Leamington cling on to the ropes for a point

Brackley see another first-half chance go begging. Pictures: Tim Nunan
Brackley see another first-half chance go begging. Pictures: Tim Nunan
  • National League North
  • Brakes 0 Brackley Town 0

Leamington suffered a first-half pummelling to earn their first point of 2019 on Tuesday, writes Paul Okey.

The visitors spurned a hatful of chances to break the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes, including a penalty as Brakes struggled to get out of their own half.

Colby Bishop makes a nuisance of himself inside the Brackley box.

Colby Bishop makes a nuisance of himself inside the Brackley box.

The home side were improved after the interval but it was still Brackley who had the better of the clearcut chances, only to be blighted by profligate finishing and another solid performance from Tony Breeden.

The home side made two changes to the side which went down at Telford, Jamie Hood and Callum Gittings returning to the staring line-up in place of the injured Junior English and Joe Clarke who dropped to the bench.

The Saints set the tempo from the outset, penning Leamington inside their own half for large swathes of the first period.

Connor Franklin sent a first-time volley well wide in the third minute before Breeden pulled off a fine reaction save to deny Shaun Jeffers with his feet after the ball pinged around the home box.

Jack Lane goes up for a header.

Jack Lane goes up for a header.

A precise Lee Ndlovu effort then had Breeden at full stretch as he diverted it around the far post.

Brackley looked like they would get the reward their early enterprise deserved when referee Ben Speedie pointed to the spot after Jeffers was bundled over in the box.

However, despite Breeden diving the wrong way, Glenn Walker’s spot-kick clipped the outside of the post.

The visitors were unruffled by the miss, however, and came close to breaking the deadlock a minute later, only for Jeffers’ dangerous ball in from the right to fizz across the six-yard box unmolested.

Ndlovu dragged a shot wide but there were signs Brackley’s early dominance was on the wane.

Good persistence from Colby Bishop forced a home corner which came to nothing before another first-time shot from Byrne went straight at Breeden.

Bishop got his head to a Reece Flanagen free-kick but the flag had been raised and it was Brackley who finished the half the stronger, Gareth Dean sending a free header the wrong side of the post and Adam Walker flicking a header across the face of goal after Matt Lowe had forced his way to the byeline.

The control the visitors had enjoyed in the first half was absent as Brakes emerged for the second 45 with a lot more energy about them.

Jordan Murphy failed to get any contact on an inviting James Mace cross from the right with the goal gaping and the loanee was then denied by a sprawling save by Danny Lewis after cleverly working himself some space on the edge of the box.

Armson was booked for a hack at Jack Edwards as Leamington counter-attacked, while Flanagan harshly saw yellow as the fluency of the first half was replaced by a stop-start second period.

Good possession football from Brakes ended with Connor Gudger dragging a shot well wide, while at the other end Breeden was deemed to have got a touch to the ball as Armson’s header from a right-wing free-kick grazed the bar.

A long-range Shep Murombedzi shot failed to trouble Breeden who then should have been called into action when Lowe’s cross picked out Armson. However, the midfielder headed wide from eight yards.

Ahmed Obeng and Clarke replaced Kieran Dunbar and Flanagan as Paul Holleran looked to freshen up his troops.

However, it was the visitors who fashioned the game’s remaining opportunities.

Jeffers was presented with the best of them after a superb crossfield pass from Byrne had cut out the Leamington midfield and backline and left him through on goal. The striker never looked confident, though, and Breeden diverted his shot for a corner.

A spell of Brackley pressure ended with Byrne finding the trees behind the goal, with a Jeffers effort proving equally wayward as Brakes ensured they ended their festive double-header with Saints unbeaten.

Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, Connor Gudger (James Bowen, 76), Reece Flanagan (Joe Clarke, 82), Jamie Hood, Jack Lane, Kieran Dunbar (Ahmed Obeng, 81), Callum Gittings, Colby Bishop, Jack Edwards, Jordan Murphy. Subs not used: Connor Taylor, Anthony Dwyer.

Brackley Town: Danny Lewis, Matt Lowe, Connor Franklin, Shane Byrne, Glenn Walker, Gareth Dean, Shepherd Murombedzi, James Armson (Liam McAlinden, 87), Lee Ndlovu, Shaun Jeffers, Adam Walker. Subs not used: Ellis Myles, Ben Morgan, Daniel Nti, Luke Fairlamb.