Saturday, 4 August 2012

Brackley Town - St James Park

Brackley Town FC
St James Park
Churchill Way
NN13 7EJ

01280 704077
Official Website

Ground Number: 210
Saturday 4th August 2012
Brackley Town 2-1 Clevedon Town
Southern League Championship Shield


The club was formed in 1890 and for the first 87 years of their history played local football in leagues such as the Oxford Senior, North Bucks and Banbury & District. They would join the Hellenic League's second tier in 1977 with a best-ever finish of 7th in 1983 during their first spell. The following season, they transferred to the United Counties League, the move paying dividends as they were crowned Division 1 champions in their first season. Promotion to the Premier Division followed and although they finished as runners-up to Potton United in 1989, Brackley generally struggled. The nadir was the 1992/93 season when they didn't win all season, gaining just 3 points and shipping 210 goals. This was the second of three successive rock-bottom finishes and so in 1994, they rejoined the Hellenic League. Fortunes were very much improved here and in 1997, the club was crowned Hellenic Premier champions, earning promotion to the Southern League. Their first season saw a mid-table finish the Midland Division, but 1998/99 saw a bottom place finish in the Southern  Division and relegation back to the Hellenic League. They'd spend five seasons here before being crowned Hellenic League champions for the second time in 2004. A promotion was again earned to the Southern League and this time they were a lot more successful. Brackley Town were Division 1 Midland champions in 2007 and then Premier Division champions in 2012. Despite the club being closer to the south, they were placed in the Conference North and have remained there ever since. They finished 3rd in their first season but lost in the playoff final to FC Halifax Town. Fortunes have been mixed since but Brackley currently sit 3rd in the table and chances look good for another shot at the playoffs this season.

Brackley Town have had a number of notable runs in the FA Cup in recent times, going as far as the 2nd Round. Firstly in 2013 they lost 3-2 at Macclesfield and then in 2016 they lost 1-0 at Blackpool. Ironically, their 1st Round victims during both runs were Gillingham, the football league side twice being beaten in a replay. Last season the club reached the FA Trophy Quarter Final before bowing out to eventual winners York City. They are at it again this season and should they overcome Stockport County in my latest visit, will have got to the semi-final. In the FA Vase, Brackley Town reached the FA Vase 3rd Round in 1987 beating Chasetown, Bilston Town & Rothwell Town before a 2-1 defeat at Irthlingborough Diamonds.Local cup wins include the 2012 Southern League Cup, the Northamptonshire Senior Cup on 3 occasions, the Maunsell Cup twice and a couple of Hellenic League Cups.

The club also has a Reserve team, Brackley Town Saints, playing in the Hellenic Premier. Formed in 2014 they started out in Division 1 East, following as runners-up to Wokingham & Emmbrook in their first season. Finishes have generally been in the lower reaches of the table. The record attendance of 2,604 came in May 2013 for their Conference North playoff final against FC Halifax Town. The record appearance holder is Terry Muckleberg with 350 outings and record goalscorer is Paul Warrington who netted for the club on 320 occasions.


I had been meaning to visit Brackley Town for a while, having heard that they had a good club shop. So when the opportunity came to break the string of mundane friendlies, I jumped at the chance. This game v Clevedon Town was in the Southern League Championship Shield. Brackley having won the Southern League to gain promotion to the Conference North at the end of last season, while their counterparts had won the Southern League Cup.

On the day it was another washout in an inconsistent British summer. So I kept checking Twitter to save a wasted journey. In the end, I left at 1PM, the journey scheduled to take an hour. By then the weather had improved though, so it was obviously game on. After getting some petrol, I was on my way and arrived at 2. I was happy to be only charged a fiver to get in, after some of the prices in pre-season it was nice to get in so cheap. I also bought a basic programme for £1. To celebrate my good fortune at getting in cheaply, I actually went to the bar and bought a pint. It was only boring old Strongbow, but I thought it was worth £3.10 to give the club a hats off. I also bought some Chips and Gravy for £1.70, it was very nice and I will be posting yet another review to Non-League Chips website soon. After taking some pictures of the ground, it was time for the game.

The player I recognised most out of all of them was Brackley Town keeper Billy Turley. He has played against Wycombe for Rushden and Diamonds, Northampton and Oxford and is a bit of a character. He spent the whole game going ape at his defence for not following his instructions. Brackley dominated the first half and took the lead after 6 minutes after they hit the post and former Kettering midfielder Brett Solkhon followed up from close range. Clevedon were level on 20 minutes through James Flurry and that is how it stayed until half time. 
I was pleased to see the club shop open during the interval. They had a good selection of programmes in the shop, but sadly none that I needed. Pennants were £5, but I decided not to bother as I was running out of space on my wall!

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first with Brackley dominating and hitting the woodwork on several occasions. The winner eventually came from Gary Mulligan but they failed to capitalise on further pressure and in the end there were a few close shaves as Clevedon pushed forward in pursuit of an equaliser. But in the end Brackley held out to win the Southern League Championship Shield. After an easy drive home, I was back in by 6 and that was with stopping off to pick up some cider again.


