Leamington power past Poppies to cut the gap at the top
Leamington negotiated a potential banana skin on Tuesday night to move to within four points of the Southern Premier League summit, writes Paul Okey.
The original fixture had been abandoned due to a power failure with Kettering leading 1-0 but any sense of injustice the Poppies felt had long since burned itself out and the visitors were a shadow of the side who visited in January.
A Lewis Hornby free-kick from the left needed to be tipped over the bar by Tony Breeden in the fifth minute but it was a rare sight of goal for the visitors who found it difficult to contain a direct Brakes who looked to whip crosses into the box at every opportunity.
The opening goal came just nine minutes in to silence a rowdy away following, the restored Rob Thompson-Brown producing an instinctive finish to squeeze the ball in at the far post on the volley after Richard Taundry’s long throw had caused panic in the visitors’ box.
The aerial assault continued with a deflected Courtney Baker-Richardson header flashing past the angle and another effort from the forward going straight at Liam Gooch.
Baker-Richardson was off-target with another header before doubling Brakes’ advantage in the 19th minute.
Thompson-Brown’s corner picked out his team-mate perfectly and his downward header seemed to die on the turf and trickled past the despairing defenders and Gooch on the line, possibly with the aid of an Obeng deflection.
A shell-shocked Kettering could offer little in response, with a Nathan Hicks shot trickling through to Breeden and Darren Pond having to be alert to clear a threatening cross to the back post.
At the other end, Edwards headed over a Thompson-Brown free-kick, while Obeng produced a neat turn in the box from a Tom James pass but saw his shot blocked.
With James getting a lot of joy on the left flank, Edwards was again the recipient of a dangerous cross, this time flicking his effort just past the far post.
Baker-Richardson shot rashly over from an acute angle as Brakes continued to force the pace, with Thompson-Brown stinging the palms of Gooch with a fierce drive after latching on to a searching diagonal.
Obeng then cleverly used his body to get free on the edge of the box before lashing in a superbly struck shot which grazed the bar.
After the string of opportunities for the home side in the first half, the second proved something of an anti-climax with the scrappy nature of game leading to bookings for the visitors’ Gary Mulligan and Aaron O’Connor.
Poppies boss Marcus Law had seen enough a made a triple substitution just past the hour mark, hooking Hicks, Hornby and James Hall for Liam Canavan, Jorrin John and Brett Solkhon.
However, it had little effect, with the only threat to the home side’s dominance a period of sloppiness which saw Breeden almost dispossessed close to the touchline and Gittings slicing a clearance into his own box.
An impudent Obeng flick almost took Baker-Richardson’s deflected shot past Gooch before Brakes wrapped up the three points in the 73rd minute.
James Mace’s header ballooned up in the air and there was little danger as Obeng latched on to the ball on the byeline. However, the slightest of touches from behind by Jack Kelly sent him tumbling to the turf and Thompson-Brown was in no mood to turn down the gift, sending Gooch the wrong way from the spot.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry (Ben George, 79), Tom James, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Callum Gittings (Jordan Goddard, 87), Ahmed Obeng (Richard Gregory, 74), Jack Edwards, Rob Thompson-Brown. Subs not used: Connor Gudger, Charlie Hornby.
Kettering: Liam Gooch, Liam Bateman, Jack Kelly, Lewis Hornby (Lewis Canavan, 61), Jack O’Connor, Gary Mulligan, Nathan Hicks (Jorrin John, 61), Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe, James Hall (Brett Solkhon, 61), James Brighton. Subs not used: Ben Baker, Paul Malone.