The last time the two sides met in Oxfordshire, Tamworth were on their way to an assault on the Southern Premier Central league title which was necessarily halted by the pandemic and so The Spencer Stadium warmly welcomed The Lambs again, some 18 months on, but this time the majority of the packed out ground was made up of partisan supporters , officials and volunteers whose eyes were squarely on the Andy Whing’s home side’s performance as the Puritans needed just one point, or a lack of a Coalville win over Hednesford, to clinch the league title.
Andy Peaks’ side came to the fixture on the back of eight games without defeat and The Puritans had a similar record, although with more victories under their belt and the best defensive record in the division.
There were two changes to the Lambs side that demolished Needham Market 5-2 seven days previously as Ben Bailey and Jordan Clement made way for Chris Cox and Jack Concannon.
After a flurry of snow and hail before the game, the sun came out and Tamworth got the game underway attacking the covered terrace end of the and nearly forged an early opening, but Concannon’s ball into the area from the left was cut out by one time Lamb, Langmead.
The same Puritan then got his head onto a deep cross from the right but it was only a tame header an d Lambs custodian Singh dealt with it easily.
Both sides continued to look organised and hungry to open the scoring, but the opening strike of the game was completely unexpected although it did come from a period of Lambs play out of midfield and when the ball teed up nicely for Whittingham, 30 yards from goal in the right channel he unleashed an unstoppable strike into the top left corner which silenced the whole ground, including the stunned and outnumbered Lambs fans who had made the short journey. (0-1, 15 mins).
And it was nearly two nil to The Lambs on 24 when Whittingham received the ball on the right of the box and fired past Harding but was leaning back and his shot clipped the top of the bar.
Creaney tried a volley from 20 yards shortly after which again signalled Tamworth’s intentions, and reinforced the turnaround in the side since Peaks’ arrival.
It definitely wasn’t all Tamworth though, and on the half hour Brown’s throw caused problems and Singh was forced to make a close range shot, and then Cox put his body on the line to prevent an 18 yard on target strike from home captain Rasulo.
A Beswick freekick found Creaney who found Hurst shortly before the break and The Lambs went on the offensive again but Concannon’s right footed effort cleared the goal and the stand as the chances came and went, but The Lambs went into the dressing room at half time with the single goal advantage.
The Puritans worked hard after the restart to try and get a way back into the tie with Stevens feeding Acquaye who returned the favour and Singh pulled off a fine block to deny the equaliser.
A run by Golding was then denied by Hurst but there was a stoppage on 51 when Yeomans went down holding his knee and after a period of treatment and a shoulder for support Howkins replaced him in defence, pushing Hurst out to the right.
Concannon and Creaney combined before the hour mark but Hardin blocked the shot from the latter and from a left sided home corner Hurst headed the ball away from Wreh.
However, Banbury did net the equaliser on 66 with a tidy finish from Roberts who broke through the back line and put the ball past the advancing Singh from 18 yards, however the complaints from The Lambs about a foul in the build up on Mussa were waved away by the referee. (1-1 66 mins)
The game could have gone either way as the minutes ticked down with two great chances for Tamworth coming first for McKeown who got himself into a great position in the box to force Harding into a fine stop diving full length to his left to push the ball around the post.
The home keeper then pulled off another great stop to deny Beswick from close range when it looked odds on that the Lambs captain would bag a close range strike.
News filtered around the ground that Coalville had been held to a goalless draw with Hednesford which meant that Banbury were Champions ahead of the final whistle, but after a couple of changes in personnel the game entered added time and a foul in the area allowed Rasulo to try and win it for the home side from the penalty spot.
He found Singh in great form to deny him in front of the packed out terrace behind him and the final whistle blew on a point a piece and superb all round performance from both sides.
As the home fans celebrated the title on the pitch with their heroes, Tamworth could take heart from the performance and move on from facing top club Banbury to the long trip to take on bottom club Lowestoft in 7 days time.
Harding, Golding, Brown, Babos, Langmead, Williams, Stevens, Rasulo, Wreh (Landers 84), Roberts, Acquaye
Subs: Hercules, Lewis, Taylor, Hawtin
Singh, Yeomans (Howkins 84), Wilder, Beswick, Hurst, Cox, Concannon, Mussa, Creaney, Whittingham (Tahra 88), McKeown
Subs: Smith, Parker, Walters
Referee: Mr. Scott