Finishing poor, FA Cup run finished
Leamington suffered another disappointing FA Cup exit, bowing out at the hands of their fellow National League North side after again falling short in both boxes, writes Paul Okey.
The home side had the better of the first half but poor finishing and a standout performance from Quakers keeper Liam Connell prevented them getting their noses in front.
And even after Tyrone O’Neill had shown them the way to goal with Darlington’s opener in the 65th minute they were guilty of spurning a series of chances, none clearer than Kaiman Anderson’s which drew a fine save from Connell a little over a minute later.
Visiting substitute Justin Donawa administered the last rites in the 88th minute, leaving Brakes to reflect on a second successive home match in which they have failed to score when in control of the game.
A cup-tied Stephan Morley sat out the game, with Jack Lane restored to the centre of defence, while Connor Taylor was given a start with Kieran Dunbar dropping to the bench where he was joined by loanee Dexter Walters.
Darlington, backed by a decent following from the north-east, had the first sight of goal, with Will Hatfeld getting in a shot which was deflected for a corner.
However, Brakes gradually assumed control, as Darlington struggled to cope with the aerial presence of Jack Edwards.
His flick-on led to the home side’s first real chance, Josh March firing straight at Connell and, after Jack Lane tried his luck from distance, Edwards was up well again to head a Reece Flanagan corner wide.
On the back of a man-of-the-match display against Hereford, Kaiman Anderson then came to the fore, linking up well with March and swinging in a cross to the far post that was crying out for a finish from Taylor, only for the midfielder to head the ball over the bar.
Edwards then rose to meet a Flanagan corner with a powerful downward header that Connell somehow managed to cling on to on his line.
The goal their period of dominance deserved did not come, however, and buoyed by still being level, Darlington worked some chances of their own in the closing stages of the half.
Neat footwork from Jarrett Rivers took him to the byeline and his cutback was met by Adam Campbell who was joined by the away faithful in vociferous claims for handball as two defenders rushed to close him down. Referee Dale Wootton was not convinced, though, and it would be one of several spot-kick claims he turned down over the course of the afternoon.
A lovely first touch from March gave him the time to get a shot away which flashed across the face of goal and Campbell was then off target at the other end after ball was worked to him on the edge of the box. Junior English was then a touch fortunate not to divert an O’Neill cross into his own goal as he challenged at the far post.
With just one point separating Brakes and Darlington in the table it was perhaps no surprise they could not be separated at the break. There was always a feeling that one moment of inspiration might be the difference between the two sides and so it was to prove but not before Brakes had seen more chances go begging after the interval.
Another excellent first touch earned March another shooting chance but with the angle against him he was unable to get his effort on target.
Hatfield was getting a lot of joy through the middle for Darlington but they too were unable to find an end product to their neat build-up play.
Good persistence and a clever backheel from Flanagan created a moment of promise in the Darlington box but much to the annoyance of the home bench, Taylor chose to ride a reckless challenge rather than go down and the danger was averted.
A Flanagan free-kick then received the slightest of touches from Anderson to take the ball away from a flood of onrushing attackers at the far post.
With 20 minutes of the half gone, it was Darlington who got the crucial opener.
There seemed little on when O’Neill received the ball with his back to goal but the quick turn and clinical strike was totally out of keeping with the finishing that had come before it and was beyond Weaver in a flash.
Almost straight from the restart, Brakes had a chance to pull themselves level. And although Anderson did not quite get hold of his strike,Connell deserves immense credit for the way he stood up and got enough on the shot to palm it over for corner.
A fierce effort from Flanagan drew a sprawling save from Connell and after Edwards had won yet another high ball, March sent in a fierce effort past the angle.
Cieron Keane, Walters and Ravi Shamsi were all thrown on as Brakes chased the game, with Junior English pushed forward and Walters curled a shot just past the far post as the hosts pinned Darlington back.
A Walters cross was headed into the thigh of a defender by Edwards before Brakes shot themselves in the foot in the 88th minute, the ball being poked across the face of the goal by Lane from where Donawa was able to cut his shot back across Weaver and into the net.