Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 8th April 2017
Leamington secured a play off spot and will now focus on claiming the runners up spot to guarantee a home tie in the play offs after they added another point to their tally against a battling Kings Langley side who were delighted to gain a point for entirely different reasons.
The Hertfordshire side have acquitted themselves well in their first season at Step 3, picking up some positive results against the sides in the top five. Their tactics were not to the taste of everybody inside the Phillips 66 Community Stadium, but they did what you would expect a side fighting for their lives to do, and deserve credit for holding out for the draw.
Brakes certainly created the openings required to win the game, but were met by another inspired goalkeeping performance, this time from Kings’ Javi Comas, who pushed an instinctive first time volley from Courtney Baker-Richardson behind in the early stages of the game after Stefan Moore’s initial shot had been blocked. He then came out on top again, blocking Ahmed Obeng’s shot as he latched on to a long clearance from Richard Taundry.
Sam Tring’s clever backheel almost created an opening for the visitors, Jamie Hood clearing away from the Leamington goal following Kings Langley’s first corner of the game.
Spaniard Comas certainly adopted the approach used by continental goalkeepers in making some extravagant saves, and although he angered some of the home support by taking his time with everything, which eventually earned him a booking, it was difficult not to be impressed with his performance. He dived full length once more to push Obeng’s deflected shot behind for a corner, from which Baker-Richardson headed Jack Edwards’ knock on into the side netting.
Some of the crowd thought that Callum Gittings’ skidding 25 yard drive had found the back of the net, unfortunately it was the wrong side of the side netting that was left rippling. Comas then punched Taundry’s right wing centre off the head of Edwards.
It was Taundry who came closest to breaking the deadlock just before half time, lining up a free kick 25 yards out after Gittings was fouled. He almost found the target with a vicious effort, the ball clattering back off the angle of post and bar.
Connor Gudger’s early second half shot was scrambled off the line by Ryan Plowright, while Stefan Moore came close when he connected with Edwards’ nod down with a sweetly struck first time volley, but once again it was the side netting rippling. Edwards then directed a header from the edge of the 6 yard box straight at Comas.
Ollie Cox had a great chance when he pounced on a half clearance to rifle in a low drive that Tony Breeden could only parry, the Brakes skipper having to scramble to his feet to claim the ball ahead of Lewis Toomey.
Edwards was next to threaten for Leamington, his header from Moore’s left wing cross spun towards goal but lacked the power to reach the net before Comas got back to claim it. The keeper then dived full length once more to claw away Moore’s glancing header from Rob Thompson-Brown’s centre.
Breeden got down well to deny substitute Kieren Turner following a dubiously awarded free kick which saw Darren Pond collect a booking, but the forward movement was almost all Leamington’s in the closing stages. First substitute Rob Thompson-Brown slashed a first time volley wide as the visitors defence failed to clear their lines. Obeng’s shot then bobbled across goal and wide but the pressure was building, and in a manic few minutes Thompson-Brown’s screamer was deflected wide, Jamie Hood’s header likewise before his central defensive partner James Mace headed just over the bar from the corner.
Gary Connolly and Plowright then both cleared shots off the line, while Comas saved Taundry’s drive at his near post as Leamington looked for an injury time winner. Connolly then diverted Obeng’s shot over the bar as Kings Langley held on, and their players and management celebrated wildly at the final whistle with the travelling support.
Paul Holleran remained focussed despite the result, saying ‘It was another frustrating afternoon for us. These last two home games have followed a similar pattern, and we’ve fallen into the trap twice. It was always going to be a really tough day today, it’s the hottest day we’ve had, but when you’re creating three or four one on ones, to not put any of them in the back of the net again, for the second week running, it is really frustrating. Sadly that bit of quality in the final third has deserted us.
‘The biggest lesson from the two games is that you need to take your chances in the first half hour of games. We need three points to secure second spot, and I’m 100% confident the lads will deliver that, but I think the pressure of the situation has got to one or two of them. We’ve done fantastically well to stay on Chippenham’s tails for so long but they’ve had one of those seasons, like we had a few years ago, they’ve been relentless recently. As a group now we have to focus on wrapping up that second spot, because that’s a massive advantage in the play off scenario. In my time here we’ve never had a home game in the play offs. We’ve got a good home game and two away trips to look forward to, and as a football club it will be a great achievement if we can wrap up that second place.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson (12 Rob Thompson-Brown, 64), Callum Gittings, Stefan Moore, Jack Edwards (14 Kurtis Revan, 78), Ahmed Obeng.
Subs not used: 15 Richard Gregory, 16 Tom James, 17 Joe Magunda.
Kings Langley: Xavi Comas, Gary Connolly, Ryan Plowright, Jorrell Johnson ©, Sam Tring (14 Kieran Turner, 42), Josh Coldicott-Stevens, Lee Stobbs, Dean Hitchcock, Lewis Toomey, Ollie Cox, Matt Bateman.
Subs not used: 12 Steve Ward, 15 Mayo Balogun, 16 Chris Gosling.
Referee: Mr Scott Postin
Assistant Referees: Mr Paul Hands & Mr Will Ottaway
Brakes Man of the Match: Connor Gudger.