Super-sub Aaron Rodriguez is saviour for Terras in draw with Banbury United
A GOAL from substitute Aaron Rodriguez meant the Terras battled back to seal a point against in-form Banbury.
It looked like it was set to be more doom and gloom for Jason Matthews’ side on their own patch with 37 minutes gone but a header from Stuart Fleetwood coupled with Rodriguez’s leveller ensured the Terras secured a share of the spoils.
The home side went into the contest having strengthened their defensive options just hours before kick-off. They drafted in defender Toby Down from Exeter City.
Youngster Down agreed a one-month loan spell at Weymouth and came in to supply cover for former Exeter man Jake Wannell, who missed out with a hamstring injury picked up against Stratford at the weekend.
The Grecians’ teenager was given a start at left-back in a Terras XI that included three changes.
Chris Allen and Stewart Yetton also started in place of Dean Evans and Conor Jevon, who both dropped to the bench.
The Terras faced up against a Banbury United side on a cracking run – the Puritans had won five out of their last six games in the league to top the form charts going into their trip to the south coast.
But it was the Terras that fashioned the first chance of the game on four minutes. Yetton swiftly linked up with Chris Shephard, who once again featured in the number 10 role for the hosts.
The Weymouth playmaker quickly tested Puritans’ keeper Jack Harding but saw his strike comfortably saved.
With both sides looking to move the ball around at pace, Jordan Copp’s strong challenge for the Terras allowed him to drive at goal but his deflected strike was gathered.
Banbury had set their stall out to move the ball around on the neat surface at the Bob Lucas Stadium and they came close to opening the scoring on 23 minutes.
A slick Puritans’ counter saw the Terras caught on the left-hand side and the ball was squared for striker Conor McDonagh, who rattled the upright from close range when it looked easier to score.
McDonagh was not to be denied second time round however, as he then struck the opener on 25 minutes – lashing home after some neat build-up by the visitors.
And 12 minutes later, the away side doubled their advantage.
After an initial effort was blocked, the ball fell kindly to Banbury’s Jack Self, who had all the time in the world to pull the trigger and hammer the ball past Weymouth keeper Tom McHale.
Copp then saw an effort blocked after meeting a cutback at the other end but, just two minutes before the break, the hosts got themselves back in the game.
A neat corner routine saw the ball played to Charlie Davis on the edge of the area, he swung in a dangerous delivery which Stuart Fleetwood flicked into the net to pull a goal back just before half-time.
Following the interval, the Puritans almost extended their lead once again.
Winger Callum White surged into the Weymouth box and, trying to blast the ball in at the near post, he rattled the woodwork.
Tempers then flared slightly as Yetton went in high on his man. That sparked some handbags and referee Martin Bloor somehow awarded Weymouth the free-kick.
Ashley Wells was then replaced by Terras’ assistant Mark Molesley, shortly before Davis sent a free-kick into the clutches of Harding.
Chances continued to be few and far between for both sides but, when they got the opportunity, Matthews’ men came within inches of making it 2-2.
Up from the back, Calvin Brooks’ header looked for all the money to be dropping into the net but it clipped the bar and fell to safety.
Yetton was then replaced by Rodriguez for the home side, with Fleetwood moving into a central role.
That change was to pay dividends for Matthews as it was Rodriguez who netted the leveller to earn the Terras a point on 84 minutes.
He drilled the ball at goal after the Puritans had half-cleared a cross and the shot went through the legs of Harding and into the net.
The keeper probably should have done better, but the Terras did not care.
McHale was then called into action with a fine save diving to his right to deny a rasping shot from substitute James Smith and Stephane Zubar also put in a last-ditch clearance late on to ensure Weymouth secured a share of the spoils.