Scunthorpe were comfortably defeated by a well-drilled Brackley side that dominated the game in its most crucial stages.

The Iron were back on the road for the first time in 2024 to face an in-form Brackley Town who, under the guidance of manager Gavin Cowan, found themselves firmly cemented in the National League North play-off positions. The encounter was to be the fourth meeting between the sides this campaign with both sides picking up a victory on home soil.

First-team manager Jimmy Dean made two enforced changes to his side that was held to a draw against Boston United a week prior. Firstly, creative midfielder Alfie Beestin was inducted back into the starting XI as a result of Jacob Butterfield sustaining a concussion against the Pilgrims. Elsewhere versatile forward Jason Law returned to match action following a short-term injury to replace Connor Smith who’d returned to his parent club Heart of Midlothian following the expiry of his loan deal.

The hosts got the game underway at St James Park with the Iron attacking their travelling supporters as the glistening sun shone directly into the eyes of goalkeeper Danny Lewis on his 300th appearance for the Saints. The game began in a scrappy fashion with neither side being able to break down their opposite defensive wall. 

The opening 10 minutes had brought nothing of note, this was at least until Danny Elliott came close to scoring a goal of the season contender from distance. Having picked up the ball 35 yards from goal, Elliott took advantage of the space and time he’d been awarded by letting fly superbly. However, the front man was denied his eighth goal of the season, as his arrowed effort stung the underside of the bar before being cleared.

Brackley seemed to react quickest following Elliott’s effort, as the Saints went in search of their own opportunity for an opener. The required opportunity presented itself to the home side when Zambian holding midfielder Shepherd Murombedzi robbed possession in the middle of the park and slotted a through ball beautifully into the attack minded Morgan Roberts, who composed himself and forced shot stopper Ross Fitzsimons into making an outstanding stop down to his right to keep the scores level.

The game was still suspended in the balance half an hour into the tie, however Brackley seemed to be majorly threatening from set pieces and when a deep cross found the leap of Saints captain Gareth Dean the ball seemed destined for the bottom corner, this was until the combined intervention of Will Evans and Andrew Boyce helped to flick the ball away momentarily as United furthermore weathered the storm of crosses that followed.

As the half ebbed away, the game appeared destined to be goalless at the break with referee Jonathan Maskrey blowing his whistle at the end of the indicated five minutes of additional time to signify half-time. 

The sides were back out for the second period of play looking for to set one another apart. Unfortunately, it was the hosts who looked the hungrier as they took the lead a matter of minutes into the half. A recycled ball was ferociously whipped in by right-back Tyler Lyttle, and the rebounding ball landed at the feet of defender Alex Gudger who lashed the ball home from the edge of the area.

A matter of minutes later United’s failure to deal with set-pieces came back to bite them a further time as, again, a deep ball in wasn’t cleared away meaning that former Bolton Wanderers forward Connor Hall could nip in between his marker and Fitzsimons before smashing the ball into the exposed net to make it 2-0.

After the two quick fire goals, Scunthorpe were left with a mountain to climb for the games remainder, and the game soon returned to its first-half theme as neither of the sides were showing any signs creativity.

The game came to its close with an extended period of Scunthorpe pressure that proved to no avail for the Iron, as the Brackley blockade stayed tight and compact to see out a dominant victory for the Saints.

An overall disappointing performance from the Iron as they failed to create a great deal of opportunities in what was a ragged and cagey affair in Northamptonshire.

IRON: Fitzsimons, Ogle, Evans, Boyce, Clunan, Beestin (Shrimpton, 83), Elliott, Roberts, Scales, Law (Wilson, 61), Denton.

IRON SUBS: Kelly, Kouogun, Barrows.

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