Rowe puts Brakes top of the pile

Ryan Rowe curls home Leamington's match-winning goal under pressure from Tom Ward. Pictures: Sally Ellis
Ryan Rowe curls home Leamington's match-winning goal under pressure from Tom Ward. Pictures: Sally Ellis
  • Southern League Premier Division
  • St Neots 0 Brakes 1

Ryan Rowe’s third goal of the week helped Brakes see off the stubborn challenge of St Neots at the Premier Plus stadium, a result which coupled with Slough Town’s second-half collapse at Basingstoke saw Paul Holleran’s side move to the top of the table, writes Paul Edwards.

The Saints may be in the wrong half of the table but they provided one of the toughest examinations of the season for Leamington, defending in numbers and frustrating their visitors for long periods while never really threatening Tony Breeden’s goal.

Brakes saw a lot of the ball in the opening exchanges, Courtney Baker-Richardson volleying well wide, while Michael Hyem had a shot blocked after St Neots won the first corner of the match.

James Mace connected with a precise right-wing free-kick from the outstanding Richard Taundry, but was unable to get enough power on it to trouble Alex Archer as he directed the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

He was swiftly back to his defensive duties, getting a block on Tom Spark’s shot to deflect the ball behind.

Jamie Hood had to work hard to manoeuvre the ball out to safety as the hosts swarmed around the Leamington penalty area but he almost helped engineer an opening as his long ball was nodded on by Rowe for Baker-Richardson, only for Taylor Parr to nick the ball away with a slightly risky but well-timed challenge from behind.

Baker-Richardson then threaded the ball across a crowded box for Ahmed Obeng to strike a first-time effort that was quickly blocked, before Jack Edwards lashed in a stinging effort that was parried by Archer to Rowe, who could only slice over the bar under pressure.

Rowe appeared to be shoved by Saints skipper Tom Ward as Rob Thompson-Brown’s low left-wing cross whistled past him, while his central defensive partner Parr cleared a good ball in from Baker-Richardson with Rowe waiting to pounce.

Breeden saved a rare shot from James Hall at his near post, but it was Leamington who came closest to a first-half opener when Thompson-Brown did well to dig out a low drive that clipped the outside of the post before being frantically cleared behind.

Edwards hooked a shot over when well placed from Hood’s knock-down early in the second half, while Baker-Richardson did well to stab a shot on target from a tight angle despite the attentions of Hyem.

The goal finally arrived in the 65th minute and highlighted the hard work being put in at both ends of the pitch. Obeng did well to win the ball back from St Neots substitute Ryan Hawkins deep in his own half and raced out of defence before playing a pass into space down the left for Rowe, who on picking up possession cut inside his marker on the edge of the box before curling in a well-struck effort that nestled in the far corner to the delight of the noisy travelling support behind the goal.

Both sides continued to probe for goals in the time that remained, but Leamington continued to look more likely to add to their tally as their defence repelled everything that St Neots threw at them.

Substitute Tom James almost wriggling through inside a crowded area late on, but one goal was enough for Leamington as they finished a testing week on the road with maximum points.

St Neots Town: Alex Archer, Miles Smith, Jonny Hall (Rogan McGeorge, 83), Michael Hyem, Tom Ward, Taylor Parr, Tom Spark, Pete Clark, James Hall, Sam Mulready, Declan Rogers ( Ryan Hawkins, 64). Subs not used: Charlie Ward, Tom Wood, Jordan Heywood.

Brakes: Tony Breeden, Richard Taundry, Connor Gudger, Darren Pond, Jamie Hood, James Mace, Courtney Baker-Richardson, Jack Edwards, Ryan Rowe (Nathan Olukanmi, 79), Rob Thompson-Brown (Joe Magunda, 90), Ahmed Obeng (Tom James, 83). Subs not used: Ryan Quinn, Ben George.