Having been to this ground before, I won't dwell on the stadium description. Suffice to say that SJP is a very tidy example of a non-league ground and a fitting stadium for their first team, playing in the National League North. This was, however, my first trip to SJP for an evening match and I was immediately impressed by how great the playing surface looked. The pitch here is always in good condition but, under lights, it really does look quite spectacular when you enter the ground.
The two sides playing this evening were both promoted from Division 1 East last season. Wokingham, known as the Sumas (short for Satsumas) because of their orange kit, won the division by some margin in the end with Saints finishing as runners-up. This season has been a bit of a struggle for both sides with Brackley fourth from bottom on 17 points from 22 games and Sumas propping up the division with just 8 points from their 24 outings so far.
To be honest, knowing how Brackley like to play their football and seeing that Wokingham had conceded 72 goals already, I was expecting this to be a one-sided affair. As it turned out, it really wasn't.
In fact it was Wokingham who took an early lead. A ball down their right-flank was not cut out when the Brackley left-back seemed to slip. This allowed the Sumas winger to get to the edge of the box where he delivered a precision, low cross for the on-rushing Josh Pearson to guide into the far corner.
A bit of a wake-up call for Saints and it wasn't too long before they started to get their passing game together. However, try as they might, they couldn't make too many inroads into the resolute Sumas defence and, when they did mange to get through Sumas keeper Woodward was on hand to block. Wokingham, despite losing the possession battle, still looked capable of making chances when they did get hold of the ball and Saints had to be on their guard in defence.
Finally, on 34 minutes, the home side got themselves back on level terms. A nice move down the Saints right side culminated in a diagonal pass that split the Sumas defence leaving Saint's right-winger a one-on-one with the keeper. He kept his nerve and made no mistake with a calm finish past the keeper's right hand and into the corner of the net.
Brackley continued to have the lion's share of the ball but could not take any more chances before the break. So, 1-1 at the end of a pretty entertaining half with both sides giving it their best.
Fifteen minutes later another break down the right lead the ball being flashed across the Sumas box where it was met by a low drive which crashed against the post. A wonderful flowing move that deserved a goal in all fairness.
Wokingham never gave up on the game and the longer it went on the more I grew to like this team. Saints were, undoubtedly, playing the more eye-catching football and Sumas spent a lot of time chasing the ball down but there seemed to be a real team spirit about them. They certainly weren't performing like a team five points adrift at the foot of the table.
Sumas really tried to up the tempo towards the end of the game and really pushed for an equaliser. The Saints back-line was forced to work harder than it had all game and keeper, Dan Farrell, had to make a couple of stops to keep them out.
Ultimately, Sumas push to pull the game back lead to the Saints third and final goal. From a Wokingham corner the ball was cleared and the Saints broke very quickly downfield. Woodward in the Sumas goal saved the initial effort well but could do nothing as the follow-up was smashed past a defender on the line to make it 3-1.
There was barely time for the restart before the referee blew for full-time. A deserved win for Brackley on the balance of things but credit to Wokingham for their efforts. Tehy contributed greatly to an entertaining game of football played on a really good surface (credit to the Brackley groundstaff).
Brackley Town Saints - @btsaintsfc
Wokingham & Emmbrook - @wokingham_sumas