Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Monday 17th April 2017
A goal from an unexpected source secured Brakes a priceless win over Banbury United in the Easter Monday local derby, meaning they can make the long journey south to face Weymouth on the final day of the season assured of second place in the Evostik Southern League Premier Division.
Jamie Hood’s 20th minute strike ended a three game dry run in front of goal for Leamington, the central defender calmly slotting in his third goal of the season from close range after he was set up by Stefan Moore, just reward for his side’s early forward momentum in the game.
Banbury had contributed to Leamington’s wobble over the festive period with an injury time winner on Boxing Day, but Hood’s goal here spelled the death knell for their hopes of gatecrashing the play off places after a strong end to the campaign, meaning that Hitchin, Merthyr and Slough Town, who have all been in the top five for the vast majority of the season along with Leamington, will also contest the end of season lottery.
The visitors, roared on by a sizeable travelling support, could have few complaints about the result as they showed very little going forward, their closest effort coming in injury time. For Brakes, while by no means their best showing of the season the performance was a vast improvement on Good Friday’s display at Biggleswade, and will hopefully give the players the belief to go on and finish the job of winning promotion.
Moore was inches from breaking his duck since his recent return to the club in the opening exchanges, crashing a six yard shot against the bar as he picked up Hood’s header across goal from Richard Taundry’s right wing free kick. Prior to this Puritans keeper Jack Harding had held a looping header from Jack Edwards and a rising drive from Darren Pond.
It was from a dead ball in a similar area that the only goal of the game was scored, Moore picking up the ball as it was only half cleared, helping it across to Hood, who showed the composure of a striker as he crashed the ball home to the delight of the Harbury Lane End.
Former Leamington striker Ricky Johnson, who helped the club to the Southern League title back in 2013, began the game in central defence for Banbury, and Connor Gudger did superbly to get past him on the left before delivering the ball right across the face of goal, missing the in-rushing Courtney Baker-Richardson by a whisker.
Tony Breeden initiated a quick counter attack with a long throw out to Ahmed Obeng on the left, who was stopped in his tracks by Eddie Odhiambo as he prepared to enter the penalty area. Taundry’s curling free kick was finger tipped round the post by Jack Harding, and from the resulting corner Johnson appeared to use his hand to flick the ball clear.
Obeng spurned a decent chance for a second Leamington goal when his first time volley from Callum Gittings’ lofted pass forward flashed wide. Banbury came close when Johnson headed a free kick down and into the arms of Breeden, and while the visitors’ substitute Sam Humphreys inadvertently headed another Leamington free kick back towards his own goal, the ball being held by Harding, Banbury screwed their only real sight of goal from open play in the first half high over the bar after a brief scramble in the Leamington box, Breeden unable to claim the ball after initially spilling it.
Chances were scarce in the second half for both sides, as the expected Banbury onslaught failed to materialise. Moore stabbed a shot just wide, before poking the ball through for a marginally offside Baker-Richardson to stab past Harding into the net.
Moore saw another effort deflected behind for a corner, but Banbury came closest to scoring deep into injury time, Luke Carnell’s downward header skimming the crossbar on its way over, before George Nash ballooned a shot over the bar with the last kick of the game.
Paul Holleran was pleased to see his side cement the runners up spot, saying ‘It’s a great achievement for us. We’ve been a little bit hit and miss the last few games but I thought today we were spot on against a good Banbury side.
‘We’ve come second to a very good Chippenham side but we’ve also finished above a lot of very good sides in this division, so the players deserve a lot of credit for that. You want to try and keep the momentum going but we’re going to have to use the whole squad down at Weymouth because, looking at one or two today, I want to try and give them a week’s rest before the play offs. Knowing we are at home will give us more time to prepare.’
‘I’ve said to the players that over the next two weeks, we can make this a great season, but it can go either way. It’s how we deal with it as a group, and I’m hoping that the experience most of them have of the play offs will be beneficial to us.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson (14 Rob Thompson-Brown, 80), Callum Gittings, Stefan Moore (15 Kurtis Revan, 90+2), Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng (12 Joe Magunda, 70).
Subs not used: 16 Jordan Goddard, 17 Tom James.
Banbury United: Jack Harding, Eddie Odhiambo, Marvin Martin, George Nash, Jack Westbrook, Luke Carnell, Zac McEachran, Jack Self (12 Mark Bell, 78), Conor McDonagh (17 Tom Winters, 67), Ricky Johnson ©, Immanuelson Duku (16 Sam Humphreys, 28).
Subs not used: 14 Jacob Blackstock, 15 Darius Browne.
Referee: Mr Scott Robertson
Assistant Referees: Mr Andrew Ellis & Mr Richard Walker
Brakes Man of the Match: Jamie Hood.