Ten-man Brakes are undone by Thompson
Ten-man Brakes ran out of legs on a heavy pitch, succumbing to a late winner after a brave effort against their fellow strugglers, writes Paul Okey.
The hosts had the better of a first half in which both sides traded penalties before the defining moment of the game in the 40th minute.
Joe Clarke had already been booked for a rash tackle on Ben O’Hanlon when he tangled with Darlington substitute David Syers in midfield, referee Steven Copeland deciding the challenge was worthy of a second yellow.
Leamington still mustered the energy to take the lead in the second half through Jack Edwards but found themselves retreating further and further later in the game and were punished by Steven Thompson who added two goals to his first-half penalty to complete a memorable hat-trick.
Brakes made a bright start, with Edwards driving the ball wide in the opening minute and Dunbar muscled off the ball inside the area by Greg Mills after a neat exchange of passes on the edge of the area with Edwards.
Play quickly switched to other end and an almost carbon-copy move saw Reece Styche blocked off by Junior English as he chased the ball into the box.
Home complaints fell on deaf ears and Thompson confidently stroked the ball home with Breeden guessing the wrong way.
An accidental coming together between Edwards and Gary Brown prompted an angry reaction from the Quakers centre-back which saw him held back by team-mates as he tried to confront the Brakes number ten.
A spell of treatment failed to placate Brown, who after taking it out on the advertising hoardings and, later, Callum Gittings’ back, was hauled off by his manager on the half-hour mark to prevent further damage.
Brown was also a central character in Brakes’ equaliser, his high boot catching Ahmed Obeng as he latched on to a bouncing ball in the visitors’ box.
Referee Copeland again pointed to the spot and the result was the same, although keeper Aynsley Pears did get a fair bit on Gittings’ low drive.
Clarke picked up his first booking after O’Hanlon tried to bring the ball away for Darlington and was then the provider as Edwards headed over the bar.
Styche was unable to guide his header on target after Breeden was caught out by a deep corner, while Pears produced an excellent save to deny Kieran Dunbar after Obeng had pulled the ball back from the byeline.
Brakes were then rocked on their heels when Clarke received a second yellow card after sending Syers tumbling in the centre of the park.
It seemed little more than a foul but Copeland deemed it worthy of further censure and Clarke had to go.
Josef Wheatley dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box as Darlington tried to make their extra man count but it was the home side who came closest to adding to their tally before the interval, Edwards sending in a stinging drive which Pears was relieved to see slide past a post, though one doubts he did actually see it such was the ferocity of the strike.
The visitors were out early for the second half, displaying an urgency they maintained through to the final whistle.
Skipper Styche powered a header over the bar from close range after being picked out by Mills, while Dunbar tried his luck from 30 yards with similar consequences.
A poor defensive header from Connor Gudger was latched on to by Thompson who tamely stabbed his shot wide from the edge of the box.
Daniel Udoh outmuscled Joshua Heaton to get on the end of a Breeden clearance but Pears again rescued his side, deflecting the shot over the bar with his wrist.
He was powerless to prevent the home side taking the lead from the resulting corner on the hour-mark, however, Edwards rising at the far post to nod Dunbar’s delivery into the top corner.
With something to hang on to and the effects of Tuesday evening’s game seeping into their legs, Leamington sat back, allowing Darlington to probe away in search of an equaliser.
Substitute James Caton drew a good parry from Breeden, while a threatening free-kick on the edge of the box was sidefooted over by Terence Galbraith.
The Quakers got their reward in the 74th minute, Thompson cutting inside and beating Gudger before drilling in a shot which took a touch off Jamie Hood on the way past a static Breeden.
Darlington were not content to settle for a point and the momentum remained with them, English producing a superb last-ditch challenge to prevent Syers turning the ball home from close range.
Udoh was withdrawn in favour of Joe Magunda as Paul Holleran tried to batten down the hatches and it looked as though the home side might escape with a point when Syers could only direct his shot straight into the midriff of Breeden after being put through on goal by a raking crossfield pass.
Syers and Caton both dragged efforts wide before Thompson broke home hearts deep into the four minutes of injury time, steadying himself before converting a cutback from the left, Hood’s desperate lunge only succeeding in deflecting the ball past his skipper.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, Jamie Hood, Junior English, Kieran Dunbar, Callum Gittings, Daniel Udoh (Joe Magunda, 79), Jack Edwards (Kurtis Revan, 84), Ahmed Obeng (Kaine Felix, 90). Subs not used: Liam Canavan, Stefan Moore.
Darlington: Aynsley Pears, Luke Trotman, Ben O’Hanlon, Terence Galbraith, Joshua Heaton, Gary Brown (David Syers, 31), Greg Mills (James Caton, 61), Leon Scott (Phillip Turnbull, 61), Reece Styche, Josef Wheatley, Stephen Thompson. Subs not used: Matthew Bancroft, Josh Gillies.