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Bideford beaten as Banbury United weather the storm in Calor League

By NDJMark  |  Posted: January 27, 2014

Craig Duff has impressed for Bideford since returning from suspension

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The winter Olympics are due to start in Russia next week.

Athletes will be slipping and sliding and attempting to keep their balance in bitterly cold conditions.

For the footballers of Banbury United and Bideford, there was a similar challenge in the Calor League Premier Division on Saturday.   

Amid the thunder, lightning, hailstones, hammering rain and howling wind, they made a pretty good job of attempting to play their normal game.

Marvin Martin's 19th-minute goal rewarded Banbury's lively start and ultimately proved enough for a 1-0 win.  

For Bideford, despite dominating after the 10-minute weather delay before half time, there was no way through. The home side weathered the storm.

So often recently, Sean Joyce's team have found a way to win when circumstances seem to have been against them.

This time, they did not get the breaks as Craig Duff was denied by an outstanding save from Kwame Fordah and Matt Hockley had a late equaliser ruled out for offside.

When the sides met at the Sports Ground in November, Banbury had been pegged back by two late goals from Ethan Phillips for a 2-2 draw. They started with a point to prove and, with Marcus Green roving down they left wing against Steve Orchard, could have scored more.

Martin saw a misdirected cross rattle the bar, then picked out Leon Simpson who tested Steve Oliver with a low drive.

The breakthrough came when Oliver, under pressure from the 6ft 8in Simpson, did not get enough distance on a punch and Martin struck from close range.

Banbury continued to press with Green shooting wide and Oliver twice thwarting Anderson Pinto, including a superb reaction save from a header.

Simpson was unable to stoop enough to keep a pointblank header under the crossbar.

Bideford gradually got to grips with midfield and, after a neat combination between Duff and Hockley, Kevin Squire shot over. 

Then in the 35th minute came the storm which sent players and officials running for shelter and left the pitch almost unplayable.

As the referee considered calling it off, both teams were eager to continue.

"We wanted it on 100%," said Joyce.  "We don't want to come back up here in midweek.

"It was a credit to two teams that it finished without any major incidents."

On a surface resembling a swimming pool, it became a game of percentages with both teams playing the ball in behind and hoping forwards could keep their feet long enough to get a shot away.

After the delay, Bideford played with renewed purpose with Hockley, the captain, driving them on through the mud.

Duff headed against the post from Ian Sampson's free kick and Graham Mercieca turned down a chance to shoot when played through by Hockley.

The visitors increased their threat in the second half with the introduction of strikers Owen Howe and Sean Downing, both making their return from injury.

But with Tom Ryan in superb form in defence and the linesman making some questionable calls, Banbury held out. 

Bideford were incensed when Hockley's goal was ruled out because Duff was judged to have been offside in the build up.

And Downing was also flagged after breaking through from the left when it seemed Howe, in the middle, was the only player in an offside position.

"The linesman apologised," said Joyce. "He said, 'I put my flag up too quickly'.

"If we had got back to 1-1, I think there's only one team that was going to win it. I felt they were ready to go. 

"After the first 35 minutes I thought we dominated the game. I can't fault the commitment and energy." 

Duff went closest to the equaliser, showing skill and balance to carve out a shooting chance only for Fordah to react brilliantly and deflect the ball over. 

Howe finally seemed to have escaped the Banbury defence in stoppage time but he slipped at the crucial moment. 
It was that sort of game.

Banbury United (4-4-2): Kwame Fordah; Scott Bridges, John Mbamarah, Tom Ryan, Luke Cray; Anderson Pinto, Marvin Martin, Kyal McNulty, Marcus Green; Dominic Lawless, Leon Simpson. Subs not used: Paps Roland Joao, Sean Barker.

Goal: Martin 19.

Yellow card: Ryan.

Bideford (4-4-1-1): Steve Oliver; Steve Orchard (Sean Downing 48),  Nick Milton, Rob Farkins, Nick Barker; Ian Sampson, Matt Hockley, Matt Bye, Graham Mercieca (Ethan Phillips 79); Craig Duff; Kevin Squire (Owen Howe 67). Subs not used: Richard Groves, Stephen Reed.

Yellow card: Duff.

Referee: Michael Webb (Woking).

Attendance:  229.

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