Leamington’s FA Cup frailties resurfaced this afternoon as ten-man Chasetown fought back from 2-0 down to force a replay, writes Paul Okey.
Josh March’s second of the afternoon 11 minutes into the second half looked to have killed off the challenge off the visitors who had offered very little going forward even before the sending-off of Alex Melbourne for an horrific tackle which left Callum Gittings unable to continue.
However, a needless challenge in the box from Gift Mussa handed Chasetown a lifeline and six minutes after George Cater slotted home the penalty, captain Ryan Wynter nodded home a scruffy second.
With something to cling on to, the visitors then defended for the lives to ensure both teams go into the hat for Monday’s draw.
Cieron Keane returned to Brakes’ starting line-up after George Carline was refused permission to play by parent club Solihull Moors, while a late shirt change for Jake Weaver, allowed to play by Birmingham City, meant the game kicked off four minutes late.
Chasetown were not overawed by the two-division gulf between the sides in the early stages but it was the National League North side who made the breakthrough with the first opportunity of the game 16 minutes in.
A high ball was misjudged by Scholars captain Wynter and March nipped in only to be brought down by a high challenge from keeper Curtis Pond. Kaiman Anderson looked like converting the loose ball but when he was dragged to the floor, referee Dean Simpson pointed to the spot.
Pond guessed the right way but March’s spot-kick was too powerful to put the home side a goal to the good.
Anderson was unable to double the advantage two minutes later, trying to be too precise with his shot and finding the feet of Pond, while Kieran Dunbar was unable to get enough purchase on his shot after being released down the right.
A reckless challenge from Melbourne then saw the visitors reduced to ten men.
However, the loss of Gittings, who will undergo an X-ray tomorrow on his foot injury, arguably affected the home side just as much as the dismissal of the defender did Chasetown, with any momentum the home side were building lost.
Gittings’ replacement Mussa dragged a shot across the face of goal, while Jack Edwards fizzed an effort past the post after robbing Bradley Carr and the home side went in at the break with their lead still a slender one.
An early Mussa strike heralded a sustained period of pressure from Brakes at the start of the second period which saw an Anderson effort blocked, Edwards head on to the roof of the net and Pond smartly palm away a March strike.
It reaped its reward when Edwards’ clever downward header was poked home by March from close range and given the paucity of Chasetown chances, that seemed to be that.
It took just one piece of adventure from the visitors to change the complexion of the game, however.
Substitute Danny Cocks had little on when he received the ball around half-way. However, he pushed the ball past Brakes’ back line and used his speed to regain possession before drawing the challenge from Mussa.
There appeared little contact but referee Simpson was convinced and Cater got the better of Weaver to bring his side back into the contest.
Cocks was again involved in the equaliser with Wynter’s header dropping almost apologetically over the line to the delight of the small band of visiting supporters behind the goal.
Stirred into action, Brakes went back on the offensive and Pond was out bravely to deny March at close range before diving full length to keep out another strike from the goalscorer less than 60 seconds later.
A break down the other end resulted in Cater dragging his shot across the face of goal, while Will Whieldon was on hand to block from Ravi Shamsi after the substitute looked to have worked a shooting chance with a superb first touch.
Celebrations were cut short by a flag after James Mace headed home and Leamington fans were again cursing their luck when a fierce Dunbar strike was straight into the body of Whieldon on the visitors’ goalline.
A needlessly conceded corner offered Chasetown a chance to complete their giantkilling act but Lewis Riley-Stewart could only head over.
Shamsi then got his connection all wrong at the other end after latching on to a cross from the left, with an exposed Pond gratefully gathering.
Wynter produced a well-timed challenge to deny March with seconds to go and the final whistle was celebrated like a victory from those who had made the trip from Staffordshire.
For Brakes, who must have thought it was job done with 56 minutes gone, they now have a tricky Tuesday night trip to The Scholars Ground to navigate if their long-wished-for FA Cup run is to not to once again fall at the first hurdle.