Vanarama National League North
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 23rd September 2017
Paul Holleran’s second half substitutions paid dividends once more as his Leamington side finally won a home game at the sixth time of asking with a deserved success over in form Bradford Park Avenue at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium.
Mark Bower’s men arrived in South Warwickshire on the back of an eight game unbeaten streak, but these two clubs both won their home games against each other in Brakes’ last spell in the National League North, and the final outcome was the same here.
The game got off to a fragmented start when Jack Edwards and Wayne Brooksby required treatment after a clash of heads, and with the break in play having seemingly distracted them Leamington quickly found themselves chasing the game as Avenue then took the lead on five minutes, James Knowles rising completely unmarked to thunder home a header from Nicky Clee’s right wing corner.
Brakes responded positively, a neat flick in the centre circle from James Mace allowing Colby Bishop to send Kieran Dunbar away down the right. Jack Edwards saw a shot blocked as the resulting throw in was played into the box.
Frustratingly Leamington defended well immediately after the opening goal, with Jamie Hood imperious in the air. Neither side really dominated the first twenty minutes or so, and Holleran’s men deservedly got back on terms with twenty three minutes played, Dunbar capitalising on some sloppy defensive play from the visitors as he pounced on a back pass on the right wing. The angle was against him but he rounded keeper Steven Drench and calmly steered the ball into the far corner from almost on the dead ball line.
Bishop then shot wide after some good work much to his frustration, and Mark Bower’s men were a whisker from regaining the lead when Clee’s low ball in from the left evaded the stretching Oli Johnson by a hair's breadth. Tony Breeden then did very well to claim the ball at the second attempt as Brooksby curled in a low drive through a crowd of players.
Connor Gudger felt he had a claim for a penalty shortly before half time when his run into the box was halted by Ryan Toulson, but the two sides went in all square.
The second half almost began as badly as the first when Hood and Junior English both allowed a harmless clearance to turn into a superb through ball for Adam Boyes. He was denied twice by Breeden however, who got down very well to block low shots from the striker.
Leamington threatened when Dunbar’s free kick into the box hit a defender and almost dropped for Edwards. Hood then turned onto Bishop’s knock down from a ball back into the box to hook in a shot that was deflected behind for a corner. Bishop later saw a shot blocked after Mace had done well to hook the ball back from the touchline.
Rob Thompson-Brown then lashed in a vicious drive that Drench was unable to hold. Leamington were looking more lively now, winning the ball back in midfield and starting to push the visitors back more than they had done in the first half.
Paul Holleran threw on Ahmed Obeng and Kurtis Revan to try and stretch Bradford in the closing stages and it paid dividends when after a penalty box scramble which saw Joe Clarke set up Revan for a blocked shot, Obeng slipping the ball inside the far post with almost his first touch of the game.
A frantic few seconds in the Leamington penalty area in added time produced one of those heart in mouth moments that in previous games would have looked certain to end in an opposition goal as Brakes battled frantically to get the ball clear, but as the manager pointed out afterwards, the players are beginning to learn from their mistakes, and collectively bodies were put on the line to see the game out, to the delight of the home support.
The manager was understandably happy to have ended the home hoodoo, saying ‘It was a great game, there was not much in it. You can see the quality Bradford possess, especially going forward and the attacking options they’ve got, so you can see why they are one of the form teams in the league, but i’ve been saying for a few weeks now that we are getting there.’
‘We’ve been a lot more solid defensively over the last few weeks so to concede from a set play in the opening few minutes was disappointing, It’s difficult for players sometimes when you’re in a bit of a rut and you can’t get that win. It’s all about confidence so for us to come back the way we did, with a really good goal, and then in the second half to play some really good football. You’re then thinking can we just create another opportunity, and the substitutes came on and made an impact just like they did last week. We’ve reacted well to a second ball, and between Kurtis and Ahmed they’ve been able to get it over the line. We’ve then had to defend heroically at the end. The supporters need to see that we’re learning and improving, and we are.’
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, James Mace, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood (14 Richard Taundry, 71), Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Joe Magunda, Colby Bishop (16 Kurtis Revan, 85), Jack Edwards, Rob Thompson-Brown (15 Ahmed Obeng, 77).
Subs not used: 12 Liam Canavan, 17 Charley Edge.
Bradford Park Avenue: Steve Drench, Mark Ross, Graham Kelly, Nicky Wroe ©, James Knowles, Ryan Toulson, Wayne Brooksby, Javan Vidal (14 Danny Boshell, 46), Adam Boyes, Oli Johnson (15 Adam Nowakowski, 85), Nicky Clee (12 Jamie Spencer, 65).
Subs not used: 16 Luca Havern, 17 Lee Knight.
Referee: Mr Sam Mulhall
Assistant Referees: Mr Rob Hathaway & Mr Scott Chalkley
Brakes Man of the Match: Joe Clarke.