Superb Saints reach play-off final

Brackley Town are into the Blue Square North play-off final after a 4-2 aggregate win over Altrincham.

Going into the second leg 2-1 behind, Saints made a lightening start at St James’ Park when Jefferson Louis superbly fired into the bottom corner before Izak Reid’s low shot was turned into the net by Altrincham’s Shaun Densmore.

Brackley remained on top throughout the entire 90 minutes - restricting Altrincham to just half chances - and they clinched their place in the final six minutes after the break when Glenn Walker smashed home from 18 yards.

Brackley now face FC Halifax in the final at St James’ Park on Sunday, May 12.

Before kick-off, Saints boss Jon Brady was boosted by the return of the influential Tom Winters while Eddie Odhiambo lined up at right-back due to James Clifton’s absence with Glenn Walker in midfield.

Saints began well, knowing an early goal would be vital, and they made the perfect start when Louis fired brilliantly low into the bottom corner after a fine turn from an exquisite Odhiambo pass.

The opening minutes were played at a breathtaking pace with both teams going fully at it, making for a gripping encounter, but Saints dominated and came inches away from doubling their lead on the day when Reid’s curling free-kick smashed into the post.

Altrincham also had their moments in the first 20 minutes as once again the impressive 19-year-old Duncan Watmore caused Brackley problems but the home defence held firm.

As the game settled down, Altrincham grew in confidence and began to pose a threat on the home goal with some slick play resulting in a shot from James Lawrie that whistled narrowly over Billy Turley’s goal.

However, Brackley constantly looked dangerous when going forward and so it proved midway through the half when they took a 3-2 aggregate lead as Reid cut inside on the right of the penalty area and his low shot was deflected in by Altrincham defender Densmore.

Saints didn’t let up there, though, as Louis continued to cause trouble for the visitors and his fine run and cross should have created a third goal but Gary Mulligan failed to get a touch.

Saints remained in control with Winters putting a free-kick into the wall before the ever-impressive Walker whistled a 35-yard shot just wide.

The home side maintained their two-goal advantage into half time but it was Altrincham who came out flying in the second half and could have been back on level terms within minutes of the restart but Damian Reeves’ effort was cleared off the line before Turley made a superb save to deny Carl Rodgers’ volley.

With those chances wasted, Brackley sensed the chance to kill off the visitors and they did just that six minutes into the half when Mulligan got away down the right and pulled a perfect ball back to Walker, who fired into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Altrincham, now with nothing to lose, threw everything at Saints and almost got themselves back it into but Gianluca Havern rattled the crossbar from Nicky Clee’s corner while they also had a huge penalty shout turned down.

At the other end, Saints always looked a threat on the counter as Louis continued to be at the heart of everything Brackley did well - his powerful run and cross nearly turned into the net by an Altrincham defender.

In the closing moments, Turley saved well from Ryan Brooke and Marvin Robinson missed a decent chance for the hosts but it mattered little as Brackley comfortably saw out the final few minutes to clinch the biggest win in their history.

It now sets up an enticing prospect next Sunday with Saints 90 minutes away from completing an astonishing achievement.

Brackley: Turley, Odhiambo, Austin, Sharpe, McDonald, Reid, Walkers, Solkhon, Winters (Nisevic 59), Mulligan (Robinson 68), Louis (Diggin 77).

Subs not used: Story, L Walker,

Altrincham: Coburn, Densmore, Doughty (Lacey 68), Rodgers, Havern, Leather, Lawrie (Brooke 78), Richman, Watmore (Moult 54), Clee, Reeves.

Subs not used: Hall, McMillan.

Referee: Steven Plane

Attendance: 1,353

Star Saint: Jefferson Louis