Brakes required an own goal from Cinderford skipper Josh Nelmes to negotiate a nervy encounter with the relegation strugglers at The Causeway that leaves them sitting three points behind leaders Chippenham with five games remaining, writes Paul Edwards.
Courtney Baker-Richardson’s 19th goal of the season had given Leamington a slender half-time advantage which was cancelled out just moments after the interval by Foresters striker Nick Harrhy.
Rain began to fall midway through the first half and it was clear to see how the league’s bottom club had upset some of the other promotion-chasing sides, with their lightning quick forward movement giving Brakes’ defence plenty to think about on an increasingly greasy surface.
Nelmes was forced to clear an audacious effort from Ahmed Obeng off the line, the striker reacting when the ball was lofted back into the box and hooking a shot around goalkeeper Giles Cutlan.
Obeng was quickly involved again, pulling the ball back for Baker-Richardson to sweep a low first-time drive into the bottom corner in the 11th minute to settle the nerves.
Leamington continued to put pressure on the hosts, Jack Edwards firing high and wide when well placed and Richard Taundry and Baker-Richardson both having shots blocked.
Edwards then saw a looping header from a free-kick held by Cutlan before Harrhy missed a glorious chance for the hosts, heading a dangerous right-wing cross wide of the target from only a few yards out at the far post.
Tony Breeden was somewhat harshly booked for seemingly winning a race for the ball out by the touchline, sparking fury as the ball rocketed into the home dugout.
This was stoked further when Cinderford had a penalty shout waved away shortly afterwards.
Cutlan made a routine save as Baker-Richardson flicked a header towards goal from Taundry’s cross, while several corners towards the end of the first half came to nothing.
Brakes were then stunned within a minute of the second half kicking off as the home side burst forward, Harrhy’s powerful drive from 25 yards skidding off the turf and finding its way past the diving Breeden, who would have been disappointed to have been beaten at his near post.
Obeng missed a gilt-edged opportunity to put Leamington back in front when he somehow steered a great ball in from the right by Baker-Richardson wide of the target from three yards out.
Edwards then cracked in a volley from just outside the box from Darren Pond’s nod-down, producing a flying save from Cutlan as he dived full length to push the ball over the bar.
Baker-Richardson’s shot was deflected inches past the upright as Leamington continued to probe and they were rewarded in the 54th minute when Taundry fed Pond down the right, the former Oxford City man whipping in a dangerous cross that the unfortunate Nelmes could only slice into his own goal.
Despite introducing Stefan Moore for his third debut, Paul Holleran’s side were unable to stretch their lead and had to endure a nervy final third of the game as Cinderford poured forward at every opportunity in search of the goals that might spark what looks an increasingly desperate great escape bid.
Brakes really had to dig in but there were no further chances for either side and they were able to narrow the gap on the leaders to set up an interesting final month of the campaign.
Holleran had known what to expect from the battling hosts, having watched Cinderford beat Slough and was pleased with the battling qualities shown by his side to push themselves over the line.
“I think the ingredients we needed to show tonight, character, discipline, control, were all in evidence,” he said.
“Our workrate and desire was excellent.
“We lacked quality, as most sides will at Cinderford, for various reasons, but I thought that the pure will of the players to drag themselves over the line and get the result showed what we are all about.
“It was fantastic to be able to bring Stef (Moore) on for the last half an hour to bring more composure up front, hold the ball up and get others involved.”
Cinderford Town: Giles Cutlan, Isaac Kelly, James Bloom, Josh Nelmes, Shane Parry, Jack Alderdice, Callum McConie (Elliot Ford, 19), Lewis Bamford, Nick Harrhy (Craig Norman, 67), Jarrad Welch, Jamie Hicks.Subs not used: Ben Hands, Cameron Clarke, Paul Michael.
BRAKES: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, Joe Magunda, Courtney Baker-Richardson (Jordan Goddard, 74), Callum Gittings, Ahmed Obeng (Stefan Moore, 61), Jack Edwards, Rob Thompson-Brown. Subs not used: James Mace, Kurtis Revan, Tom James.