Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 12th August 2017

The harsh realities of life in the National League North are certainly there for all to see after a tough first week of the season ended with a disappointing single goal defeat for Brakes.

After soaking up pressure from a visiting Southport side who are now one of three clubs with 100% records after the opening week, Leamington looked the better side for large parts of the game, creating several good opportunities, but they were undone by a defensive error which was gleefully snaffled up by the Sandgrounders, who look to be adapting well to the division as they look to bounce straight back up to the National League.

Ahmed Obeng set up Junior English for a stinging first time drive from the edge of the box to keep Iain Turner on his toes in the opening couple of minutes, while there was brief panic in the Leamington six yard box as a free kick was played in to the far post.

Brakes were having to work very hard to keep the visitors at bay as they got into their rhythm, and Liam Martin saw a shot blocked at source inside the box as the ball was played in once more. Andrew White then fired in a shot from the left that bounced in front of Tony Breeden, who was able to claim without too much difficulty.

Colby Bishop was making a nuisance of himself at the head of the Brakes attack, and got between the two Southport centre backs to stab a shot over the bar.

The Sandgrounders were swift to pick up any blocks or half clearances, but Leamington were working hard to shut them down, Milan Butterfield and Junior English in particular making some timely interceptions.

Leamington were gradually growing into the game however as the frequency of Southport’s attacks decreased a little, and English managed to turn onto a right wing throw to crash in a shot that looped towards goal with the aid of a huge deflection, Turner watching it all the way. The former Solihull man, who opened his account for the club in midweek against Tamworth, then stooped to head well over the bar under pressure from Dominic Smith.

Obeng had a great chance on the half volley following a long throw, but seemed to fire his shot into the ground and it bounced kindly for Turner to hold. John Paul Kissock responded with a well struck rising drive that was directed straight at Breeden.

Two further chances came and went for Leamington before half time, Richard Taundry’s free kick was blocked by the defensive wall but Rob Thompson-Brown’s rasping first time drive was arrowing towards the top corner until Turner intervened.

The keeper needed to be alert as he stuck out a leg to keep out a powerful downward header from Jamie Hood as Thompson-Brown fired in a left wing corner.

Brakes continued to look lively as the second half began, and Turner was quick off his line to get to a ball over the top ahead of Obeng. Southport substitute Steven Jennings then put his laces through a first time drive that whistled wide of the post.

White, sporting a large head bandage after half time, looked dangerous when moving forward, and cut inside and drove into the side netting, but the visitors took the lead with fifteen minutes to play when Ethan Jones pounced on Joe Magunda’s short pass back to Breeden and rolled the ball into the far corner, despite the best efforts of Taundry to keep it out.

As on Tuesday against Tamworth, the goal seemed to suck the life out of Leamington a little, and they posed little threat to their opponents for the remainder of the game.

Despite his disappointment at the scoreline, manager Paul Holleran was keen to take the positives from the afternoon, saying ‘After Tuesday I thought our shape was much better today, and out of the three games we have played so far that was our most complete performance. For long periods against a good side we were in the ascendancy, we’ve created all the chances, their keeper pulled off two or three good saves, the lad (Curtis) Jones was tremendous. Second half we probably had our best spell, but couldn’t quite find that bit of craft and quality to get the goal.

‘We’ve had to put a few square pegs in round holes this week, which hasn’t been ideal, but if we keep showing the signs that we’re showing, then we’ll be competitive. If we had dealt better with a few situations we could have had more points on the board. We’ve learned a few harsh lessons today, and we need to make sure we learn from them.’

*On the injury front, Liam Canavan was on the bench and is close to being able to make his debut. Junior English came off at half time as a precaution after a clash of heads, while Callum Gittings started on the bench due to requiring antibiotics for a foot infection in the week.

Attendance: 711

Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda, Rob Thompson-Brown (12 Kurtis Revan, 79), Milan Butterfield, Colby Bishop (15 Stefan Moore, 79), Junior English (16 Callum Gittings, 46), Ahmed Obeng.

Subs not used: 14 Tom James, 17 Liam Canavan.

Southport: Iain Turner, Bradley Jackson, Andrew White, Curtis Jones, Adam Dugdale, Dominic Smith, John Paul Kissock, Alex Fletcher (12 Steven Jennings, 53), Gary Roberts, Jack Sampson, Liam Martin (14 Ethan Jones, 64).

Subs not used: 13 Yves Zama, 15 Rowan Roach, 17 Gerard Garner.

Referee: Mr James Oldham

Assistant Referees: Mr Jack Shepherd & Mr Alex Harris

Brakes Man of the Match: Rob Thompson-Brown

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