VERDICT – Honours even as Steelmen and Brackley face up to a similar battle

Kalern Thomas, who went on to score Corby Town's equaliser, challenges for the ball during the 1-1 draw with Brackley Town at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Kalern Thomas, who went on to score Corby Town's equaliser, challenges for the ball during the 1-1 draw with Brackley Town at Steel Park. Pictures by Alison Bagley

A new year has dawned and, after the spoils were eventually shared at a rain-swept Steel Park, the task for Corby Town and Brackley Town over the next four months is crystal clear.

The Northamptonshire rivals will both be part of what looks like being a close battle to survive in the Vanarama National League North.

Corby Town frontman Greg Mills is shown a yellow card during the draw with Brackley Town

Corby Town frontman Greg Mills is shown a yellow card during the draw with Brackley Town

As far as the festive clashes between the two are concerned, this 1-1 draw ensured the Steelmen took the honours with four points from the two matches, although they were hampered by a 5-3 home defeat to Lowestoft Town in between.

For a time though, it seemed like Brackley would avenge their 2-1 loss on Boxing Day after they took the lead through Tom Winters with 21 minutes remaining at Steel Park.

At that stage, it was well deserved. The Saints dominated possession and always looked a threat, even though the home defence, in general, ensured Sam Donkin didn’t have a great deal to do in the Corby goal.

But, if you are of a Steelmen persuasion, then there was cause for optimism as they stayed in the contest - something they haven’t done in recent times - and their battling qualities were eventually rewarded in stunning fashion with six minutes to go.

It felt as though it would take something special to blow the Brackley house down and so it proved, although no-one would have expected the source from which it came.

As the rain hammered down - as it had done for most of the second half - Kalern Thomas, a mainstay in the Corby side over the past year or so, received the ball on the left.

He cut inside and his unstoppable right-footed shot flew past the helpless Sam Hornby and into the far corner.

The relief was clear. Indeed, this was a game that neither side could afford to lose.

And while both would have preferred a victory, it does at least give them something to build on in the crucial weeks to come.

The opening stages were disappointing with neither side able to get a grip on proceedings.

But the game did come to life after the Steelmen went agonisingly close to taking the lead when Paul Malone’s fine header from a Greg Mills free-kick cannoned off the post and out for a goal-kick.

Brackley responded with early substitute David Moyo and then Winters sending attempts off target while the former should have done better than glance a header wide from former Corby man Stephan Morley’s wicked delivery from the left.

But the visitors were the better side at the start of the second half.

Ryan Austin was out of luck when his thumping header smacked off the crossbar and the warning signs were there for the Steelmen when Winters curled another long-range effort wide.

But he did break the deadlock on 69 minutes. Afforded too much space, Winters danced into the area and then gave Donkin little chance with a fierce low strike.

Corby responded with captain Cleveland Taylor and Mills both testing Hornby.

And, just when it looked like being another miserable day on home soil, Thomas stepped up with his sublime strike to rescue a point.

Only time will tell on whether this point benefits one or both of these teams.

But, if nothing else, both sides showed they are up for the tough battle that lies ahead…

Steelmen: Donkin; Taylor, Appleton, C McDonald (sub Weir-Daley, 80 mins), Malone, Thomas; Courtney (sub Downey, 80 mins), Brown; Milnes; M McDonald, G Mills. Subs not used: Draper, Dutton, Wright.

Brackley: Hornby; Hawtin, Austin, P Mills, Morley; Odhiambo, Clarke, Walker, Winters; Diggin (sub Batchelor, 83 mins); Akintunde (sub Moyo, 23 mins). Subs not used: Ashby, Whittall, Graham.

Referee: Matthew Buonassisi.

Goals: Winters (69 mins, 0-1), Thomas (84 mins, 1-1).

Bookings: Brown, G Mills, Diggin (all fouls), Milnes, Moyo (both dissent).

Attendance: 603.