Bishop's brace is unable to see off FC
Brakes were forced to settle for a share of the spoils from a from this pre-Christmas contest, manager Paul Holleran acknowledging that the visitors deserved at least a point for their first half display alone, writes Paul Edwards.
With all four goals arriving in the first half there was plenty of incident for both sets of fans to discuss, the only surprise was that no more followed in the second.
However, despite the visitors being unable to sustain the pace they had set in the first half, Leamington were unable to capitalise on several good opportunities that came their way.
The game got off to a blistering start for Brakes as they went on the offensive straight from the kick-off, Colby Bishop forcing a corner inside the opening minute from which Jack Edwards directed a header narrowly wide at the far post.
A powerful driving run from Callum Gittings earned the corner that led to the opening goal in the third minute. Kieran Dunbar delivered the right-wing corner into a congested six-yard box and Jack Lane had the first stab at goal, with his hooked shot cleared off the line before the predatory Bishop buried the loose ball. There was some initial confusion as Red Rebels keeper Lloyd Allinson appeared to be indicating that he had been impeded in the build-up as he attempted to claim the corner, which certainly looked to be the case, but the goal stood.
Bishop was almost played in for a second soon after but was dispossessed by Chris Lynch.
It was evident the visitors were not going to roll over and concede the points lightly and they began to put Leamington under increasing pressure.
A powerfully struck free-kick from Kurt Willoughby took a huge deflection behind for a corner, with a relieved Tony Breeden rooted to the spot.
The Brakes skipper saved a low shot comfortably but was helpless as Josh Wallen glanced in a right-wing corner in the 31st minute to deservedly level things up.
An inviting cross from Joel Senior found the head of Chris Sharp but his effort lacked the power to beat Breeden as it bounced down and into the keeper’s arms.
A free-kick from distance was also fielded comfortably as FC United continued to press but Leamington broke forward in a rare attack to restore their advantage four minutes before half-time.
Gudger displayed great persistence to retain possession on the left touchline by the corner flag before winning a throw-in. He then found Gittings, who stepped outside his marker to deliver the perfect cross for Bishop to thump a close-range header past Allinson for his second of the afternoon.
It was a lead that was not to last to the interval, with Willoughby evading the lunge of Gittings and thumping in a low effort which squeezed under the body of Breeden and into the bottom corner, much to the annoyance of Holleran.
“As a group we’re disappointed with the amount of opportunities we’ve had to get the ball clear,” he said.
“Injury-time was up and we’ve dived in. It was a mistake and we need to be better than that.”
Brakes needed to come out with purpose to try and regain the initiative in the second half and Bishop presented Dunbar with a great opportunity five minutes in, nudging the ball to his team-mate on the edge of the box but the youngsters’ powerfully struck effort whistled an inch the wrong side of the upright.
Reece Flanagan fired well over the bar from a half-clearance as Leamington got on top and Bishop put Connor Taylor in on goal, with the shot met by a strong block that sent the ball out for a throw-in.
The visitors had the ball in the net for a third time only for their celebrations to be cut short by an early offside flag, while Bishop looked to be in with a chance of a hat-trick after lifting the ball over Lynch, only to see it rise high over the bar.
He had his head in his hands once more after acrobatically diverting Taylor’s shot over the bar from close range.
Both sides introduced substitutes in the final quarter and Ahmed Obeng’s initial impact was very nearly a match-winning one as he ran in behind Senior and Lynch to connect with a through ball from Gittings. However, he failed to get enough purchase on his shot to beat Allinson.
Obeng then had another glorious chance to score a third for Leamington when he cut out a crossfield pass from FC skipper Mike Potts and bore down on goal at pace, beating Senior and riding the challenge of Lynch before dragging a low effort agonisingly wide of the far post.
“I think on the balance of the game you’d have to say that they deserved something for their first-half performance, and we deserved something for our second-half performance,” admitted Holleran.
“We were a little bit braver in the second half, we were better on the ball.
“I think a few players stepped up and we played as well as we have done here for a while.
“FC United are a good side, Neil Reynolds has come in and quickly put his stamp on them.
“They’ve got some good, young, energetic players and they’ve got a good balance to them, but I thought we really got at them second half.
“We probably should have done better with one or two of the chances we had and been more clinical, but I was much more pleased with the performance today, the way we went about things.
“We looked much more like our normal selves.”
Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English, Connor Gudger, Reece Flanagan, James Mace, Jamie Hood, Kieran Dunbar (Ahmed Obeng, 76), Callum Gittings (Joe Clarke, 82), Colby Bishop, Jack Edwards, Connor Taylor. Subs not used: Jamie Hood, James Bowen, Anthony Dwyer.
FC United of Manchester: Lloyd Allinson, Joel Senior, Caleb Richards, Stephen O’Halloran, Chris Lynch, Mike Potts, Tom Peers (Jack Banister, 67), Josh Wallen, Chris Sharp, Kurt Willoughby, Mike Donohue (Ryan White, 67). Subs not used: Jan Palinkas, Theo Brierley, Jamie Milligan.