Brackley Town 0, Bradford Park Avenue 1
A late goal by Paul Walker worthy of winning any game earned Bradford Park Avenue an unlikely three points at promotion-chasing Brackley Town.
The home side were in sixth place, just outside the Conference North play-off places, ahead of the visit from mid-table Avenue.
While the hosts were seeking the victory they hoped would lift them back into the frame, John Deacey’s side were desperately trying to build on a burgeoning run that was distancing them from talk of being dragged into a relegation fight.
It was a largely forgettable game as the home side struggled to break down Avenue’s resilient defence.
Bradford have been tight, especially since the return of James Knowles from a four-game suspension, and they earned their fourth clean sheet on the trot.
The opening exchanges were encouraging, with Jordan Deacey creating a couple of half-chances. But the first corner of the game went to Brackley and it caused problems for the Avenue defence.
Brackley had the strong wind at their backs in the first half and used it to their advantage at a later corner as the ball struck John Lamb’s crossbar before going over.
Lamb was lively and alert under some late first-half pressure. He did particularly well to tip over a long free-kick that bounced in his area. The keeper saw the ball late as it looped over two players making an aerial challenge to be first to reach the bounce.
With the wind now in their favour, Avenue striker Chib Chilaka attempted a long-range effort just into the second half but the ball flew over the target.
There was a worrying moment for the visitors when Martin Drury, only recently back from a knee injury that kept him out for most of the season, received lengthy treatment following a foul but he recovered.
The second half was very even, if a little mundane, but St James Park was lit up by the quality of Walker’s late winner.
Substitute Nicky Boshell did well to set Walker away on the left flank and he drifted in before unleashing a powerful right-foot strike that found the bottom corner from 25 yards.
A delighted Deacey said: “I thought it was a thoroughly deserved victory. There were some outstanding performances. The front two were great and the back three held it together.
“In the first half we looked shaky down the left. But we had a word at half-time and in the second half they threatened us down the right but they didn’t have any clear-cut chances, although neither did we.
“We needed something like that (Walker’s spectacular strike) to win the game.”