Brakes were left to rue missed opportunities as they fell to an 80th-minute sucker punch at play-off chasing Spennymoor Town, writes Paul Edwards.
It was hard one to stomach, particularly as Connor Gudger had gone down injured before the build up to the goal, but was ignored as the ball was played into the space he would have been defending for Mark Anderson to score the winner.
Traffic chaos due to a lorry fire on the M6 hampered the departure of the team coach leading to the kick-off being delayed by 45 minutes but the visitors showed little sign of the five-and-a-half hour journey affecting them as they carved out several good chances.
Matt Dodd found space down the right early on to get in a cross which Daniel Udoh turned on, but he could not get enough purchase on his shot and it rolled harmlessly wide.
Nathan Lowe cut in from the right after picking up a half-clearance to leather a shot wide of Tony Breeden’s right-hand post as Spennymoor tried to press Leamington at pace but they struggled to find a way through a defence that had not conceded in over four-and-a-half hours.
The Moors defence looked unsure how to deal with Ahmed Obeng, who looked dangerous with the ball at his feet and he danced past several defenders on the left before lifting a shot across goal that drifted just past the far post.
There was a loud shout for handball from several Brakes players after Kieran Dunbar’s corner appeared to strike a raised arm but no decision was forthcoming.
Breeden was forced into his first save of the game as the home side tried to scramble the ball home, while English received the first yellow card of the evening after catching Chris Chantler in the face.
Dodd felt he had a legitimate claim for a penalty as he was shoved over trying to keep the ball in play on the touchline but again the officials were unmoved. Obeng then weaved his way into the box, lashing a rising drive over the bar.
Playing up the pronounced slope at Brewery Field presented its own challenges in the second half,but Leamington started brightly once more with Edwards unfortunate to see his dipping volley clip the crossbar. At the other end, Glen Taylor could only head a right-wing corner over the roof of the newly seated stand behind the goal.
Chantler’s drive to Breeden’s near post was held by the skipper, who then hared off his line to make a fine sliding challenge as Spennymoor threatened once more.
The more erratic side of his game then appeared as he missed the ball completely after it was played back to him. Fortunately, it was played across the goalmouth without anybody in black and white nearby to put it in.
Moors skipper Joseph Tait blocked a shot from Udoh, while substitute Ryan Hall’s low drive produced a good save from Breeden. Mark Anderson played the ball back in and English cleared away from goal.
The pivotal moment of the match came with ten minutes remaining. With Gudger down some 30 yards from goal having twisted his knee, the ball was played down the right and Anderson raced in to place his shot wide of Breeden.
Gudger was unable to continue and Leamington lost their composure a little.
However, Udoh almost created a chance for himself as he got goalside of his marker, who recovered to poke the ball back to keeper Lowson.
There was a final chance in the dying throes but unfortunately Edwards and English got in each others way and the shot from the former hit the side netting.
Manager Paul Holleran was full of praise for his players despite the result, saying: “The performance wasn’t much different to the last three where we’ve been nice and solid.
“Spennymoor have got a good home record and they tinkered with what they do a little today, similar to how Nuneaton did and we dealt with it well.
“The only thing that was missing from the performance was that we didn’t work their keeper enough.
“We got in some great positions on three or four occasions.
“It wasn’t a game of many chances really. I felt that with the pitch and the conditions we needed to get in front like we did on Saturday. We didn’t, but then to be fair we were still a threat in the second half.
“‘The build up to the goal was disappointing.
“When a player goes down and doesn’t move I think it’s pretty obvious, everyone knew he was hurt.
“And then the ball’s played into that pocket where he would be, slid down the side of that centre-half, so it’s disappointing.
“But it’s not the first time we’ve had decisions go against us, and obviously when you’ve got centre-halves punching the ball out of their own area and you’re not getting penalties and other bits and pieces it’s frustrating.
“But after everything’s that gone on today, the level of performance from the players has been excellent.
“All that was missing was a goal and a point or three. We’ll go again very shortly.”
Spennymoor Town: Daniel Lowson, Kallum Griffiths, Chris Chantler, Nathan Lowe (Ryan Hall, 70), Joseph Tait, James Curtis, Robert Ramshaw, Shane Henry Glen Taylor, Bradley Fewster ( Andrew Johnson, 79), Mark Anderson (Greg Rutherford, 90). Subs not used: Chris Mason, Jordan Porter.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English, Connor Gudger (Liam Canavan, 84), Callum Gittings, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Matt Dodd (Richard Taundry, 79), Kieran Dunbar (Jordon Sangha, 90), Daniel Udoh, Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Shay Nicholson, Stefan Moore.