Brakes put down an early season marker as they eased to victory at fellow promotion contenders Kettering Town. A goal in each half from strikers Ahmed Obeng and Ryan Rowe capped an impressive performance from Paul Holleran’s side, who are among a clutch of sides to have won their opening two games.
Given the way the Poppies finished last season, narrowly missing out on the play offs after a storming run of results in the run in, along with the fact that they had retained the majority of their squad, this was seen as a stern early test of Leamington’s credentials, and it was one that they passed with flying colours as they negotiated one of their toughest away fixtures.
Rene Howe forced Tony Breeden into a save inside the opening sixty seconds, the Brakes skipper also fielding a shot from Spencer Weir-Daley. There were also a couple of penalty shouts in the opening quarter of an hour, though these were louder from the home support than the players themselves.
Leamington held firm however and threatened when Jack Edwards sent a bullet header whistling past the angle from a right wing corner. Obeng was finding plenty of space down the left in which to stretch his legs, and won a free kick in a central position around 25 yards from goal. Rob Thompson-Brown stepped up and fired in a scorching free kick that keeper Paul Walker just tipped onto the bar, Brett Solkhon reacting quickly to superbly block the follow up from Rowe.
Breeden made another routine save from Ben Stephens, while Howe earned himself a booking for leaving his boot in once too often on Jamie Hood. His side then found themselves behind when Obeng sped into space down the left and cut inside past James Haran before burying a powerful low strike past Walker at his near post.
Brakes looked to have a great chance to extend their advantage when Thompson-Brown robbed a defender and tried to play Obeng in, but the shot was blocked.
Stephens’ tame first time effort was easily held by Breeden but Leamington were carrying the greater threat. Rowe saw a shot blocks after he tried to turn his marker Gary Mulligan, while Walker punched Obeng’s swirling cross from under the bar.
The hosts were forced into two early second half changes with key men Stephens and Liam Canavan departing, while in the Brakes midfield Thompson-Brown was running the show, and was desperately unlucky not to add his name to the score sheet when he struck the bar for a second time with a swerving drive from distance. He came close again with a looping first time effort that just cleared the bar.
The home crowd were now somewhat subdued, and had little to cheer as a free kick flew well wide of Breeden’s goal. Obeng almost doubled his tally when he pounced on Rowe’s knock down to turn and fire a low shot inches past the far post. Rowe himself sent a header well over the bar, while Thompson-Brown picked up Ben George’s cross and crashed in a well struck volley that was blocked by Walker.
The summer signing from Redditch was inevitably involved in the build up to Leamington’s second goal, slipping a pass through for Obeng in the box. His touch outfoxed Haran who committed the foul, and Rowe stepped up to the penalty spot to coolly slam his third goal of the season into the bottom corner to Walker’s right.
Brakes continued to frustrate Kettering right through to the final whistle, and will now turn their attention to a trip to league newcomers Hayes & Heading on Saturday as they look to end the first week of the new season with a perfect start.
Kettering Town: Paul Walker, James Haran, James Brighton, Brett Solkhon ©, Gary Mulligan, Nathan Hicks, Liam Bateman (16 Callum Westwood, 66), Spencer Weir-Daley, Rene Howe, Liam Canavan (15 Sam Smith, 47), Ben Stephens (14 Dominic Langdon, 46).
Subs not used: 12 Chris Carruthers, 18 Jordan Wilson.
Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Ben George, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond (15 Richard Taundry, 90), Jamie Hood, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Jack Edwards, Ryan Rowe (14 Rob Elvins, 89), Rob Thompson-Brown, Ahmed Obeng (12 Lee Moore, 81).
Subs not used: 16 Ryan Quinn, 17 Tom James.
Referee: Mr Matthew Smith
Assistant Referees: Mr Michael Scriven & Mr Simon Fradley.
Brakes Man of the Match: Rob Thompson-Brown.