It’s advantage Brackley Town going into next week’s Buildbase FA Trophy semi-final second-leg at Wealdstone.
But only just, Alex Gudger’s late winner gave Kevin Wilkins side the 1-0 advantage in Saturday’s tense and tight first-leg at St James Park. The winner came as a relief to Saints fans in the crowd of well over 1,000.
Both sides had a couple of early chances, Lee Ndlovu crossed low for Jimmy Armson who fired over while Ryan Sellers chanced his luck from long range but shot well over. Wealdstone settled the better of the two sides after that as Saints struggled to keep hold of possession for any prolonged spells.
Stones were intent on giving Saints little time on the ball and were quick to close down any threat. The imposing Mustafa Tiryaki picked up an early caution for his second late challenge on Shane Byrne in the space of five minutes.
Chances were few and far between in a tight first half, not helped by the conditions, but Stones had a spell of pressure following Daniel Green’s corner which was not fully dealt with. Tiryaki beat Gudger and his dangerous low cross had to be dealt with by Danny Lewis at his near post.
Saints went close to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark when Glenn Walker’s inswinging corner produced a scramble in the six-yard box and when the ball came out to Byrne he shot well over from the edge of the area. Another good spell for Saints ended with Gudger shooting well wide from 30 yards.
The game finally opened up in the latter stages of the first half and Stones went close when Jake Sheppard’s fierce drive was spilled by Lewis. Bradley Bubb seized on the loose ball but Gareth Dean blocked his close range effort on the line.
Saints had a couple of chances just before the break, Glenn Walker’s low cross was only cleared as far as Armson who took one touch before firing over from 15 yards. Moments later Dean was unable to convert another inswinging corner from Glenn Walker in the six-yard box.
Stones started well after the restart, Eddie Oshodi glanced a header wide from Sheppard’s corner and Ricky Welland fired wide from 25 yards following some neat build-up play.
At the other end Armson’s dangerous cross just evaded top scorer Aaron Williams. Saints began to enjoy more possession and their best spell of the game, culminating in Armson exchanges passes with Williams before firing wide from the edge of the box.
Saints went close again when Luke Graham headed down Byrne’s free-kick but Ndlovu failed to get a clean connection in the six-yard box.
Wilkin made the first move, replacing Armson with Matt Lowe and the substitute’s first touch almost paid dividends but his low cross went begging. Saints continued to probe for the vital goal and Adam Walker cut inside before curling his low shot just wide from the edge of the area.
Byrne exchanged passes with Williams but shot tamely at Jonathan North from 20 yards but the introduction of the pacey Lowe gave Stones more to think about and the breakthrough came in the 86th minute. Byrne’s corner was only cleared as far as Gudger who fired the ball past North into the far corner of the net from 15 yards.