Ten-man Brakes come away with nothing despite battling display at the Impact Arena
Leamington put in a committed, wholehearted battling display at the Impact Arena after the eighth-minute dismissal of goalkeeper Jake Weaver to restrict a frustrated Alfreton Town to just a single-goal victory, writes Paul Edwards.
The on- loan Birmingham City man has been Brakes’ only ever-present this season but that record will now come to an end as he serves a one-game suspension, giving Paul Holleran a selection headache for his number one slot with back-up keeper Ben Newey nursing an injury.
With Junior English missing through suspension and Dexter Walters injured, Holleran handed full debuts to Josh Martin and Jack Storer, while Joe Parker returned to midfield having been cup-tied for the previous two games.
The game got off to the worst possible start for Leamington as they lost Weaver to a red card inside the first ten minutes.
The hosts had spent practically all of the opening exchanges camped inside the visitors’ half and Amari Morgan-Smith turned and charged into space in the centre circle, playing Danny Elliott through on goal.
Weaver charged to the edge of his box and made the challenge but although there were at least three Brakes defenders between him and the empty goal, after a couple of minutes deliberating, referee Thomas Kirk brandished the red card to leave the goalkeeper with his head in his hands.
Callum Gittings was the man tasked with filling the void and his first contribution was to hold a low drive from Conor Branson at the second attempt.
Leamington broke quickly and registered their first attempt at goal, Stephan Morley standing the ball up to the far side for Storer to drive in a powerful low effort that flashed past the far post.
The next effort at goal was spilled by the stand-in keeper but as the minutes ticked by his handling and confidence improved as he saved a shot from Josh Wilde.
He then watched a free-kick from Bobby Johnson all the way, pushing the ball to safety over his crossbar.
A rare attack for Leamington involving some decent build-up play ended with Parker curling a shot over the bar.
Despite being a man light,Brakes were manoeuvring their way forward when able to. Inevitably it was at the other end of the pitch where most of the work would be done if they were to gain anything from the contest and they continued to keep their shape and discipline well, frustrating the home side for long periods.
Gittings confidently came off his line to claim a high ball into his penalty area within seconds of the restart but Alfreton’s concerted pressure resulted in the only goal of the evening eventually arriving in the 64th minute.
It was a little out of context with the home side’s approach play as a whole; a neat exchange of passes between Branson and Johnson saw the former latch on to a clever flick and rifle the ball low past a helpless Gittings and into the net.
The one-way traffic continued for the remainder of the contest but Alfreton were simply unable to find the right pass to break down a determined and stubborn Leamington defence.
Debutant West Bromwich Albion loanee Dan Meredith was involved with fellow substitute Kieran Dunbar late on as Leamington attempted to snatch a point but his low ball in from the right flashed across the face of goal.
Despite slipping to a fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions, the players deserve the utmost credit for digging in under the circumstances.
Alfreton Town: Jordan Wright, Danny East, Josh Wilde (Shaun Tuton, 65), Danny Clarke, Ryan Qualter, Dominic Smith, Conor Branson, Danny Elliott (Ben Tomlinson, 89), David Lynch (Dale Witham, 54), Amari Morgan-Smith, Bobby Johnson. Subs not used: Teddy Unwin-Marris, Michael Freiter.
Brakes: Jake Weaver, Josh Martin, Stephan Morley, Callum Maycock, James Mace, Jack Lane, Joe Parker (Kieran Dunbar, 85), Jack Storer (Dan Meredith, 68), Jack Edwards, Kaiman Anderson (Connor Taylor, 68). Subs not used: Kyle McFarlane, Joe Clarke.