Brackley 2 - 1 harrogate town
Town edged out on the road despite taking a late first-half lead
Simon Weaver shuffled his pack in search of a first league win in seven, reverting to a familiar 4-4-2 formation and recalling Andi Thanoj and Lewis Turner to his staring eleven.
Goalkeeper Chris Elliott was also introduced to the side, and despite the home side edging the opening exchanges, he was largely untroubled other than dealing with three corners in the opening ten minutes.
A first quarter which lacked any real goalmouth action saw makeshift striker Simon Ainge causing all sorts of problems to Brackley’s defence. At the other end, lively striker Lee Ndlovu went down after a fairly innocuous challenge and had to be withdrawn after 28 minutes. His like for like replacement David Moyo had only been on the field a matter of minutes when his trickery almost carved out a chance for the hosts.
With half an hour played, it began to look as though Brackley’s best chance of opening the scoring would be from a set-piece. Especially when on 34 minutes, debutant Elliott could only parry a corner onto the head of Luke Shiels, causing temporary confusion inside Town’s penalty area.
After absorbing Brackley’s pressure, and with half-time approaching, Town began to trouble the in-form hosts. Striker JP Pittman sparked the visitors into action, albeit entering the referees' book in the process. His challenge inside the centre circle was seemingly deemed clumsy by Danny Middleton.
It was then Town’s turn to win a dubious free-kick, which Joe Leesley fired into the Brackley penalty area. Not for the first time, the flag was raised against Simon Ainge after he won the initial aerial challenge. Moments later, the ball fell to the feet of Ainge who’s strike looked to be goal bound
until a Brackley defender threw his body in front of the effort.
With Town enjoying a productive spell in the game, the referee signalled two minutes of added time. It was in the second of the two added minutes that the breakthrough came, a Joe Leesley cross was met by the head of Ainge, who’s glancing header left Laurie Walker helpless.
Leading at half-time, Town emerged from the dressing rooms earlier than their hosts, however, a familiar second-half story began to unfold.
Brackley seemed quicker out of the traps than Town, and with only four minutes of the second half played, patient build up down Town’s left allowed Steve Diggin to set up substitute Moyo. The striker only had to make contact from a yard out to edge the ball past Elliott and make it 1-1.
It wasn’t until the hour mark that Brackley carved out another chance, however, this time neither Moyo or the advancing Walker could convert.
An injury to Danny Ellis then forced Weaver into his first change of the afternoon, as Paul Thirlwell replaced Town’s captain in the 66th minute. The change forced the impressive Ainge to drop back into his more familiar role of Central Defence alongside Luke Shiels.
Moments later, Town enjoyed their best chance of the second half. Good link up play from JP Pittman found Joe Leesley on the left hand side, who managed to hook a cross to the back post presenting an opening to Joe Colbeck. Town’s wide-man was unlucky see his shot blocked by Walker, who was largely untroubled for the rest of the game.
With the game threatening to get away from Town in the last twenty minutes, Joe Leesley followed JP Pittman into the book after a late challenge near the half way line. Simon Weaver then brought Jack Emmett on to replace Joe Colbeck and moments later, the cautioned Joe Leesley was withdrawn in favour of Nicky Clee.
With 10 minutes left to play, the home side looked determined to snatch it and continued to pile on the pressure. When Matt Lowe skipped through Town’s defence in the last minute of the game, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Elliott in the Town goal stood little chance as the Brackley strike crept in to his bottom right corner.
Town ran out of time to mount any sort of comeback, and fell to their seventh defeat in eight games leaving the team 10th in the league and six points away from the play-off places.
Harrogate Town: Elliott, Turner, Swain, Shiels, Ellis, (Thirlwell 65), Thanoj, Burrell, Leesley (Clee 79), Colbeck (Emmett 76), Ainge, Pittman
Subs not used: Chilaka, Day
Goals: Ainge 45+2”
Brackley: Walker, Myles, Gudger, Byrne, Graham, Dean, G.Walker, Armson (Lowe 77), Ndlovu (Moyo 28), Diggin, A.Walker,
Subs not used: Pitt, Cox, Rankin
Goals: Moyo 50, Lowe 89
Referee: Danny Middleton