What might initially have been viewed as two points dropped then became a welcome Southern League Premier Division Central point gained for St Ives Town yesterday.
Ricky Marheineke’s side were involved in a 2-2 thriller against Banbury on an afternoon of mixed emotions at Westwood Road which eventually ended in deadlock.
Saints powered into a two-goal advantage with recent signing Jake Newman’s first goal for the club after just 18 seconds being swiftly followed by an exquisite strike from fellow frontman Danny Kelly.
Newman tucked away a rebound after Ben Baker’s effort was saved, but the visitors were left fuming after an assistant referee raised his flag – for a foul by Kelly earlier in the attack - only for official Stephen Bates to allow play to continue.
And while the opener was laced with controversy, the second St Ives goal was full of quality as Kelly seized on a weak clearance from Banbury keeper Emmanuel Agboola and steered in a delightful finish from fully 40 yards.
Banbury were denied by the woodwork in between those two Saints breakthroughs, but they did succeed in finding the net only 18 minutes into a breathless first half through Giorgio Rasulo.
Newman was twice denied by terrific Agboola saves on the stroke of half-time, but the fact he picked up a caution following a tangle with Banbury defender Charlie Wise proved to be a more telling moment.
That’s because Newman received another booking – and a red card – on the hour after clattering into the same visiting player which left Saints facing a rearguard action for the final 30 minutes.
They predictably came under plenty of pressure and it eventually told late on when Banbury skipper Ricky Johnson struck from close range after a mix-up in the Saints defence.
“The sending off changed the game,” said manager Marheineke.
“The referee lost his head and started dishing out yellow cards left, right and centre late in the first half for next to nothing.
“And Jake should have had a free-kick himself before getting the second booking for a tackle he probably didn’t need to make when already on a yellow card.
“But I thought we did a fantastic job with 10 men. Banbury were slinging balls into our box, but our goalkeeper didn’t really have a save to make and I didn’t think we could concede.
“But unfortunately a defensive mix-up has ended up gifting them an equaliser and we’re gutted not to hang on for the three points.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for the players, though. Yet again our work-rate, our togetherness, our endeavour and our attitude were all spot-on.
“We had a very positive team-talk after the game despite the disappointment of missing out on the win.”
The draw left Saints sitting 16th in the Premier Division Central standings. They are two points above the relegation zone.