Banbury United (13/01/2024) – Preview/Supporter Info

For the first time in 2024 Spartans are back in action at Croft Park! Going into the game against Banbury United on the back of 3 wins, Jon Shaw’s Blyth Spartans will be looking to collect another 3 points and climb further up the National League North and closer to the play offs.

Banbury will arrive at Croft Park on the back of 4 league defeats and having only managed 1 victory in their last 10 league outings. Due to their poor form of late, the Oxfordshire side have slipped down to 20th place in the league and only 3 points above the dropzone.

That being said, Banbury’s away form across the entire season is an odd one. They’ve picked up 6 of their 8 league wins on the road this season, which is obviously what’s keeping them out of the drop zone – for now at least. On top of that, looking at the ‘away table’ for the season so far, Banbury’s results have them coming out with the 6th best away record in the league this season.

Having only scored 22 goals this season, Banbury are the joint second lowest scorers in the league this season along with Farsley Celtic, with only Darlington 1883 having scored less (19). Up top at least, Banbury aren’t totally void of goal threats. Favouring systems that have 2 central strikers, Both Ken Charles and Adi Yussuf have carried The Puritans so far this season.

Ken Charles tops Banbury’s scoring charts with 8 goals so far this season. A strong and somewhat pacey forward, Charles arrived from National League South side Cheshunt in the summer after bagging 9 goals for them across 2 spells last season. If we can keep him under wraps tomorrow, we’ll be in for a good day.

Strike partner Adi Yussuf is possibly a bit better known to many of us, having recently played for Gateshead. A proper journeyman that will likely rival Trevor Benjamin for transfer moves when he retires, having already been either transferred, released or loaned out over 20 times in his career. Approaching 32 years old, the Tanzania international has floated between the Football League and the National League throughout most of his career, despite not being a prolific goal scorer since the 2014/15 season when he set the then Skrill North alight with 27 goals in 39 goals for Oxford City. That lad must have one hell of an agent.

While they may have failed to score many goals this season, in defence they’re from the worst in the league when it comes to goal’s conceded. Former Norwich youth player Tai Fleming has been pretty solid for them this season. At only 21 years old, the 6ft + behemoth is solid in the air and would likely header away a fridge if you threw it at him. Goalkeeper Jack Harding has been another reliable player Banbury this season, having kept 7 clean sheets – which is decent for a team that far down the league. Having been at the club since 2015, Jack is an agile keeper with some canny reflexes, so our forwards will need to be at their best to beat him. Shame about the absolute state of his shirt though.

As for Spartans, Midfielder/Striker Jordan Cook will be in line to make his debut after agreeing a deal with the club earlier in the week. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used in the team, especially with having just had a lengthily lay off. As for injuries, Alex Mitchell is obviously out for the season now and Harry Arnison has been out for a while with injury, though I’ve ne idea what’s happened with him sadly. Jordan Hickey missed last week’s trip to London, presumably due to injury. I’m hoping he’s back and ready to go for tomorrow, as he really makes that midfield work. JJ O’Donnell will apparently be out for a while as well, after injuring himself while taking his bib off away at South Shields on Boxing Day. Joe Oliver also missed last week’s trip South, so hopefully he’ll be back in contention again come tomorrow after his good form over Christmas. JJ Hooper has been used as an impact player in recent weeks, coming on in the later half of games and scoring some vital goals. Hopefully come tomorrow, he could be back in contention for a start.

No segregation will be in place tomorrow of course, so the Banbury Blackout Boys will be allowed to roam free. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them or the extremely mouthy lads from the previous game will make the trip up North this week, as they all seemed so hard when trapped behind a metal fence despite Mark Henry patrolling the stands, hoying out the Banbury youth for fun.

As ever, the Spartans Clubhouse will be open from midday were we’ll have Shy’s Pies on the go early doors. The Chelsea vs Fulham match is live on TNT Sports, so that will be shown from 12:30pm. After the game, the Newcastle United vs Man City game will be shown live from about 5:30pm as well – and Colin might be flogging some hotdogs as well! Expect the club will busying after the game, so you may want to double up ya drinks order when at the bar.

Hopefully with the Toon’s late kick off and the Mackems playing away, we’ll be getting a gate north of 800 in tomorrow. As ever to save yourself time at the gate, you’ll be best off buying a ticket online here.

In the ground you’ll find the regular food van in it’s usual spot, serving scran from about 1pm onwards. The Club Store will be open from 1:30pm until about 2:50pm and due to a huge amount of demand, they’ll be low on stock in some replica shirt sizes so if you’ve got some Christmas cash you’re looking to burn and still haven’t got a shirt yet, I’d get in quick as I don’t expect they’ll be doing many restocks between now and the end of the season.

The bookies have Spartans as heavy favourites tomorrow across just about every bookie I’ve looked at. By the time tomorrow morning roles around, you’ll probably struggle to find any decent odds. As for a specific result, given that we’ve scored for fun since Jon was named manager and with JJ Hooper back in the side along with Harry Gardiner’s goal scoring form last week, I personally fancy a 3-0 or 3-1 Blyth win but again, the odds could be better.