Gainsborough Trinity failed to make possession and chances count as they lost at home to fellow play-off hopefuls Brackley on Tuesday night.
Steve Housham’s Blues conceded early and were unable to break the visiting side down, in bitterly cold and snowy conditions.
Steve Housham welcomed skipper Michael Leary back into his side, along with Shane Clarke in midfield.
The returning Clarke was quickly into the action, firing a shot well off target from 18 yards out in the second minute.
And two minutes later he was at the other end, pulling down Curtis McDonald to concede a penalty that Steve Diggin sent into the bottom left hand corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
After a fairly tame opening 10 minutes for the hosts, Bradley Barraclough twisted and turned on the edge of the box to shoot at goal, his effort drifting just wide.
Jamie Yates was impressing early on, and it was his dangerous cross that Brackley keeper Billy Turley spilled, but no one in Blue reacted quickly enough.
Gainsborough had half a shout for a spot-kick of their own when Craig Nelthorpe’s ball into the area seemed to cannon off a hand, but referee Steven Plane was unmoved.
A goalmouth scramble very nearly produced an equaliser for the Blues, but first Luke Waterfall and then Darryn Stamp were denied by last ditch blocks.
Trinity then went to sleep in the middle of the park, Brackley broke and Marvin Robinson brought a save from Jason White, but should have perhaps done better from six yards out.
The visitors were a little slack themselves on the half hour mark and Barraclough was close to taking advantage, Turley saving as the striker nipped in to steal possession.
Diggin came close to his second when White was hesitant to come off his line, but eventually saved the front man’s flick.
Mr Plane was the centre of attention before the break when he turned down a second, more convincing Trinity appeal for a handball in the box.
The Blues began the second half brightly, Stamp’s header marginally off target inside 60 seconds.
Boss Steve Housham gave Clarke 10 minutes of the second half before replacing him with Terry Hawkridge, a more attacking option. And his second change saw the struggling Greg Young depart, Josh Wilde on in his place.
The quality of the game was poor as neither side put together a cohesive attack, with only an overhead kick from Stamp and a header from Waterfall breaking the tedium, both efforts wide.
Mark Jones came on in place of Stamp, and nearly made an instant impact with two bites of the cherry from Trinity’s 10th corner of the game, but Turley stood firm for Brackley.
The keeper wasn’t even needed when Gainsborough’s best chance of the half fell to Leary, 16 yards out and he blasted well over the bar.
An even better opportunity presented itself in the 80th minute as Yates played an inviting ball to the back post and Nelthorpe, sliding, could only direct it wide.
And on 84 minutes it seemed harder to miss than score, but Yates sliced his volley wide of the far post when the ball reached him in yards of space in the box.
Ex Blues player Jefferson Louis had Brackley’s only second half effort on goal, a low shot that White gathered easily, as the visitors offered little and protected their lead effectively until the final whistle.
Gainsborough Trinity: White, Roma, Young (Wilde 62), Waterfall, Hone, Leary, Clarke (Hawkridge 55), Nelthorpe, Barraclough, Stamp (Jones 71) Yates. Not used: Platt, Thompson.
Brackley Town: Turley, Clifton, McDonald, Odhiambo, Sharpe, Austin, Reid (Story 87), Sandy, Robinson (Louis 72), Diggin, Winters (Walker 60). Not used: Nisevic, Story, Nelson-Addy.
Referee: Steven Plane. Assistants: Ben Cooke, Mark Swift.
Goalscorers: Diggin 4.
Yellows: Hone 32, Stamp 59; McDonald 69, Sandy 77.