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Wednesday 07 November 2012 Updated: 07/11 16:08
Leamington 1 Chippenham Town 0
BRAKES maintained their Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division title challenge with a hard fought victory at the New Windmill on Saturday.
An early goal from Ricky Johnson settled a scrappy affair but Brakes were indebted to young keeper Niall Cooper who impressed on his home debut with two stunning saves which prevented the visitors from grabbing a second half equaliser.
Brakes, playing their first home game for a month, started brightly but Chipenham thought they had taken the lead after five minutes when Alan Griffin robbed Cooper and rolled the ball into the empty net.
Referee Lee Sheridan, like many of the 621-strong crowd, did not actually see what happened but a linesman raised his flag and the effort was disallowed much to the annoyance of the visitors.
Brakes took full advantage by grabbing the only goal of the game in the eighth minute when Johnson was on hand to turn in a low cross from Matt Dodd.
The lead was almost doubled four minutes later when an incisive pass from Joe Magunda released James Husband whose cross-shot deceived keeper Ben John but struck the inside of the far post and bounced to safety.
Brakes showed plenty of early promise but it gradually faded and Chippenham began to carve out opportunities.
Lee Phillips blazed over from a good position, while Scott Lye and Griffin were denied by fine saves from Cooper.
Brakes responded just before the break when Husband neatly combined with Lee Chilton but his effort was turned around the post by John.
Chippenham almost got back on level terms straight from the restart when a good cross from Scott Rogers fell kindly for Lye whose powerful ten-yard volley was superbly turned over the bar by the agile Cooper.
Brakes hit back in the 55th minute with a good move between Martyn Naylor and Chilton creating a clear-cut opening for Johnson who blazed over.
Johnson then turned provider by delivering an inviting low cross into the danger area but Dodd somehow turned it wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.
It nearly proved a costly miss as Chippenham thought they had equalised in the 77th minute.
Phillips ended a purposeful run to the by-line with a cross to the far post which substitute Luke Ballinger met with a powerful header which appeared destined for the back of the net but Cooper produced an amazing point blank save with the help of the post.
Cooper, who was recently recruited from Redditch United, earned the man of the match award for his heroics which helped Brakes stretch their unbeaten league record to 23 matches and maintain second place in the table, five points behind leaders Hemel Hemsptead Town who have played four games more..
Brakes have no game this Saturday due to Chesham United’s involvement in the FA Trophy but they entertain struggling Kettering Town on Tuesday (7.45pm) after the Northamptonshire outfit were handed a reprieve by the Southern League.
Meanwhile, Brakes have been drawn away at arch-rivals Stourbridge in round two of the Red Insure League Cup. The tie will take place on Tuesday, November 20.
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