Austin has a hand in all three as Magpies have wings clipped
Brakes moved to within three points of top spot on Tuesday night thanks to a thoroughly professional dismantling of Dorchester, writes Paul Okey.
A high-tempo opening from Leamington set the tone and the only disappointing aspect of an impressive first-half display was that they only had Sam Austin’s ninth-minute strike to show for their dominance.
A second for Austin after the break and a first Leamington goal for Ben George did at least provide a fairer reflection of the gulf between the two sides and in view of the congested promotion picture, gave Brakes’ goal difference a timely shot in the arm.
The home side made two changes to the side which beat Poole, with Ben George and James Fry coming in for Joe Magunda (knee) and Lee Moore.
And the in-form hosts were straight on to the front foot, with the assistant linesman’s flag sparing Connor Gudger’s blushes after the left-back had fired over from close-range after being picked out by Richard Taundry.
Ben Mackey was unable to guide a header on target after Jack Edwards helped on Taundry’s long throw, while Ben Watson headed just past the post as the visitors unveiled the monster throw in their arsenal.
The high-octane start from Brakes was rewarded in the ninth minute. Tony Breeden picked out Mackey, who slipped in Austin and the loanee produced a confident left-foot finish to beat keeper Shane Murphy at his near post.
With Leamington rampant and Dorchester struggling to string two passes together a rout looked on the cards.
Courtney Baker-Richardson and Austin both tried their luck without success, while Mackey was twice denied by Murphy, the first after Taundry’s quick free-kick had picked him out in acres of space in the visitors’ box. However, despite neat chest control allowing him to turn and fire off a first-time shot, the keeper was out quickly to block. Murphy knew less about the second effort, standing tall to deflect a fierce drive for a corner.
Edwards came on to a ball at pace and sidefooted narrowly past a post and James Mace was twice kept out at point-blank range by Murphy, with the Magpies somehow smuggling the ball away from danger.
Yet despite Brakes exerting a tight grip on the game, they were reminded of the fragility of their one-goal lead when Town skipper Jake Smeeten grazed the crossbar following a half-cleared corner.
Six minutes into the second half, Dorchester had a great chance to level following indecision in the home box, but under pressure from Breeden, Toby Holmes miskicked from eight yards out.
Spurred on by the let-off, Leamington extended their advantage, with the mercurial Austin again the scorer. Murphy failed to get decent purchase on his punch as he challenged Baker-Richardson for George’s cross and Austin needed no second invitation, drilling the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards.
It was the finish of a player at the top of his game but his next contribution was arguably even more impressive, the midfielder picking out the run of George, who bravely got a foot to the ball to guide it past the onrushing Murphy to make it 3-0.
The well-beaten visitors were restricted to long-range pot-shots in response, though Charlie Davis was just off-target with a free-kick.
But Leamington were in no mood to give up their clean sheet lightly, with Taundry bravely throwing himself in front of a Watson strike to deny what looked a certain goal.
However, even a consolation would have flattered the visitors as Brakes’ promotion bandwagon found an extra gear.