Leamington’s relegation fears intensified on Easter Monday with a home defeat to Lowestoft dropping them into the relegation zone for the first time this season, writes Paul Okey.
The visitors were gifted the three points after Brakes retreated further and further back in the second half, looking to protect the one-goal lead given to them by Jack Edwards’ 43rd-minute effort.
Edwards’ close-range strike had been the only shot on target from either team in a low-key first-half and home keeper Jonny Maddison was similarly under-used in the second period.
However, Brakes were the architects of their own downfall, with James Mace’s wild lunge on Jake Reed in the box handing Lowestoft a barely deserved lifeline.
Jack Ainsley sent Maddison the wrong way from the spot and Omar Sowumni piled on the misery when he headed home a free-kick in the 89th minute.
In the final match of Danny Newton’s suspension, loan striker Ashley Wosfold was restored to the starting line-up in place of Nathan Hicks, while Jack Edwards also came in at the expense of Jordan Goddard who was nursing an injury.
Both sides made lively starts in the warm spring sunshine with the Trawler Boys’ Dean Bammant firing over from close range after Reed had wriggled his way free on the byeline and Lee Chilton hitting the side netting from a promising position inside the visitors’ box.
Brammant should have done better after beating Brakes’ offside trap from a free-kick, guiding the ball wide of the target, while it needed a superb last-ditch tackle from Adam Smith to deny Worsfold after Lowestoft keeper Jake Jessup had, not for the last time, messed up a punch.
Lee Smith’s shot was diverted for a goal kick by Bammant before Chilton lashed wide after another ineffectual Jessup punch.
The pleasing ebb and flow was quickly replaced by a turgid midfield battle, but with Richard Taundry’s long throws causing consternation in the heart of the Lowestoft defence it was the home side who looked most likely to break the deadlock.
Another failed punch from Jessup gifted Brakes a corner in the 39th minute, but Edwards got his bearings all wrong and sent his powerful header way off-target.
He was not so wasteful with his next opportunity, however, timing his near-post run to perfection to poke home Taundry’s corner.
Edwards was again in the thick of the action after the break. First, sliding the ball wide after appearing caught in two minds on the left-hand side of the Lowestoft box and then catching the ball full in the face from Chilton, an impact which eventually led to his substitution just past the hour.
A motionless Jessup was relieved to see the ball graze the outside of his right-hand post after Lee Moore had sweetly struck a half-volley from 25 yards and it needed a superb covering header from Ainsley to prevent Chilton nodding home a Worsfold cross.
Lowestoft were offering little threat up front, but the fragility of Brakes’ advantage was starting to weigh heavy on the hosts with panic setting in at the back and too many passes going astray in midfield.
It meant Lowestoft were able to build up a head of steam, with Smith curling a long-range effort straight into the midriff of Maddision and substitute Chris Henderson’s outstretched leg just unable to connect with a wicked cross from the right with the goal gaping.
As it was, it was a rush of blood from Mace which presented Lowestoft with a way back, the defender not even looking to referee Simon Barrow for the outcome after mistiming his challenge on Reed.
Ainsley coolly sent Maddison the wrong way from the spot to restore parity.
Despite Bradley Woods-Garness’ long-range effort, Lowestoft seemed quite happy with their lot and after a brief period of feeling sorry for themselves, Brakes roused themselves for the final five minutes.
Hicks showed his pace to earn a free-kick on the byeline, but Taundry was unable to find a colleague in the box and Taundry was again the supplier with a throw-in which was fortuitously gathered by Jessup via a Jamie Tank flick-on.
Any disappointment home fans felt at only taking a point was to be magnified in the final seconds of normal time as even that was frittered away.
Goddard needlessly gave away a free-kick on the right and Sowumni shook off the attentions of Joe Magunda to head past Maddison as he came to punch.
It was a low blow from the tallest player on the pitch and one that brought Brakes’ assistant manager Liam O’Neill to his knees.
And it will need Leamington to dig right to the very depths of their resolve to get back up from this one.
Brakes: Jonny Maddison, James Mace, Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda (Bilal Yafai), Jamie Tank, Delroy Gordon, Jack Edwards (Jordan Goddard), Richard Taundry, Ashley Worsfold (Nathan Hicks), Lee Moore, Lee Chilton. Subs not used: Matt Warner, Lewis Fenney.
Lowestoft: Jake Jessup, Jack Ainsley, Adam Smith, Erkan Okay, Omar Sowunmi, Sam Gaughan, Lee Smith (Chris Henderson), Ross Jarvis, Jake Reed Curtis Haynes-Brown, Bradley Woods-Garness, Dean Bammant. Subs not used: Robert Eagle, Joe Marsden, Dean Mason.