Brakes battled and scrapped their way to a deserved and potentially precious 1-1 draw on their maiden visit to Chester, showing tremendous character to bounce back from losing Jordan Murphy to two harsh bookings by grabbing an 83rd-minute equaliser through Ahmed Obeng, writes Paul Edwards
Brakes battled and scrapped their way to a deserved and potentially precious point on their maiden visit to Chester, showing tremendous character to bounce back from losing Jordan Murphy to two harsh bookings by grabbing an 83rd-minute equaliser through Ahmed Obeng, writes Paul Edwards
Paul Holleran was able to draft in two new signings during the week and Elliot Hodge was handed his debut as Obeng filled the gap left by Jack Edwards’ suspension.
Billy Murphy, only signed on Friday, was about to be introduced as Murphy was sent off but also made his first appearance in the final few minutes as Leamington stood firm to frustrate the home side.
Colby Bishop forced Blues’ keeper Grant Shenton to push the ball over the bar early on as Leamington made exactly the kind of positive start Holleran would have wanted from them after conceding so many early goals in recent weeks.
They grew in confidence as the minutes ticked by, defending solidly for the most part and taking the game to Chester whenever possible.
Junior English was unfortunate to lose his balance as he attempted to stab a shot towards goal from close range following two successive corners.
The home sections of the Swansway Stadium were eerily quiet as they waited for their side to give them something to cheer.
Steve Howson headed their first effort on target from Craig Mahon’s corner kick but it was comfortable for Tony Breeden.
A dangerous ball in from the right saw Anthony Dudley denied, Mahon following up only to see Jamie Hood in his path to block the shot well.
Murphy was a constant thorn in the side of the hosts until his untimely exit, his positive probing giving the Chester defence plenty to think about.
He worked well with Bishop down the right before sending over a brilliant cross which was not anticipated by any of his team-mates.
Joe Clarke almost provided the breakthrough as some good play led to another Leamington corner.
The former Wrexham man would not have been a popular goalscorer here but his shot deflected off Murphy through to Shenton.
Hodge was showing some neat touches and a willingness to get involved as Brakes snapped into challenges and showed the endeavour which has been a feature of their recent performances despite the poor run of form.
Reece Flanagan had probably his best game since returning to the club and Danny Livesey did well to beat Bishop to a dangerous free-kick played into the penalty area by the former Walsall midfielder, who had the final opportunity of the first half after English had shown superb vision to head a poor defensive clearance into Murphy’s path down the right. He, in turn, laid the ball back for Flanagan to strike powerfully across goal and just past the far post.
Within two minutes of the restart all Leamington’s hard work had been undone as Chester moved in front.
Matthew Waters sent the ball in low from the left and Dudley let it travel through to Ben McKenna who drove low past a statuesque Breeden and into the bottom corner.
Briefly rattled, Brakes were soon creating chances again.
Bishop powered a header well over from Flanagan’s centre before heading into the path of Hodge who had got goal side of the Chester defence but was just unable to nick the ball past Shenton, the goalkeeper getting a good touch to the ball to clear.
Asante’s shot was deflected and looped up and into the arms of Breeden who then held Mahon’s powerful effort at the second attempt.
Murphy received his first booking for what appeared a routine attempt to win a header against Mahon, Chester skipper Gary Roberts firing the resulting free-kick just over the bar.
Hood was then well placed to block a fiercely struck effort from the same player.
Dudley danced past a couple of challenges on the edge of the box before firing in a low shot that was straightforward for Breeden before Leamington’s afternoon looked to have gone from bad to worse as Murphy received another questionable booking for a challenge yards from the penalty area and was shown his second yellow card of the proceedings.
It looked to be a backs-to-the-wall scenario for the closing minutes but, incredibly, Brakes hauled themselves level thanks to Obeng, who wriggled into the box to thrash a shot past the wrong-footed Shenton and into the net to the delight of the travelling support.
There were a couple of hairy moments as four minutes of added time were played but despite many questioning the quality of the game few could deny that Leamington deserved something for their efforts.