Leamington battled gamely on their final visit to York City’s famous old Bootham Crescent stadium.
Brakes were beaten by a goal in each half from Alex Kempster and Jordan Burrow by a very efficient and well-drilled home side in Saturday’s Vanarama National League North clash.
Paul Holleran started with the same 11 that kicked off at Boston on Tuesday, minus the suspended Junior English, with James Mace slotting in a right back and Connor Gudger returning at left back.
The game opened at a fairly even pace with both sides doing their share all over the pitch. Leamington forced the first corner with 12 minutes played but failed to take advantage, while the hosts fashioned the first chance two minutes later, Sean Newton’s deep left wing cross headed powerfully towards goal by Kieran Green, Jake Weaver saving comfortably.
The Brakes keeper then did superbly to hold the ball on his line as David Ferguson drove in a dangerous low cross from the left having beaten James Mace. It was down that side of the pitch that York were having most joy when attacking and Ferguson beat Mace in a foot race as he knocked the ball ahead of the Leamington right back to hoist in an inviting first time cross from which Kempster thumped home a header at the far post to give the Minstermen the lead with 20 minutes played.
Burrow’s weak effort after a slick move was easy for Weaver, and the ball was switched quickly to the opposite end where Josh March looked to drive into the box on the left, but his shot was straight at Peter Jameson. York were driving forward almost at will, Burrow laying back for Adriano Moke to strike an ambitious first time effort high over the bar.
Kemptster then brought the best out of Weaver again with another powerful header that the goalkeeper did well to palm away, Jamie Hood completing the clearance. Mace headed wide from a free-kick won and taken by Kaiman Anderson on the right as Leamington gained some respite from defensive duties but they were soon back in their own half once more, Burrow poking wide from another Ferguson cross.
Mace inexplicably put himself on a knife edge by picking up a needless booking for pulling back Ferguson as he looked to tear clear down the left once more. Kieran Green was then booked for a cynical challenge on Mace on the right touchline, Joe Clarke swinging the free kick into the box which was only half cleared to the edge, where Callum Gittings connected with a thunderous strike which deflected behind for a corner.
Anderson then won another corner for Leamington as halftime approached, the ball striking the top of the bar on its way over. March was left pulling his shirt over his head in frustration with the second half less than two minutes old as he stole in behind the York defence to stab a superb right wing cross from Gittings just wide.
Griffiths’ slightly fortunate cross-field pass found Ferguson who had plenty of time to strike for goal but shot straight at Weaver as York penned Leamington in their own half. They doubled their lead with clinical efficiency on 52 minutes when Griffiths whipped in another powerful cross from the right which Burrow slammed first time inside the near post.
Andy Bond drove across goal and wide as York poured forward again seconds later, looking to put the game to bed.
Leamington were still trying to go forward when they could, March taking the ball down well with his back to goal some 20 yards out before turning and driving in a shot at Jameson. Murphy then received a delightful ball from Gittings inside the box on the left, turning past two defenders before firing in a shot that an unsighted Jameson held well.
If Brakes boss Holleran had any hair left he would probably have been tearing it out in frustration on the touchline as Joe Clarke talked himself into the Referees’ notebook. Weaver produced another fine stop to keep his team in with a shout, getting behind a powerful free kick from Newton to push the ball away from goal as Burrow headed it on.
Leamington almost shot themsleves in the foot when Anderson gave the ball away midway through the York half and the hosts sprung forward on the counter attack, Kempster sending the ball spinning across goal and wide.
Holleran threw on all three of his available substitutes, wisely removing Mace and Clarke along with Gittings and introducing Gift Mussa, Connor Taylor and Reece King.
Burrow almost added a third when he powered a header inches wide from another dangerous cross from the left, and Griffiths forced Weaver into a flying save with a vicious free kick from 25 yards, the keeper flying to his right to paw the ball away from the top corner.
Weaver was alert once more as substitute Macauley Langstaff got in behind the Leamington defence to drive a shot on goal, Jamie Hood doing superbly to throw himself in the way of the follow up. Hood then led a counter attack from a York corner, playing Murphy into space down the right but after beating his marker the Solihull Moors loan man could only direct his shot straight at Jameson.
Anderson fired high and wide from the edge of the box as Leamington searched for a consolation late in the game, and he forced a save from the City keeper in injury time as a corner kick was played shot and across the edge of the penalty area. But Leamington finished well beaten by a side that on this evidence have to be among the favourites to win promotion this season.
Steve Watson has added know how and quality to his side and with the immense backing of their noisy supporters York are surely going to be a big force in National League North this season.