This was a far from an ideal end to the year but while Telford were deserved winners, a crazy final ten minutes distorted the scoreline and, more worryingly, may create more lasting problems in the forthcoming weeks for Brakes, writes Paul Edwards.
It had all started so well. Kieran Dunbar forced a fourth-minute corner on the Leamington right, delivering the dead ball himself from which Colby Bishop connected from six yards to send the ball rolling slowly towards the net. Junior English may have impeded keeper Andy Wycherley’s view and his dive was in vain as the ball rolled almost apologetically over the line.
Yet from a winning position, for the second game running Brakes found themselves behind at half-time.
Leamington failed to clear their lines following an 11th-minute free-kick and Brendon Daniels picked up the ball on the edge of the box and crashed in a powerful effort that Tony Breeden could only help into the roof of the net.
Dunbar cracked a shot in from the right that Wycherley fumbled and held at the second attempt, while Reece Flanagan almost planted a free-kick on to the head of Bishop, the goalkeeper arriving just ahead of the in-form striker to pluck the ball to safety.
Just 16 minutes after going in front, Leamington found themselves behind, Amari Morgan-Smith converting from the spot after going down under the challenge of Joe Clarke.
Brakes were almost back level when Bishop turned his marker and got a shot away which was missed by the diving Wycherley but not by Daniels, who cleared away from the goal-line. English headed wide from the resulting corner.
Dan Udoh and Daniels both had efforts blocked as Telford pressed for a third goal before half-time and Darryl Knights drilled a shot wide as the ball ricocheted around the Leamington box.
Wycherley just managed to hold on to Gudger’s 25-yard free-kick down at his near post but Brakes were almost the architects of their own downfall moments before half-time in a bizarre passage of play.
The ball found its way into the centre despite two Brakes players attempting to clear and Knights fired in a shot that looked to have beaten a wrong-footed Breeden only for the skipper to somehow adjust himself and claw the ball out as it was about to cross the line. A follow-up effort was well blocked but the danger still had not passed and Morgan-Smith’s header back across goal was kept out by a well-timed goal-line clearance from James Mace.
Brakes were soon on the back foot once more after the interval, Breeden alert to deny Udoh as his former team-mate tried to nick the ball past him inside the six-yard box.
It was not all one-way traffic, however, Bishop lifting a shot over the bar following a free-kick and Dunbar’s low drive saved at his near post by Wycherley.
Breeden was soon in action again, pawing away Udoh’s powerful drive and reacting quickly to claim the loose ball.
Substitute Ahmed Obeng very nearly made a spectacular entrance, with his first touch being a shot that was cleared away from goal, while Jack Edwards spurned probably the best chance Brakes fashioned for a leveller when he was set up by a pass across the box from Gudger. However, his shot lacked the power to trouble Wycherley.
Deeney was the width of a post from extending Telford’s lead when he picked up a deflected cross on the edge of the box before switching the ball to his left boot and crashing a curling drive against the frame of the goal.
Former Brakes skipper Stephan Morley was involved in the clinching third goal which arrived in the 79th minute, Morgan-Smith collecting the ball in the centre and driving it into the bottom corner.
Bishop forced a mid-air save from Wycherley with an audacious back-heeled volley and Flanagan thundered in a shot that was diverted over the bar by Ross White.
Leamington’s challenge disintegrated in the closing stages however, beginning when Gudger was shown a straight red card for a challenge mid-way inside his own half. On first viewing it looked a harsh decision and was certainly the precursor for what followed.
The ball was launched out of the Brakes defence down the left and substitute Jamie Hood’s first touch was poor. He attempted to atone for this as he went in to challenge Deeney, appearing to win the ball but having used both feet the referee deemed it to be a sending off offence.
It was left for Udoh to drive the final nail into the coffin. The young striker who began 2018 on loan at Leamington presented with the relatively simple task of slotting first-time past Breeden with the Leamington defence backpedaling.
AFC Telford: Andy Wycherley, Ross White, Ellis Deeney, Jonathan Royle, Dominic Smith, Theo Streete, Ryan Barnett (James McQuilkin, 85), Brendon Daniels (Stephan Morley, 68), Amari Morgan-Smith, Daniel Udoh, Darryl Knights (Henry Cowans, 76). Subs not used: Andre Brown, Matthew Barnes-Homer.
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English (Jamie Hood, 58), Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke (Callum Gittings, 74), James Mace, Jack Lane, Kieran Dunbar (Ahmed Obeng, 66), Reece Flanagan, Colby Bishop, Jack Edwards, Jordan Murphy. Subs not used: James Bowen, Connor Taylor.