Brackley Town have slipped to 18th in the Conference North after suffering a 2-1 defeat away at rivals Oxford City.
Manager Jon Brady warned before the game of being dragged into the fight at the bottom of the table and for the second successive Saturday, his side suffered a 2-1 defeat which extends the winless run of league games to five.
Brady’s troubles began prior to kick-off as defender Tom Sharpe was unable to start through late injury, bringing a re-shuffle and a bench of just four substitutes.
Goalkeeper Billy Turley picked up a first half injury and for the second time, with no substitute ‘keeper on a depleted bench, young Sam Whittall pulled on the ‘keeper’s jersey and acquitted himself well.
The first half illustrated City’s season - dangerous going forward and fragile at the back. Three times Billy Turley’s goal came under threat as first Adi Yussuf’s close range shot was blocked, Javier Rodriguez’s 25 yard effort had to be turned away by Turley before former Saint Tom Winters was denied by the Town stopper from distance.
Saints themselves carved out the move of the first half as Curtis McDonald’s raking pass found Eric Odhiambo on the right and the wideman’s first time cross was met by Ryan Rowe, whose shot was just wide.
On 37 minutes, a muddle between City defender and goalkeeper 30 yards from goal saw Shaun Jeffers’ persistence pay-off as the striker was able to dispossess the hapless couple and plant the ball into the open goal.
The lead lasted five minutes as a crisp exchange of passes brought Winters into play and his chipped cross was headed into the bottom corner by Yussuf.
On the stroke of half-time, City broke with lightning speed to set up Ander Del Alamo, who fired over when well-placed sending the sides in level at the break.
The second half saw the pendulum swing towards Oxford as Yussuf placed his shot against the upright with the goal at his mercy before drilling a shot through a crowd of players for his 10th goal of the season to give his side a 68th minute lead.
Turley was unable to continue with Whittall taking his place and the stand-in ‘keeper was quickly into action, saving well from a Winters’ effort.
Saints came forward searching for an equaliser and twice threatened as Ebby Nelson-Addy fed Jeffers who was thwarted and Nelson-Addy’s late corner found the head of Chris Carruthers whose effort was tipped over.
There was still time for Whittall to distinguish himself further with a good save low down from Darren Pond as City sealed the win to stay in touch at the top.
Brackley: Turley (Kaziboni 73), Samuels, Carruthers, Eddie Odhiambo, McDonald, Austin, Nelson-Addy, Whittall, Rowe (Pearson 61), Jeffers (Green 60), Eric Odhiambo (Built 73).
Oxford: Scott, Henderson, Stonehouse, Del Alamo, Lapoujade, Santiago, Jackson (Barcelosi 68), Pond, Yussef (Mullings 83), Rodriguez (Wilson 86), Winters.
Referee: Amy Fearn