FA Trophy heroics have set the league standard, says Holleran

Ben Mackey sinks to his knees after Leamington's extra-time FA Trophy defeat to Altrincham. Picture: Morris Troughton
Ben Mackey sinks to his knees after Leamington's extra-time FA Trophy defeat to Altrincham. Picture: Morris Troughton

Leamington manager Paul Holleran has challenged his side to reproduce the levels of their FA Trophy performances in the league.

Brakes suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Altrincham on Saturday after dominating the much-delayed first-round replay at the New Windmill.

Ben Mackey missed a catalogue of chances for the home side before bagging a last-minute equaliser to take the tie into an additional 30 minutes.

Further chances came his way after the leveller but it was Altrincham’s Michael Rankine who showed the way to goal with a fine 25-yard strike to win the tie.

And, following on from a disappointing December, Holleran said the Trophy performances, which also featured impressive wins over Barwell, Rushall and Hednesford had set a benchmark.

“The thing that disappointed me around Christmas is that we looked flat and lacked energy,” said Holleran.

“The last two games you can see that the team has gone out and had a right good go and there’s been a bit of quality there.

“We did everything but win the game against Altrincham.

“Our Trophy performances have been right up there.

“We’ve got to try now, in the next few league games, to keep the levels there.

“The time for playing well and being unlucky has probably gone.

“To exert pressure on the top teams we need to win our games in hand and put a run together.”

Injuries and suspensions have hampered Leamington this season but the return of Connor Gudger meant Holleran had a near full-strength squad to select from last Saturday, with only the suspended James Mace absent.

And the quality of the display against a Conference Premier side only confirmed his belief that the play-offs are an achievable aim.

“We’re certainly good enough.

“When our best XI is on the pitch we aint bad. The problem has been getting that best XI out.

“The hope is we can go can injury-free for the next five or six weeks with the amount of points that are possible.”

Brakes have the perfect chance to get their Southern League campaign back on track tomorrow when they travel to rock-bottom Bideford.

Bideford have picked up just one point from their previous 21 and have not played since a 1-0 defeat to Paulton Rovers on Boxing Day, with their last four games having fallen foul of the weather.

Prospects look good for the match being on tomorrow, however, and Holleran says his own side’s prospects will look much brighter come 5pm should they bag a victory.

“Our season starts on Saturday,” said Holleran.

“We got to start picking up three points and if we can string two or three wins together the picture changes.

“Look at Weymouth, they’ve been on a terrible run.

“But then they win two games and they are back up to third.”

n Altrincham crashed out of the FA Trophy at the second-round stage on Tuesday night when they went down to a 2-1 defeat at Bognor Regis.

An 85th-minute James Crane strike settled the tie and despite the two-division gulf between the sides, Holleran said news of the lower-ranked side’s progress was not unexpected.

“It was always going to be a hard task for whoever got there after a 120 minutes on a heavy pitch and a high-quality game.

“The heavy pitch takes a lot out of your legs.

“I was not surprised when I heard they had conceded a late goal.”

n Brakes’ Red Insure match at Aylesbury United on Wednesday night was postponed due to a frozen pitch.