Leamington distance themselves from drop
Leamington ground out a third successive 1-0 win to end Saturday as close to the play-offs as the relegation zone, writes Paul Okey.
A biting wind and sub-zero temperature combined with the partial closure of Harbury Lane meant it was not an afternoon for the faint of heart and Brakes produced a performance to match, showing admirable resilience in the face of a strong second-half showing from the in-form visitors.
A 35th-minute Matt Dodd penalty had given Leamington something to hang on to and while Nuneaton dominated possession in the second period, they rarely looked like extending their nine-match unbeaten run.
With the wind behind them, Brakes came flying out of the blocks, Matt Dodd almost nicking the ball past Town keeper Ross Etheridge after a Jack Edwards hook forward.
Daniel Nti flashed a shot across the face of Tony Breeden’s goal in the fourth minute but it was a brief moment of respite for the visitors’ defence as an energised Brakes probed for an opener.
A hesistant Daniel Udoh was unable to make the most of a through ball as Etheridge came out to challenge with the ball deflecting away for a corner.
Etheridge was a central character in the opening stages, with Brakes clearly fancying their chances of exposing the Nuneaton keeper with high balls.
A Kieran Dunbar corner hit the crossbar and bounced down on the line and after Boro failed to clear, a clever header from Udoh was tipped around the post by Etheridge.
A further corner was then cleared to the edge of the box where Callum Gittings took a touch before unleashing a rasping drive which was deflected wide by a desperate block.
Those who may have been hankering for an afternoon in front of England-Ireland were at least given a taste with a series of pinpoint touchfinders from Etheridge.
They served to keep the pressure on the visitors and Gittings was again given licence to shoot on the edge of the box, with the ball looping off a defender for Etheridge to claim.
Connor Gudger then produced a smart interception after neat interplay at the other end between Tom Elliott and Nti.
Gittings lashed another shot over before a Jamie Hood mistake presented Ashley Chambers with a shooting chance, Breeden getting down well at his near post to hang on to the deflected effort.
Brakes made a deserved breakthrough ten minutes before the interval.
Ahmed Obeng drew a foul from Luther Wildin after Udoh had intelligently spread play and Dodd stepped up to send Etheridge the wrong way from the spot for his first goal since returning from Stourbridge.
George Green curled a shot over for the visitors and was then guilty of a glaring miss, somehow contriving to rattle the crossbar from six yards out after being afforded an age to pick his spot.
In an effort to spare the Nuneaton man’s blushes, Udoh then produced a miss to rival him, slicing the ball off the outside of his left boot from the left-hand angle of the six-yard box.
With the elements in their favour after the restart, Dino Maamria’s side looked a totally different proposition.
A James Mace error allowed Elliott and Chambers to combine on the right, with Elliott failing to get decent purchase on his shooting chance.
A clever free-kick then allowed Green to drill the ball across the face of goal with Breeden getting a vital touch to divert it away from the oncoming traffic.
A Chambers header was dealt with more comfortably by the home skipper who was then relieved to see Kelvin Langmead’s header bounce off the crossbar to safety.
Nti drilled in a shot which Breeden parried away for a corner from which Elliott sent a header over the bar.
Breeden was equal to a free-kick from Green who then had a shot blocked but while the strong wind showed no sign of diminishing, Nuneaton’s threat was gradually blowing itself out.
Joe Clarke was introduced in place of Dodd as Paul Holleran chose to protect what he had got and the visitors were generally kept at arm’s length in the final twenty minutes.
James Ferry sliced a shot off target from the edge of the box, while Breeden had to be alert to turn away a far-post header from Langmead.
And despite referee Scott Simpson finding five minutes of injury time, Brakes comfortably saw it out to take a giant step towards National League North safety.
There was to be controversy after the final whistle, however, with Breeden shown a second yellow card for dissent.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English, Connor Gudger, Callum Gittings, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Matt Dodd (Joe Clarke, 64), Kieran Dunbar, Daniel Udoh (Kurtis Revan, 90), Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Liam Canavan, Richard Taundry, Stefan Moore.
Nuneaton Town: Ross Etheridge, Luther Wildin, Niall Heaton, Tom Elliott, Ryan Johnson, Kelvin Langmead, James Ferry, Ryan Beswick, Ashley Chambers, George Green (Billy Daniels, 81), Daniel Nti (Kairo Mitchell, 70). Subs not used: Dean Lyness, Joel Dielna, Jon Ashton.