Lowestoft Town 0 Brackley Town 1
Lowestoft Town put in a much improved second half and deserved a draw but couldn't overturn the halftime score, as they lose 1-0 at home to Brackley.
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Lowestoft Town: Jessup, Ainsley, Hayles, Gaughran, Smith, Henderson, Fisk, Okay (Radomski 69 kins), Eagle (Woods-Garness 78 mins), Louis (Bammant 70 mins), Reed
Subs not used; Marsden, Zielonka
Brackley Town: Turley, Samuels, Carruthers, Eddie Odhiambo, Sharpe, Austin, Nelson-Abby, Whittall, Rowe, Jeffers (Pearson 54 mins), Eric Odhiambo (Brown 66 mins)
Subs not used; Built, Kaziboni, Curtis
Eagle returned after a three match suspension and was joined in the starting line-up by Henderson who was also returning after missing the Barrow game through injury. The trio of Jones, Haynes-Brown and Jarvis were all still sidelined for the Trawlerboys with injuries.
The game kicked off on a fresh and chilly night at the Crown Meadow with the pitch looking in great shape once again.
It was Lowestoft who were quickest in finding their stride, as an early Henderson shot was blocked really well by Samuels in the Brackley defence. The first ten minutes of the match saw Lowestoft settle into the game a lot better than the visitors and even though Jeffers was looking sharp for Brackley when dropping off early on, Gaughran was tight on him whenever he got further forward.
The first chance of the match for Brackley came when an opportunity opened up nicely for Whittall on the edge of the Lowestoft box but with him leaning back, his shot went well over the bar.
As the twenty minute mark arrived, Brackley were starting to get into the game more with Nelson-Abby seeing more of the ball and Brackley enjoying some increased spells of possession, as the game started to even out.
A great run by the sharp and pacey looking Reed from deep, saw Brackley have to close ranks to block his effort at goal but as the half went on the football on show became less and less from both sides with the game going rather flat.
Brackley had come into the game having secured four clean sheets in their last six competitive games and with thirty minutes gone they were looking fairly untroubled, with Lowestoft lacking an edge and Henderson hardly having had a touch of the ball.
Henderson finally started to get into the game just after the half hour mark and was involved in a move that saw Reed bundled to the floor and Lowestoft winning a free-kick in Smith territory. The left back stepped up for Lowestoft and sent a free-kick in that dipped right in front of the keeper, who had to do well to save and see it behind.
Just under ten minutes of the first half remained and in truth neither side were looking like scoring from open play but with Jeffers getting the ball at his feet in the Lowestoft box, a tightly marking Smith could do nothing from behind as Jeffers spun and hit the ball low and passed Jessup from six yards out for 1-0 to Brackley (36 mins).
Reed was showing plenty of pace up front for Lowestoft but even though neither side deserved to have a lead at the break, it was Brackley who left the pitch leading at the interval.
The second half saw Brackley nearly open Lowestoft up right away but the ball wouldn't quite run for them just inside the Lowestoft area and the danger led to nothing for the away side.
At the other end Okay showed great skill for Lowestoft by picking the ball out of the air with his boot and immediately getting a volley away that the keeper Turley had to get right behind to stop.
The action continued from end to end as Nelson-Abby worked the ball to Rowe in the Lowestoft box but the yet again impressing Hayles was at hand to make a great block for what looked a certain goal scoring chance.
As the second half continued, Lowestoft started to lift their game with every passing minute and with Fisk working hard and covering plenty of ground, the home side started to take control.
Reed was still looking the most likely to be the hero for Lowestoft with his sharp and pacey forward play and with him getting a fantastic shot away it looked like Lowestoft were going to draw level but an outstanding one-handed save by Turley denied the striker and Lowestoft. Moments later the Brackley keeper was forced into action again; this time with Henderson coming in off the right and Turley having to get down low to fend the effort away.
Lowestoft maintained their upper hand and went close yet again with Reed rolling the ball into Eagle but his drilled shot was closed down.
Brackley could do little about the Lowestoft onslaught and tried to react by replacing the goalscorer Jeffers with Pearson and going to just one up top, with the tactics of trying to keep it tight and maybe stealing another goal on the break. A brief moment of respite followed for Brackley when Nelson-Abby sent a good ball in from the right but the unmarked Rowe was left to question himself after sending his header wide of the target.
After that brief intermission of play for Brackley, the blues snapped back into action and continued their efforts towards trying to get what would have been a deserved equaliser. A great ball in from the right be Eagle had Austin at full stretch in the Brackley defence to glance it over, as Lowestoft increased the pressure and Brackley started to look desperate at the back. An Eagle free-kick was sent into the Brackley box but was only headed out as far as the lurking Henderson, who's thunderous effort flew just off target.
A further change was made by Brackley to try and stem the one-way traffic but with Lowestoft making two changes of their own with Radomski replacing Okay and Bammant replacing Louis, Lowestoft kept pushing.
The game was now simply a case of Brackley having parked the bus and Lowestoft presented with the task of having to try and find a way through successfully with fifteen minutes remaining.
Turley was certainly earning his corn in the Brackley goal, having already made a couple of decent saves and with a Smith shot forcing him into action again, Carruthers blocked the follow up from Ainsley as Brackley continued to hang on to their slender lead.
Woods-Garness was introduced for Eagle and with Radomski having done really well since coming on, the blues kept on pressing in the hope they would get their just deserts.
Radomski went into the referees book with just under ten minutes of the match remaining but moments later came close to sending the watching Lowestoft supporters wild, as Smith delivered from the left and the Polish midfielder sent a diving, glanced header across goal and inches past the far post.
There was little more Lowestoft could do to get a much deserved equaliser but with Turley having made a number of excellent stops and the stoppage time finally running out, Lowestoft saw their unbeaten home record go as the whistle confirmed a narrow and fairly fortunate 1-0 win for Brackley Town.
The first half was pretty poor with little football from either side and a goal from seemingly nowhere by Brackley. The second half saw Lowestoft put in a much improved performance in which they dominated but didn't get rewarded for the efforts.
Fisk was the main man in midfield to ensure that Lowestoft kept possession and kept the pressure up for lengthy spells in the second half. While Reed put in a great performance that was full of pace, a returning sharpness and effort from the first whistle to the last.
However, when it comes to the Man of the Match honours, I simply have to agree with our Platinum sponsors for the night in awarding it to the yet again terrific Rickie Hayles in defence.
Sometimes that's just football but Lowestoft will pick themselves up and move on to the next game and it's our job as supporters to keep right behind them and cheer them on.
Lowestoft Town now turn their efforts back to the FA Cup on Saturday, when they travel to play fellow Conference North side Tamworth in the third qualifying round.