For once on this Tuesday, it was Anwar suggesting a game to me. Usually, the drill is, I go through the Non-League Paper's fixture list, text him with all the possibilities and then we agree on a game to go to. This week, however, he had contacted me before I'd even left work. He'd been very keen to visit Brackley Town for a while and suggested that we go to their FA Trophy Quarter Final replay against Stockport County. I'd been fairly recently and had done a reasonable blog, so in any normal circumstances, I'd not have fancied it. But it was for a very good game and also the alternatives were not the best. It would also be fairly close to home, meaning I'd not have too late a night, even if it went to extra time. I spent the Monday afternoon resorting my pictures, researching the club history and generally sprucing up my Brackley blog, glad that I had a day off the following day.

On the day of the game, I'd had a reasonable night's sleep, but still woke around 7. After having breakfast and a bath I walked down town and got some lunch before getting a lift home with my Dad. I spent the afternoon at home pretty bored, just waiting for the time to leave for football to come. I had a dinner of Keema Kazana curry before leaving at 5.40. The traffic in Aylesbury is usually poor, but tonight it was even worse than usual.  I didn't get to Anwar until 6.25 but luckily he was there waiting for me. The next leg of the journey started off fine, but then there was 10 minutes delay in Buckingham, the council having opted to put in place a 4-way traffic control on the road, so they could resurface the pavement. Eventually, we got to Brackley at 7.20, parking in a side street. It turned out to be a wise move, as when we got to the ground 10 minutes later, they were closing the car park, which also had a £2 charge on it. After getting some pictures of the ground, I paid my £12 to get in

Another reason I'd wanted to do a revisit to Brackley Town was to retry the catering. They'd started doing sausages and burgers from a local butcher and the night before I'd also seen someone had had a nice looking pie. I don't normally eat in the ground, but was going to make an exception on this occasion, despite having dinner earlier. After getting some pictures of the ground, I settled down for the game. Later on, I would indulge, having a very decent sausage and chips from the tea bar for £4. I also bought a ruler from the club shop for 50p.

Brackley Town had beaten Salford City, Braintree Town, Barrow and Sutton United to get this far in the competition. Stockport County had overcome Southport, Lancaster City, Kidderminster Harriers and Maidenhead United to get to this stage. The two sides had drawn 1-1 up in Stockport ten days previously, the original replay due to be played last Tuesday being postponed due to an unfit pitch.  Previous results between the two sides were very equal with one win apiece last year in the last two meetings but Brackley had gone through after a  replay in their FA Trophy 2nd Round clash last season. Tne game started with Brackley on top and they took the lead on 5 minutes. Lee Ndlovu supplied the ball to Aaron Williams who finished well by chipping the ball home. Chances were not plentiful, but both sides did have efforts that could have altered the scoreline. Stockport equalised on 48 minutes when top scorer Jason Oswell tapped home from a few yards following a ball across the six-yard box. Their joy was short lived though as a couple of minutes later, Brackley got what turned out to be the winner. It was another great strike, this time by Shane Byrne who drilled home into the bottom left-hand corner from just outside the area. Stockport then had to survive a ten-minute onslaught from Brackley as the hosts looked to get a third. Despite weathering the storm, the visitors never really looked like equalising and so Brackley extended their unbeaten run at home which has now lasted over a year. They go on to meet Wealdstone in a two-legged semi-final, commencing in just under two weeks.

We had been talking to a friendly Stockport fan from Reading and also some neutral fans from Northampton during the game and they with us had made up a decent crowd of 560, including around 50 from Stockport. The other FA Trophy game had ended with Gateshead overcoming Leyton Orient 3-2. There had been another game scheduled to take place, but disgracefully, after having made a 550 mile round trip for the game, Bromley saw their game called off at 6.30, the petty referee deciding that a small area of the pitch was unplayable and that he was unwilling to play. As ever in football, the fans come last and I hope that it's investigated to see if the postponement was genuinely needed. We left the ground at 9.50, suffering more delay through Buckingham on the way home before dropping Anway off at 10.40, with me getting home at 11. I caught up online and watched TV for an hour before going to bed just after midnight. With me up at 4 am I needed an afternoon nap the following afternoon, after which I completed this blog.


ST JAMES PARK is a tidy ground that I assume has been recently upgraded for the step up to the Conference North that they have made. When I was there to take pictures in 2005, they had the main stand, holding around 300. But all the other 3 sides were uncovered hard standing. Now, while the side directly opposite has not really changed, there is cover behind each goal - to the left a covered terrace, and to the right covered seats. Both areas at a guess hold around 200-300 and make the ground look in line with other smaller Conference North venues. There is a decent club shop which also sells old programmes and a great tea bar too. As already mentioned, the bar doesn't do a great selection of drinks cider wise, but at least it is well furnished and nice to spend time in, with big screens for the live football. All in all, a good ground and club, well worth a visit.


1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
A lot of character and well kept, but one of the smaller grounds in the league though much improved on my second visit (7)

2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
Close to the town and buses, though parking is limited (6)

3: Welcome / Club Friendliness

A friendly welcome (7)

4: Value for money (2018)
£12 is mid-range in the Conference North, but decent value for my latest visit (7)

5: Social Media & Website
Both updated reasonably regularly (6)

6: Programme (2012)
A fairly basic effort, though it was only £1 (5)

7: Game entertainment (2018)
A reasonable contest, though Stockport didn't offer much (6)

8: Tea Bar
Some tasty offerings at reasonable prices (9)

9: Bar / Clubhouse
A basic range of drinks, but fairly large (6)

10: Club Shop
Good range of merchandise and old programmes (7)




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