmead returned from injury for the Puritans, a crucial part of Banbury’s set pieces last season, winning most headers he challenged for. Langmead was the goalscorer last time Banbury played Leamington at the New Windmill Ground, however failed to make it off the bench, potentially yet to be match fit.

Morgan Roberts showed his quality, and picked out Harry Parsons after a nutmeg by Roberts, catching out the Leamington defence in behind for a rare chance in the game, only to be denied by on-loan Burton Albion goalkeeper Callum Hawkins, keeping out a fairly tame effort 1-on-1.

Banbury continued to pile on the pressure late into the game, winning free-kicks in dangerous areas. Harry Parsons had a powerful shot blocked by what looked like his own player, summing up the game for Banbury, as they failed to force Leamington goalkeeper Hawkins into many saves.

Leamington made subs late on in order to run down the clock, and they eventually saw out the win, in what could be seen as a deserved win, putting on a brilliant defensive display to deny Banbury a way back into the game.

Banbury stay in 2nd place and face Southport at home next where they look to bounce back quickly, whereas Leamington moved up to 9th, outside the playoffs only on goals scored, and face Bradford Park Avenue back at the New Windmill Ground next time out.

Other Results:

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King's Lynn won once again to continue their push for promotion back to the National League, beating Peterborough Sports 1-2 away from home, to stay top of the league unbeaten. Josh Barrett scored a last-minute winner for the Linnets, who go 3 points clear of Banbury United in 2nd.

Spennymoor Town also remain unbeaten in the league, beating Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 away from home to move up to 5th in the league. Jude Obiyo scored just before half time, to ensure Spennymoor remained unbeaten, leaving only King's Lynn Town and Spennymoor Town as the only two teams to not lose a game this season.

Boston are still in search of their first win of the season, after drawing yet another game 1-1 in the National League North, at home to Kettering Town. Only Boston and Bradford Park Avenue, who remain in the relegation zone, are yet to win a game this campaign.

Gloucester City came from behind to beat Hereford away from home 1-3, to record their third win of the season. Goals from Matt McClure and a brace from TrΓ© Mitford cancelled out Aaron Amadi-Holloway's first-half goal, to put Gloucester in the top half.

National League North (Other results):

AFC Fylde 1-0 Southport

AFC Telford United 1-1 Buxton

Alfreton Town 0-2 Chorley

Blyth Spartans 1-2 Scarborough Athletic

Brackley Town 2-0 Kidderminster Harriers

Curzon Ashton 1-2 Chester

Darlington 1-0 Farsley Celtic

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