Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 19th August 2017
Brakes fell to a heartbreaking stoppage time defeat at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium as Stockport’s new number nine Jason Oswell bagged a hat trick to secure a first away win of the season for his side.
The striker, top scorer in the League of Wales last season with Newtown, was apparently being chased by a number of National League North clubs but the Edgeley Park side won the race, and Oswell proved to be the matchwinner here as Leamington were left to count the cost of niggling injuries and the relentless pace of the National League North.
The visitors won an early corner from a deflection which saw Jimmy Ball nod on for Jason Oswell, whose attempted overhead kick was shepherded away. Leamington struggled to get a hold of the ball in the opening minutes but fashioned their first chance when Colby Bishop and Callum Gittings combined to set up Ahmed Obeng for a first time drive that flew wide.
Oswell almost got clear as the ball was rolled forward towards the penalty area but was denied as he prepared to pull the trigger by an unorthodox but very effective challenge from Jamie Hood. A smooth exchange of passes between Taundry and Obeng then saw the right back curve a powerful drive into the side netting with the outside of his right boot.
The visitors hit the front on 16 minutes when Connor Hampson curled an inviting free kick into the six yard box which was stabbed home by Oswell, despite the best efforts of skipper Tony Breeden to keep it out.
The goalscorer almost bagged a second in as many minutes as he powered in a header from a right wing cross only to be denied by Connor Gudger.
Leamington were struggling to keep possession at times but forged another opening when Bishop directed an acrobatic effort into the arms of Ben Hinchcliffe.
Brakes certainly weren’t benefitting from any loose balls as Stockport were able to clear after the ball pinged around their penalty area following Rob Thompson-Brown’s shot, while good work from Connor Gudger won a free kick from which Hinchcliffe spilled the ball behind for a corner.
The momentum was clearly starting to swing Leamington’s way, and Stockport had a huge let off as Obeng turned his marker superbly inside the box and clattered the bar with his shot. The ball fell to Junior English a matter of inches from a gaping net, but he somehow contrived to head against the bar and down onto the goalline before the visitors scrambled the ball clear. Moments later Bishop drilled a shot into the net but was flagged offside.
Leamington were growing in confidence now, and gained their reward on 38 minutes when Obeng drew a foul from Sam Minihan as he turned him just inside the area. Rob Thompson-Brown stepped up and slammed the resulting penalty past Hinchcliffe for his first goal of the season.
The hard working Bishop weaved his way through the Hatters defence in the opening moments of the second half, creating the space for a shot that was well parried by Hinchcliffe. A free kick in a promising position for Stockport ended with Hampson curling just past the upright.
A problem for Obeng saw him replaced by Liam Canavan, who was introduced for his home debut. Stockport substitute Scott Duxbury pushed forward to drive low into the arms of Breeden. There was then a lengthy stoppage after Michael Clarke received an accidental blow to the head in an challenge with Bishop.
Taundry then almost played Canavan in, but the substitute was unable to get the ball out from under his feet in time and Hinchcliffe diverted the shot behind for a corner. He was not to be denied from Thompson-Brown’s delivery however, rising unmarked to bury a powerful header into the top corner.
This sparked a crazy few minutes in which Oswell bagged the equaliser, volleying home substitute Sam Walker’s corner at the near post, which led to another stoppage due to a lone pitch invader who spent several minutes attempting to avoid ejection from the ground by escaping into the field behind the North Bank.
The change in formation due to the substitutions made by Jim Gannon really had Stockport on the front foot, and they snatched a dramatic winner in stoppage time to delight their sizeable travelling support, Oswell once again getting in behind the Brakes defence to complete his hat trick as he bundled in Jimmy Ball’s right wing centre.
There was still time for Walker to curl a 30 yard free kick just over the bar before the final whistle signalled contrasting scenes of joy and despair.
Paul Holleran was honest enough to admit his side’s shortcomings, but he admitted that although injuries and lack of match fitness were having an impact on his squad, naivety had also played a part in their defeat.
‘We didn’t start the game well but we grew into it and had a great spell before half time, got back level and should have been ahead. Second half we’ve come out and been the better side for long periods, had a couple of great opportunities. We then get the goal to go ahead, and Stockport make a change, and the last ten minutes it was just men against boys. We faded. We haven’t defended set plays well today and we weren’t strong enough. There’s no point hiding away from it. We didn’t have enough game management, didn’t defend our box well enough, and didn’t deal with their change, which is frustrating because the lads were made aware of the options Stockport had, so it’s bitterly bitterly disappointing to come away with nothing again. At the end you see an accomplished side at this level, with plenty of experience and plenty of know how, and you see a side struggling to find their feet at this level, and that’s an honest assessment.’
Ahmed Obeng and Callum Gittings’ injuries were both impact knocks. In Gittings’ case he took a particularly heavy blow, something which the manager was not particularly happy about. ‘We’ve got Robbie Thompson-Brown getting booked for nobody knows what, while Callum is coming off with bruised or broken ribs because the impact was so late.’
One bright spot from the afternoon was the impact of Canavan, who impressed with his desire to get stuck in and also his range of passing. ‘That was one of the reasons why we signed him, for his ability to get in those little pockets and make things happen, and you could see he was lively,’ said Holleran. ‘The problem is that he’s had so little football and training in pre season, even after his half hour performance he was blowing at the end, the level is so intense. It’s a level of football where, because of where we are as a football club, and what we’ve got, we have to 100% at it and at the moment we’re not. Some of that is down to the amount of niggles and knocks we’ve got, and part of it is we’ve got to be cleverer. We’ve had good spells in all of our games so far, but we have let points slip away.’
Attendance: 844, (360 away fans).
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda, Rob Thompson-Brown (17 Tom James, 90+1) Junior English, Colby Bishop, Callum Gittings (14 Milan Butterfield, 70), Ahmed Obeng (12 Liam Canavan, 59).
Subs not used: 15 Stefan Moore, 16 Kurtis Revan.
Stockport County: Ben Hinchcliffe, Dan Cowan (16 Ben McKenna 65), Connor Hampson (14 Sam Walker, 70), Harry Winter ©, Michael Clarke, Chris Smalley, Sam Minihan, Jimmy Ball, Jason Oswell, Matty Warburton, Darren Stephenson (12 Scott Duxbury, 46).
Subs not used: 13 Ian Ormson, 15 Harry Brazil.
Referee: Mr Aaron Jackson
Assistant Referees: Mr Les Sinclair & Mr Scott Postin
Brakes Man of the Match: Colby Bishop.