Brakes progress in Birmingham Senior Cup after withstanding a second-half blitz
Leamington survived a torrid second half to move into the last eight of the Birmingham Senior Cup on Tuesday night, writes Paul Okey.
First-half goals from Jack Edwards and Ryan Rowe had put the hosts in control against their youthful visitors.
However, Brakes were on the back foot for much of the second period, with head injuries to Jamie Hood and Edwards failing to help their cause and they were left clinging on after David Moli halved the deficit in the 54th minute.
Nuneaton arrived at the Phillips 66 amid a poor run of form which had seen them slump to the fringes of the Conference North relegation zone and they found themselves a goal down in just the tenth minute, Rob Thompson-Brown’s near-post corner being met by a firm header from Edwards.
Boro looked to respond and neat interplay between Moli and James Clifton allowed the latter to put in a cross that Brakes struggled to clear. Moli regained possession but his shot was comfortable for Tony Breeden.
The Brakes skipper was fully extended in his next involvement, however, diving to keep out Shaquille McDonald’s shot to his near post.
Against the run of play, Brakes doubled their tally in the 24th minute.
There were worthy penalty claims when Ahmed Obeng was caused to stumble in the box before Callum Gittings left referee Simon Brown with a far simpler decision to make after picking up the loose ball and being felled by Tom Elliott.
Rowe sent Christian Dibble the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-0.
Gittings went for the spectacular when a half-cleared cross fell to him at the edge of the box but his shot on the half-volley was well over.
But aside from a Connor Anderson header from a corner which Tom James hacked away from the line, there was little in the way of goalmouth action as the half petered out.
Thompson-Brown sent a 35-yard free-kick well over in the 51st minute before a prolonged spell of Nuneaton pressure.
Elliott drew a fine save low down from Breeden who was then relieved to see Jean Paul Ramos’ first-time shot graze the outside of the post after he could only palm Jordan Keane’s cross into his path.
However, with Leamington penned back, Nuneaton gained their reward when the ball was laid across to Moli whose first touch on the edge of the box created space for a shot across Breeden and into the far corner.
Buoyed by his goal, Moli started to wreak havoc as Brakes lost their defensive composure.
Good feet allowed him get in a powerful shot which was straight at Breeden and he was also central to the substitution of Hood who was suffering from dizzy spells after being caught by an accidental boot from the striker.
A neat turn from Edwards in midfield was followed by a Hollywood shot which showed all the hallmarks of his blow to the head earlier, with the ball clearing the Harbury Lane End stand and the midfielder being withdrawn five minutes later.
Moli was unlucky not to double his, and Nuneaton’s, tally after being slipped in by a quick free-kick by Elliott, with his strike beating Breeden but bouncing away to safety off the inside of the far post.
He then shot straight at Breeden after again being afforded too much space on the edge of the box.
In a rare foray, Brakes had a gilt-edged chance to restore their two-goal cushion when Ben George’s cross found Rowe unmarked in the box, but he glanced his header just past the far post.
The sparse Nuneaton following were celebrating when substitute Aaron Williams glanced Elliott’s curling shot into the net but the assistant referee’s flag was already up, while Clifton’s powerful free-kick again found Breeden well positioned.
Nuneaton’s belief that they could take the game to penalties all but evaporated in the 88th minute, however. A Breeden clearance was charged down by Michael Ogilvie who kept his composure to cut the ball back from the byeline to the onrushing Williams. But with the goal gaping, he ballooned his shot, and with it his side’s chances of progressing, way over the bar.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Ben George, Tom James, Callum Gittings, Jamie Hood (69, Courtney Baker-Richardson), James Mace, Rob Thompson-Brown, Joe Magunda, Ryan Rowe (83, Nathan Olukanmi), Jack Edwards (79, Richard Taundry), Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Connor Gudger, Darren Pond.
Boro: Christian Dibble, Alex Penny, James Clifton, Jordan Keane, Jordan Wheatley, Connor Anderson, Iwan Cartwright, Tom Elliott, David Moli, Jean Paul Ramos (69, Aaron Williams), Shaquille McDonald (79, Michael Ogilvie). Subs not used: Kristian Scott, Ryan Richardson.