Brackley Town slumped to their sixth defeat in seven games when they were beaten 1-0 by Stockport County in a scrappy Conference North encounter on Saturday afternoon.
In a game largely devoid of goalmouth incident, Jack Ryan’s first half goal was enough to earn the visitors all three points and keep Saints stuck in a relegation battle.
Manager Jon Brady named a much-changed line-up from the previous weekend’s 4-1 defeat at Hednesford with Paulo Mendes, who has signed for the club from Oxford City, making his debut, while Dean Snedker started in goal following his return to the club.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between in a scrappy and disjointed first quarter between two teams visibly lacking in confidence and form, with Richie Baker having the first shot on 20 minutes when he fired narrowly over from 20 yards.
At the other end, the tricky Ebby Nelson-Addy was Brackley’s brightest spark with his driving runs forcing the visiting defenders to retreat but the hosts were unable to profit from several promising positions as both sides lacked any quality in the final third.
The game’s only goal came completely out of the blue and arrived on 33 minutes in bizarre fashion. Greg Wilkinson’s cross was headed harmlessly towards goal by Ryan, only for Snedker to completely misjudge the flight of the ball and allow it to sail over him and into the net for the softest of goals.
Saints sought an immediate response with Frank Sinclair heading over from a corner before the dangerous Nelson-Addy continued to cause problems as he cut inside and teed up Sam Whittall, whose shot from the edge of the area was deflected over for a corner, from which captain Ryan Austin headed narrowly over.
More defensive confusion almost allowed the visitors to double their lead with Kyle Jacob’s dangerous run into the box halted at the last minute by Austin before the ineffective Mendes was hauled off on the stroke of half-time and replaced by Will Green as Stockport maintained their slender advantage into half-time.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first with excitement in short supply as both sides struggled for fluency with the two keepers reduced to mere spectators for large periods of the half.
Brackley’s biggest threat came from set-pieces and the delivery of Chris Carruthers, while Ryan Rowe looked lively up front and he went close when his looping header from David Moyo’s cross landed narrowly wide.
Then arrived Brackley’s solitary clear-cut chance of the match when Green beat the offside trap and raced through on goal, only to be denied by an excellent save from Danny Hurst.
That was to be Saints’ only sight of goal and instead it was the visitors who came closest to doubling their lead when Danny Glover was denied by Snedker when through one-on-one with the Town keeper then brilliantly tipping the rebound onto the bar.
The miss didn’t prove costly for Stockport as the visitors saw out the final few minutes to condemn Saints to a sixth defeat in seven matches and leave them in danger of being sucked into a relegation battle.
Saints: Dean Snedker, Roddy Collins (Michael Built 82), Frank Sinclair, Ryan Austin (c), Chris Carruthers, Ebby Nelson-Addy, Eddie Odhiambo, Sam Whitall, Paulo Mendes (Will Green 45), David Moyo, Ryan Rowe.
Subs not used: Tom Sharpe, Stuart Pierpoint, Billy Turley
Stockport: Hurst, Jacobs, Todd, Lees (c), Hancock, O’Halloran, Baker, Churchman, Glover, Ryan, Wilkinson.
Referee: Michael D’Aguilar