After this weekend’s pulsating 4-2 fightback victory over Darlington at Edgar Street, we now see the return of play-off contenders Brackley Town.
Brackley have already beaten Hereford twice this season, as the current FA Trophy holders defeated the Bulls 3-1 in January in that competition. This followed up a 0-2 score-line in the away fixture in September when Hereford had two players sent-off.
Simon Wright casts his eye over our opponents in what will be another tough challenge on Tuesday.
Third time lucky? Having beaten us comfortably in the League and also in the Trophy, our visitors are rather too familiar already. We’ll already seen too much of their hulking goal scorer Lee Ndlovu, midfielder James Armson, their well-built veteran defender Gaz Dean and manager Kev Wilkin. They’ve only lost one League game in 2019 which has them firmly in a Play-Off spot and are third in the form table, securing 23 points from the last 30 at the end of February. However, they are out of the FA Trophy. They missed several first-half chances against Leyton Orient in their Quarter-Final before losing 2-1 to a late goal.
Away from home, their form isn’t top of the table. They’ve picked up 22 points from their 16 away games. Hereford have 17 points on their travels by way of comparison. Our visitors have Lee Ndlovu and James Armson among the Divisions top 10 goalscorers. Armson is quality, contributing double figure goals from midfield in each of his 3 seasons at Town, on top of a stressful job. By day, he runs a company offering support to troubled children.
Brackley do have some squad members we haven’t seen before. Carl Baker was released by Nuneaton because they couldn’t afford his wages. There was the usual concern that he would end up at Edgar Street. Technically, he will be but only in a Brackley shirt. Baker is 36, a senior pro with 450 games behind him and nearly 100 goals. He’s closer to that total after already scoring three times for Brackley. Baker runs a Football Academy and has 3 young sons so wanted to stay part-time, turning down an offer from Burton Albion.
They also have Oran Jackson, a young defender on loan from the franchise. Oran’s middle name is Egypt. He was introduced to stand-in for an injured central defender but now the defender has recovered, Jackson doesn’t feature very much.
Like many gaffers, manager Kev Wilkin likes to sign players from clubs he’d previously managed. Thus, there are 5 ex -Nuneaton men (should be quite a re-union at Edgar Street) who mainly went on to be part of Solihull’s promotion-winning National League North side. For unclear reasons, Solihull had a mass exodus of players that summer and a lot of them moved to Brackley. It does beg the question – what happens if Brackley win the Play-Offs? Wilkin previously managed the reformed Nuneaton Town and took them to 3 promotions. He then took over at Wrexham but reaching the FA Cup Third Round and the Trophy Final wasn’t enough and he was sacked the day after Wembley. As I mentioned earlier this season, under Wilkin, Brackley had their best-ever season last term. This guy is some manager.
Brackley Town recently announced they will be building a new ground entrance, new hospitality facilities and a classroom next year. The aim is to get more use from the ground on non-match days and open a Brackley Academy with the usual two-year mix of learning and training.
Another curious point about Brackley is that they are near-universally unattractive visitors. Hosting Town has led to below-average gates at 13 of their opponents so far and being midweek, we’ll be number 14. Only 180 turned up for Ashton v Brackley and 220 for Curzon v Brackley, both Saturday games. The Reds have had more midweek games than most because of their Cup run but even so that only partly explains the apathy when the Northants lot roll up. With an average home gate of 544, they won’t be bringing many of their own. They are a small club in a small town and even now Hereford’s visit in September remains their biggest home League gate of the season.
So there you go. Having been less than flattering to Town, we welcome them to the Street on Tuesday March 12.