Johnson grabs late winner for Brakes

James Mace gets to grips with Hitchin dangerman John Frendo under the watchful eye of Richard Batchelor. Picture: Sally Ellis
James Mace gets to grips with Hitchin dangerman John Frendo under the watchful eye of Richard Batchelor. Picture: Sally Ellis
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Leamington left it late to snatch all three points at Top Field as Ricky Johnson’s injury-time strike edged a tight game against a home side reinvigorated by back-to-back 4-0 victories over AFC Totton and Banbury United, writes Paul Edwards.

It was not quite a smash and grab raid as Brakes had enjoyed good spells of pressure, particularly during the second half, but the hosts will be aggrieved at not finishing with at least a point.

John Frendo was in red-hot form going into the game having scored a hat-trick in each of his last two matches and the Canaries striker saw an early shot blocked as his team began the game brightly.

Richard Batchelor put in a typically hard-working shift and he produced a fine challenge on the edge of his own penalty area before charging through midfield and receiving the ball back on the left wing, where he cut in and fired the ball across the goalmouth.

Hitchin responded with a shot that whistled just over the bar and Luke Gregson also tried his luck from the left corner of the penalty area but his effort sailed high and wide.

Leamington enjoyed their best spell of the game either side of half-time and Lee Moore came close with a sharp turn and shot that just cleared the bar.

A spot of pinball in front of goal just prior to break saw the ball fired across the face of goal twice with no blue-shirted player able to get a telling touch. The ball eventually fell to Lee Chilton, who crashed in a shot that Martin Bennett in the Hitchin goal was forced to push over his crossbar.

The momentum carried into the second half as Paul Holleran’s side continued to press forward, moving the ball around well.

Chilton had a header pushed out by keeper Bennett, who also denied Batchelor, while at the other end Frendo’s fiercely struck 25-yarder was well held by Laurie Walker low down at his near post.

The home side began to enjoy more possession as the game drew to its conclusion and Gregson’s header from a free-kick dropped just past the post.

Frendo had been largely kept quiet by Jamie Hood and Liam Daly, but threatened to add to his impressive goal tally late on when he burst through on goal but blazed his shot high over the bar.

It took one moment of quality to settle what had been an evenly balanced encounter and it came in the final moments of injury time.

Batchelor made a fine defensive block to prevent Frendo from getting a shot in on goal, and moments later he was at the other end of the pitch to whip in a low cross from the right wing. Stefan Moore stooped to head the ball back to the penalty spot and substitute Ricky Johnson emphatically swept home a low shot from ten yards.

The striker took a knock on his ankle in the process of scoring and was withdrawn for the final moments but it failed to take the shine off a fine three days for the league leaders.

Hitchin: Martin Bennett, Sam Berry, Josh Bickerstaff, Laurie Stewart, Alasan Ann, Michael Noone, Daniel Delderfield (Jack Beckett, 58), Luke Gregson, Jake Woolley, John Frendo, Jhai Dillon. Subs not used: Daniel Webb, Dean Hitchcock, Rhys Paul Rogan McGeorge

Brakes: Laurie Walker, James Mace, Stephan Morley, Craig Owen (Ricky Johnson, 64, (Tom James, 90)), Jamie Hood, Liam Daly, Joe Magunda (Martyn Naylor, 80), Lee Chilton, Stefan Moore, Lee Moore, Richard Batchelor.Subs not used: Niall Cooper, Matt Dodd.

 Fans who attended the friendly against Brackley Town on Tuesday October 9 can take advantage of a free pie and pint offer by redeeming their voucher at Tuesday’s Red Insure Cup semi-final tie at home to Arlesey Town (7.45pm).