Avenue agony as Dorchester fall to late spot-kick call

BY: Dan Rose – Dorset Echo Sport


A LATE penalty call meant the Magpies’ unbeaten league record went up in smoke against Banbury United at the Avenue, in boss Craig Laird’s first game in charge.

The county town side had gone into the contest six games unbeaten against the Puritans, who took advantage of a crucial call made by referee Lee Rutter five minutes from time. With Matt Oldring suffering with illness and Solomon Ayunga out through injury, Laird’s first team selection came with the Magpies’ squad extremely stretched.

Youngster Billy Mitchell started in the midfield for the home side and there was also a return to the staring XI for Chris Dillon, after illness prevented him featuring at Basingstoke Town last time out.

New boss Laird was given a warm ovation from the home fans as he was introduced ahead of the game, and his team created the first half-chance on eight minutes.

Franklyn Clarke sent a sweeping ball out to the left for Ben Wood. He picked out Lewis Morgan, who had arrived in the box, but his header looped harmlessly over the top.

Both sides looked to settle on what was a tricky, heavy pitch at the Avenue, but some good keeping from Shane Murphy in the home goal avoided a slight scare for the home side.

A neat diagonal ball had Banbury’s Callum White galloping in on goal on the angle, but the county town keeper was smartly off his line to clear the danger.

Moments later, Clarke then found Tom Blair on the left and the winger was wiped out by full-back Jack Westbrook. Clarke stepped up to swing in the resulting free-kick, which was gathered at the second attempt by Banbury keeper Jack Harding.

Banbury’s first real opportunity then came midway through the opening period as Conor McDonagh fired just wide following a cutback from Callum White, and that was to trigger another big chance for the visitors.

Having lost the ball in midfield, Clarke showed great tenacity to track back and put in a double block to stop the away team taking the lead.

Following the break, the Puritans, who had taken 13 points from six league games going into the contest, set their stall out to seal another victory.

With the opening opportunity of the second half, winger Marvin Martin drilled the ball across goal without anyone able to add a final touch.

Shortly after, a strong run from Zac McEachran allowed him to lay the ball off to Jack Self, He fired straight at Murphy with venom and the Magpies’ keeper was up to the task to beat the ball away.

Self then looked to take aim again after latching on to Luke Carnell’s knockdown for the away side, but his acrobatic effort was tame.

Banbury continued to push in a bid to break the deadlock, and McDonagh then managed to put the ball in the net. Having raced in on goal and provided a neat finish into the bottom corner, he was flagged offside.

But after surviving that scare, the hammer blow then came for the Magpies just five minutes from time, in controversial fashion.

A ball drilled in from the left flank by Marvin Martin was blocked by Dorchester’s Neil Martin who appeared to throw his body in the way of the ball to block the cross.

Poole-based referee Rutter saw it differently however, and adjudged that the full-back had handled inside the area and awarded the spot-kick.

Up stepped Banbury’s Mark Bell, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net to win it, in what was a cruel defeat for the Magpies.

Magpies: Murphy, Brookes, Martin, Morgan, Walker, Dillon, Clarke, Mitchell, Wood, Jerrard, Blair. Subs not used: Nicolson, Mullis, Ross, Taylor

Banbury: Harding, Westbrook, Gunn, Nash, Carnell, Self, White, McGonagh (Bell 73), Asiedu-Ofosu (Browne 65), McEachran (Odhiambo 86), Martin. Subs not used: Humphreys, Blackstock

Bookings: Martin

Referee: Lee Rutter (Poole)

Attendance: 491