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Brackley Town 1-1 (5-6 pens) Gateshead 19 July 2020
National League North Play-off Eliminator
Penalty heart-break again
Saints fell at the play-off hurdle for the third successive season losing out to Gateshead in a dramatic penalty shoot-out at an eerily deserted St James Park.
“It is disappointing,” Kevin Wilkin said. “The players have given a fantastic effort again today and through the course of the season and we are frustrated again. It probably makes it worse that we had a shot to win it again and we’ve not taken it.”
A closely contested game produced few clear-cut chances but burst into life at the end of the first half. Gateshead failed to convert a 35th minute penalty, Danny Lewis saving to his left from Jordan Preston but the visitors finally profited from mounting pressure to take the lead deep into added time. Greg Olley’s free-kick was not well defended leaving Jake Cooper the simplest of tasks to head the ball over the line.
Within seconds Brackley were level and in remarkable fashion as, directly from the re-start Shane Byrne conjured an outrageous equaliser, the midfielder somehow beating keeper Brad James from inside his own half, the ball dipping beneath the crossbar.
Goal threats were rare in a lacklustre second half as the prospect of a penalty shoot-out loomed. Elliot Forbes’ shot was saved by Lewis and O’Donnell’s effort almost crept in. For Brackley Lee Ndlovu at full stretch almost met Connor Franklin’s low cross in the closest the home team came to settling the game in the 90 minutes.
Instead another St James Park play-off was decided from the penalty spot. Gateshead keeper Brad James was the hero of the hour pulling off three saves to send his side through to meet Boston United in the semi-final.
“Two teams have come out and gone toe to toe and unfortunately it’s not quite happened for us,” Wilkin added. “There were some good performances out there and I think there were some where I would expect a bit more. We always knew that Gateshead would be difficult to break down and that proved to be the case. To come here and do what they’ve done they deserve a lot of credit. We wish them well in the semi-final.”
Brackley Town: Lewis, Myles, Franklin (Daire 87), Byrne, Walker, Dean, Lowe, Murombedzi (Maye 90+2), Ndlovu (Smith 90+3), Armson, Baker (Fairlamb 75). Subs unused: Langmead, Worby.
Gateshead: James, Nicholson, Agnew (Pattison 89), Forbes, Cooper, Williamson, Preston, Deverdics, Keating (Blackett 70), Olley, O’Donnell. Subs unused: Greenfield, Guthrie, Hunter.
Referee: Scott Simpson Assistants: Jacob Lahane and Dan Robinson
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Alfreton Town 2-4 Brackley Town 14 March 2020
Superb Saints on top form
With most sporting events across the country off under lockdown, Brackley’s National League North game survived a mid-morning pitch inspection and was one of a very few matches that went ahead. Saints put in a superb performance to collect a win that takes them into 3rd place ahead of what looks likely to be an extended break for the emerging health emergency. Lee Ndlovu’s 20th goal of the season and another from Matt Lowe added to first half goals from Wes York and Jimmy Armson to give Saints an unassailable lead despite Alfreton scoring two very late goals.
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Brackley Town 5-2 Blyth Spartans 7 March 2020
Turn-around sees Saints triumph
A disappointing first half when neither side really tested the opposition keeper, gave way to a much livelier second half as Brackley recorded a convincing home win to remain in 4th place and Blyth suffered a first defeat under new manager Michael Nelson.
“We weren’t great in the first half offensively,” Kevin Wilkin said. “We got them in at half-time and we were all a little bit frustrated. But they’ve taken that on board and it has obviously paid dividends in the end. Our players understood what to do to break them down and in fairness in the end we probably should have scored a couple more.”
Shane Byrne’s free-kick brought a fine save from Blyth keeper Zack Hemmings in Saints’ best chance of the first half but it was the visitors who went ahead as Leighton McIntosh was let in by defensive hesitancy and the ball somehow squirmed off the post and over the line to give Blyth a half-time lead.
But Brackley were ahead within seven minutes of the re-start as Lee Ndlovu headed in from Matt Lowe’s cross and Lowe fired in a superb effort giving Hemmings no chance.
Blyth levelled through Adam Wrightson’s deflected shot from 20 yards just before the hour before Saints pulled away as Lowe notched his second goal after 68 minutes beating three defenders before shooting low to find the corner and Ndlovu bagged his second also bundling in from Byrne’s delivery after 77 minutes.
Byrne got in on the act two minutes later to score a fifth as Wes York’s shot could only be parried by Hemmings and Saints could have added more goals in a second half that was a complete turn-around from the opening 45 minutes.
Brackley Town: Lewis, Myles, Franklin, Byrne, Audel, Dean, Lowe, Murombedzi (Maye 82), Ndlovu, Holman (Armson 67), York (Daire 87). Subs unused: Langmead, Smith.
Blyth Spartans: Hemmings, Evans, Thackray, Hunter, Cunningham, Hawkins, Wrightson (Dale 65), Waddington, Harmison (McKeown 79), McIntosh, Scott (Callaghan 83). Subs unused: Mullen, Summerly.
Referee: Dale Baines Assistants: Rob Hathaway and Luis Martin