Leamington began their defence of the Birmingham Senior Cup with a low-key victory over Midland League Premier side Highgate, writes Paul Okey.
Josh March’s goal in first-half injury time settled the tie on a night when the real winners were those fans that stayed at home.
The 142 who did turn out would have expected a comfortable home win for the National League side and it looked like that might be the case in the opening stages as Brakes took control.
Coventry City loanee Callum Maycock was integral to their early dominance, buzzing around in front of the back four and helping the home side maintain possession.
A George Carline cross from the left was headed over by March in the third minute before a mistake from Nathan Pulisciano presented Brakes with a clear route to goal. March slipped Kieran Dunbar in but his shot lacked conviction and Highgate keeper James Beeson was able to make a sprawling save.
A swift break from the hosts ended with Carline cutting in and sending in a shot that was comfortable for Beeson.
March whistled a half-volley wide and Sam Oji had to be alert to get an outstretched leg to a through ball with Dunbar lurking. James Mace then headed over from close range from the resultant corner.
As has become a familiar failing in recent weeks for the hosts, they were unable to turn their dominance into goals and Highgate enjoyed their best period of the game just past the half-hour mark.
A pacy break ended with Isaac Jagroop’s fierce shot being deflected for a corner from which Seegu Sebbey Njie shot over. Correy Carruthers then had a shot blocked as the visitors grew in confidence.
Mace flicked a header wide but with the game drifting to half-time, Brakes broke the deadlock.
The Midland League side gave the ball away cheaply at the back and Dunbar squared to March who spun his defender and shot over the advancing Beeson as he was bundled to the ground, strangling his bench’s appeals for a penalty.
Jack Edwards was introduced at the back in place of Mace and a lively start to the second period saw Jagroop round Weaver only to be forced wide, allowing Brakes to regroup and smuggle the ball clear.
Play quickly mo ved to the other end where Kaiman Anderson was unable to find the target from close range after being picked out by Gittings.
Gittings then nipped in to pick up possession 35 yards out but got his shot all wrong.
Anderson was inches away from making it 2-0 after latching on to Edwards’ flick-on from a Jack Lane free-kick. But after flicking the ball over Beeson, he saw it agonisingly bounce back off the crossbar.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes and with Brakes’ lead still a slender one, Highgate sensed their might be a way back into the tie.
James Wilcock sent an ambitious volley high and wide and substitute Ryan Conlon almost embarrassed Weaver with a mishit volley which looped up in the air and had the keeper scrambling back towards his goal and clawing it away from the top corner.
Brakes substitute Connor Taylor worked a shooting chance but could only direct his shot straight into the midriff of Beeson who was then thankful for the intervention of referee Simon Brown after the ball was bundled into the net at a corner, the official blowing for a foul on the keeper.
March nearly repeated his first-half trick of scoring in injury time but after a forceful run from Maycock, he fired his shot narrowly wide of the far post.
It was to matter little as Brown blew for full-time seconds later, ensuring Brakes’ interest in a cup they have won twice in three years continued for another round at least.