VERDICT: Brackley hit the top as they ease to derby success over struggling Kettering
There were few fireworks in this one as Brackley, clearly given a new lease of life by manager Roger Johnson, secured a fifth win in a row to soar to the top of the table.
The Poppies, meanwhile, continue to struggle – mainly due to an appalling away record that now stands at just two points gained from a possible 27 on the road in the league so far.
They dropped back into the bottom four after this latest setback away from Latimer Park but, in truth, they were quite simply well beaten by better side.
Kettering handed a debut to right-back Ellis Myles who went up against his former club while Brackley boss Johnson understandably named an unchanged line-up having racked up a fourth win in a row in midweek.
And the hosts certainly started the better as they took control in the early stages.
Poppies goalkeeper Harrison Foulkes, who had his loan from Derby County extended for a further month on Friday, was called into action inside the first two minutes when Adam Rooney headed a James Armson cross goalwards with the stopper tipping it over the bar.
The Saints were dominating possession but, aside from a Woods volley which was deflected over, they didn’t create a whole host of chances until the opening goal arrived just past the half-hour.
Woods lined up a free-kick on the edge of the right side of the area. His left-footed strike was blocked but he made no mistake at the second attempt, lashing a shot inside Foulkes’ near post.
Jordan Richards saw an effort deflected over by George Cooper as the hosts looked for a quick second but the Poppies did finish the half the better.
And they had a chance when Stephan Morley’s free-kick landed on the head of Brad Gascoigne but the final effort was well off target.
Both sides made changes at the break with Josh Flanagan replacing Glenn Walker for the hosts while Lee Glover changed the Kettering formation as Decarrey Sheriff came on for Lewis White.
Sheriff registered the Poppies’ first attempt on target inside the first two minutes with Danny Lewis making a comfortable save.
But Brackley quickly exposed Kettering’s soft centre on the road.
And the Poppies didn’t learn after Armson was narrowly off target from a Callum Stead pull back as, just a few minutes later, former
Poppy Stead twisted and turned before laying the ball across for Armson to smash home from eight yards.
And that, unfortunately from Kettering’s point of view, killed the contest.
The Brackley back line, led by the ever-dependable Gaz Dean, were comfortable as the Poppies failed to land a significant punch on the hosts.
And the game was well and truly up with seven minutes to go when Armson latched onto a through ball and beat Foulkes with a good finish.
The impressive midfielder was denied his hat-trick late on when Gascoigne blocked his shot after Rooney had played him in.
It didn’t matter, however.
Brackley, on this evidence, look every inch a title contender under the new leadership of Johnson.
For Kettering, however, their struggles on the road continue and they will be relying on their home form once again on Tuesday night to keep their heads above water.
Brackley: Lewis; Carline, Dean, Walker (sub Flanagan, h-t), Calder; Matwasa (sub Lopes, 85 mins), Woods, Richards, Stead; Armson; Rooney. Subs not used: York, Makama.
Kettering: Foulkes; Myles, White (sub Sheriff, h-t), Gascoigne, Cooper, Morley; Hill, Ward, Stohrer; Lewthwaite, Bennett (sub Sault, 82 mins, sub Agustien, 90 mins). Subs not used: Toseland, Gregory.
Referee: Shaun Taylor.
Goals: Woods (31 mins, 1-0), Armson (51 mins, 2-0), Armson (83 mins, 3-0).
Bookings: Dean, Cooper, Hill (all fouls).
Man-of-the-match: James Armson (Brackley Town).