Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 4th March 2017
Brakes maintained their recent upturn in form by negotiating a tricky 90 minutes against a St Neots side battling to keep themselves above the relegation trapdoor. The breakthrough was not achieved until six minutes into the second half when Jack Edwards thumped home his ninth goal of the season, and a long overdue goal for substitute Richard Gregory made the closing stages more comfortable.
The manner in which the squad has bounced back after the six goal humiliation at home to Slough at the end of January has been heartening to witness. Four wins, two draws, only one goal conceded, and still boasting the best defence in the division by some margin. As Paul Holleran commented after the game, ‘for us to keep a clean sheet against this side is a sign of how hard the players have worked as a group. St Neots have picked up recently and have been scoring a lot of goal, but we thought that if we were able to keep their front four quiet without the ball, and get our shape right then we could cause problems’
Leamington started like train and were fully on the front foot in the opening twenty minutes without making any impression on the Saints goal, shots from Courtney Baker-Richardson and Ahmed Obeng failing to trouble goalkeeper Alex Archer.
There was momentary disruption when Joe Magunda, who has been outstanding in recent games, was forced off with a groin with a little over twenty minutes played, but with James Mace ready to slot back into his central defensive role after suspension it was only going to be minimal.
Obeng exchanged passes with the impressive Callum Gittings for a shot that was scrambled away by the visiting defence, while at the other end Bradley Fortnum-Tomlinson was shown a yellow card after a rather poor attempt to convince Referee Robin Cox that Richard Taundry had fouled him inside the penalty area. St Neots were visibly growing in confidence however after a shaky opening, and forced several corners without testing Tony Breeden.
Obeng looked to have a great chance to score as he used the bounce of the ball to roll his marker and get a clear run at goal down the right, but he unfortunately got his angles all wrong and rolled his shot well wide. Jonny Butler ballooned a shot high and wide for St Neots as they continued to frustrate the vocal home crowd, but they were unable to take advantage of the numerous dead ball situations they engineered for themselves.
Holleran admitted he was disappointed with the final twenty minutes of the first half, saying that ‘a few choice words were needed in the dressing room to get us back to the levels we needed to be at, but I thought second half we started moving the ball quicker, we were getting more quality around the box with our crosses and we’ve ended up scoring two really good goals, a great team goal and a really good individual goal from Richard which was a great finish.’
The opener arrived six minutes in, but prior to this a defensive clearance almost put Obeng in on goal again, Archer was alert however to clear the impending danger. Butler headed just wide for St Neots at the other end before a fine move just outside the penalty area on the left carved out the all important first goal. Great work between Gittings, Jordan Goddard and Connor Gudger saw the ex Kidderminster Harriers man thread a pass for Gudger to run onto, the wing back skipping past Jacob Partridge before lifting a perfect ball into the centre for Edwards to thump home. Reminiscent of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s winning goal for Manchester United in the League Cup final last weekend, it was clear as soon as the ball was played in where it was going to end up.
Obeng and Gittings then somehow had close range shots blocked by good saves from Archer, though the angle was tight, while Gittings looked to be in with a good chance to double the lead only for Tom Wood to somehow get a block in, the ball incredibly ended up in the hands of Archer.
Gregory was introduced just past the hour, and instantly made the kind of impact every manager must hope for when they throw on a substitute, latching onto a free kick from Breeden that was helped up to the edge of the box by Edwards and Baker-Richardson, to crash in a fine strike on the half turn with his first touch of the ball just fourteen seconds after stepping onto the pitch. This enabled Leamington to see out the game confidently, and they can now turn their attention to Tuesday evening’s rearranged fixture against Kettering Town.
Visiting manager Matt Clements was a little disappointed that his side failed to build on their promising end to the first half, saying ‘I’m a bit frustrated if i’m honest. They are a good side, we know and respect that, but I think the problem we’ve had in the last few weeks playing some of the other top sides is that while we can be competitive and be in and around it, we are sometimes giving them too many opportunities. The two goals today were quite soft and potentially avoidable. I don’t think there was a huge difference between the sides today, they are obviously a better side than us, we respect that, but I felt we gave them the opportunity to beat us today.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda (16 James Mace, 24), Courtney Baker-Richardson, Jordan Goddard (14 Callum Powell, 78), Ahmed Obeng (12 Richard Gregory, 64), Jack Edwards, Callum Gittings.
Subs not used: 15 Rob Thompson-Brown, 17 Ben George.
St Neots Town: Alex Archer, Jacob Partridge, Jonny Herd, Lee Clarke (16 Luke Brown, 72), Tom Wood, Jonny Butler, Bradley Fortnum-Tomlinson (12 Tom Knowles, 59), Fernando Bel-Toxtle, James Tricks (15 Declan Rogers, 78), Michel Hyem ©, Jevani Brown.
Subs not used: 13 Gary Dean, 14 Harry Norman.
Referee: Mr Robin Cox
Assistant Referees: Mr David Holmes & Mr Michael Clements
Brakes Man of the Match: Callum Gittings.