Vanarama National League North
Saturday 2nd September 2017
Leamington turned their recent form upside down as they earned a hardworking and deserved three points on their first visit to the splendid Broadhurst Park home of FC United of Manchester that they hope will be the catalyst to kickstart their season into life.
Paul Holleran made changes to his starting line up following Bank Holiday Monday’s defeat to AFC Telford United, with Junior English moving into defence to cover for the suspended Jamie Hood, while James Mace returned alongside him. Telford Loanee Kieran Dunbar went straight in for his debut and Stefan Moore was handed a first start of the season.
Ahmed Obeng set up debutant Dunbar for an early shot that was miscued over the bar, before Rob Thompson-Brown lashed a low drive towards goal after winning a meaty challenge with Nathan Lowe on the left, the ball was easily gathered by FCUM keeper Lloyd Allinson however. Michael Connor headed over the bar from the home side’s first corner.
Thompson-Brown received a booking for his challenge on Lowe, who then curled in a low free kick which evaded everyone in a packed penalty area to float wide of the far post.
In general the opening half was not a great spectacle, with neither side able to assert any authority. Leamington were well organised and appeared happy to let their hosts try and break them down, attempting to break quickly when regaining possession. On one such occasion Callum Gittings received the ball in space 25 yards out, driving low into the arms of Allinson.
Things began to pick up towards the end of the half, Connor McCarthy crashing in a decent effort that Tony Breeden held under his bar, while Dunbar fired in a well struck free kick from distance into the arms of Allinson after Stefan Moore had been fouled.
FC United almost broke through seconds before the half time whistle, but a header from a well placed free kick was directed tamely into Breeden’s hands. The game could only improve, and it certainly did that in the second half.
Some neat footwork from Obeng inside the penalty area in the opening minutes saw Allinson gather his shot at the second attempt, while Lowe drove a powerful effort just over the bar for United.
The clearest opportunity for either side came when Connor played in Gilchrist on the left, who beat Breeden with his shot but not the far post, the ball pinging back into play to Leamington’s relief.
Dunbar bludgeoned his way through the FC United backline to play Obeng in down the right, but his ball in from the byline missed everyone in blue.
Brakes then stunned their hosts by taking the lead on 70 minutes, Connor Gudger’s vicious low drive in from the left saw Gittings divert the ball past Allinson to the delight of the travelling support stationed behind the goal.
Substitute Tom Greaves almost benefitted from Joe Magunda’s block inside the box, but his second effort found the side netting. The same player then took a touch too many 20 yards out when a first time shot might have caused Breeden more problems. There were more problems for the home side however when substitute Colby Bishop did what all good strikers do, pouncing on Allinson’s initial save from Gudger’s free kick to slam home his first goal for the club from close range with thirteen minutes to play.
Obeng almost got through with Bishop in support as Leamington looked to completely kill the game off, but his attempted pass was blocked.
Steve Irwin blasted a shot over as the hosts desperately looked for a way back into the game, which they found with seven minutes to go when a right wing cross was cushioned back for Scott Kay to side foot a first time volley firmly past Breeden into the net.
Brakes were hanging on a little now, but Junior English was a colossus at the back, making some superb defensive clearances.
Leamington had a chance to snatch a third in time added on, Gittings playing in substitute Kurtis Revan on the right, but he blazed a powerful drive over the bar. The final whistle sparked delighted celebrations amongst the away support, who were able to toast a long awaited three points as they travelled back to South Warwickshire.
Brakes boss Holleran was delighted that his side showed the character to bounce back from the worst run of results in the club’s recent history, saying ‘We’ve been too easy to play against in the last two games. We’ve had a few problems with personnel, we’re not quite there with that yet. This is a difficult league to be having to rebuild in and fill holes. Because of the schedule one or two players are having to be patched up a bit, but today’s performance was about big hearts, lots of effort, and because we’re not two down after twenty minutes you get a foothold in the game, and when it opens up you can see we’re a threat with the pace we’ve got in the side.
‘We got back to basics, looked a lot more solid, and when the game allowed we played some good football. It was a much improved performance and a win keeps us in that pack, we’re not drifting away, but we need to keep improving, and we will look to do that.’
FC United of Manchester: Lloyd Allinson, Danny Brady, Danny Wisdom, Scott Kay ©, Jordan Fagbola, Matthew Hughes, James Hooper (12 Tom Greaves, 71), Nathan Lowe, Jason Gilchrist (15 Joel Senior, 71) Michael Connor (16 Steve Irwin, 56), Connor McCarthy.
Subs not used: 14 Joel Logan, 17 Zac Corbett.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clark, Junior English, James Mace, Rob Thompson-Brown (15 Joe Magunda, 62), Kieran Dunbar, Stefan Moore (12 Colby Bishop, 74), Callum Gittings, Ahmed Obeng (16 Kurtis Revan, 81) .
Subs not used: 14 Liam Canavan, 17 Milan Butterfield.
Referee: Mr Ricky Wootton
Assistant Referees: Mr Martin Parker & Mr Jamie Rhodes
Brakes Man of the Match: Junior English.