Brakes won back to back games in the National League North for the first time this season as they gave their survival hopes another shot in the arm by edging out a Blyth Spartans side who had been scoring goals and picking up wins for fun in recent weeks, writes Paul Edwards.
The visitors had won a tight contest by a single goal back in November and while this encounter was similar it was Leamington who found that little bit of quality from Matty Dodd, who on his second home debut set up the winner for Daniel Udoh early in the second half.
Leamington had the best of the opening ten minutes, pushing forward at every opportunity with Dodd, Udoh and Ahmed Obeng heavily involved and a Kieran Dunbar free-kick almost caught out Spartans keeper Peter Jameson as it bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Blyth went close after their first bit of sustained pressure, Kieran Green blazing over from close range following a left-wing corner.
Dunbar was teed up by Udoh on the edge of the box for another attempt but did not get the connection he wanted, the ball rolling harmlessly past the post.
Junior English had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring as the ball dropped to him at the far post from a left-wing corner. However, with more time than he realised, he sent a first-time volley over the bar.
Spartans’ dangerman Jarrett Rivers would have been disappointed with his finish after beating two defenders, cutting in from the right to fire well over the target.
A swift Leamington break saw Dunbar find Dodd in space on the right but a fine block from Ryan Hutchinson prevented the ball from reaching the centre. Macaulay Langstaff then came mightily close to giving Blyth a half-time advantage when his curling shot grazed the outside of the post.
Udoh and Obeng continued to link up well and early in the second half an exchange of passes inside the area allowed the Crewe Alexandra loan man to get a shot away which struck the back of Joe Gorman.
Sean Reid’s low strike was directed straight at Breeden, while Langstaff hooked a volley off target but it was Leamington who made the breakthrough five minutes in.
Dodd advanced into the penalty area after more superb wing play and picked out the unmarked Udoh who threaded a close-range effort into the bottom corner.
The imposing Spartans talisman Robbie Dale curled a long-range free-kick towards the top corner as Blyth pushed for a reply but Breeden watched it all the way and confidently claimed.
The Brakes skipper had been equal to almost everything thrown his way and was presented with his toughest test when Hutchinson went to ground in the area with 18 minutes to go.
Referee Alex Kirkley awarded a penalty but Breeden silenced the barracking from the noisy travelling support by diving low to his left to save Reid’s spot-kick.
Dale looked odds-on to at least hit the target after bludgeoning his way into the box from the left, only to crash a powerful effort across goal and wide. The big man repeated the trick shortly after, this time driving a rising effort towards the near post but Breeden was there to help it behind for a corner.
Obeng lifted a cross in for Dunbar to take a touch and have a volley blocked and the youngster was involved again as he accelerated up the right wing, finding Udoh in the box. His turn was blocked, as was Obeng’s attempt to get onto the loose ball. Dunbar then clipped an inviting ball across for the unmarked Liam Canavan. The substitute did everything right, looping a delicate header out of the reach of Jameson, only to see the ball strike the crossbar.
Brakes kept hold of the ball well in the closing stages, having clearly taken on board Paul Holleran’s desire for them to manage games more intelligently and the manager was delighted to have backed up the previous week’s victory at Boston with another hard-fought success.
“Blyth are as good as anything in the league offensively,” said Holelran.
“They go forward in numbers but probably the most pleasing thing for us is when you look at their last three results, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, against good sides, for us to keep a clean sheet today is probably the biggest plaudit I can give the players.
“The quality of the game struggled a bit. Bboth sets of players gave it a go but the legwork we’ve had to put in, we’ve had to put a few square pegs in round holes today and we’ve had some massive performances.
“We’ve probably just played the two form sides in the league in Boston and Blyth and we’ve kept a clean sheet against both of them.
“That for me is a platform for us.
“We lacked a bit of quality with a few decisions here and there but if you had a mileage stick on the likes of Ahmed, Kieran and Danny today they’ve really put a shift in, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke ( Jamie Hood, 46), Jack Edwards, Junior English, Matt Dodd (Liam Canavan, 60), Kieran Dunbar, Daniel Udoh (Kurtis Revan, 89), Callum Gittings, Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Stefan Moore, Shay Nicholson.
Blyth: Peter Jameson, Michael Liddle, Ian Watson, Kieran Green, Joe Gorman, Ryan Hutchinson, Jarrett Rivers (Adam Wrightson, 65), Sean Reid, Dan Maguire, Macaulay Langstaff, Robbie Dale. Subs not used: Jordan Laidler, David McTiernan, Damen Mullan, Shaun MacDonald.