Evostik Southern League Premier Division
Phillips 66 Community Stadium
Saturday 27th August 2016
Report by Paul Edwards
Brakes were left frustrated in their attempts to get back to winning ways by a superb defensive performance from visitors Biggleswade Town, epitomised by their goalkeeper Ian Brown and skipper Russell Short as they threw everything in the way of sustained pressure from Leamington after a strong opening in which they took the lead and could have gone further ahead.
The majority of the game was played out in constant heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning, which got steadily worse before eventually giving way to sunshine towards the end of the game. It was to the credit of both sides that they refused to let the awful conditions affect them, and served up an entertaining contest.
Courtney Baker-Richardson sent in a low right wing cross in the opening exchanges that led toAhmed Obeng having the first of many efforts on goal blocked, while Inih Effiong, who scored the winner when the two sides met in the corresponding fixture last season, saw his close range header held by debutant Lewis Gwilliams, deputising for the suspended Tony Breeden.
Brakes were struggling to get to grips with the giant Effiong and his strike partner Tony Burnett early on and a sloppy back pass saw Gwilliams come off his line well to force the Waders man wide of goal, his ball across the face being cleared to safety. He was not to be denied for long however, latching onto a pass and muscling past James Mace before burying a low shot across Gwilliams into the bottom corner to put Biggleswade in front.
Ben George came close to equalising when his deep cross into the penalty area looped dangerously close to goal forcing Brown to push the ball over the bar for a corner, from which Jack Edwards headed wide.
A superb tackle on Effiong by Jamie Hood prevented the burly frontman from what looked certain to be a second goal, and from then on he was well marshalled by the Leamington defence, who barely allowed him another sniff of goal as they went in search of one of their own.
Connor Gudger found Ryan Rowe in the Waders penalty area with an accurate dinked cross, the striker nodding it down for Obeng, whose shot was blocked again. The frustration continued, Edwards firing over and Obeng laying the ball off for Darren Pond on the edge of the box, but once again the defending was commendable as the shot was instantly blocked.
Obeng had struggled to get the better of the visiting right back Callum Lewis in the opening stages but he grew in confidence as the game wore on, his nimble footwork taking him past two or three defenders as he found space to crash in a dipping effort that nestled in the arms of Brown, but the goal his performance deserved arrived 3 minutes before half time as he steered home at the far post to reward some good work from Edwards, who had picked up possession and evaded the challenges of both Short and Gavin Hoyte before threading the ball back across goal.
With parity restored Leamington continued to press forward in the driving rain, Gudger neatly beating Lewis on the left to find Obeng in the six yard box, his shot somehow screwing right across the face of goal but not into the net. It was evident that his goal had filled him with confidence and Obeng ran at the Biggleswade defence once more, slipping in Rowe for a shot that was never going to trouble Brown.
More good work from the Brakes number 11 set up Edwards for a shot that was deflected behind early in the second half.
Baker-Richardson appeared to have taken a knock during the first half and was replaced by Lee Moore, who almost scored within seconds of stepping onto the pitch as he collected the ball from a half clearance following Rob Thompson-Brown’s free kick, chested it down and sent a well struck volley flashing just past the far post.
Waders substitute Daniel Clifton smashed a low drive skidding past the upright from distance after Effiong’s shot was blocked, but the visitors were spending the majority of their time defending, and were grateful to Short for preventing a second Leamington goal when he scrambled back to clear the ball just as it was about to roll into the net after Moore had reached it ahead of Lucas Perry and lifted a shot over the advancing Brown after latching onto Gwilliams’ clearance downfield.
Moore then delivered a cross from which Obeng saw a shot blocked, Mace picking up the loose ball and stabbing it into the arms of Brown.
More neat footwork on the left from Obeng saw his marker Connor Hall stab the ball into the path of Gudger, who emulated his team mate by dancing into box past two challenges before rifling a low shot across goal and just past the far post, the Referee disagreeing that it had taken a deflection its way through despite the ball clearly striking the inside of Lewis’ leg.
Brakes quickly turned defence into attack from a stray Biggleswade pass, Gudger , Thompson-Brown and Rowe combining with neat one touch passes to send Obeng racing in on goal, only to be denied by another fine last ditch challenge from that man Short. Keeper Brown had Leamington players and supporters looking at each other in disbelief from the corner, as he somehow managed to keep the ball out as Jamie Hood steamed onto Thompson-Brown’s delivery to the far post.
There were further defensive blocks from shots by Edwards and Rowe as the bal pinged around the Biggleswade area, while Gwilliams came off his line smartly to smother from Robbie Parker in a rare attack for the visitors after Effiong was prevented from getting a shot away.
Mace glanced a header wide from a Thompson-Brown free kick as Brakes got back on top in the closing stages, and there was time for Brown to pull off another brilliant save, arching backwards to push the ball over the bar as Moore made a strong connection with a good left wing cross from Tom James.
This game can certainly be looked on as two points dropped but that would probably do a disservice to Biggleswade, and in particular their captain and goalkeeper, who were on top of their game and along with their team mates deserved the warm applause from the home fans still inside the stadium as they left the pitch. Brakes played some fantastic football at times, and if they are able to maintain the same level of performance going into their derby clash at Stratford, who picked up a hugely impressive win at Kettering, there should be a very entertaining game to follow.
Leamington: Lewis Gwilliams, Ben George, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood ©, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson (14 Lee Moore, 56), Jack Edwards, Ryan Rowe (12 Joe Magunda, 84), Rob Thompson-Brown (16 Tom James, 90), Ahmed Obeng.
Subs not used: 15 Rob Elvins, 17 Ryan Quinn.
Biggleswade Town: Ian Brown, Callum Lewis, Lucas Perry, Russell Short ©, Gavin Hoyte, Evan Key (12 Connor Hall, 46), Connor Vincent (15 Daniel Clifton, 36), Robbie Parker, Inih Effiong, Tony Burnett, Mark Coulson.
Subs not used: 13 Sam Donkin, 14 Harry Norman, 16 Chris Marsh.
Referee: Mr Richard Gardner
Assistant Referees: Mr James Whittington & Mr Anthony Glazzard
Brakes Man of the Match: Ahmed Obeng.