Fairford Town 1 v 2 Brackley Town Saints
(Saturday 2nd September 2017)
Saints travelled for their first ever game against last season's Hellenic League Division 1 West champions Fairford Town with a strong squad which was boosted by the inclusion of talented attacking midfielder Greg Kaziboni making his return to the game after a long period out with injury. Manager Gordon Kille included Kaziboni in the Saints starting 11, brought back central defender Sam Hartley to play alongside skipper Joe Ward, Alex Stott in attacking midfield, and opted to keep Sam Bridges at right back following an impressive performance at Oxford City Nomads on Monday.
On 13 minutes Saints centre back Sam Hartley was caught in possession by Fairford's striker who was then fouled to give a free kick to the home side and an early yellow card for Hartley. Fortunately for Saints the free kick came to nothing and just a few minutes later Hartley was in action at the other end heading Saints first corner narrowly wide.
Another chance for Saints came after 20 minutes but this time striker Josh Bowden headed wide from a well delivered Greg Kaziboni cross. Five minutes later Fairford goalkeeper Ben Mitchell pulled off an excellent double save, first from a free kick by Matt Johnson and then the follow up from Josh Bowden, and with half an hour played Saints Greg Kaziboni created a good shooting opportunity for himself but dragged the shot wide.
Half Time – Fairford Town 0 v 0 Brackley Town Saints
With the first half being an even affair with neither side able to create a clear scoring chance, Saints manager Gordon Kille decided to change things for the second half and brought Joeb Evans on to play alongside James Hammond in the centre of the Saints midfield, moving Matt Johnson into a more attacking role and withdrawing Alex Stott.
As well as the changes in personnel the half time break also brought a more positive approach from the Saints and just 4 minutes into the half, with the hosts unable to clear a goalmouth scramble from a corner, the ball dropped to Sam Hartley and the Saints centre half confidently beat the goalkeeper to open the scoring, 1 – 0 to Saints.
Fairford almost got back into the game when a long throw from Dan Reynolds was headed towards the Saints goal by striker Lee Smith but fortunately for the visitors the ball drifted wide of Dan Farrell's post for a goal kick.
With just over an hour played a long goal kick from Fairford's Ben Mitchell bounced over the head of Saints centre back Hartley and was seized on by Fairford attacker Lewis Petrie. Hartley recovered and made a tackle which was judged by the referee to be a foul worthy of a second yellow card for the Saints defender putting them down to 10 men with nearly 30 minutes left to play.
Saints manager Gordon Kille reacted immediately and attacker Chris Jordan was sacrificed to allow left back Charlie Kille to come on with the adaptable Dan Middleton moving into the middle of the Saints defence.
With the Saints still settling after the adjustments made Fairford Town took advantage and pressed hard for an equalizer. Dan Reynolds fired a shot just over the bar, Liam Gale shot wide following a good run, and Nathan Blackford's shot was comfortably saved by Saints keeper Dan Farrell before a break away from the visitors led to a Saints corner.
Saints Greg Kaziboni and Matt Johnson opting to take the corner short seemed to unsettle the Fairford defence and Johnson's cross fell to Josh Bowden. The on form Saints striker made no mistake and scored his 11th league goal of the season to give the visitors a 2 – 0 lead with 15 minutes to play albeit with 10 men.
Fairford manager Jody Bevan reacted to the Saints 2nd goal quickly and brought himself on for Steve Hall to add an extra threat up front for the home side.
With 10 minutes remaining Fairford's Liam Gale struck a free kick past Dan Farrell to make it 2 – 1 to Saints and give the hosts a lifeline but Saints manager Gordon Kille reacted again bringing on the experienced Ryan Knight for attacking full back Sam Bridges and Saints were able to see out the remaining minutes to take the 3 points.
Full Time – Fairford Town 1 v 2 Brackley Town Saints
Saints: Dan Farrell, Sam Bridges, Joe Ward, Sam Hartley, Dan Middleton, James Hammond, Matt Johnson, Greg Kaziboni, Chris Jordan, Alex Stott, Josh Bowden
Subs: Joeb Evans (replaced Alex Stott), Charlie Kille (replaced Chris Jordan), Ryan Knight (replaced Sam Bridges), Dean March, Josh Murphy