Brackley Town 1 Kettering Town 0 - Jon Dunham's verdict
The second helping of a Northamptonshire derby in the space of nine days went the way of Brackley Town as they avenged their loss to Kettering Town at the turn of the year with a 1-0 success at St James Park.
In truth, it was a strange old evening in the south of the county with both squads ridiculously depleted by illness and injury.
Brackley could name just three substitutes, including a goalkeeper, while Kettering could name only four, also including a goalkeeper.
So, first and foremost, both clubs deserve credit for not crying over spilt milk and getting on with the job. It would have been an easy decision, perhaps sensible, if the game hadn’t happened at all.
And maybe it was a fear of losing more bodies during the game that ensured the match didn’t quite have the same bite to it as the clash at Latimer Park on January 2.
Indeed, the lack of goalmouth action was clear and, in the end, it became a tale of two chances.
The first big opportunity fell to Kettering when Callum Powell’s shot was spilled by Brackley goalkeeper Danny Lewis and, with Isaac Stones left with a seemingly easy task of scoring from the rebound, the home stopper recovered brilliantly to block the effort.
And the Saints made the Poppies pay just five minutes later when they scored what proved to be the winner.
Matt Lowe did the leg work down the right and his cross into the danger area caused the only real moment of panic for the Kettering defence all night.
After a couple of heroic blocks, the ball eventually fell for Lee Ndlovu and Brackley’s number nine made no mistake with a crisp finish into the corner.
That gave the Vanarama National League North leaders just what they needed and, just like they have done for the majority of the season, they defended solidly for the remainder of the game.
The Poppies gave it a go. They huffed and puffed but Lewis was never really troubled during a second half, which became more and more scrappy as the night drew on.
In the end, it was Brackley who were celebrating.
Yes, they got a bit of revenge on Kettering but the bigger prize for victory was a five-point lead at the summit as they bid for automatic promotion.
Brackley: Lewis; Myles, Dean, Walker, York; Lowe, Armson, Murombedzi, Yusuf (sub Putz, 90 mins); Mitford (sub Lopes, 70 mins), Ndlovu. Sub not used: Worby.
Kettering: J Smith; Calder, Ward (sub Milovanovic, 62 mins), Johnson, C Smith, Brown; Cooper, Kennedy, Stohrer; Stones (sub Sheriff, h-t), Powell. Subs not used: Cooke, Davies.
Referee: Olly Mackey.
Goal: Ndlovu (40 mins, 1-0).
Bookings: Murombedzi (foul), Stohrer, Yusuf (unsporting behaviour).
Jon Dunham’s man-of-the-match: Shepherd Murombedzi - In another tough battle that centred around the midfield area, it was Brackley who came out on top on this occasion having lost out in a similar situation on January 2. And midfielder Murombedzi was excellent. Full of energy, he was literally everywhere breaking up play, making challenges and opening up opportunities wherever he could. An all-action display.