Drench stop puts the brakes on Leamington’s race for survival
Adam Boyes’ early opener gave Bradford Park Avenue maximum points at the expense of strugglers Leamington.
Mark Bower made two changes to the side that lost to Chorley, re-instating Rob Atkinson and Adam Boyes to the starting line-up following injuries in place of Danny Boshell and Adam Smith. Striker Lee Knight was named a substitute after being recalled from his loan spell at Halesowen Town in midweek.
The hosts’ team selection will have raised eyebrows prior to kick-off, with three centre-backs being named in the starting eleven. Atkinson, Luca Havern and Shane Killock all lined-up in the heart of defence, with Mark Ross and Matt Hill operating as wing-backs. Wayne Brooksby took up a more central role than he is used to, playing in front of the midfield pairing of Nicky Wroe and Jamie Spence and in behind the frontline.
Avenue made a dream start, taking the lead before a minute had been played. Jamie Spencer’s long-range piledriver was tipped on to the post by Tony Breeden, but Boyes was alert to the rebound and tucked home.
The Brakes were rallied by the early goal and began pumping balls forward towards the numerous bodies that had piled into the box. Avenue, however, weathered the storm admirably.
The new system was clearly something that was going to take time to get used to and the hosts struggled to find their feet in the aftermath of the opener.
Connor Gudger took two free-kicks in dangerous positions but couldn’t find the target with his dipping efforts.
After enduring a brief spell of Leamington pressure, Avenue began to take control of the game and came close to doubling their advantage on several occasions.
Frank Mulhern latched on to an inch-perfect through ball from Boyes but was thwarted by an equally as impressive sliding challenge from Jamie Hood.
Spencer sprayed the ball wide to Ross, who was racing forward unmarked, but the defender’s chipped effort clipped the crossbar.
The visitors remained very much in contention despite the score line and would have been level had a foul in the box not ruled out Junior English’s header that flew past Drench.
Opportunities fell to both Gudger and Callum Gittings as the first-half approached its end, but neither could maintain their composure and failed to hit the target from inside the 18-yard box.
HALF-TIME: Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 Leamington
Avenue were given a scare immediately after the restart, as Spencer’s clearance cannoned off Dan Udoh before flying over the crossbar despite briefly seeming like it would nestle in the top corner.
The visitors were then given a scare of their own as Boyes’ long-range effort left Breeden stranded before striking the post.
Leamington dominated possession in the early stages of the first-half but only carved out one clear-cut opportunity. Udoh rounded Atkinson before squaring to Matt Dodd, who stretched but failed to make a connection.
This was until Jack Edwards was wrestled to the ground in the box by Mark Ross, giving Dodd the chance to convert from 12-yards. His spot-kick, however, was saved and held by Drench to the relief of Avenue players, staff and supporters.
Substitute Liam Canavan had an opportunity to salvage a point for the Brakes late on but fired a free-kick into to the face of Havern who deflected the ball behind.
He then headed into the grateful clutches of Drench after Udoh had flicked the ball towards him in the box.
Avenue have faced criticism for their inability to hold out in the late stages of games in recent weeks but did so to claim a much-needed three points and condemn lowly Leamington to defeat.
FULL-TIME: Bradford Park Avenue 1-0 Leamington
Bradford Park Avenue: Drench, Ross, Hill, Atkinson (Toulson 70’), Killock, Havern, Brooksby, Wroe (c), Boyes, Spencer, Mulhern (Boshell 74’).
Unused substitutes: Hall, Recizac, Knight.
Leamington: Breeden (c), English, Gudger, Clarke (Canavan 67’), Hood, Mace, Dunbar (Revan 77’), Gittings, Udoh, Edwards, Obeng (Dodd 62’).
Unused substitutes: Magunda, Moore.
Referee: Garreth Rhodes