BANBURY UNITED 3
Leamington’s poor run of form continued with a lacklustre showing condeming them to a 3-0 defeat at Banbury.
The visitors will point to a dubious penalty and the sending-off of keeper Niall Cooper as mitigating circumstances for their third loss in four.
But in truth, Brakes looked a beaten side as soon as Albi Skendi drilled in a fine second for the Puritans five minutes after the restart.
The ground staff and volunteers had worked tirelessly to ensure the game went ahead after persistent rain had left the surface under water on Christmas Eve and both sides struggled to adapt to the heavy surface in the early stages.
James Mace produced a good block to deny Nabil Sariff, but that apart, the only incident of note in the opening quarter-hour was when referee John Scott’s cards fell out of his pocket without him realising. They were later to be reunited, with Scott thankful for them as tensions rose after the break.
As the tempo increased, Tom Berwick narrowly failed to latch on to a Lee Moore flick-on ahead of Lewis Kidd in the home goal, while Skendi headed wide from a good position at the opposite end.
A move of real quality then lit up the gloom, with Shariff playing the ball into Kynan Isaac on the edge of the box. The striker showed good feet to work his way to the byeline and his cutback was guided into the corner at full-stretch by Scott Bridges.
Stung by the concession, Brakes enjoyed their best period of the game in the run-up to half-time.
Stephan Morley’s first-time strike was well dealt with by Kidd, while Richard Batchelor worked space for a shot which slid across the face of goal.
Matty Dodd then should have done better after Batchelor won back possession on the edge of the Banbury box. However, he failed to get enough purchase on the shot to trouble Kidd.
Five minutes into the second half, Leamington’s task got even harder.
Skendi showed great strength to outmuscle Batchelor and then drilled in a shot from the edge of the box which whistled past Cooper and into the far corner.
Lee Chilton volleyed well over as Brakes tried to respond, but their frustrations were beginning to spill over, with Skendi and Tom Berwick squaring up to instigate a melee which eventually saw Marvin Martin and Jamie Hood cautioned.
Cooper had to be alert to prevent Isaac from making it 3-0 after the striker had beaten the offside trap and Leamington then missed a gilt-edged opportunity to half the deficit, Dodd failing to convert from almost the goal-line after a corner had caught the home defence napping.
A minute later, Banbury were given another chance to extend their lead and this time it came gift-wrapped.
Hood’s challenge on Isaac on the edge of the box appeared a fair one, but with everyone expecting a corner, the assistant linesman indicated a foul, leaving the referee with no alternative but to point to the spot.
Cooper, who was booked for his show of dissent, was powerless to stop Bridges’ fierce spot-kick.
To compound Brakes’ misery, Cooper was then sent off for pushing Harold Agyeman-Prempeh as he attempted to regain possession of the ball.
Berwick was the player to be sacrificed as Dan Ward was brought on to replace Cooper, with Hood and Joe Magunda making way soon after as Paul Holleran sensed the game was up.
A mazy dribble by Skendi threatened to turn it into a Christmas stuffing, but Batchelor got back to block, while Moore could have given the sodden away support something to cheer after latching on to a defence-splitting through ball from Chilton, but his shot lacked power and dribbled into the hands of Kidd.
It just about summed up Leamington’s afternoon.
Banbury United: Lewis Kidd, Luke Cray, Ryan Plowright, Joel Meade, George Allen, Harold Agyeman-Prempeh, Marvin Martin (Chris Lait, 87), Nabil Shariff (Ashley Dumbleton, 84), Albi Skendi, Kynan Isaac, Scott Bridges (Adeyinka Talabi, 84). Sub (not used) Tom Ryan.
Brakes: Niall Cooper, James Mace, Stephan Morley, Joe Magunda (James Husband, 76), Jamie Hood (Alex Taylor 74), Liam Daly, Matt Dodd, Lee Chilton, Tom Berwick (Dan Ward, 69), Lee Moore, Richard Batchelor. Subs (not used): Dean Perrow, Martyn Naylor.