FOOTBALL: Brackley completed their league season with a fine 2-0 home win against local rivals Banbury United on Monday, following a defeat by the same scoreline at highfliers Hednesford Town last Saturday.
With play-off places beyond reach for Brackley and relegation fears eased for Banbury, the final league game of the season saw only local bragging rights at stake.
A tight and even first half gave way to a second half dominated by Brackley and won by goals from man of the match Elliot Sandy and Owen Story.
Goalkeepers Billy Turley and Joe Murrell were each troubled only once in a first half devoid of excitement for the 528 spectators enjoying the Bank Holiday sunshine at St James Park, Turley touching away young Will Green’s cross-shot on 28 minutes and Murrell saving well from Sandy’s long range effort on 18 minutes.
In the second half Brackley were able to bring winger Story more into the game, especially after switching to the left wing following Jamie Gould’s substitution on the hour. On 67 minutes it was replacement Jamie Clifton bursting through the middle who found Sandy and the tall striker needed no second invitation to plant the ball beyond the on-rushing Murrell to give Saints a deserved lead from which they never looked back.
With Banbury rarely threatening, Brackley went close again through Story’s lob (75 minutes) and fine inter-play around the box creating a splendid chance for Story but his scuffed shot was just wide. It was not until added time that the home side clinched the win with a superb goal to cap an excellent second half performance. Sandy picked out Story with a fine pass and the winger cut inside to shoot past Murrell and beyond the desperate McDonald on the goal-line.
This deserved win sealed ninth spot for Brackley and sent fans home in good heart for the summer.
Brackley Town: Turley, Magunda, Gould (Clifton), Quinn, Wilmott, Kemp, Story, Dempsey, Sandy (Collins), Chennells (Basham), J. Green.
Banbury United: Murrell, Farquharson (Stanbridge), Maddox, Gordon, Learoyd, Haisley, McDonald, Benjamin (Rose), Stone, Green, Staff.
>>Saturday’s penultimate league game of the season away at second-placed Hednesford was another frustrating outing that left Brackley heading back down the M6 empty-handed and Hednesford preparing for the play-offs.
An excellent first half brought chances for both sides with Brackley coming closest, striking the cross-bar on no fewer than three occasions and Elliot Sandy bringing a fine save from keeper Dan Crane as half time approached. Centre-forward Nick Wellecombe’s flashing header on 44 minutes was the home side’s best chance.
The game’s turning point came on 57 minutes as the outstanding Cheyenne Dunkley headed home the simplest of goals from a free-kick cheaply conceded.
Within minutes Brackley’s Michael Chennel’s collected Carl Palmer’s pass and lobbed Crane but his effort fell just wide as Saints fought to find a deserved equaliser.
Both sides made use of their substitutes and it was Hednesford who were the more likely to add to the goal tally, Chris Clements bringing a fine save from Stuart Dorrill direct from a free-kick before an added time wonder strike from 20 yards by Alex Melbourne gave Dorrill no chance and sealed the win.
>>Truro City end the season as Zamaretto Premier Division champions and are promoted to the Conference.
Hednesford Town, Salisbury City, Cambridge City and Leamington play off for the second promotion spot.