Leaders are held to a draw by Brakes
Brakes battled their way to a fully deserved share of the spoils on a rotten afternoon in North Yorkshire, both teams contributing fully to an entertaining contest despite the driving wind and rain, writes Paul Edwards.
Paul Holleran made three changes to his starting XI, restoring skipper Tony Breeden while Callum Gittings replaced the injured Joe Magunda. Kurtis Revan kicked off in place of Stefan Moore.
Brakes made a bright start, forcing a corner in the opening couple of minutes from which Gittings eventually headed over as they attempted to quieten the enthusiasm of the home crowd, which was boosted by more than 200 youngsters from the local Army Foundation College.
Nearly all dressed in black and complete with a drum it made for a strange sight as they all congregated in the Henderson Terrace behind the goal and they were making a din for quite some time before kick off and throughout the afternoon.
Leamington almost made the breakthrough when Kieran Dunbar’s shot was deflected towards keeper James Belshaw, who did very well to stick out an arm and push the ball away from goal.
It took almost 15 minutes for the hosts to register their first effort, Jordan Thewlis doing well to get a low drive in which Breeden got strong hands to before Junior English completed the clearance.
Striker Andrew Nelson, Town’s new loan signing from Sunderland, believed he had a shout for a penalty when he went to ground just inside the box on the right but referee Adam Herczeg was as unmoved as he had been several minutes earlier when English had gone down chasing a loose ball in the Harrogate area.
Brakes hit the front in the 24th minute, Hood sending the ball back into the danger zone after Revan’s corner had been cleared. Belshaw could only first the ball to English just outside the box and he returned it with interest, crashing a powerful low drive into the back of the net.
Harrogate pushed for a quick reply, Ben O’Hanlon seeing his shot well blocked as Leamington were put under increasing pressure. English then gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position on Town’s left, George Thomson curling in a great shot that only just cleared the bar.
The number seven got his angles just right with his next effort, though, taking advantage of the space afforded to him on the right to rifle an effort into the far corner despite Breeden getting a hand on it.
Edwards looped a shot over the bar as the game hit a rare lull just before half-time.
Thewlis sent a shot curling past the far post as Harrogate pushed once more and the hosts were being allowed far too much room to get at Leamington down the wings, resulting in some hairy moments but Brakes stood firm.
A neat one-touch move sent centre-back Terry Kennedy scampering in on goal as the second half commenced, Breeden off his line quickly to collect the ball.
Revan was penalised for a foul after looking to have got the better of Warren Burrell on the edge of the box, whhile Rob Thompson-Brown sent in a good cross from the left that Edwards headed just the wrong side of the post.
The fine margins in this division between success and failure were highlighted once more moments later, however, when English unfortunately headed into his own net from Joe Leesley’s cross.
Brakes had not looked in any danger but suddenly they were on the back foot, Burrell forcing a save from Breeden at his near post.
Revan then had a glorious opportunity to bring Leamington level, but sliced his shot well wide.
Harrogate were a whisker from giving themselves a two-goal cushion when Jack Emmett cut the ball back across goal for Thewlis, who could not quite get enough purchase on his flick and the ball rolled through to Breeden.
Out of nowhere Brakes were presented with the chance to drag themselves level in the 69th minute when Kennedy was penalised for a high boot on Hood in the Harrogate penalty area.
The ever-dependable Thompson-Brown stepped up to send Belshaw the wrong way from the spot and square things up once more.
Revan almost created a chance for himself when he danced past Belshaw in the box but the angle was too tight for him to cause any further problems.
Harrogate still looked more than capable of snatching a third, Nelson sending a rising drive well over the bar.
The natives in the main stand were becoming restless as Leamington stuck doggedly to their guns.
They almost grabbed a bizarre third when substitute Liam Canavan challenged Belshaw on the touchline, the keeper somehow scrambling to his feet to deny Revan. The ball was played back into the box where Canavan almost back-heeled in from close range.
Harrogate pushed forward again, Leesley toeing a first-time effort towards goal only to be denied by a fantastic save from Breeden who helped the ball over the bar.
Leesley had inadvertently caught the diving Connor Gudger, who after a lengthy stoppage was stretchered off to warm applause from both sets of fans.
Brakes then saw out the remaining moments of stoppage time to preserve another precious point.
Harrogate Town: James Belshaw, Jack Vann, Ben O’Hanlon, Liam Agnew, Terry Kennedy, Warren Burrell, George Thomson, Jack Emmett, Andrew Nelson, Jordan Thewlis (Mitchell Curry, 72), Joe Leesley. Subs not used: Ben Middleton, Joe Cracknell, Noel Burdett, Bailey Gooda.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, Connor Gudger (Colby Bishop, 90), Joe Clarke (Richard Taundry, 39), Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings (Liam Canavan, 68), Kurtis Revan, Jack Edwards, Rob Thompson-Brown. Subs not used: Stefan Moore, Matt Hill.