Leamington take time to find their cutting edge
They may not have had anything to show for a superb first-half showing but Leamington eventually got their reward on Saturday to record their first league win since December 17, writes Paul Okey.
Brakes’ football was joy to behold in the opening 35 minutes, with Callum Gittings pulling the strings in midfield as they created a host of shooting chances in this ‘pay what you want’ fixture.
That they were unable to work opposition keeper Tim Trebes enough was the only blemish on a display full of confidence and verve.
And despite failing to hit the same heights after the break, they did at least show more precision, with two excellently converted goals providing value for money for even the most generous of supporters.
The home side got their first shot away inside 30 seconds, with Jack Edwards bursting on to the ball with purpose after a neat build-up only to fire his effort way off target.
A pinpoint Connor Gudger cross picked out Richard Gregory in acres of space on the edge of the six-yard box but after chesting the ball down he seemed to take an age to get his shot away and Liam Devitt was able to clear.
Courtney Baker-Richardson then had the sting taken out of a shot, enabling Trebes to pouch comfortably, while the visiting keeper was relieved to be able to gather Gudgers’s fierce effort at the second attempt.
A rampant Brakes were pinning Saints back in their own half and, after they had reclaimed possession on the edge of the visitors’ box, Gittings worked space but sliced his effort off target.
More patient build-up play resulted in Rob Thompson-Brown running across the edge of the penalty box before sending in a shot which lacked the power to fully extend Trebes.
Little had been seen of St Ives in an attacking sense but they were left feeling aggrieved on their first visit to the home penalty area when, after tricking his way past two defenders, Jared Cunnliff went down in the box. Referee Neil Pratt was unmoved, however, and booked Ben Seymour-Shove for his protests.
Gudger was well wide with another shooting chance for Brakes, while Morgan Penfold warmed Tony Breeden’s hands with a speculative effort.
Play quickly switched back to the other end and Ahmed Obeng forced his way past two challenges before crossing for Baker-Richardson, whose acrobatic connection was more Lewis Carroll than Andy Carroll.
Baker-Richardson showed a better touch when laying the ball off for Thompson-Brown in the 23rd minute but from 12 yards out, the former Redditch man dragged his shot across the face of goal.
The chances continued to flow, with Gregory chesting down a cross from the left and unselfishly laying it off for Baker-Richardson, who leaning back, fired over.
Gregory poked home an Edwards flick-on but the flag was already up, while Edwards was the next to spurn a clear opportunity, heading over Thompson-Brown’s corner from close range.
Thompson-Brown was then denied what looked a clear-cut penalty after Jordan Jarrold took his legs as he shaped to shoot but again the referee waved away claims.
After having been completely outplayed, St Ives gained a foothold in the game in the closing minutes of the half.
A Thompson-Brown mistake handed back possession to the visitors on the edge of the Leamington box and when the ball was worked to Penfold, he curled in a fine effort which flashed past the angle with Breeden beaten.
A Jack Higgs free-kick was then well gathered by the Leamington skipper.
But after passing up a host of first-half opportunities, Brakes opened up a two-goal cushion with their very first chances of the second half.
Richard Taundry’s searching cross from the right left Baker-Richardson with plenty to do, but he superbly placed his header into the top corner to give Trebes no chance.
And in the 55th minute, Obeng latched on to Gittings’ raking pass, cut inside a bamboozled Harry O’Malley and drilled a shot inside Trebes’ near post to make it 2-0.
Gudger was denied a third when his shot inside the box was deflected for a corner, while Gittings was inches away from getting the goal his performance deserved with a rasping drive from 25 yards which whistled past the far post.
St Ives did not let their heads drop but despite the trickery of Cunnliff, chances remained at a premium, with a tame header from O’Malley briefly waking Breeden from his slumber.
A string of changes only served to disrupt the momentum, but did at least allow Jordan Goddard to make his second debut for the hosts, while fellow substitute Ryan Rowe was denied a penalty after being on the receiving end of a tackle more in keeping with rugby than football.
Breeden then ensured his clean sheet in injury time, producing a strong hand to deny Scott Sinclair after the Saints substitute had been sent clear in the box.