Leamington on guard against FA Cup shock

Two-goal hero Ryan Rowe. Picture: Tim Nunan
Two-goal hero Ryan Rowe. Picture: Tim Nunan

Leamington manager Paul Holleran is not taking the challenge of Highgate United lightly despite a three-division gulf between the two sides.

Brakes travel to the Midland League side for tomorrow’s FA Cup first qualifying round tie having beaten the Shirley-based club 3-1 in pre-season.

And despite United struggling in the lower reaches of the Premier Division, Holleran says they have the players to cause an upset if Brakes are not properly prepared.

“Highgate present a big challenge for us,” said Holleran who only lives five minutes from their Coppice ground. “They seem to have one team for the FA Cup and one team for the league.

“They’ve suffered two defeats since they beat Boldmere in the cup, including to Boldmere, but they should have two or three players back and they can cause us problems like they did in pre-season.

“They’ve got a number of players who, while they can’t play at our level consistently, can in one-off games.

“Come Saturday there will be six or seven results where you say ‘I can’t believe they beat them’.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re not one of them.

“But if we show the same attitude as Saturday and Monday we can cause more than enough problems for them and create enough chances to get through.”

Brakes have struggled in the competition under Holleran’s stewardship, suffering a replay defeat to Stamford at the first hurdle last year, and he says he will resist the temptation to give some much-needed minutes to his fringe players.

“The game will be taken very, very seriously.

“We’ll put out our strongest possible XI to win the game.

“We went out at the first hurdle last year and we don’t want to be doing it again.”

Leamington come into the game buoyed by two strong performances over the bank holiday weekend.

A dominant second-half performance failed to get its reward as they were held 1-1 by Biggleswade on Saturday before two Ryan Rowe goals earned a comfortable three points at Stratford 48 hours later.

It left Brakes just a point behind early pace-setters Chippenham and while Holleran was disappointed to miss out on a maximum, he said there was plenty to be admired in the two performances.

“Against Biggleswade the 20 minutes before half-time and the 20 minutes after half-time were the best we have played all season and we came away disappointed,” he said. “It was definitely two points dropped.

“We went on to Monday and it was a difficult game for us – I don’t think Stratford get the credit they deserve.

“They beat Hitchin and then won at Kettering 3-0 and on the back of their pre-season they are a side to be reckoned with.

“We tinkered with our system slightly as they tend to play counter-attacking football and if you go gung-ho they’ve got players like Will Grocott and Jamie Sheldon who can punish you.

“But we dealt with their threat and imposed our game.

“Jack Edwards supported Rowe and we had Obeng and Thompson-Brown on the flanks and a good solid performance in the first half won us the game.

“We scored two and could have had another one or two.

“The second half the game died and we managed it well.

“I always thought we could have gone up another notch.

“I would have preferred to pick up six points but I’m delighted with four. It keeps us ticking over.”

Courtney Baker-Richardson could be back in contention tomorrow after missing Monday’s derby with a knock he picked against Biggleswade but Richard Taundry is expected to be out for another couple of weeks as he struggles with a calf problem.