Dunbar's strike salvages a point for Leamington

Leamington provided yet more proof that they can compete with the established teams in the National League North as Kieran Dunbar's second-half strike earned them a deserved point at St James Park, writes Paul Edwards.

Thursday, 27th December 2018, 8:27 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:56 am
Jack Edwards congratulates Colby Bishop on his opener. Pictures: Sally Ellis

Paul Holleran made just one change to his starting line-up from Saturday, replacing Reece Flanagan with Joe Clarke, while loan signing Jordan Murphy took Anthony Dwyer’s place on the bench.

Callum Gittings cleared the crossbar and the stand behind the goal with a wild first-time effort from the edge of the box but it was a free-kick from inside the Leamington half by Tony Breeden which led to the opening goal in the 17th minute. Matt Lowe picked up possession inside the penalty area facing his own goal but was neatly dispossessed by Kieran Dunbar who was then tripped by the same player.

Referee Barry Lamb immediately pointed to the spot and Colby Bishop stepped up to calmly send Danny Lewis the wrong way and keep up his goal-a-game record since his return from the ACL injury sustained against the same opponents 12 months ago.

Brakes debutant Jordan Murphy.

Bishop did well to hold off Connor Hall inside the box and get a shot in from a tight angle only to see it blocked, while Gittings’ next effort at goal was a powerfully struck volley which was blocked almost as it left his boot.

Breeden saved the first effort on his goal after 25 minutes, a header from Adam Walker but the visiting side were looking comfortable at this stage.

Connor Taylor should have done better when he curled a low shot wide of the far post and Breeden did well to hold Lee Ndlovu’s powerful effort at his near post.

He was helpless to prevent Brackley’s 33rd-minute equaliser, however, as Ndlovu set up Walker to sling in a dangerous left-wing centre which was headed on for James Armson to drill in from close range.

The former Nuneaton connection came up trumps again for Kevin Wilkin within five minutes, skipper Gareth Dean cutting inside on to his left foot to thump a screamer past Breeden and into the top corner from outside the box.

Cheltenham Town loanee Liam McAlindon glanced a header wide for Brackley from Lowe’s cross, while Dunbar went into the referee’s notebook to compound Brakes’ frustration as they went in at the interval.

Six minutes into the second half Ndlovu won his side a penalty. The nature of the offence was unclear but there were few protests from those wearing blue. Breeden guessed correctly to dive to his left and keep out the poorly struck spot-kick and keep the game within reach for his team-mates.

Jack Edwards came close to restoring parity after Breeden delivered another dead ball from his own half into the Brackley penalty area, his opposite number Danny Lewis advancing from his line but failing to claim the ball. Edwards was grounded but still managed to get plenty of power on his shot and it was cleared off the line, Dean getting in the way to block a fierce follow-up effort from English.

It looked as though Brackley were to be awarded a second penalty kick with around 20 minutes remaining, Ndlovu involved again, but after lengthy consultation with his assistant on the near side the referee awarded a free-kick.

It was another let-off for Leamington who then restored parity in the 74th minute.

Gudger was played into the box by a deft backheel from Flanagan and set up Bishop for a shot. There was a momentary shout for handball as Dean hurled himself in to challenge but the ball ran loose nicely for Dunbar to stroke in off the post for his fifth goal of the season.

A superb turn away from his marker allowed Ndlovu to test Breeden with a vicious low drive that the Brakes skipper held on to well at his near post, while Shane Byrne was also denied.

However, Leamington saw out four minutes of stoppage time in reasonable comfort to extend their unbeaten run to eight matches.

Brackley Town: Danny Lewis, Ellis Myles (Shaun Jeffers 84), Glenn Walker, Shane Byrne, Connor Hall, Gareth Dean, Matt Lowe, James Armson, Lee Ndlovu (Daniel Nti, 82), Liam McAlinden (Luke Fairlamb, 61), Adam Walker. Subs not used: Shepherd Murombedzi, Ben Morgan.

Brakes: Tony Breeden, Junior English, Connor Gudger, Joe Clarke, James Mace, Jack Lane, Kieran Dunbar (Ahmed Obeng, 88), Callum Gittings (Reece Flanagan, 65), Colby Bishop, Jack Edwards, Connor Taylor (Jordan Murphy, 59). Subs not used: Jamie Hood, James Bowen.