FOOTBALL: LEAMINGTON took advantage of the inactivity of some of their promotion rivals by returning winning ways and extending their lead at the top of the Southern League Premier Division thanks to a 2-0 victory over St Ives Town on Saturday, reports Paul Edwards.
With Chippenham the only other side in the top five in action, second half strikes from Courtney Baker-Richardson and Ahmed Obeng ensured that Paul Holleran’s men edged ahead once more in the race for the coveted automatic promotion place.
St Ives arrived having improved considerably since the reverse fixture back in September, in which Leamington hit five goals without reply.
The newly promoted side appeared to be struggling to adapt to life in their first ever campaign at Step 3 but have steadily turned things round to move comfortably clear of the bottom four.
Brakes began fully on the front foot and Richard Gregory was only denied by a timely challenge to poke the ball clear as he chested down a good cross from Connor Gudger and prepared to shoot.
Gudger himself had the next opportunity, putting his boot fully through a half clearance from Rob Thompson-Brown’s cross and forcing a save from Ives’ keeper Tim Trebes.
Some intricate passing carved out a chance for Thompson-Brown which was saved, while at the other end the visitors’ Josh Dawkin missed his kick when well placed.
St Ives barely got out of their own half in the opening 20 minutes or so, but slowly began to impose themselves on the game. Morgan Penfold almost surprised Tony Breeden with a vicious drive from almost out on the left touchline which the Brakes skipper just managed to hold under his crossbar.
Thompson-Brown drove across goal and wide, while Baker-Richardson fired over the bar. Gregory then had the ball in the net but from an offside position, while Baker-Richardson showed his aerial prowess once more with a powerful header that whistled just over the bar from a left wing corner.
Thompson-Brown had a shout for a penalty turned down before Penfold then came mightily close once more for the visitors, curling a half clearance from a corner just past the angle of post and bar.
Jack Higgs saw a low free kick saved by Breeden before skipper Lee Chaffey went very close with a header from another corner.
Despite tailing off a little towards the end of the first half, Leamington came out with their tails up and quickly moved in front, Baker-Richardson looping a header over a stranded Trebes from Richard Taundry’s cross to bag his 13th goal of the season.
Within ten minutes Obeng had scored a deserved second, picking up a good ball down the left from Gittings before cutting in, beating Harry O’Malley and driving a low effort between Trebes and his near post.
Obeng caused problems all afternoon for the St Ives defence before being withdrawn late on for the returning Jordan Goddard, and his blocked shot set up Gudger for a deflected effort.
From the corner kick Gittings came within a whisker of registering his first goal for Leamington with a vicious low drive that flashed past the post.
Trebes then came off his line well to deny Baker-Richardson as he threatened to break through on the right just inside the box, while Jordan Goddard was given a raucous welcome back in Leamington colours in the closing stages, helping Brakes to see out the game.
Leamington: Breeden (s), Taundry, Gudger, Gittings, Magunda, Mace, Baker-Richardson (James 86), Edwards, Gregory (Rowe 75), Thompson-Brown, Obeng (Goddard 81)
Subs not used – George, Pond