RUSS Penn hit out at his Harriers team for being ‘out-battled and out-fought’ by a Brackley Town side who went top of National League North with a 2-0 win at Aggborough.

The Reds slumped to a third successive league defeat, their recent FA Cup joys a stark contrast to a National League North run that’s seen them pick up just one point from a possible 12.

Against the Saints – who reached the summit with their victory in Worcestershire – Harriers were decidedly second best, something Penn was open about when he spoke after the final whistle.

He commented: “Irrespective of the results over the last two or three games, the performance wasn’t there today.

“We got out-battled and out-fought by a strong Brackley team which is disappointing for me to take, personally.

“The start lost us the game, really. We didn’t have the cutting edge in the second half, but the damage was done in the first half.

“They were better than us, simple as that, and that’s what disappoints me the most. Defeat was the right result.”

After several injury blows in recent weeks, boss Penn was at least afforded the relative luxury of an unchanged starting eleven for this clash – even being able to welcome back a player from absence after Omari Sterling took up a place on the bench.

Harriers were oddly lethargic for much of the first half and were behind from the game’s first chance; Brackley alert to the ball falling on the edge of the area as the hosts tried to clear, Jordan Richards rifling a finish beyond Luke Simpson.

Past the midway point of the half, Harriers did put together a handful of chances, with Carrington and Cameron chiefly on hand to test Danny Lewis who pulled off fine saves to deny them both.

On the stroke of half time, though, the visitors doubled their lead - a route-one ball finding Ndlovu in the area who saw his shot blocked, eventually the ball finding Yusuf who angled it smartly into the far corner.

Brackley adopted a professional approach to the second half that drew any sting out of the Harriers attack, all while rarely needing to break out of second gear in attack.

As the visitors mopped up almost everything Harriers could throw at them, there were occasions on which Penn’s men threatened to break past their dogged defensive line - past the hour, Nathan Cameron saw a header blocked.

Off the bench, Omari Sterling was a danger and did take aim on a number of occasions late on, but never managed to go closer than his effort three minutes from time blazed just over the bar.

Brackley rarely did or needed to trouble Simpson between the Harriers sticks in the final moments as they eased their way to a seventh win from nine games.

Harriers: Simpson, Penny, Richards, Cameron, Austin, Carrington, Morgan-Smith (Sterling 66), Hemmings, Martin (Bell 78), Bajrami, Freemantle.

Subs not used: White, Lowe, Lissimore

Attendnace, 1,764


Dale Wooton