BRACKLEY Town crashed out of the FA Cup after losing 4-3 to Arlesey Town in a pulsating, action-packed encounter on Saturday.
The Saints started in the worst possible fashion, going 3-0 down inside eight minutes – but a spirited second half comeback set up an exciting finish.
Brackley piled on the pressure and created numerous clear-cut chances but they were denied by some sublime goalkeeping and heroic defending.
It was a breathless and frenetic affair that made for sensational viewing but Brackley boss Jon Brady will be furious with his side’s slack start to the game that ultimately proved costly.
The Australian was eager to go on a cup run, which was highlighted by the strong side he put out that saw defender Wayne Hatswell return from injury.
Despite putting out such a positive team, Brackley began disastrously and gifted three goals to Arlesey inside eight minutes.
The first goal came after 90 seconds when Josh Green dallied on the ball for too long to allow Jenmal Prosper to nick in and slot past Billy Turley.
Straight from the kick-off, Arlesey came surging forward again and doubled their lead when the Brackley defence gifted space and time to Aston Goss, who ran towards the penalty box and shot into the corner with Turley only able to parry it in.
The third goal shortly followed and it was result of more slack defending from the visitors as a poor defensive header allowed Prosper to poke home for his second.
It was all one-way traffic with Brackley unable to get into the game and only a superb save from Turley as well as James Clifton’s goal-line clearance prevented Arlesey making it 4-0.
The shell-shocked visitors struggled to get on the ball with Arlesey constantly in their faces and making things tough for the Blue Square North side.
An indication of just how poorly Brackley were playing came midway through the half when below-par right-back Clifton was substituted for Eddie Odhiambo.
However, Saints did eventually show some ambition to exert a sustained period of pressure on the hosts defence.
Marvin Robinson went closest for Saints after he headed Odhiambo’s superb cross onto the bar.
That was just a sign of things to come, though, as Brackley got right back into the game when Brett Solkhon coolly slotted Glen Walker’s pull-back into the corner following a well-worked move.
The goal encouraged Brackley further and they almost got a second within minutes but Nathan Abbey saved well down to his right from Curtis McDonald.
Brackley ended the half on the front foot with Arlesey’s vulnerable defence managing to survive until the break.
Saints began the second half far better than they did in the first – keeping the resolute home side penned back in their own half.
But, despite Brackley looking the likelier, Arlesey seemingly put the game to bed with a fourth goal when centre-back Shane Blackett buried a 25-yard shot into the bottom corner.
The determined visitors kept pushing forward and were rewarded for their persistence with a second goal after Steve Diggin was fouled in the area.
The same player stepped up and superbly converted the penalty to give Brackley some hope at 4-2.
Saints were all over the home side from that moment and they reduced the deficit even further when Robinson rose highest and powered in Walkers corner.
There only looked one winner from then on as Brackley piled on the pressure with Diggin going close before a massive shout for a penalty was waved away despite what looked a clear handball.
The visitors’ attacks were relentless – keeping Arlesey camped inside their own penalty area and they looked to have clinched a replay when Robinson again rose well but his powerful header produced a magnificent save from Abbey.
Brackley poured forward again and again in stoppage time and carved open the Arlesey defence on numerous occasions but both Robinson and Winters missed golden chances.
Somehow the hosts held on to progress into the next round, leaving Brackley to rue a terrible first 10 minutes that cost them dear.
Arlesey: Abbey, Thurlbourne, Davis, Blackett, Frater (c), Prosper, Goss (Draycott 66), Hatch (Abbey 90), Tavernier, Dillon, Roberts (Patrick 86).
Subs not used: Forsythe, Cook, Powell, Bussey
Brackley: Turley (c), Clifton (Odhiambo 28), McDonald, Corcoran (Sandy 66), Hatswell (W Green 76), Green J, Winters, Solkhon, Diggin, Robinson, Walker.
Subs not used: Story, Mulligan, Nisevic, Zylski
Referee: M Blackledge
Assistants: J Smith and R Dowden