Gregory's goal seals routine victory
Leamington made it 13 points from 15 with a no-fuss win at home to relegation-threatened St Neots on Saturday, writes Paul Okey.
The home side started with the confidence gained from a run which had lifted them back into second spot in the Southern Premier League table and the only surprise was that it took them until the 52nd minute to break the deadlock.
Jack Edwards’ header was added to by substitute Richard Gregory in the 66th minute and another quiet afternoon for Tony Breeden meant his first save did not come until the dying seconds and even then the ball may have been heading wide anyway.
Jordan Goddard had a shot blocked inside the opening minute as Brakes attacked the Harbury Lane End before the hosts wasted a two-on-one, Jacob Patridge getting in the way of Callum Gittings’ effort.
Courtney Baker-Richardson, who was off-target with a seventh-minute strike, was then guilty of more wastefulness after racing away down the right flank, failing to pick out one of three attackers in the St Neots box with the defence in disarray.
Clever interplay between Goddard and Ahmed Obeng allowed the latter to force his way into the box, but a tug of the shirt seemed to upset his balance and he dragged his shot wide.
A neat lay-off from Joe Magunda then set up Baker-Richardson for a strike on goal, but after steadying himself, he was unable to find the target.
Magunda was forced off shortly after with a groin strain, with James Mace coming on to slip seamlessly into the back line.
After being on the back foot for the opening 15 minutes, the visitors gained a foothold in the game with a string of long throws and corners.
However, with Jamie Hood again imperious, they were getting little change in the air from the Brakes backline.
After a quiet spell, Obeng was presented a chance out of nothing, but with goalkeeper Alex Archer advancing, his chip lacked conviction and drifted harmlessly across the area to be swept up by a covering defender.
Lee Clarke ballooned a shot over for St Neots and a free-kick was flicked just past Breeden’s post, while a scramble at the other end was eventually cleared to take the teams in at the break level.
Obeng looked favourite to reach a ball over the top when play resumed but Archer was out quickly to avert the danger.
The visitors’ keeper also did well to prevent Edwards getting a clear header at the far post after Obeng headed on a Goddard free-kick.
Jonny Butler emerged from a mass of bodies to get in a header from a corner which went just past the near post before Brakes opened the scoring with a goal of real quality.
Gudger had already featured in the move before being found in space by Gittings on the left flank. A neat piece of footwork gave him the beating of Partridge and he stood up a cross into the box which allowed Edwards to thump a header past the hopelessly exposed Archer.
Gittings looked destined to double the advantage after being picked out by an excellent diagonal ball from Richard Taundry. However, Archer was out bravely to deny him. Saints’ keeper then produced an even more impressive save from Gittings, with his trailing arm keeping out the effort and more than earning the piece of luck which meant the rebound bounced off a defender and back into his grasp.
However, it was the home side who knew their luck was in when Gregory stepped off the bench to put the match to bed. Seconds after coming on, the former Stratford striker swivelled to fire home from the edge of the box with his first touch after Breeden’s free-kick was helped on.
Jevani Brown tried to single-handedly rouse the visitors for a response, working his way past two players before firing over and then latching on to a cross which had been misjudged by Gudger. However, the left-back recovered to take the pace off his shot.
Gregory failed to trouble Archer with an acrobatic shot from the edge of the box and then hurriedly fired over after a swift counter-attack from the home side.
Sloppy play from Taundry allowed Tom Knowles to get to the byeline but Mace was back to snuff out the danger.
Knowles then got Breeden’s gloves dirty with a drive from outside the box which drew a full-length save from the Brakes skipper.
The final chance of the game came to Gudger after a powerful run into the box. Substitute Callum Powell kept the ball alive before returning it to Gudger. However, off-balance and on his weaker right foot, he travelled further than the shot, tumbling to the turf much to the amusement of the home bench.
It was the sort of reaction you can afford when you’re 2-0 up and cruising.
But make no mistake, Brakes are very serious when it comes to overhauling Chippenham.
BRAKES: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda (James Mace, 24), Courtney Baker-Richardson, Jordan Goddard (Callum Powell, 77), Ahmed Obeng (Richard Gregory, 64), Jack Edwards, Callum Gittings. Subs not used: Rob Thompson-Brown, Ben George.
St Neots: Alex Archer, Jacob Partridge, Jonny Herd, Lee Clarke (Luke Brown, 72), Tom Wood, Jonny Butler, Bradley Fortnum-Tomlinson (Tom Knowles, 59), Fernando Bel-Toxtle, James Tricks (Declan Rogers, 78), Michel Hyem, Jevani Brown. Subs not used: Gary Dean, Harry Norman.