Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Tuesday 8th August 2017
Brakes were left to rue missed opportunities as they slipped to defeat in their opening home fixture of the season on a miserable Tuesday evening.
There were connections on both sides with both Tony Breeden, Connor Gudger and Tom James having previously turned out for the visitors, while Joe Clarke was making his home debut for Leamington having made the switch during the summer. For the visitors, former Brakes skipper Stephan Morley was returning to face Leamington for the first time since leaving in 2015, having made over 200 appearances and captaining Paul Holleran’s side for most of them.
Tamworth were ahead after only four minutes thanks to a huge slice of good fortune, Lambs defender Andy Burns firing in a shot that did not look to be troubling Breeden until it struck Gudger and looped in off the bar, the Brakes skipper rooted to the spot.
Andy Morrell’s side were well on top in the opening quarter of an hour and went close once more when Connor Taylor’s wayward effort was picked up by Burns, who drove the ball dangerously across the goalmouth. Fortunately for Leamington there was nobody in a red shirt to connect. Junior English then cleared Lambs’ skipper Luke Jones’ header away from the goal line.
The Brakes home debutant then hooked a powerful first time drive just over the bar as Jamie Hood headed down a corner kick.
Leamington were certainly coming more into the game now, and Colby Bishop’s strong header forced keeper Shaun Rowley to stretch to make the save. He was powerless in the 24th minute however as English side footed a first time shot powerfully into the roof of the net following a corner to level things up.
After a rare quiet spell the visitors almost moved ahead once more when a fantastic strike from Darryl Knights clattered the frame of the goal, before an ambitious effort some 40 yards from goal by Rob Thompson-Brown almost caught Rowley out, the keeper having to parry the ball before claiming. Obeng also saw his claims for a penalty waved away by Referee Ricky Watton after he went down under a challenge in the box.
Obeng almost got in behind the Lambs defence early in the second half but was denied as Rowley got down well to block his shot. Thompson-Brown then curled well over the bar as Leamington began the second forty five minutes brightly.
Taylor registered Tamworth’s first effort of the half, picking up a loose clearance to crash in a low drive that stung Breeden’s palms. Brakes then countered as Obeng’s dart forward was halted by a challenge that saw the ball loop into the path of Bishop, whose shot was eventually blocked. Thompson-Brown then fired over once more.
Obeng’s direct running continued to occupy the visitors defence, and he cut in from the right to lash in a shot that was parried by Rowley.
Further shots were traded, Taylor crashing in another low drive that was watched all the way by Breeden, while Obeng saw another drive parried by Rowley as he got in down the left. Burns then hit a well struck first time volley inches over the bar as the ball dropped over his shoulder.
Leamington were making life difficult for themselves at times by failing to make routine clearances and starting to give the ball away when under no pressure, and they were punished with 17 minutes to play when Aman Verma picked up a pass from Ellis Deeney on the edge of the box and fired in a low drive that seemed to travel in slow motion past the desperate dive of Breeden into the bottom corner.
Brakes appeared to be spent as an attacking force, and failed to create any further opportunities as the visitors held on comfortably to record their first win of the season.
Paul Holleran felt that things could have been different had his side taken their early second half chances but was keen to take the positives from the game, saying ‘We were excellent in the first 15-20 minutes of the second half but we needed to take one of those chances. I think after that we looked a bit leggy and Tamworth got back on top. On the balance of chances we probably deserved something from the game, on the balance of play, you’d have to say they were better than us tonight.
‘We’ve had a tough start, it’s been an eye opener for us. We’ve played two good sides, given a good account of ourselves in both games, but I think straight away the intensity of the league has shown, teams are asking a lot more questions of us and we need to find a few more answers.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke (14 Milan Butterfield, 77), Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda (15 Tom James, 86), Ahmed Obeng, Callum Gittings, Colby Bishop (12 Kurtis Revan, 77), Junior English, Rob Thompson-Brown.
Subs not used: 16 Stefan Moore, 17 Tom Rankin.
Tamworth: Shaun Rowley, Andy Burns, Stephan Morley, Ellis Deeney, Luke Jones ©, Jack Lane, Regan Upton, Aman Verma, Reece Styche (16 Brad Reid, 67), Connor Taylor, Darryl Knights (12 Jed Davies, 90).
Subs not used: 14 Louis Ezewele, 15 Matt Curley, 17 Dexter Walters.
Referee: Mr Ricky Watton
Assistant Referees: Mr Richard Eley & Mr James King
Brakes Man of the Match: Junior English.