FOOTBALL: Brackley Town drew 1-1 at Hemel Hempstead Town on New Year’s Eve to go top of the table on goal difference.
The Southern League Premier Division fixture had a 1pm kick off time and the first half was not an advertisement for early starts as both sides struggled on a heavy pitch.
What little goal threat created came from the home side with midfielder Josh Scowen and Lewis striker Toomey the star performers.
Toomey had chances on 16 and 45 minutes but sandwiched in between was a well worked goal which gave the Tudors the lead at half time. Saints lost possession in midfield, Toomey carried the ball to the by-line bravely delivering a superb deep cross under challenge for Scowen to finish at the far post. Toomey collected an injury for his trouble requiring lengthy treatment.
In a much better second half Brackley dominated possession but both sides carved out chances to add to the goal tally. Saints levelled on 53 minutes in a carbon copy goal to Hemel’s as Carl Palmer won the ball centrally finding Owen Story on the right wing whose excellent cross was headed home by Jefferson Louis.
Saints won a succession of corners and a free-kick that Palmer fired narrowly over and on 70 minutes Hemel’s manager, ex-Southampton player Tommy Widdrington, was sent from the dugout for delaying play as Hemel came under sustained pressure.
However Hemel continued to provide a threat and Toomey somehow contrived to plant his header wide of Billy Turley’s goal when it seemed he would score before Turley was called into action to put Charlie Gorman’s free-kick out for a corner.
On 76 minutes Will Green replaced Anthony Thomas for Brackley, the young striker making an immediate impact with his pace. Twice Green went close as Louis and Nisevic also tested Kitteridge.
In the final moments Hemel captain Danny May’s bullet free-kick was superbly saved at full stretch by Turley and, as Saints laid siege to Kitteridge’s goal, Josh Green fired over from close range following another corner.
With results elsewhere going Saints’ way the hard-earned point was enough to take Brackley back to top spot on this last day of the year.
Brackley Town: Turley, Clifton, Nisevic, Palmer, J.Green, Marshall, Story (Kemp 90+3), Solkhon, Sandy (Diggin 50), Louis, Thomas (W. Green 76).
Hemel Hempstead Town: Kitteridge, Gilbert, Matt McEntegart, May, Morgan, Beale, Gorman, Scowen, Jallow, Toomey (Blake 76),