Drawing comfort from point at Guiseley
Brakes picked up another precious National League North point - their sixth draw in seven games - and, but for the width of a crossbar, could have travelled back from Yorkshire with all three, writes Paul Edwards.
Paul Holleran was forced to shuffle his pack as Connor Gudger and Jamie Hood began three-match suspensions, bringing James Bowen into the starting XI, while Jack Edwards moved back into central defence to partner Jack Lane.
Joe Clarke started in midfield, while Reece Flanagan pushed forward to support Colby Bishop.
The opening exchanges saw Guiseley go close to an opening goal when veteran striker Kayode Odejayi held the ball up well just inside the penalty area before turning Edwards and firing a shot just wide of the upright.
James Mace turned the ball behind as Cliff Moyo looked to threaten down the right but Leamington broke quickly from the resulting corner through Jordan Murphy, who took on and beat Moyo, his cross just evading the lurking Bishop.
The Lions moved in front in the 18th minute. Odejayi used his giant frame to shield the ball as it was headed down from a long throw in from right wing by Niall Heaton before quickly scrambling a shot past Tony Breeden from just outside the six-yard box.
Breeden almost manufactured an opportunity for Bishop as he took a free-kick from inside his own half, the ball bouncing over the last Guiseley defender Will Thornton inside the penalty area but just out of reach of the striker as he stretched to try and poke it past Marcus Dewhurst.
Brakes’ 13-goal top-scorer was denied again as a neat move by Leamington saw Callum Gittings receive the ball from Joe Clarke on the left wing and exchange passes with Bowen before cutting back inside and delivering an excellent cross which the impressive Moyo only just managed to get to ahead of Bishop to clear the danger.
Just as Guiseley looked to be going in at half-time ahead they were stunned by an equaliser.
Flanagan did well to make space for himself on the right side of midfield before playing the ball behind the Guiseley defence for Kieran Dunbar to run on to. His low cross intended for Bishop travelled just behind the striker but found Solihull Moors loanee Murphy, who controlled the ball before stepping inside and curling a shot beyond Dewhurst and into the net.
There was still time for a controversial moment before the interval, Odejayi appearing to connect with an elbow on Bowen as he attempted to clear in midfield. It was unclear what the match officials saw but the striker received a yellow card.
After dragging themselves level at a pivotal time in the game, Leamington seized the initiative in the second half, playing some neat football at times.
One such move saw Breeden’s throw out to Gittings moved on to Bishop who found Dunbar running in behind the Guiseley defence with an audacious overhead pass, a low ball into the box just evading Murphy at the far post.
Murphy was presented with an opportunity for a second goal just prior to the hour-mark when he bore down on goal on the left, forcing a save from Dewhurst from a tight angle. Thornton blocked the follow-up shot from Bishop and a second effort from Murphy was cleared off the line by Moyo.
Moyo came to the Lions’ rescue once more as Gittings and Murphy combined on the right to send a low ball in towards Flanagan, who looked to have a tap-in only for the Guiseley man to get there first.
Defender Alex Purver got a shot on target for the hosts after a long throw was not fully cleared but the effort was comfortable for Breeden. The keeper’s clearance then bounced kindly for Bishop who shifted to his right past his marker and drove just over the angle of bar and post from 20 yards.
In what had been an end-to-end second half Marcus Bignot threw on all three of his permitted substitutes in an attempt to snatch a winner in the closing stages.
However, it was Brakes who came closest to claiming maximum points.
Flanagan had already seen Dewhurst collect one well-struck free-kick from just right of centre a few yards outside the box after substitute Ahmed Obeng had been fouled but the former Walsall man came within inches of his first goal since returning to Leamington when he struck another dead ball from a similar distance, this time from the left side of the penalty area, only for the ball to cannon back off the crossbar.
It left Brakes still searching for a first league victory since November 20 but Holleran is unconcerned by their winless sequence.
‘We’d love to turn some of these draws into wins but when you’re drawing against Brackley home and away, you’re drawing at York City away and Guiseley, you can’t underestimate how powerful those results are.
“Obviously we had some issues today with players being unavailable and players not being well.
“When you look at the whole picture it’s fantastic form.
“To be fair it was probably a winning draw for us today, whereas New Year’s Day was probably a winning draw for Brackley.
“We always knew that this would be a tough period for us.
“I thought that from the start of December to the end of January, looking at the fixtures it would be difficult but we’ve still only lost one.
We’ve shown lots of know-how, lots of maturity and there have been some good individual performances.”
Guiseley: Marcus Dewhurst, Cliff Moyo, Niall Heaton, Alex Purver, Will Thornton, Andy Halls, Kaine Felix, Kingsley James, Rowan Liburd (15 Lewis Walters, 75), Kayode Odejayi (Paul Clayton, 75), Scott Smith (Curtis Morrison, 82). Subs not used: Nathan Newall, Joe Green.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, James Bowen, Joe Clarke, Jack Edwards, Jack Lane, Kieran Dunbar (Ahmed Obeng, 82), Callum Gittings, Colby Bishop, Reece Flanagan, Jordan Murphy. Subs not used: Connor Taylor, Junior English, Tom James, Martyn Naylor.