Leamington were almost made to pay for a lack of conviction inside the final third as a limited Histon side made their seventh home league win of the season a lot more anxious than it should have been, writes Paul Okey.
Winter well and truly arrived at the New Windmill on Saturday and it was the lowly visitors who were caught cold as Brakes fashioned four decent openings inside the first 12 minutes.
However, the hosts’ shooting boots had deserted them, with James Fry’s effort 90 seconds in going closer to the corner flag than the goal and Ben Mackey failing to get any purchase on his effort a couple of minutes later.
Mackey was again guilty in the sixth minute, rushing his effort after Lee Chilton had brought the ball down for him and the lively Chilton was again involved in the fourth opportunity, racing clear down the left and squaring to Rob Ogleby who, off balance, could only skew his short high and wide.
Tony Breeden was lucky to remain on the field after his first involvement, racing out of his goal following Ryan Auger’s miscued shot and flying in feet first to a challenge with Joe Carden, which left the attacker prone on the floor.
It looked reckless but referee Chris Husband opted for a yellow card and once a brief altercation had died down, the resulting free-kick was drilled straight into the stomach of Joe Halsall.
With Histon slowly coming into the game, Brakes gained reward for their early flurry with the opening goal.
Mackey showed good strength to hold off his marker and drill in a cross from the byline, with Chilton lurking unmarked to turn the ball home from close range.
Visiting keeper Brendan Brown had an anxious moments as Ogleby swung in a cross from the left wing which looked to be sneaking in at the far post and when the ball was only half-cleared, he needed the intervention of a defender on the goal-line to keep out Chilton’s delivery from the left, with the referee then halting Brakes’ momentum for a foul on Brown.
Josh Oyinsan flicked a header wide in a rare Histon attack, while Ogleby’s penalty claims fell on deaf ears after the midfielder appeared to be sandwiched inside the box.
Mackey worked the first opening of the second period, but could not keep his shot down while Breeden had to produce a strong hand to turn away Ryan Auger’s free-kick.
Nick Freeman and Auger were both off target with tame efforts before Leamington took control of the contest.
Evan Key nipped in to avert the danger as Brown and Mackey converged on a cross into the box and James Mace and Jamie Tank both had wild thrashes at the ball following a corner, with Tank at least succeeding in sending his shot goalwards, albeit too high.
Mackey beat Brown to Chilton’s ball in from the left, but could not direct his effort on target and he was again throwing his arms up in despair after Chilton’s inviting cross fizzed across the face of goal with no one gambling to apply the finishing touch.
Mackey was seeing plenty of the ball in the attacking third and he was presented with another shooting chance in the 66th minute after marker Miles Smith went to ground clutching his ankle. However, his tame effort was straight at Brown.
Five minutes later, visiting defender Evan Key was to show the clinical touch Leamington had been lacking.
Chilton was again the instigator, turning the ball into the box from the left and, with Brown getting the slightest of touches, Key diverted the ball home under pressure from Mackey.
However, any thoughts the three points had been safely bagged were quickly extinguished seconds later when Histon went straight up the other end and scored. Right-back Luke Trotman had been a constant outlet for the visitors and he took a pinpoint crossfield pass under control before racing on and firing past Breeden to bring it back to 2-1.
Mace came close to restoring Brakes’ two-goal cushion with a back-post header from a Ross Oulton free-kick, which was kept out by the leg of Brown, with the keeper knowing little about his intervention.
As time ran down, Histon’s response looked to have petered out with a number of increasingly hopeful pot-shots.
However, home fans’ hearts were in their mouths in injury time when Trotman again latched on to a crossfield ball in a carbon copy off their opening goal. And, having attracted the attentions of Breeden, he crumpled to the floor.
But, having repeatedly angered home fans with a series of soft free-kick awards, on this occasion referee Husband chose not to dish out any sanction.
And, as Leamington looked to run down the clock, they created, and wasted, two more opportunities.
First, Oulton wriggled his way free on the byline to set up Chilton, who volleyed over and then Chilton did all the hard work himself, evading a defender on the left flank before cutting into the box and seeing his shot strike the inside of the post.
It was to matter little as the final whistle blew almost immediately, but the closeness of the result was a stark reminder to Leamington that they will need to acquire a killer instinct against the division’s lesser lights if they are to maintain their title challenge.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, James Mace, James Fry, Joe Magunda, Jamie Hood, Jamie Tank, Ross Oulton, Joe Halsall, Ben Mackey (Will Green, 89), Rob Ogleby (Richard Taundry, 86), Lee Chilton.
Subs not used: Lee Moore, Martyn Naylor, Eddie Caviezel-Cox.
Histon: Brendan Brown, Luke Trotman, Miles Smith, Evan Key, Jack Utteridge, Rogan McGeorge (Lewis Clayton, 21), Nick Freeman, Ryan Auger, Josh Oyinsan, Sam Ives, Joe Carden (Harry Norman, 65). Sub not used: Dovydas Kairys.