Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 14th October 2017
Paul Holleran declared that he felt like Dick Turpin after his Leamington side somehow overturned a two goal deficit in the final five minutes to earn an unlikely point against a York City side who looked to be cruising to all three.
Not for the first time this season it was tactical changes that changed the course of the game, with substitutes Kurtis Revan, Liam Canavan and Ahmed Obeng all having an impact, while Holleran’s decision to push Junior English up front paid dividends as he got the goal that dragged his side back into the game before Canavan’s superb leveller.
Brakes suffered a blow in the lead up to the game, losing skipper Tony Breeden to a back injury, but the manager was able to call upon the experienced custodian José Veiga as cover and while Holleran said the Portuguese was ‘devastated’ with his part in the visitors’ second goal, overall he did well and certainly played his part in helping Leamington earn the draw.
The visitors signalled their attacking intent inside the opening couple of minutes, Alex Whittle delivering the ball in from the left for Simon Heslop to strike first time on the half volley into the turf, the ball looping up at a nice height for Veiga to get a good first touch with a confident save.
The keeper was alert once more as Amari Morgan Smith threatened to muscle his way past Junior English as the two chased the ball towards the edge of the penalty area, darting off his line to claim.
One loose pass in was all it took for York to spring into a deadly attack on nine minutes, Adriano Moke tearing down the left and sending in an inviting cross for David Ferguson to thump first time past the diving Veiga for the opening goal.
The Minstermen were breaking forward very quickly, Morgan Smith’s shot diverting nicely for Ferguson to strike an effort that rippled the side netting.
Jack Edwards hooked a volley over the crossbar for Leamington’s first sight of goal on twenty minutes, while young Leeds United loanee Bailey Peacock-Farrell confidently claimed a free kick into his six yard box to deny a further sight of goal for Paul Holleran’s men.
The giant figure of the prolific Jon Parkin was always going to be a threat, and he flicked a header over the bar from skipper Sean Newton’s throw into the box from the left. City continued to threaten however, English appearing to be pushed as he went up for a header in the penalty area. The ball struck the crossbar and fell perfectly for Newton to crash into the back of the net, but he only succeeded in firing the ball over the clubhouse roof into the car park.
The York captain had another great opportunity just before half time when Morgan Smith cut the ball back from the byline for him, but the result was the same. The visitors would be left to reflect on these missed opportunities later on, as they should really have gone into the dressing room at half time with the game all but wrapped up.
Rob Thompson-Brown drove a good effort into the near post early in the second half that was safely watched behind by Peacock-Farrell, while Kieran Dunbar directed a header straight at the goalkeeper after a brief spell of Leamington pressure.
Their task looked to be even tougher as York doubled their advantage seven minutes in, Veiga not quite able to hold on to the ball from a huge clearance and Parkin was on hand to stab home at the second attempt.
There looked to be little hope of Brakes getting back into the game as York continued to look comfortable. Dunbar’s shot was well cleared by Heslop, before Revan was introduced, and he quickly brought the crowd to life, twisting and turning inside the box before getting his shot away, Peacock-Farrell saving down at his near post.
With the game drifting to what looked like an inevitable conclusion, suddenly with five minutes to play there was hope. York were unable to get the ball clear from a free kick and after both Obeng and Revan saw their shots blocked, English forced the ball home from a couple of yards out.
The belief instantly flooded back into those in Gold and Black, and with the fans ramping up the volume in the Harbury Lane End they were rewarded once more. The visitors failed to deal with Revan’s long throw into the box and Canavan somehow found the space to dig the ball out and curve a delightful shot into the far corner of the net to cap an incredible few minutes.
The game was not over yet however, and York forced a string of corners in injury time and were adamant the ball had crossed the line from one of them, Veiga somehow getting down to claim it.
Holleran was honest enough to admit that his team had nicked a point without playing anywhere near their best, but as with every game there were positives to be gleaned. ‘We were fortunate to only be one down at half time, there’s no ifs or buts about that. If it wasn’t for poor finishing we’d have been dead and buried. We did better second half, we started brightly but sadly there seemed to be a bit of a mix up at the back which left us 2-0 down, but for us being second best for most of the afternoon, to somehow find a way to just have that period in the game where we had that bit of pressure, we asked a few questions of them and put the ball in good areas... it shows something. There’s been games up here this season where we haven’t got what we deserved, and it was probably that way again today if we’re being honest about it, but to come back against a side of the ilk of York, to show the character and the spirit after not playing well, it’s fantastic really. That’s as good as last week, if not better.’
‘I’m frustrated with elements of the performance but I’m absolutely delighted with the character and spirit we’ve shown at the end, because that was a game where nothing was happening for us, and somehow we dug in and got something out of it.’
Attendance: 965 (330 away)
Leamington: José Veiga, James Mace, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood ©, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Joe Magunda, Stefan Moore (15 Kurtis Revan, 65), Jack Edwards (16 Liam Canavan, 69), Rob Thompson-Brown (17 Ahmed Obeng, 73).
Subs not used: 12 Richard Taundry, 14 Callum Gittings.
York City: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Josh Law, Alex Whittle (14 Jaseem Sukar, 81), Hamza Bencherif, Daniel Parslow, Adriano Moke, Sean Newton ©, Simon Heslop, Jon Parkin, Amari Morgan Smith (16 Louis Almond, 75), David Ferguson.
Subs not used: 15 Kane Felix, 17 Theo Wharton, 18 Luke Simpson.
Referee: Mr Declan Bourne
Assistant Referees: Mr Tim Walker & Mr James King
Brakes Man of the Match: Kurtis Revan.