JOE Gater scored the only goal of the game as Bracknell Town regained a three-point advantage over Marlow in the race to finish runners-up in the South Central Division of the Bostik League, writes Dave Wright.

They had started the day level on points with Marlow and Cheshunt, but the Robins were the only side of the trio to win on Saturday and a place in the play-offs now looks certain with six games to play.

Bracknell were also getting back to winning ways on their travels following defeats at Hanwell and champions-elect Hayes & Yeading.

In front of a 280 crowd at a Marlow ground steeped in history, Geoff Warner's men never looked like losing on what was the warmest day of the season since last summer.

Town gave a debut to new signing Anton Rodgers, the son of Leicester City manager Brendan and a former professional who made 68 appearances for Swindon Town before joining Hungerford.

This season he has been on Wealdstone's books, but has played very little at senior level.

The 26-year-old midfielder was put straight into the side as Jamie McClurg was ruled out after suffering a groin injury in training last week, and Rodgers showed some neat touches, especially in the opening 20 minutes before being replaced with just over an hour gone of the game.

Town had been forced to make a change earlier in the game as Joel Jacobs suffered a nasty cut close to his eye in a collision for a high ball with keeper Simon Grant, who came down on top of him.

Although named on the team sheet, Carl Davies had been forced to pull out and, so with no defensive cover on his sub's bench, Warner sent on utility man Sean Moore to fill the gap at left wing-back.

Before his departure, however, Jacobs had been involved in the 13th-minute goal, delivering a perfect right-wing corner for centre-back Gater to move into an empty space and head home inside the near post.

It was a lead the visitors rarely looked like relinquishing.

They had the measure of a Marlow side who last Tuesday had beaten National League South side Slough 1-0 to reach the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup final, where they will play Reading Under 23s, the conquerors of Bracknell in the second round.

Town enjoyed the better of the opening half and went close to doubling their lead when Joe Grant headed narrowly wide from a Rodgers corner before Moore saw his fierce shot deflected behind for a corner.

In the second half, however, they created very few scoring opportunities and the same could be said about Marlow.

The hosts did occasionally threaten by delivering low crosses into the area, but no-one was around to supply the finishing touch.

There was a scare for Robins when Marlow substitute Marcus Mealing forced his way through, but keeper Mark Scott was quickly off his line to avert the danger.

The game became scrappy at times and, as far as entertainment value, fell short of the previous week's game at Hayes, but Bracknell thoroughly deserved all three points.

As Marlow manager Mark Bartley commented: "Bracknell had a desire and determination to win the game, and we didn't match it."

Next up for the Larges Lane men is a home fixture this Saturday against Ware, with Town hungry to revenge the unbelievable 7-2 thrashing they suffered at the Hertfordshire club last December.

Then next Tuesday (7.45pm) Town visit bottom-of-the-table Egham, who last weekend won 2-0 at Northwood.

Rather than sit on the bench for Bracknell, goalie Chris Grace played for Southern League Premier Division club Hendon and kept a clean sheet in their 2-0 victory at Poole Town on a day when both their keepers were unable to play due to suspension and injury.