Top scorer Lee Ndlovu hit the winner as Brackley Town beat Vanarama National League North leaders Stockport County 1-0 on Saturday.
Ndlovu’s 19th goal of the campaign was all that separated the league’s top two in-form teams at St James Park.
Saints manager Kevin Wilkin was able to field a full strength side against the leaders after Gaz Dean, Jimmy Armson and Carl Baker were all declared fit. County’s top scorer Matty Warburton started on the bench.
After a tight, tepid opening both sides had chances. Baker’s volley failed to seriously trouble Ben Hinchliffe before Danny Lewis produced a great save to keep out Frank Mulhearn’s fierce drive and Sam Minihan fired the rebound over from a good position.
Ndlovu had Hinchliffe scrambling across his line but his 25 yard shot just went wide. County enjoyed more possession as the first half progressed and created a couple of chances, Elliot Osbourne headed into the side-netting from Mulhearn’s deep cross to the far post and Sam Walker shot over from 25 yards.
County manager Jim Gannon threw on Warburton on the resumption to give his side more of a threat in the final third as the game opened up. Saints went close when Armson helped on Shane Byrne’s header but Ndlovu could only shoot tamely at Hinchliffe.
County again enjoyed the better possession as the half progressed. Walker tried his luck again from long range but his 25-yarder was just too high and Mulhearn headed over from Scott Duxbury’s cross.
Wilkin made his move and replaced Adam Walker with Luke Fairlamb midway through the second half and it paid off immediately as Saints broke the deadlock in the 76th minute. Lowe’s deep cross fell to Fairlamb whose fierce dive was superbly saved by Hinchliffe but Ndlovu acrobatically volleyed home the rebound from six yards.
Lewis preserved all three precious points when he produced a superb double save to thwart Osbourne in quick succession, keeping out his initial pile driver before reacting quickly to bravely block his follow-up.