Brakes’ run of fixtures against teams in and around them in the table in January began with a disappointing defeat up on the north-west coast at Southport, writes Paul Edwards.
Kevin Davies signed three new players in the 24 hours prior to kick off and two of them, Jordan Richards and Dion Charles, were thrown straight into the starting XI. The Southport squad contained only two players from their narrow 1-0 success at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium back in August.
The hosts were quickly into their stride inside the opening minute after Jack Edwards lost possession in the centre circle, Jason Gilchrist crossing towards the far post and forcing Connor Gudger to head away from the goal line.
Ahmed Obeng drew a foul from debutant Richards as he probed on the left edge of the Southport penalty area, the right-back going into the Referee’s notebook. Kieran Dunbar’s free-kick was punched away by keeper Jon Worsnop.
The home side were quickly ahead, however, with what looked a rather soft goal to concede, the Brakes defence looking for an offside flag that never came as the ball was played in from the right, allowing Jack Sampson to slot home from close range.
Edwards took the ball down on his chest and swivelled to shoot over the bar as Leamington looked for a swift response but chances were at a premium for them.
Charles, who had previously shone in this division with AFC Fylde, sent a sighter towards Tony Breeden’s goal, the Brakes skipper watching his curling effort all the way, before quickly firing in another effort that was deflected by Callum Gittings into the arms of Breeden.
Gilchrist wasted a good chance for Southport when he received the ball in acres of space on the right, ballooning his shot high into the terrace behind the goal.
Dan Udoh, Paul Holleran’s debutant loan signing from Crewe Alexandra, showed some good touches early on and carved out a chance for himself when he raced on to a ball over the top down the left, holding off a defender before driving a shot across goal. Worsnop looked to have got a touch as the ball went behind, only for referee Anthony Tankard to signal a goal kick.
Charles then showed his obvious quality once more as he chased the ball out to the left touchline before turning back towards the Leamington goal and exchanging passes with Adam Dawson, who neatly backheeled the ball to set up his teammate for a first-time drive that clipped the crossbar. Sampson then fired across goal and wide after a scramble in the penalty area just before half-time.
Leamington began the second half brightly, getting on top for the first time in the game but they were unable to fashion any chances to trouble the Southport defence.
Gilchrist missed another chance for the hosts when he was played clean through on goal but passed the ball straight back to Breeden.
Richard Taundry was forced off with a nasty looking calf injury which required stiches after a challenge by the dugouts before Gilchrist finally got his goal with 20 minutes to go, his low strike leaving Breeden wrongfooted as it nestled in the opposite corner of the net.
Breeden parried a shot from David Morgan in the closing stages but although Leamington toiled in search of a consolation they were repelled at every turn by the buoyant home side, who moved above them in the table with the win.
Brakes boss Holleran was in pensive mood after the game and was disappointed the first goal was allowed to stand but acknowledged that the better team won on the day.
“From where I was stood it looked like their nine was offside and the linesman didn’t give it, but to be fair they’ve put a good ball in and it was a good finish,” said Holleran.
“I thought we grew into the game after that, it was an even first half.
“I was pleased with the way we started the second half for the first 15 minutes but we didn’t work the keeper enough for some of the positions we got into.
“Our decision-making from 60 to 75 minutes was a killer really.
“We panicked a bit and left ourselves a bit wide open to the counter attack which was unlike us really.
“We tried to change things but it didn’t work for us really.
‘As the weeks go by Southport are getting stronger and stronger, they looked like a team at the top end of the league today.
“They’ve got know-how all over the pitch and have got some good players, but there’s a tinge of disappointment there because when we got to 60 minutes I thought we were in a good place but we didn’t keep plugging away and you have to say that in the end, the better team won.
“We will go away, lick our wounds and work on getting the confidence back ready for next Saturday.”
The manager was pleased with the performance of debutant Udoh, saying: “I thought Dan looked bright and led the line really well, he showed some good touches and I’m sure there’ll be more to come from him once he gets a run of games with us.”
Southport: Jon Worsnop, Jordan Richards, Caleb Richards, David Morgan, Steve Howson, Billy Priestley, Adam Dawson, David Lynch, Jason Gilchrist, Jack Sampson, Dion Charles (Clive Smith, 53). Subs not used: Bradley Jackson, Jacques Kpohomouh, Nathan Lowe, Mark Halstead.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry (James Mace, 66), Connor Gudger (Kaine Felix 77), Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings (Kurtis Revan, 77), Daniel Udoh, Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Liam Canavan, Joe Magunda.