Although I have been into Brackley town centre a number of times, I have never visited the football stadium before. The ground is a short distance from the town centre and, if you arrive fairly late as I did, it is probably a better bet to park in the town (3 hours free) and take the short walk down the hill to the ground. There is parking available at the ground and in the surrounding roads but as there is only one route in and out this can get quite congested after a game.
St James Park has been the home of Brackley Town since 1974 when the team were part of the North Bucks League. They only managed promotion to the Southern League in 1997 and, after some financial problems, quickly fell back into the Hellenic League. A return to the Southern League Division 1 was gained in 2004. By 2007-08 the club had managed to gain another promotion and played in the Southern League Premier.
Promotion to the Conference North was gained in 2011-12. This was followed by a blistering start to the season that saw the Saints lead the division for the early part of the season. They eventually finished in a very creditable 3rd place.
The stadium itself has a capacity of 3,500 with seating for 600 in the two main stands that are on the clubhouse side of the ground. as well as the Evenley end which also has terraces either side of the seating area. The other end, or South Bank, has a small covered standing area. Opposite the main stands the ground is open with hard standing only at this time. Although, when I visited there was also a tv tower still in place from the Gillingham FA Cup replay. I don't know if this is a permanent fixture or not.
The ground felt fairly 'busy' with a crowd of just over 450. I would imagine that, if filled to capacity, it would be a noisy and intimidating ground for visiting teams. Hats off to teh stadium announcer for playing the Skids 'The Saints are Coming' when the teams came out and managing to get pretty much the whole track in.
On to the match. The visitors were the Pitmen, Hednesford Town, coming into the game as league leaders and on a good run. Brackley, only 4 points back in the league, were riding high on confidence after the giant-killing 1-0 replay victory over Gillingham. In the first half, barring a couple oif moments, the teams cancelled each other out. Neither side was living up to their top of the table billing.
The second half proved to be a much livelier affait with both teams having periods of dominance and both goalkeepers having to be on their toes.
Finally, in the 86th minute, the latest period of Brackley pressure paid off. A cross from the right flank was glanced home superbly by Steve Diggin. Hednesford did their best to up their rate fro the final few minutes but Brackley held on for a deserved, and much needed, victory.
Other results on the same day meant that, come 5 o'clock, only 1 point separated the top 6 in the Skrill North. It looks like it could be a very interesting season.
Brackley Town - @BrackleyTownFC
Hednesford Town - @Hednesford_Town