Leamington stretch advantage at the top to eight points

Brakes' outfield players rush to congratulate Liam Daly after the central defender's opener at Barwell. Picture: Sally Ellis
Brakes' outfield players rush to congratulate Liam Daly after the central defender's opener at Barwell. Picture: Sally Ellis


Brakes made the short hop into Leicestershire for the second time in three weeks and battled their way to what could be a crucial three points against another their fellow promotion-chasers, writes Paul Edwards.

A strong swirling wind and driving rain made conditions difficult but every player in a blue shirt stood united and fought right to the final whistle.

With a raucous travelling support bellowing out their backing from under the cover of the impressive cantilever stand on the halfway line at Kirkby Road, Leamington started the game brightly and took an early lead.

Matt Dodd’s driving run down the right led to James Mace lifting in the perfect cross for Ricky Johnson to stoop in front of his marker and head past Liam Castle in the Barwell goal.

The home side were struggling to get out of their own half as Brakes snuffed out any forward movement before launching attacks of their own.

A smart sequence of passing saw Stefan Moore play an inviting first-time ball across goal from the left but none of his team-mates were close enough to take advantage.

A driving run down the opposite wing from Dodd led to a similar outcome.

Craig Owen drove a first-time shot wide from Lee Chilton’s cross before Barwell began to show signs of life, Kevin Charley driving forward only to see his shot blocked.

Jamie Hood then made a superb challenge to put the ball out of play as former Brakes winger Jamie Towers threatened to get past him into the penalty area.

Towers did get a sight of goal moments later, but shot high over.

Stephan Morley then stung the palms of Canaries keeper Castle with a vicious drive from 35 yards.

The Barwell stopper did well again when he arched backwards to catch Moore’s attempted lob from inside the area.

The home side came out with their tails up after the interval and posed far more of a threat than they had done in the opening 45 minutes.

Morley was well-placed to clear a headed effort away from goal and when the ball was curled back in, it was dealt with well.

Mark Albrighton almost caught Laurie Walker out when he played a free-kick towards goal from close to the halfway line, but the Brakes keeper did well to push the ball on to the bar and behind.

This served as a wake-up call for Leamington and in their next attack they crucially doubled their advantage.

Moore was played clear of a chasing defence and neatly sidestepped the goalkeeper and other despairing challenges before threading the ball through for Chilton at the far post, who controlled it before slotting home.

Barwell were back in it seven minutes later when Luke Barlone was left unmarked to sweep the ball in at the far post after more pressure from the home side.

It was a soft goal to concede from a Leamington perspective and gave their opponents fresh belief, but with the fans continuing to roar their support from the sidelines the visitors simply dug in and refused to buckle.

Walker saved from a headed effort following a free-kick before Johnson tested Liam Castle with a low drive from outside the box.

Towers was then denied by a combination of Walker and Hood as he threatened to get a shot in from a tight angle.

Mace headed a shot off the line before Walker was called into action again, saving from Albrighton’s header.

Substitute Matt West went agonisingly close to levelling but his snapshot whistled just the wrong side of the post.

Barwell were camped inside the Leamington half but continued to be frustrated by a resolute defence, marshalled superbly by skipper Hood, who urged his team-mates on for one final push after powering a header clear.

There was still time for more drama as the game entered added time. Chilton chased a ball up the left and harassed Scott Lower into a backpass which was brilliantly anticipated by Moore, who beat the stranded custodian to the ball before rounding him and walking it into an empty net.

West thought he had reduced the deficit when he bundled the ball home but he was penalised for a foul on Walker and Paul Holleran’s side saw out time for a win that extended their lead at the top of the table to eight points.

Barwell: Liam Castle, Scott Lower, Jamie McAteer, Guy Hadland, Mark Albrighton, Richard Lavery, Jamie Towers, Scott Hadland, Luke Barlone (Matt West, 80), Kevin Charley (Justin Marsden, 66), Tom Weale (Dave Barnett, 76). Subs not used: Tom Bates, Jack Edwards.

Leamington: Laurie Walker, James Mace, Stephan Morley, Craig Owen (Martyn Naylor, 90), Jamie Hood, Liam Daly, Matt Dodd (Joe Magunda, 88), Lee Chilton, Ricky Johnson (Lee Moore, 83), Richard Batchelor. Subs not used: Tom James, Niall Cooper.