The 100% start always had to come to an end sooner or later, but Brakes went down fighting at Chippenham after picking themselves up to produce a battling second half performance having lost skipper Tony Breeden to two yellow cards in the opening 40 minutes.
The home side edged ahead at the top of the table thanks to this result, and it clearly meant a great deal to their manager Mark Collier who celebrated rather enthusiastically at the final whistle, perhaps momentarily forgetting that leagues are not won in August.
There had been precious little to record at either end prior to David Pratt’s solitary strike in the 33rd minute, but Chippenham had began to build up a head of steam and would have gone in at half time hopeful of adding more to their tally as they were kicking down the Hardenhuish Park slope in the second half. However, it was a measure of Leamington’s collective spirit that they rolled their sleeves up and restricted their hosts to only one clear cut chance to extend their lead right at the death, while coming close to levelling things up on more than one occasion.
Thompson-Brown saw an early free kick blocked along with his follow up shot, while a dangerous low left wing centre from the same player bounced off Ahmed Obeng as he tried to control the ball.
Breeden received an unnecessary yellow card for kicking the ball away, with Brakes angry about the award of a free kick some 20 yards from goal. Andy Sandell stepped up to curl in an inch perfect dead ball which Breeden flung himself to his right to push over the bar.
The danger remained from the corner and Pratt capitalised, firing a low drive into the bottom corner to hand his side the lead.
Alex Ferguson screwed a shot well wide as the Bluebirds looked to build on their advantage, and they were handed a further boost minutes before half time when Breeden was shown a second yellow card after he had raced from his goal to try and beat Pratt to the ball close to the corner flag. The Chippenham striker did not need a second invitation to go down, and the Referee immediately went for his top pocket, leaving Brakes a man light. Lee Moore was the man sacrificed and with no replacement goalkeeper on the bench Rob Elvins came on and donned the gloves. He was not called into action before half time but Chippenham came very close to a second goal when James Guthrie sent an angled drive whistling across goal and just past the far post.
There was some concern among the travelling support during the interval that the goals could stack up if the home side bagged an early second but they need not have worried, as their team rolled their sleeves up and protected their Elvins to such an extent that his involvement in the game was minimal until injury time.
Sandell almost created an opening for himself inside the penalty area but was unable to dig the ball out from under his feet and the shot was blocked.
Leamington began to grow in belief and started to put their hosts under sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Obeng won a free kick on the left from which Thompson-Brown’s delivery was glanced behind his own goal by Pratt. Thompson-Brown then had two powerful efforts blocked on the edge of the box, and Taundry crashed a well struck long range drive into the arms of Kent Kauppinen.
A free kick looped into the box from Thompson-Brown dropped just past the far post, and Leamington were agonisingly close to an equaliser when substitute Courtney Baker-Richardson flicked Thompson-Brown’s low right wing cross past Kauppinen but inches wide of the far post.
The Bluebirds keeper then scrambled across his goal, only just keeping the ball from squeezing under his crossbar as Obeng’s cross ricocheted off defender Michael Pook, Alan Griffin hacking the ball clear as it was fired into the penalty area once more.
Substitute Matt Jones preserved Chippenham’s advantage when he was in the right place to clear a thundering header from Jamie Hood off the line, and Pratt was very close to adding a late late second, nipping in behind the Leamington defence to go in on goal. Elvins did well to advance from his line and narrow his angles and as Pratt lifted the ball over him Hood was on hand to clear it away from goal.
The players were roared over the line by the travelling support towards the end, who clearly appreciated the effort that had been put in. Paul Holleran now has to solve a temporary goalkeeping problem however, with his skipper missing for a game.
Chippenham Town: Kent Kauppinen, Connor McCormack (15 Mark Preece, 80), Nuno Felix, Michael Pook, Greg Tindle ©, Will Richards, Alex Ferguson, Matt Smith, David Pratt, Andy Sandell (17 Alan Griffin, 75), James Guthrie (12 Matt Jones, 79).
Subs not used: 14 Chris Allen, 16 Andy Jenkinson.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Ben George (12 Courtney Baker-Richardson, 77), Richard Taundry, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Lee Moore (15 Rob Elvins, 40), Jack Edwards, Ryan Rowe (16 Tom James, 76), Rob Thompson-Brown, Ahmed Obeng.
Subs not used: 12 Joe Magunda, 17 Ryan Quinn.
Referee: Mr Robin Cox
Assistant Referees: Mr Kevin Bungay & Mr Robert Holt
Brakes Man of the Match: James Mace.
Report by Paul Edwards