Defensive errors costly for Brakes
Brakes fell victim to a thoroughly professional away performance this evening with two defensive errors contributing to a third league defeat in four, writes Paul Okey.
An energetic first-half display from the hosts had promised more but once Stephan Morley had laid the opener on a plate for Peter Vincenti in the 51st minute there was only going to be one winner.
More schoolboy defending allowed Josh Gowling to double Bulls’ advantage and with the visiting skipper an imposing presence at the back, Brakes were left to feed off scraps for the remainder of the game.
Reece Flanagan was handed a first start after moving back to the Phillips 66 Community Stadium on a short-term deal late last week, while Morley made a welcome return after his switch from AFC Telford.
Callum Gittings and Kieran Dunbar were also restored to the starting XI and boss Paul Holleran was rewarded with an energetic opening from the home side.
Gittings skidded a long-range effort past a post, while home fans were quickly reacquainted with Morley’s dead-ball prowess as Hereford conceded a succession of free-kicks.
A flick-on in the 12th minute provided the first clear opening but Dunbar snatched at the chance and sent it well over the bar.
A Josh March header was claimed under pressure by keeper Brandon Hall before good harrying by Kaiman Anderson in midfield presented the wideman and March with a two-on-one break. However, the pair contrived to waste the opportunity.
Edwards rose well to head on a Morley free-kick but the flag was raised before anyone could force the ball home from close range.
With the wind at their backs, Brakes had been able to pen the visitors in their own half for long periods but as the half wore on, both the strength of the wind and the home side’s energy levels dropped allowing Russell Slade’s side to gain a foothold in the game.
They could only muster one effort on goal, however, Jake Weaver standing up well to parry a Jacob Cane half-volley for a corner after Vincenti had headed down a Jordan Nicholson cross.
The slightest of touches from a defender then denied Anderson a header on goal from a Junior English cross.
Anderson was again involved five minutes into the second half, getting the better of Kieran Thomas and flashing in a cross that Dunbar was inches away from converting at the far post.
As if to emphasise the fine margins, Hereford were ahead less than 60 seconds later.
Morley could only head a free backwards into the six-yard box and the unmarked Vincenti gratefully accepted the gift, nodding home past an exposed Weaver.
Brakes had claims for a penalty waved away when March went down under a heavy challenge in the box and Gittings had a fierce strike blocked as the home side looked for a way back.
However, their task was made even more difficult in the 65th minute after the home defence failed to deal with a long throw from Jordan Cullinane-Liburd.
Jordan Nicholson’s initial shot was blocked but Gowling was there to squeeze home the loose ball to make it 2-0.
Leamington had an immediate chance to respond when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the D. However, after a long wait, Flanagan lifted the ball over the bar.
Good persistence from March allowed him to whip the ball across the face of goal, with the under-pressure Thomas somehow managing to head the ball past the far post and Anderson then fired in a dangerous cross which only needed the slightest of touches but there was no Brakes player to take advantage.
And it was the visitors who had the final chances as Brakes ran out of legs, substitute Bradley Ash drawing a sprawling save from Weaver and fellow replacement Tommy O’Sullivan sliding a shot past the far post after taking advantage of some tired defending.
BRAKES: Jake Weaver, Junior English, Stephan Morley, Callum Gittings (Jack Lane, 90), Jamie Hood, James Mace, Kieran Dunbar (Ravi Shamsi, 71), Reece Flanagan (Cieron Keane, 79), Josh March, Jack Edwards, Kaiman Anderson. Subs not used: Ben Newey, Connor Taylor.
Hereford: Brandon Hall, Kieran Thomas, Jack Bodenham, Jason Pope, Jordan Cullinane-Liburd, Josh Gowling, Peter Vincenti (Bradley Ash 73), Jacob Cane, Mike Symons (Rowan Liburd, 61), Tom Owen-Evans (Tommy O’Sullivan, 82), Jordan Nicholson. Subs not used: Kyle Finn, Reece Styche.