Leamington’s Southern League Premier Division match with Chesham on Tuesday night was abandoned 15 minutes in after floodlight failure, writes Paul Okey.
With the back-up lighting leaving large areas in gloom, referee Sarah Garratt had no alternative but to halt proceedings, taking the players back to the dressing rooms when it became clear that the problem would not be fixed immediately.
And once news came through from Western Power that it could take several hours to get someone out to deal with it, the match was called off, with those in the ground handed vouchers for the rearranged clash.
Despite the early cessation of hostilities it had been a controversy-laden opening to the game, with Chesham having taken a sixth-minute lead courtesy of a disputed goal from Ryan Blake.
Drew Roberts had already fired wildly over before Benji Crilley’s long punt forward was allowed to bounce on the edge of the home box. The Brakes defence was slow to react and Barry Hayles was able to beat Tony Breeden to the ball, nudging it over him for Blake to gleefully volley home.
Brakes were incensed, claiming the 44-year-old had used a hand to win the ball, but despite Garratt consulting with her assistant referee, the goal was given.
The hosts thought they were level four minutes later when Chesham failed to clear a corner and Joe Magunda sidefooted the ball past Ashlee Jones in the visitors’ goal. However, Crilley was in the right place to clear the ball despite many home fans believing it had already crossed the line.
Chesham then sliced through the Brakes defence, allowing Toby Little to hare through on goal but Connor Gudger recovered well to block his shot.
A long-range effort from Courtney Baker-Richardson almost turned into a fine diagonal pass for Ahmed Obeng but the flag was up, with Jones producing a fine point-blank save to deny him anyway.
With the game bubbling up nicely, it was to prove a frustrating end to the evening, with Brakes boss Paul Holleran convinced his side could get something from it despite the early deficit.
“We wanted to carry on,” he said.
“The first ten minutes we were all over the place, Chesham came out of the blocks well.
“But I thought we were slowly starting to get into the game.
“I knew it was going to be a tough but good game and it was shaping up that way.
“Prior to the lights going out we were unlucky not to equalise.”
Holleran also had his views on Chesham’s opener and had sought out veteran striker Hayles after the match for his take on it.
“It certainly looked like handball,” said Holleran.
“I asked Barry afterwards and he said it was ball to hand. But he said it with a smile on his face.”
The abandonment of Tuesday night’s game robbed Brakes of the opportunity to up a ten-point lead on Slough at the top of the table and Holleran knows the psychological boost that would have gone with it would have been just as important.
“I would have liked to win the game to go into Christmas with an even better margin,” he said.
“Now we’ve got two tough local derbies.
“Stratford, their main aim of the season is to beat Leamington Football Club and Banbury are Banbury.
“With Chippenham to follow it’s a real tough period.
“We’ll be glad to get points out of it.”
n A raffle at Tuesday night’s game for Dunstable’s Sam Doolan raised £300.
The young defender suffered a fractured skull and eye socket after a clash of heads with Darren Pond in Brakes’ 2-0 win at Creasey Park.
“It’s a nice gesture that will hopefully make his Christmas a little merrier,” said Holleran.
Doolan in turn tweeted his thanks, saying: “Such a kind gesture and I’m very appreciative.”
Brakes: Leamington: Tony Breeden ©, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda, Dan Preston, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Callum Gittings, Richard Gregory, Jack Edwards, Ahmed Obeng. Subs not used: Rob Thompson-Brown, Ryan Rowe, Ben George, Tom James, Nathan Olukanmi.
Chesham United: Ashlee Jones, Benji Crilley, Brett Longden, Mat Mitchell-King, Darren Purse, Adam Martin, Toby Little, Matt Taylor, Barry Hayles, Drew Roberts, Ryan Blake. Subs not used: Dave Pearce, Sam Youngs, Stephan Hamilton-Forbes, Taylor McKenzie, Shaun Reece.