Peterborough Sports 0-3 Brackley Town (National League North)
I had the day off on Saturday so went to watch Beeston v Keyworth United in the Notts Senior League where my lad was playing. Rushing around ahead of kick off I ended up being five minutes late but by the time I got to the less flattering surroundings of Trent Vale Road Sports Ground the Ref had already stopped play to ask someone to clear dog shit off the pitch.
It reminded me of my own days playing local parks football on Saturday afternoons in Nottingham, real true grassroots, spit and sawdust, shit and shovel, zero shape and not much quality but 100% commitment and lots of banter. An entertaining match ending 3-2 to Beeston.
Today I’m back on National League North duty, Peterborough Sports hosting Brackley Town and two teams with ambition in the division to go further than they have ever been before.
Last season, their first at the level, the Turbines finished fourteenth after a promising start to the campaign which faltered when Manager Jimmy Dean left to join Scunthorpe United in January, Brackley Town themselves reaching the playoff final where they were beaten by Kidderminster Harriers who gained promotion to the National League in their place, the Saints themselves having Managerial difficulties after both Kevin Wilkin and Roger Johnson were sacked over the course, their newest in charge is Gavin Cowan who had previously played for and managed Telford (where Wilkin is currently in charge).
Brackley will be hoping this will be their year after a few near misses, in the last six seasons they haven’t finished outside the top four in the division, they have seen some changes in the summer with a few new signings that look to have made the side stronger, Peterborough have also seen some changes with a few that catch my eye upon arrival following my journey south down the A1 and across the A47.
I’ve pulled up behind the goal in the car park at Lincoln Road and walk to the turnstiles where I’m trying to find out if my name is down on the list… A bit of rigmarole it seems I’m not, but my employers are, so I’m in without paying but as I wait for the all clear off a man holding a walkie talkie I’m looking around at a few neat changes from my last visit in February, the open end to the bottom goal completely replaced with a new smart roofed terrace, to the left of that another covered standing area and as I take a walk around it seems the press places have been moved, from the front of the Colin Day Stand in the bottom right corner to the front of the stand opposite side of the pitch, a small seated area under cover which the Directors and Members usually sit.
There’s fencing installed too and there’s a smarter, newer feel about the place, getting towards the level that stadia should be for step 2 of the football pyramid it feels bigger and better, more of a football home, than just a home of a football team.
That’s not all the changes either, it seems the name has changed from the Bee Arena to PIMS Park but we’ll keep it sponsor free for the purpose of this feature, after all, the tannoy man is still calling it Lincoln Road.
I’ve long taken my pew on the front row, sunshine blazing heat onto my face and arms as I watch the Peterborough lads warm up directly in front of me with a small sided passing game. The place is filling nicely, there’s a few of the players families in with it being a Bank Holiday, kids, mums, wives, a decent number of away backing with a few flags draped behind the top goal, I’m joined shortly before kick off by a reporter from BBC Northamptonshire, he normally does Cobblers games and tells me of their decent form of late, he calls Brackley the ‘nearest other team’ to cover, now that the likes of Kettering and Rushden & Diamonds have fallen down the wayside.
It's scorching hot as the groundstaff move a thick hosepipe with holes in from a dry looking pitch ahead of the two teams coming out, another change is that Peterborough for some reason have this season traded blue for orange, Brackley in their changed kit of yellow and white, it’s all very bright on this late summer afternoon.
The game kicks off and the tempo is high, not much of technical flattering to please the supporters it goes long from front to back again and again, on the occasion Brackley midfielders Tommy O’Sullivan and Shepherd Murombedzi get it down and play, the visitors best tool however is with hands not feet, as every given opportunity George Carline chucks one into the box with ferocious distance and flight.
There’s not much in the way of chances until Calder races down the left on 22, he’s rapid and direct and crosses left footed for Danny Newton to get up and head goalwards, but his effort is spectacularly saved by Peter Crook who flicks it around the posts.
The resulting corner is played short and catches Peterborough out, Crook again making a smart save as he sprawls to his right but Tyler Lyttle is on home to smash home “he’s the son of a former Cobblers player” says the reporter beside me, “I remember his dad Des when he played for Nottingham Forest” I reply.
At half time I ask who’s been impressing at Northampton to be told “they have a young team, Danny Hilton is there from Luton, Sam Hoskins still scoring all the goals, Sean Dyche’s son also plays” centre back Max Dyche is just twenty and is I'm told a chip off the old block.
Dyche jnr in fact used to play for Brackley but it was another of their current centre halves on the day who impressed me, Zak Lilley looking accomplished in a back three on the left hand side, was up for a corner on 58 which was partially cleared to him to smash home hard and low from inside the 18 yard box.
It was nothing more than the away side deserved, they then made it three on 71 when George Carline headed in from Tyler Lyttle’s outswinger, “all three goals scored by defenders” I’m told… “All three goals scored from corners” I reply.
The son of Des, got high acclaim off the radio guys behind me and off the BBC reporter besides me as Tyler Lyttle scored his first saints goals in what was a good personal display of talent from right wing back.
I was impressed with him, and on the opposite flank where Riccardo Calder was very tricky and direct, the midfield of Murombedzi and O’Sullivan, the latter of which signed from Gloucester City in the summer, calming, if not always needed to put a foot on it, when they did, Brackley looked a decent side in possession.
All three centre halves enjoyed winning the battle with Peterborough strikers Michael Gash and Ben Fowkes who couldn't trouble their opponents with much substance, joint player manager Gash looks heavy and immobile but when the ball was played into him the side started to reap rewards, too little too late their only shots on target coming in injury time, too many of their performers not good enough on the day, a lot of battling qualities but no real quality in possession, Josh McCammon an exception who never stopped working, he at least had a bit of presence with the ball at his feet, substitute Sidney Pereira actually looked like he had some technique and pace down the right, but was strangely subbed (perhaps with injury) late on.
It might be a tougher season than last for Peterborough under Luke Steele and Michael Gash, after losing Dion Sembie-Ferris in the summer to Scunthorpe it looks like they lack some of the pace they had last season on the break, they also look prone to conceding from set plays which they didn't as much when Richard Jones was in the side, he's since retired and there's a gaping hole in that back line to fill.
For Brackley, it might finally be the year they gain promotion to unchartered waters and the National League, they have a bit of everything from organisation and experience at the back, to ball players in midfield who don’t shirk a tackle, in Taylor and Newton in tandem they have two busy hard-working strikers in attack, and with the likes of Bates, McHale, Crawford and Matwasa on the bench, they certainly have some quality in depth.
Peterborough Sports: Peter Crook, Hayden Cann, Connor Johnson, Ashton Fox, Roddy McGlinchey (Sidney Pereira 55 (Ryan Fryatt 78)), Dan Lawlor, Dan Jarvis (Harrison Nee 74), Josh McCammon, Hugh Alban-Jones, Michael Gash, Ben Fowkes.
Brackley Town: Danny Lewis, George Carline, Riccardo Calder, Shepherd Murombedzi, Gareth Dean, Danny Newton (Dom McHale 78), Dan Turner (Jordan Crawford 76), Jimmy Armson (Alfie Bates 68), Tyler Lyttle, Tommy O’Sullivan, Zak Lilley.
3:00pm Kick Off. Monday 28th August 2023, Lincoln Road, Peterborough (att 434).