Brakes 1 Hednesford 1: Everyone is friends after tame stalemate

Danny Newton stabs home Brakes' equaliser to earn them a 1-1 draw against Hednesford on Saturday. Picture: Morris Troughton
Danny Newton stabs home Brakes' equaliser to earn them a 1-1 draw against Hednesford on Saturday. Picture: Morris Troughton
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Brakes recovered from an insipid first-half display to earn a deserved point against their promotion-chasing visitors, writes Paul Okey.

The return in Hednesford colours of former Leamington favourite Richard Batchelor seemed certain to add spice to what is traditionally a feisty encounter.

However, in a week when football remembered the Christmas Truce of 1914, this afternoon was one to forget as both sides struggled to find their killer instinct in distinctly wintry conditions.

Although the hosts launched the first assault, Joe Magunda almost finding the corner flag with his miscued shot, it was the Pitmen who landed the first blow.

Connal Trueman did superbly to keep out Batchelor’s close-range header from Darren Campion’s left-wing cross, only to see Glenn Walker slot home the rebound to give the visitors a third-minute lead.

A 20-minute ceasefire followed before Leamington’s midfield parted to allow Jamey Osborne to run from deep and bring out a smart save from Trueman.

Lee Chilton volleyed well over and Trueman was again called into action, producing a strong hand to divert James Hurst’s glancing header for a corner.

With half-time approaching and Brakes having barely fired a shot in anger, they at last roused themselves.

Danny Newton picked up the pieces after a Chilton shot had been blocked and ran across the face of goal before dragging his shot agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.

James Fry then sent over an inviting free-kick which Lee Moore could only direct the wrong side of the upright with the goal gaping.

Brakes’ improvement continued after the restart, with Newton heading over from a Moore cross and then causing panic in the Hednesford defence with a surging run which ended with keeper Dan Crane parrying his fierce shot over the bar.

Newton then should have brought Leamington back on level terms when the resultant corner dropped to him six yards out, only to wastefully lash it over the bar.

Jack Edwards was inches away from latching on to a ball into the box, with the bounce falling kindly for the visitors and there was a similarly anxious moment at the other end for Brakes as they struggled to clear a ball into the area, with it pinballing around before finally being cleared.

However, that apart, there was little threat from Town in the face of a resolute showing from centre-back pairing Jamie Tank and James Mace.

And, in the 65th minute, Leamington got the equaliser they, and the persistent Newton, deserved.

Fry’s free-kick was helped back into the box by Tank and Newton produced a deft first touch to bring the ball down before turning and stabbing his shot past Crane.

Both sides seemed happy not to resume hostilities until the final five minutes, with Newton first to try his luck. His fierce shot was beaten away by Crane, with the following up Stefan Moore unlucky not to latch on to the rebound.

Hednesford then had their head in their hands in the final seconds after Brakes struggled to deal with a long throw. The ball was laid off to Osborne on the edge of the box and his measured sidefoot effort beat the dive of Trueman only to hit the inside of the post and bounce away to safety.

But as the combatants walked off at the final whistle, with the Brakes fans once again singing the name of their former foot soldier Batchelor, few would have argued their side deserved to take the spoils of a very tame war.

Brakes: Connal Trueman, James Fry, Stephan Morley , Joe Magunda, Jamie Tank, James Mace, Lee Moore (Matt Dodd, 85), Jack Edwards, Stefan Moore, Danny Newton, Lee Chilton. Subs not used: Aron Wint, Stuart Pierpoint, Luke Connolly, Matt Hill.

Hednesford Town: Dan Crane, James Hurst, Darren Campion , Ben Bailey, Paul McCone, Alex Melbourne (Mark Danks, 80), Jamey Osbourne, Glenn Walker, Danny Glover (Marvin Robinson, 74), Steve Diggin, Richard Batchelor. Subs not used: Paul Sullivan, Tom Thorley, Ryan Price.