Brakes staged a dramatic smash-and-grab raid at Bulpit Lane on Monday evening to snatch three much-needed points on a chilly evening in Berkshire, writes Paul Edwards.
Courtney Baker-Richardson was the hero, scoring both on his full debut to give Paul Holleran’s side a timely boost after Saturday’s disappointing display against Hitchin Town.
Both sides started the game with intent. James Mace headed an early Leamington corner off target, while the hosts’ James Clark got into space on the right, but his shot lacked the power to beat Tony Breeden.
The long throw-in was being used to good effect at both ends of the pitch, with Ben Mackey just unable to guide the ball inside the near post from Richard Taundry’s delivery, while Brakes were giving their hosts plenty of opportunity to launch the ball into their penalty box.
Crusaders skipper Matt Day struck a first-time effort well wide before Hungerford were awarded a penalty with a little over 15 minutes played, Mace penalised for pulling back Nat Jarvis as the striker wriggled past him on the left. Jarvis picked himself up to fire the spot kick low to Breeden’s left but the Brakes skipper guessed correctly and made a strong save.
Diak John intervened with a good challenge to prevent Mackey from steaming through on goal while Baker-Richardson thumped a header against the crossbar from a pinpoint left-wing delivery from the busy Sam Austin.
The home side continued to look dangerous, however, and James Clark was afforded far too much space to get a cross into the middle which was met on the volley by Mike Jones, who was denied by another fine save from Breeden.
Mackey and Jarvis both saw efforts ruled out for offside, but Leamington had already far outstripped what little attacking threat they had shown in their previous game, Taundry firing a free-kick into the arms of keeper Paul Strudley, while another long throw from the hosts led to a headed effort straight at Breeden.
Mace found the target with a back-header from Taundry’s free-kick as an entertaining first half drew to a close but the ball was straight at Strudley.
Taundry curled an early second-half free-kick just past the post, while Clark did likewise for Hungerford.
Playing up the slope, Brakes seemed to lack a little of the attacking threat they had displayed during the first period and they fell behind in the 63rd minute when Stefan Brown fired in his 11th league goal of the season from close range following good work on the left from substitute Alan O’Brien.
Holleran threw on Ben George and Rob Ogleby in a bid to salvage something from the game and gradually Leamington began to ask questions of the Hungerford defence again.
Connor Gudger drove across goal and wide from Ogleby’s nod-down, while Austin had a shot blocked after good build-up play.
The first blow arrived with seven minutes remaining, Mace and Ogleby linking up well before the latter slipped in Baker-Richardson to apply a deft finish under Strudley to the delight of the travelling fans behind the goal, who suddenly found their voices.
There was more to come, however, as the unlikely turnaround was completed in injury time.
Strudley left his line to try and claim a ball he had little chance of reaching and, under pressure from Ogleby, it dropped for Baker-Richardson who lifted a delightful effort up and over the stranded keeper and into the net to the utter delight of the Brakes support who mobbed their new hero along with his team-mates as they ran to the sidelines in celebration.
Hungerford Town: Paul Strudley, Ian Herring (Alan O’Brien. 56), Diak John, Jon Boardman, Matt Day, James Rusby, Rhys Tyler, Mike Jones, Nat Jarvis (Mark Draycott, 62), Stefan Brown, James Clark (Harry Goodger, 83). Subs not used: Garyn Preen, Scott Rees
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry (Ben George, 68), Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Lee Moore, Jack Edwards, Ben Mackey (Rob Ogleby, 68), Courtney Baker Richardson, Sam Austin. Subs not used: James Fry, Jamie Tank, Ross Oulton.