Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 6th January 2018
Brakes frustrated another promotion chaser with a determined battling performance at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium to extend their recent upturn in form to four games without defeat.
It had been over 35 years since Kidderminster Harriers had visited Leamington for a league fixture, though older supporters of both clubs will know that their histories were intertwined in the 1980’s as they went in opposite directions in the Non League pyramid. A huge travelling support made the short hop over from Worcestershire in anticipation of seeing their side continue their recent unbeaten run, but they very nearly left with nothing.
Leamington opened in sprightly fashion and forged the first chance of the game early on, the returning Kaine Felix receiving the ball just inside the box on the left and lashing a first time drive towards the top corner, only for Harriers keeper Brandon Hall to get a good hand to the ball and palm it behind for a corner.
He was then called into action again, pushing a thunderous first time drive from Kieran Dunbar round the post after Fraser Horsfall only half cleared a free kick to the edge of the area.
A second corner, well won by Ahmed Obeng presented Dunbar with the chance to deliver a fantastic ball across the six yard box which Callum Gittings missed by a whisker as he hurled himself forward to try and connect.
Kidderminster appeared slightly rattled by the strength of Leamington’s start, but they began to work themselves into the game, Liam Truslove saw a shot blocked on the edge of the box, and while the Brakes front players were working hard to keep their full time opponents busy, they broke quickly through Joel Taylor, who covered over half the length of the pitch before finding Elton Ngwatala, who crossed to the back post where James Pearson had pushed forward from the back, but the defender placed his first time effort high and wide.
A high ball towards the Leamington goal dropped uncomfortably for Tony Breeden, who helped it onto the crossbar before eventually claiming after a brief scramble at his near post.
The visitors took the lead out of nowhere on 27 minutes, Andre Brown firing in a shot from the right that looked to have taken a deflection as it looped into the far corner.
The goal came somewhat against the run of play and dented Leamington’s confidence a little, and Harriers began to look comfortable as half time approached. Joe Clarke, one of several players on show to have turned out for both clubs, saw a shot cleared away by Ryan Croasdale following a corner, but Richard Taundry made a goal line clearance to prevent Kiddy from doubling their lead before the break.
Breeden fielded a shot from distance from James O’Connor, while Jack Edwards’ strike deflected into the arms of Hall. Brakes were level on 57 minutes however when Obeng took advantage of a hesitating Harriers backline, controlling neatly and stepping past two challenges before driving in a low shot that Hall got a hand to but could only watch in despair as the ball trickled past him into the net.
Edwards got another shot away that was saved by Hall after a run towards the edge of the box, with Dunbar and Felix possibly in better positions. He suffered a nasty gash to his ankle and was replaced by Liam Canavan shortly afterwards.
Harriers substitute Lee Vaughan was well placed to clear off the line shortly after coming on, Felix stabbing the ball towards goal after Dunbar had pulled it back from the touchline to him. Jamie Hood then sent an acrobatic overhead kick just over the bar following a half cleared corner.
With the game approaching the closing stages Paul Holleran introduced the pace of Kurtis Revan to try and spice things up and inevitably he was immediately involved, breaking from the centre circle before feeding Obeng on the edge of the box, the eventual shot striking Vaughan in the face.
Clarke then picked up possession on the left from another half cleared Leamington corner, driving forward to the edge of the box and curling in a low drive that Hall saved at his near post.
Croasdale cleared the clubhouse roof with a strike from distance while substitute Dan Bradley had what was probably Kidderminsters’ best effort of the second half, his powerful low drive whistling just past the post. Croasdale arrowed a low strike across goal that looked to be heading for the bottom corner but it was watched all the way by Breeden.
Another break forward from Revan in added time saw him power in a low strike which Hall saw round the post for a corner, but Brakes were unable to force a dramatic winner, settling for a well deserved point.
Paul Holleran was pleased that his side had picked up what would have been seen by most outside the club as an unexpected point, saying ‘It rounds off a really good Christmas period for us. I thought this game might be a step too far for some of them after how much they all put into the Brackley games. I thought we started really well but there was a period leading up to half time where they were starting to look like a full time side and it began to look a bit like a training drill. We lost our control and our composure but after a little chat at half time we settled down a bit and I thought we were excellent in the second half.
‘Kidderminster deserve a lot of credit for the way they do things but I thought second half we were braver and better on the ball, so for us to go toe to toe with them and come off the pitch thinking, we deserved that, and without some good goalkeeping and a couple of poor decisions from us, we could have won it. I’m absolutely delighted with all of them today, it was a really really good performance, possibly our best over Christmas.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings, Kaine Felix (16 Kurtis Revan, 80), Jack Edwards (15 Liam Canavan, 70), Ahmed Obeng (14 Joe Magunda, 90+).
Subs not used: 12 James Mace, 17 Stefan Moore.
Kidderminster Harriers: Brandon Hall, James Pearson, Joel Taylor (17 Lee Vaughan, 62), Ryan Croasdale ©, Fraser Horsfall, James O’Connor, Andre Brown, James McQuilkin, Joe Ironside, Elton Ngwatala, Liam Truslove (15 Daniel Bradley, 62).
Subs not used: 12 Andre Wright, 14 Tyrone Williams, 16 Sam Austin.
Referee: Mr Martyn Rawcliffe
Assistant Referees: Mr Mark Reeves & Mr Richard Walker
Brakes Man of the Match: Kieran Dunbar.