Vanarama National League North
The CNG Stadium
Saturday 21st October 2017
Brakes battled their way to a fully deserved share of the spoils on a rotten afternoon in North Yorkshire. Both teams contributed fully to an entertaining contest despite the driving wind and rain
Paul Holleran made three changes to his starting eleven restoring skipper Tony Breeden while Callum Gittings replaced the injured Joe Magunda. Kurtis Revan kicked off in place of Stefan Moore.
Brakes made a bright start, forcing a corner in the opening couple of minutes from which Gittings eventually headed over as they attempted to quieten the enthusiasm of the home crowd, which was boosted by over 200 youngsters from the local Army Foundation College. Nearly all dressed in black and complete with a drum it made for a strange sight as they all congregated in the Henderson Terrace behind the goal, and they were making a din for quite some time before kick off and throughout the afternoon.
Leamington almost made the breakthrough when Kieran Dunbar’s shot was deflected towards keeper James Belshaw, who did very well to stick out an arm and push the ball away from goal.
It took almost fifteen minutes for the hosts to register their first effort, Jordan Thewlis doing well to get a low drive in which Breeden got strong hands to before Junior English completed the clearance.
Striker Andrew Nelson, Town’s new loan signing from Sunderland, believed he had a shout for a penalty when he went to ground just inside the box on the right but the Referee was as unmoved as he had been several minutes earlier when English had gone down as he chased a loose ball in the Harrogate area.
Brakes hit the front on 24 minutes, Revan winning a corner which was cleared out as far as Jamie Hood on half way. Belshaw could only fist the ball out to English just outside the box and he returned it with interest, crashing a powerful low drive into the back of the net.
Harrogate pushed for a quick reply, Ben O’Hanlon seeing his shot well blocked just inside the box as Leamington were put under increasing pressure. English then gave away a free kick in a dangerous position on the Town left just outside the box, George Thomson curling in a great shot that only just cleared the bar.
The number seven got his angles just right with his next effort though, taking advantage of the space afforded to him on the right to rifle into the far corner, Breeden’s hand on the ball not enough to keep it out.
Edwards looped a shot over the bar as the game hit a rare lull just before half time. Thewlis sent a shot curling past the far post as Harrogate pushed once more. The hosts were being allowed far too much room to get at Leamington down the wings, resulting in some hairy moments as the league leaders’ frontline took on the Brakes defence, but they stood firm.
A neat one touch move sent centre back Terry Kennedy scampering in on goal as the second half commenced, Breeden off his line quickly to collect the ball.
It looked as though Revan would get the better of Warren Burrell on the edge of the box as Jack Edwards played a smart ball forward, but he was penalised for a foul. Rob Thompson-Brown then sent in a good cross from the left that Edwards headed just the wrong side of the post.
The fine margins in this division between success and failure were highlighted once more moments later however, when English unfortunately headed into his own net from Joe Leesley’s cross.
Brakes hadn’t looked in any danger but suddenly they were on the back foot, Burrell forcing a save from Breeden at his near post. Revan then had a glorious opportunity to bring Leamington level, but sliced his shot well wide.
Harrogate were a whisker from giving themselves a two goal cushion when Jack Emmett cut the ball back across goal for Thewlis, who couldn’t quite get enough purchase on his flick and the ball rolled through to Breeden.
Out of nowhere Brakes were presented with the chance to drag themselves level on 69 minutes when Kennedy was penalised for a high boot on Hood in the Harrogate penalty area. The ever dependable Thompson-Brown stepped up to send Belshaw the wrong way from the spot and square things up once more.
Revan almost created a chance for himself when he danced past Belshaw in the box but the angle was too tight for him to cause any further problems.
Harrogate still looked more than capable of snatching a third, Nelson sending a rising drive well over the bar.
The natives in the main stand were becoming restless as Leamington stuck doggedly to their guns. They almost grabbed a bizarre third when substitute Liam Canavan challenged Belshaw on the touchline, the keeper somehow scrambling to his feet to deny Revan. The ball was played back into the box where Canavan almost back heeled it in from close range.
Harrogate pushed forward again, Leesley toeing a first time effort towards goal only to be denied by a fantastic save from Breeden to help the ball over the bar. Unfortunately Leesley inadvertently caught the diving Connor Gudger, who after a lengthy stoppage was stretchered off to warm applause from both sets of fans. Brakes saw out the remaining moments of stoppage time to preserve another precious point.
‘Last week I was frustrated with the performance because I didn’t feel we’d been up to the levels we should have been, but today from minute one to minute ninety we were where we need to be.’ said Paul Holleran after the game. ‘There’s a little bit of a gap between the football clubs and at times it showed when Harrogate got their game going, but for all of that we limited them to very little, and I’m a little disappointed to only be leaving with a draw.
‘I thought it was a cracking game, we looked a threat all afternoon, we dealt with what they do, which is very efficient and very good. The last three games we’ve played three sides that could finish one two and three in this division. In which order they finish i’m not too sure. I was impressed with them, but that’s the best we’ve played out of the last three games, we did really well. We’ve had three injuries today and the lads that have come on, Richard Taundry, Liam Canavan and Colby Bishop, have kept it going and kept the shape good. I was delighted with all of it today.’
Harrogate Town: James Belshaw, Jack Vann, Ben O’Hanlon, Liam Agnew, Terry Kennedy, Warren Burrell ©, George Thomson, Jack Emmett, Andrew Nelson, Jordan Thewlis (16 Mitchell Curry, 72), Joe Leesley.
Subs not used: 12 Ben Middleton, 13 Joe Cracknell, 14 Noel Burdett, 15 Bailey Gooda.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, James Mace, Connor Gudger (15 Colby Bishop, 90+3), Joe Clarke (12 Richard Taundry, 39), Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings (14 Liam Canavan, 68), Kurtis Revan, Jack Edwards, Rob Thompson-Brown.
Subs not used: 16 Stefan Moore, GK Matt Hill.
Referee: Mr Adam Herczeg
Assistant Referees: Mr Martin Ashworth & Mr Jonathan Bickerdike
Brakes Man of the Match: Kurtis Revan.