Impressive Workington hold Saints to draw

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Promotion hopefuls Brackley Town were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Workington in an incident-packed encounter on a Saturday afternoon of extreme weather.

Having kicked-off under bright skies, the first half had to be stopped shortly before half time when a horrendous storm swept through the area, bringing thunder and lightening amid torrential rain.

Conditions dramatically improved in a thoroughly entertaining second half, however, as Steve Diggin put Saints in front with an exquisite finish, which was quickly cancelled out by Josef Jackson’s penalty.

The Conference North’s bottom side deserved at least a point after an impressive display that belied their league position as their willingness to play neat passing football was rewarded with several chances, only for Billy Turley to produce a string of saves.

The encounter had represented a golden opportunity for Brackley to strengthen their grip on a play-off place with their opponents without a win in 12, but Workington settled into the game well and quickly got on top.

Swirling wind made playing good football tough and Brackley in particular struggled to adapt to the conditions as several forward balls flew out of play.

Workington, meanwhile, controlled large periods of play and sensed their chance to cause an upset and it was they who came closest in the opening half-an-hour with David Lynch and Jackson both forcing the home defence into action.

At the other end, the nearest Brackley came to the breakthrough was through Glenn Walker’s free-kick that sailed over everyone and nearly sneaked in at the back post, but Danijel Nizic clawed away.

Then came the most brutal storm that saw lightening, thunder, torrential rain and strong wind all hit St James Park, forcing referee Sian Massey to take the players from the field.

The delay was only brief, though, as the rain quickly relented and action resumed, with Workington continuing their impressive start on the resumption as Phil McLuckie almost scrambled home from a corner before Ben McKenna forced Turley to tip wide.

Workington ended the half well on top and were unfortunate not to go into half time ahead with Turley again having to save well from Jackson, Brackley somehow surviving until half time still level.

The second half, which started in bright sunshine and no rain, typifying the British weather, saw Saints restart with greater urgency, knowing they needed to up their game, but again Workington played with impressive confidence and intensity to cause their hosts more problems.

However, the introduction of Diggin switched the momentum of the match as within minutes of his arrival he found the crucial breakthrough. Despite failing to have a single shot on target, Brackley took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when a corner dropped to Diggin at the back post and the striker brilliantly looped a volley over Nizic and into the far corner.

Now was the chance for the hosts to go for the jugular and seal victory, but the stubborn visitors remained undeterred and they were finally rewarded for their perseverance when Jackson sprinted beyond the home defence only to be taken out by the onrushing Turley.

The Saints stopper was lucky to only see yellow and not red, despite his vehement protests, as Jackson made no mistake from the penalty to power into the top corner and deservedly bring Workington level.

The remaining minutes saw chances at either end, with Stefan Moore going closest to finding a winner when he weaved into space and fired at Nizic but the goalkeeper saved well before diving onto the loose ball before Diggin could slide home.

Workington had chances, too, as they earned themselves a precious and much-deserved point, but for Brackley it was a missed opportunity to gain ground on the teams above them.

Brackley: Turley, Reid, Sharpe, Austin (c), Nisevic, Story (Diggin 51), Towers, Solkhon, Walker, Moore, Mulligan (Mills 72).

Subs not used: Cartwright, Bridges, Odhiambo.

Workington: Nizic, Fernandes, Brownhill, Andrews, Skelton, Lynch, McLuckie, Hindmarch, Jackson, Wright (c), McKenna.

Subs not used: Fernandes, Tinnion, Allison, Jamieson.

Referee: Sian Massey