Promotion rivals Brackley held FC Halifax Town to a goalless draw despite being outplayed for long periods at the Shay.
Should the two teams meet again at the end of the season, Town won’t have too much to fear on this evidence as Brackley played second fiddle to the hosts, who failed to find a finishing touch to their dominant possession.
The clubs have now shared two games without a goal, but Halifax should have broken the deadlock for the season with a flurry of late chances which would have brought them three points closer to the team directly above them in the table.
But Brackley held on to maintain the six-point gap between them, which will surely be bridged soon enough due to Town’s five games in hand.
Neil Aspin made four changes from the side that won 3-0 at Solihull Moors last Saturday, with Chris Worsley and Dan Gardner returning in midfield in place of Jon Worthington and Jason St Juste, while Lee Gregory and Alex Titchiner were paired up front, replacing Adriano Moke and Gareth Seddon.
To say Brackley were above Town in the table, they appeared no different to most sides visiting the Shay as they were on the back foot from the off and struggled to create much from the limited amount of possession they had.
Barring Tom Winters’ free kick which curled just wide from 25 yards out, Halifax were the superior side and were far more imaginative going forward as the visitors tended to rely on brawn rather than brain to try and make an impression on the game.
Matt Pearson heading Gardner’s free kick over from the edge of the six yard box as Town started brightly, looking much more like play-off contenders than the away side.
Eddie Odhiambo seemed to have drawn the short straw for Brackley and was given the task of paying close attention to Gardner, who still had an influence on proceedings with some sweeping cross field passes to Ryan Toulson and outstanding close control on the unforgiving Shay pitch, with his boots seemingly covered in Velcro such was his ability to trap the ball under the constant presence of Odhiambo and right-back James Clifton.
Gregory had more joy in getting sight of goal, as he created two presentable chances, one for himself after charging down Curtis McDonald’s attempted clearance, but he dragged his shot low across Billy Turley and wide.
The Town striker then showed more endeavour as he muscled onto the ball near the touchline before cutting it back to Liam Needham, but the ball got trapped under his feet on the bobbly surface and the chance was gone.
Town’s last home game was notable for the amount of time-wasting Harrogate indulged in, and Turley appeared to take a leaf out of their book with a series of goal kicks that riled the Town fans behind his goal.
The Brackley captain even appeared to be partaking in a spot of gardening after half an hour as he prepared to launch another dead ball upfield, repeatedly prodding the pitch with his boot before placing the ball down as the home supporters’ ire increased.
But the amount of goal kicks Turley had to take showed how dominant Town were in the first half as the veteran keeper continued to repeat his rather agonising process, eventually leading the referee to warn him about the time he was taking.
But on one of Brackley’s rare forays forward, Danny Lowe appeared to trip his opponent inside the box, only for the referee to award a free kick.
The resulting set-piece came to nothing but the incident served as a reminder of Brackley’s threat on the break, although they remained second best.
While the visitors were still in no rush to restart play, Neil Aspin made his intentions even clearer as he brought on Moke and St Juste to try and stretch a Brackley defence that refused to buckle.
Indeed, they seemed to take heart the longer they kept Town out as The Shaymen struggled to penetrate the sturdy shield assembled in front of Turley.
Brackley seemed to sense they could grab something against the run of play as Town pressed further forward but inevitably left more gaps at the other end, and the away team chalked up their first effort on target after 79 minutes, but substitute Steve Diggin’s header was easily saved.
However, it was Town who finished far stronger and created their best chances of the afternoon as the game neared its end.
Gregory drew two saves from Turley within as many minutes as Town finally saw the whites of the keeper’s eyes but failed to find a way past him before substitute Gareth Seddon also forced him into a save with a volley from Moke’s cross.
Halifax: Glennon, Toulson, McManus, Pearson, Needham, Lowe, Worsley (St Juste 60), Williams, Titchiner (Moke 60), Gardner (Seddon 85), Gregory. Subs not used: Senior, Johnson.
Shots on target: 3
Shots off target: 9
Brackley: Turley, Clifton, McDonald, Odhiambo, Sharpe, Austin, Story (Nisevic 75), Sandy, Reid, Robinson (Louis 83), Winters (Diggin 72), Subs not used: Nelson-Addy, Corcoran.
Shots on target: 1
Shots off target: 1
Man of the match: Sean Williams