Buxton move into National League North play-offs after impressive win over Brackley Town

Diego De Girolamo was on the scoresheet in Buxton's win over Brackley Town.Diego De Girolamo was on the scoresheet in Buxton's win over Brackley Town.
Diego De Girolamo was on the scoresheet in Buxton's win over Brackley Town.
A powerful and equally scintillating first-half performance against Brackley Town on Saturday set up a victory that has taken Buxton into the play-off places, a scarcely credible possibility three months ago when relegation seemed a more likely prospect.

Post-match, manager Craig Elliott described his team's first-half display as "brilliant" and in that view there isn't a hint of exaggeration. As he also said, that 45 minutes was the best played since he became manager in December.

In a terrific advert for the National League North, the breathless action from the kick-off provided great entertainment. Fourth-placed Brackley were ever-ready to attack by playing out from the back and producing some neat approach play, but Buxton proved irresistible, scoring both early and late in the half, with another made out of nothing just past the half-hour.

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The first goal, in the fifth minute and in the hosts' first attack at the Ashwood End, belonged to Barnsley loanee Joe Ackroyd, whose deft header beat goalkeeper Lewis just inside a post.

The build-up was provided by Diego De Girolamo, inspired from the outset, and Sam Osborne, but it was Max Conway's pinpoint cross from the left that found the striker.

The visitors then soon settled to their game which was interspersed by long throws from ex-Chesterfield defender George Carline, but the home defenders and 'keeper Theo Richardson coped admirably.

Yet it was always the Bucks looking likely to double their advantage and twice within six minutes De Girolamo worked dangerous one-two's, both with Osborne, before firstly firing over the bar, then shooting directly at Lewis. However, it was the striker who did make it 2-0 in the 32nd minute.

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There seemed little threat as visiting centre-back Cullinane-Liburd headed back, though less than decisively, towards his 'keeper, but De Girolamo nipped between them to net joyously.

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The rampant Bucks all but scored again as Jak McCourt's through-ball fed Osborne, then De Girolamo delivered a fine, 20-yard finish but was penalised for handball.

The striker narrowly missed contact with a superb McCourt deep cross, yet it was the so-industrious midfielder Connor Kirby who made it 3-0 on 43 minutes with a stunning 30-yard power-drive into the far net corner.

To their credit, Brackley fought back instantly, forcing De Girolamo into a diving save, but the hosts couldn't clear fully and Wright netted from eight yards just prior to half-time.

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The second half understandably couldn't match the first for thrills or goals as Buxton offered a solid obstacle to anything that the Saints could offer and again the Bucks looked the more likely to add a decisive further goal.

From a fine Brad Jackson cross, De Girolamo, under pressure, volleyed wide from seven yards in the 51st minute. Then a Conway squared pass just evaded the striker.

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Meanwhile, Richardson with safe handling, made several important high catches and towards the end the Bucks made several more openings, with Lewis saving from De Girolamo who also set up Ackroyd twice, with the latter first screwing wide then being unable to benefit from a defensive error.

Buxton's remarkable record has therefore been extended to just one defeat in 20 outings, with eight wins and a draw in the last nine home matches as the Silverlands programme was completed.

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The chase for the play-offs, with currently a mere three points separating nine clubs in the hunt for the four remaining places, will only be resolved by the last round of fixtures next Saturday, when the Bucks visit third-placed, well-supported Chester. Ciearly Buxton officials are hoping that the faithful go there in the numbers which went to York and Ipswich.