Brakes eased into their second Birmingham Senior Cup semi-final in three seasons as they comfortably despatched a young West Bromwich Albion side at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium, writes Paul Edwards.
The Black Country club had ended Leamington’s run as holders of the competition in the first round last season, but on Tuesday night, current Brakes loanee Sam Wilding captained a visiting side made up mainly of under-18 players due to the under-23 side playing the following evening.
As you would expect, the youngsters showed plenty of good touches and movement throughout but they were put to the sword by some clinical finishing as Paul Holleran’s side followed up their convincing win over Altrincham in the league ten days previously with another good display.
The visitors were the first to show, Julian Lamy making space before firing a low shot into the arms of Tony Breeden, while a Leamington free-kick on the left sailed over everyone in a crowded penalty area.
Jamie Hood prevented Lamy from opening the scoring with a very well timed challenge as the striker went through on goal, the ball ending up back with Breeden.
Jack Edwards was deployed in a slightly different role and appeared to enjoy his evening as he bagged two goals.
His first chance came from a left-wing corner, Edwards winning the header but directing it just past the post as keeper Ben Pierce left his line but failed to claim the ball.
The midfielder’s next effort was spectacular. Ahmed Obeng did well to keep possession but had to turn back towards his own goal. Reece Flanagan lost possession in midfield but the ball rolled kindly for Edwards who connected with a thunderous first-time strike from 30 yards that looked destined for the roof of the net before the intervention of Pierce, who superbly tipped the ball on to the bar and over.
The young goalkeeper almost blotted his copybook from the resulting corner, punching the ball on to the roof of the net.
Edwards was not to be denied, however, and his next effort found the back of the net in the 34th minute, the ball falling nicely for him on the edge of the box as Breeden’s free-kick was only half-cleared to allow him to drive a low effort beyond Pierce.
The same player had Leamington’s next opportunity, heading just over the bar as Colby Bishop headed a right-wing corner into his path.
Connor Taylor had to be substituted after a hard but fair challenge saw him land heavily but Bishop raised spirits as he extended Leamington’s lead right on half-time. Edwards headed Hood’s free-kick from just past half-way into his path and the striker controlled before shooting low into the net.
Edwards thought he had added a third before the break as he met Bishop’s lofted cross from the left at the far post but was flagged offside.
He was on target again ten minutes into the second half, however.
Junior English’s right-wing centre was not cleared by the Albion defence and Obeng headed it back towards goal where it was helped on by Bishop to Edwards who hit his shot into the ground and past Pierce from just outside the six-yard box. He appeared to expect an offside flag but the goal stood.
West Brom’s youngsters forced a good save from Breeden, Callum Morton denied by a near-post block and Stanley Asomugha forced another stop from the Leamington captain soon after with a powerful shot from a very tight angle which was parried up and away from goal.
With 25 minutes remaining, young Academy prospect Connor Carson was introduced for his first team debut, to the delight of a large group of his friends behind the goal.
Having scored 18 goals in 12 games for Brakes’ under-18 side he has been training with the first team and his every touch was cheered to the rafters, particularly when a neat trick took him past his marker on the right.
Albion pulled a goal back with 14 minutes to play, good work from Lamy seeing him find Alex Gilbert in the centre and the substitute confidently stroking his shot past Breeden.
Leamington restored their three-goal cushion seven minutes later, however, Bishop stepping up find the bottom corner the bottom from the spot after being brought down by the Albion keeper when through on goal.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English, Connor Gudger (Connor Carson, 65), Reece Flanagan, Jamie Hood, Jack Lane, Connor Taylor (Callum Gittings, 41), Jack Edwards (Joe Clarke, 70), Colby Bishop, Ahmed Obeng, James Bowen. Subs not used: James Mace, Ben Newey.
West Bromwich Albion: Ben Pierce, Aksum White (Stanley Asomugha, 46), Zak Delaney, Peter Taylor, Kevin Healy, Max Melbourne, Sam Wilding, Eoin Ashton, Callum Morton (Toby King, 85), Julian Lamy, Nick Clayton-Phillips (Alex Gilbert, 73). Subs not used: Brad House, Carrick Hill.