Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Play Off Semi Final
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Wednesday 26th April 2017
12 months after he starred in a dramatic penalty shoot out win over Redditch United that saw Leamington through to the play off final Tony Breeden was at it again, pulling off a stunning injury time save to ensure that Jack Edwards’ stunning strike a minute after half time won the game for Paul Holleran’s men.
Even with the four goal defeat on the final day at Weymouth, Brakes still finished with the best defensive record in the Evostik Southern League Premier Division, and Breeden encapsulated that in a moment with his picture book dive down to his right to paw away Slough substitute Josh Jackman’s bouncing shot from the edge of the area that looked destined to creep into the bottom corner.
Despite their visitors having done the league double over them without conceding a goal, Leamington thundered into this one off encounter with desire and purpose. Stefan Moore was first to come close, latching on to Tony Breeden’s huge kick upfield and striking a low drive which pinged off the outside of the post and across goal, Ahmed Obeng shielding the ball back to Callum Gittings on the edge of the box to strike the follow up wide.
Obeng then forced Rebels’ keeper Shaun Rowley into a save when he picked up Courtney Baker-Richardson knock on, his shot deflected by defender Nathan Smart, forcing Rowley to dive down at his near post to push the ball behind. From the corner the ball was fired back in by Moore, Jamie Hood diving to head towards goal where the ball was poked past Rowley by Edwards, who was adjudged to be in an offside position.
There were plenty more hairy moments for Slough, who were unable to get into their stride at all as Leamington continued to press forward, but they threatened when James Dobson drove into the box on the right and unleashed a powerful drive that was pushed away by Breeden. Simon Dunn then curled in a free kick which Breeden gathered at the second attempt.
Paul Stonehouse cleared Baker-Richardson’s goalbound header off the line as half time approached, but Leamington suffered a blow as play continued, Obeng going down heavily as Lee Togwell jumped over the top of him to win a header, There was no malice in the challenge but concern grew as the Brakes striker lay still on the turf for some time before eventually being stretchered off, replaced by Rob Thompson-Brown. He received heartening applause from both sets of supporters, fully merited as he had been one of the games’ liveliest players until that point.
The extent of Obeng’s injury was unknown as the second half began, but his team mates rallied and got the goal their first half display had deserved just a minute in, Slough only half clearing the ball, allowing Baker-Richardson to feed Edwards, who swept in a looping shot from outside the box which dropped into the far corner of the net, the cue for absolute bedlam in the Harbury Lane End.
After another bout of Leamington possession they came close to a second goal, Richard Taundry slinging the ball in from right and Baker-Richardson rising highest again, only for the ball to crash against the bar.
Sitting back a little as the game entered the closing stages Leamington allowed the visitors to have probably their best spell of the game, which made for some nail biting moments. Their best effort came with the last kick of the game, Jackman and the visiting supporters left with their heads in their hands as Breeden hauled Leamington over the line with his stunning save.
Having overcome one of the sides who inflicted a rare home defeat on them this season, Brakes now face another in Hitchin Town in the final. This will be just as tough a contest as the last one, but if the team can find it within themselves to produce a similar performance, we can dare to dream…….
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Callum Gittings, Stefan Moore (12 Joe Magunda, 85), Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng (14 Rob Thompson-Brown, 44).
Subs not used: 15 Richard Batchelor, 16 Richard Gregory, 17 Tom James.
Slough Town: Shaun Rowley, Sean Fraser ©, Paul Stonehouse (12 Josh Jackman, 59), Nathan Smart, Mark Nisbet, Lee Togwell, James Dobson (18 Gavin James 58), Simon Dunn, Liam Enver-Marum, Chris Flood, Warren Harris (15 Nathan Webb, 58).
Subs not used: 14 Jesse Wilson, 16 Lewis Putman.
Referee: Mr Wayne Cartmel
Assistant Referees: Mr Mark Stevens & Mr Shaun Barry
Fourth Official: Mr Ollie Williamson
Brakes Man of the Match: Callum Gittings.