Vanarama National League North
The EST Electrical Services Stadium
Saturday 23rd December 2017
While Paul Holleran did not question the desire of his team as they slipped quietly out of the FA Trophy at the hands of old adversaries Stourbridge last Saturday he would have expected a response from them as they returned to the bread and butter of National League North survival, but even the manager must have been pleasantly surprised at just how emphatic it was as they added the scalp of a shell shocked Tamworth to the string of fine results they have produced away from home in recent months.
This was as impressive a performance as Brakes have turned in all season, for after a confident start Tamworth were beginning to threaten before Colby Bishop rocked them back on their heels with a stunning strike, and in a clinical spell either side of half time Callum Gittings added a second before Bishop effectively sealed the points with a third.
This was a first win at the home of the Lambs for Leamington since the 1975/76 season. The two sides have hardly been regular opponents since then, their paths not crossing again until 2014, but in the three previous league meetings Brakes had given their all and come away with nothing, so this performance and the victory was particularly satisfying as the club look to end a hugely successful year on a high note.
Making a confident start on the artificial surface, Kieran Dunbar’s inviting right wing centre was plucked off the head of Jack Edwards by Lambs keeper Shaun Rowley. Former Brakes skipper Stephan Morley was then well placed to block a shot from Gittings inside the penalty area.
Former Gloucester City striker Zack Kotwica was searching for a first goal in Tamworth colours and fired his first shot into the arms of Tony Breeden, who was returning to one of his former clubs along with Joe Clarke, Connor Gudger and physio Pete Denham.
Kotwica had an even better chance when an exchange of passes with Darryl Knights saw him through on goal, but once again he was denied by Breeden who made a smart stop. Connor Taylor’s shot was then deflected, leaving Knights offside as he tried to steer the ball home.
Gittings drove a shot well over the bar as Leamington looked to push forward themselves. They suffered a setback when Kaine Felix was withdrawn injured, but his replacement Ahmed Obeng was to play a big part in the eventual result.
When it arrived just past the half hour the opening goal was a bolt from the blue, but it was a special strike, Bishop letting fly from 25 yards with a rocket of shot that gave Rowley no chance as it thundered into the top corner, the striker celebrating in front of a sizeable travelling support that grew louder as the game wore on.
There was a brief let off for Brakes as Taylor looked to have been fouled in the Leamington penalty area, but the assistant referee on the far side was already signalling an offside decision.
It was from a Tamworth free kick that Brakes extended their lead two minutes before half time, Obeng receiving the ball in space down the left and advancing towards the penalty area before cutting inside and delivering a perfect cross into the centre for the arriving Gittings to slam into the net from six yards.
The supporters were in dreamland seven minutes after the restart, Bishop moving out on his own ahead of the recently departed Rob Thompson-Brown as top scorer, dispossessing Andy Burns in the Lambs’ penalty area before waltzing past Rowley and walking the ball into an empty net from a tight angle.
The third goal gave Brakes the security they needed, and though Tamworth continued to press in search of a way back into the game they came up against an impenetrable wall in a defence that was not about to relinquish only a fourth clean sheet of the season in the league.
A neat passing move ended with Obeng shooting straight at Rowley as he cut in from the left once more, while Taylor came as close as anyone for Tamworth, driving shot across goal and just past the post on the far side.
Kieran Dunbar drove a shot just wide before Obeng skipped over a challenge in the area, finding Bishop on the edge of the box who saw his first shot blocked, the second straight at Rowley. He did not have to wait long for his next opportunity; shielding the ball and turning to fire a shot across goal and wide.
A fourth goal did not arrive but that did not worry the travelling Brakes fans, who thoroughly enjoyed an early Christmas present of three welcome points and a very good team performance.
Tamworth: Shaun Rowley, Andy Burns, Stephan Morley, Ellis Deeney, Luke Jones ©, Joel Kettle, Zack Kotwica (12 Dexter Walters, 64), Aman Verma, Connor Taylor, Bradley Reid (14 Theo Wharton, 71), Darryl Knights.
Subs not used: 15 Drew Ricketts, 16 Charlie Shaw, 17 Sam Aldhouse.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings (17 Joe Magunda, 89), Colby Bishop, Jack Edwards (16 Liam Canavan, 60), Kaine Felix (14 Ahmed Obeng, 28).
Subs not used: 12 James Mace, 15 Kurtis Revan.
Referee: Mr James Bell
Assistant Referees: Mr R Watkins & Mr R Eley
Brakes Man of the Match: Colby Bishop.