National League North: Brackley Town 3-0 Curzon Ashton
Brackley Town completed a league double over Curzon Ashton as they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at St James’ Park.
The play-off contenders always had an air of superiority and never looked back after Matt Lowe gave them the lead just before the half hour mark.
Thierry Audel made it two on the stroke of half time and Lee Ndlovu sealed victory with a neat backheel late on.
A fierce effort from debutant Andy Scott was the only time Curzon were able to test Danny Lewis in the Brackley goal as they were frustrated by the hosts’ game plan of sitting deep and pouncing on the counter-attack.
Scott – on loan from Accrington Stanley – was the only change to Mark Bradshaw’s starting XI from last week’s 1-0 lost at Fylde. Isaac Sinclair was the man to drop out.
Danny Shaw and Andy Halls continued at centre back with Olly Thornley not quite back to match fitness and Mo Ali delayed upon his return from international duty with Somalia.
The Nash suffered a heavy 4-0 loss to Brackley earlier in the season, but started reasonably well, passing the ball around a very heavy surface at ease. It didn’t take long for the promotion-chasing hosts to begin threatening, though.
Ellis Myles was the first to test Cam Mason with a low effort which was well blocked and the Nash ‘keeper was called upon to make similar saves from Lorrell Smith and Shane Byrne.
Brackley eventually broke his resistance, though, when Lowe found space on the right side of the box and drilled his finish into the far corner.
A 25-yard effort from Scott was the Nash’s only effort of the first half and they were made to pay for a sloppy performance when Audel pounced on a loose ball and slotted home.
The fact that goal came moments after Mason had pulled off a sensational reflex save to stop Gareth Dean’s header flying into the top corner only made it harder to take.
Bradshaw divulged afterwards that he had been unhappy with the slowness of his team’s play in the opening 45 minutes and there was an obvious increase in intensity from the Nash after the break.
Scott had been the liveliest Curzon player and he showed a glimpse of his talent when he danced away from a couple challenges and forced Lewis into an excellent save to his left. Nash bodies piled in to force the rebound over the line, but the linesman’s flag had already been raised for an offside.
There were shouts for a red card after Dean lunged in late on Halls after overrunning the ball. To the chagrin of the Nash bench, the referee opted for leniency and issued a yellow card to the Brackley captain.
The hosts sat deeper as the half went on, inviting more Curzon pressure so they could launch their lightning quick counter-attacks.
They made sure of the three points from one such instance as Lowe broke away down the right wing and squared for Ndlovu. The striker adjusted his feet perfectly to backheel the ball past the stranded Mason for his 12th goal of the season.
By Sam Hendry