What a night!
Leamington boss Paul Holleran was buzzing after his side produced a remarkable recovery to beat Redditch on penalties and seal their place in the Southern League Premier Division play-off final.
Courtney Baker-Richardson’s goal four minutes into second-half injury time salvaged a draw for Brakes, allowing Tony Breeden to take centre stage in the penalty shootout after extra-time had failed to produce a winner.
Breeden saved two and scored one as Brakes won the shootout 3-1 to leave Holleran celebrating his first-ever play-off success as a manager.
“What a night, the game, the goal, extra-time, the supporters, the atmosphere,” said Holleran.
“It was great to be a part of it.
“Even if we’d lost I’d still have been delighted with what we’d done on the night.”
Baker-Richardson was one of the three substitute introduced as Brakes chased the game in the second half and Holleran said his side’s quality from the bench was the defining factor in their win.
“It’s something that we had talked about, the impact they can make and they’ve done it in a number of games recently.
“Players can be on the bench for a number of reasons. You might be looking for a reaction, they could be out of form or are good squad players.
“Some players have been sitting there for a while but in the end our experience on the bench won it for us.”
The 94th-minute equaliser sparked unbridled scenes of joy as Baker-Richardson tossed aside his shirt to be mobbed by fans and players alike.
However, having lost his previous five play-off encounters, Holleran was not inclined to join in the celebrations, instead sparing a thought for his Redditch counterparts.
“I know what they were going through - I’ve been through it myself.
“You want to enjoy the moment, but you also need to take a second to think.
“I feel for them. As much as I feel it was the right result, they didn’t deserve to lose it like that.”
Brakes now face a trip to Hungerford on Bank Holiday Monday, with the prize of a return to the Conference North within touching distance.
“The first step is complete but we’ve got another tough game against a really tough side.
“We’ll regroup, get the players in over the weekend and go again.”