Brackley Town Saints – 0
Brackley Town – 1
The first ever meeting of St James Park tenants v hosts saw the Northants Hillier Senior Cup Semi-Final played out in swirling wind and rain on Tuesday evening, and for the majority of the game the lower ranked Saints side defended for their lives against their higher level opponents and it took a hugely deflected goal to settle the tie, the only way that Town could find a way past a resilient Alastair Worby in the Saints goal and Gordon Kille’s men did have two glorious second half chances to level the fixture but with those spurned it was Town who progress to the final in April against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. A healthy crowd of over three hundred turned up to witness the two sides face each other for the first time in a cup which was not high in the priorities of either side, with Town still fighting for a play-off play in the National League North promotion battle as well looking to retain the FA Trophy they famously won last May, and Saints still in two Hellenic cup competitions as well as having led the Premier Division title race until last week, looking to gain promotion to the Southern League for the first time in their history.
It was the ‘home’ side that had the first chance of the evening when Ryan Knight was fed in down the left channel where he fired into the side netting from inside the box, but from there the step two side took control and dominated the half, a trio of corners were won in the opening twelve minutes however none were to really threaten. A cross from their right finally caused some concern when Worby advanced to punch away but as the ball looked set to fall perfectly at the feet of Daniel Nti the custodian threw himself forward to scoop away in the nick of time, moments later a ball played through for Nti to chase after saw the keeper out to the edge of his eighteen yard area to gather, his attempted throw out then to the opposite flank was intercepted and played inside to Omari Sterling James who powered narrowly wide of the goal frame.
On twenty-six minutes a stinging drive from Adam Walker saw Worby acrobatically tip over one handed for a corner, ahead of Gaz Dean collecting a pass on the edge of the box from where he turned his marker but could only drag wide of the target, and just past the half hour mark Carl Baker from twelve yards forced Worby down low to make a save that saw the ball ricochet up onto the crossbar and eventually cleared away. Glenn Walker then got down the right wing and crossed for Sterling James to get a shot away that again the keeper got fingers on to push away, the resulting corner swung where Walker glanced a header across goal and wide of the far upright.
Shane Byrne retrieved a cross that was far too deep into the Saints box & turned to thump a shot at Worby which the keeper put both hands up to block, on the penalty spot a defender was on hand to hook away to safety. The onslaught kept on until the final seconds of the half but the home defence stood strong, Shaun Jeffers had a low drive well saved by Worby before Sterling James collected just outside the penalty arc but curled straight into the waiting gloves of the keeper. H/T: 0-0
Town were on the attack early in the second period with Baker who from the left hand side of the box saw his shot brilliantly tipped over, and it seemed as though nothing was going to change from the first period, but then on fifty minutes came the only goal of the game when a shot from Jeffers took a big deflection to wrong foot Worby and bounce across the six yard box into the bottom corner. Within a couple of minutes of the goal the Saints keeper was in action again getting down low to his near post to thwart Sterling James, and a rare attack at the opposite end saw a ball played forward for James Hammond to chase but shoulder to shoulder with Walker the experienced Town player eased him off the ball before clearing out wide.
Town full back Luke Fairlamb then got down the left and flashed the ball across the eighteen yard area but with no one any near it simply rolled away for a goal kick, moments later Baker did well inside the area twisting & turning to create an inch of space to shoot but his effort crashed back off the goal frame and away to safety. Still the pressure came with Baker pulling a shot wide from close range, but then with eighteen minutes left Saints had their best chance of the game when Knight got down the wing and delivered the perfect cross in between the Town keeper Danny Lewis and a defender but sliding in behind substitute Chris Jordan at full stretch just couldn’t quite connect.
Town sub Matt Lowe saw a burst of speed take him down the right wing but getting into the box he fizzed the ball across the six yard area but no yellow shirts were forward enough to get anything on it, from the clearance Jordan Godfrey found Hammond who tried to bend around Lewis but he simply had to fall away to his left to gather; in added time Saints had one final chance to level when a great chip into the back of the box found Charlie Kille on his own but as he went low for the near post defender Ellis Myles and Lewis threw themselves in front of the shot and between them it was somehow diverted for a corner. As the players left the pitch at the end of the game, a good proportion of the spectators waited to offer a huge round of applause to the young Brackley team for their efforts. F/T: 0-1
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