PAUL Holleran lamented the game-changing dismissal of goalkeeper Jake Weaver as Leamington slipped to a slender 1-0 defeat to Alfreton Town.
Conor Branson’s 63rd-minute goal condemned the 16th-placed visitors to a 14th loss in National League North this term, extending the Brakes’ winless league run to seven games.
Having been unsuccessful in their quest for three points since a 2-1 away victory over Hereford on December 28, Holleran admits that record was never likely to change after Weaver’s harsh straight red eight minutes into Tuesday night’s encounter at The Impact Arena.
“The biggest decision of the evening has gone against us early in the game,” he said.
“I think the pitch hasn’t helped Jake, the ball’s got stuck a bit, but he’s got his timing wrong with the tackle – I wouldn’t dispute that for one minute.
“I think the officials all need to read that rule correctly, which is that it’s got to be a clear and obvious goalscoring opportunity – which it hasn’t been.”
The Brakes manager felt that while Leamington were always likely to be up against it taking on their in-form mid-table rivals, he was left relatively pleased with the efforts shown by his ten-man side.
“On a Tuesday night at Alfreton it’s always going to be a tough game – they are a big, strong experienced side.
“I thought we were excellent for long periods of the game and we couldn’t have done much more with ten men I don’t think.
“We had a couple of good chances in the first half but got a bit leggy in the second, you tend to sit in a bit and you’re hoping you can stay in the game.
“Sometimes with ten men you play for that really, you just have to be disciplined and keep good shape, then try and get your moments.”
Leamington’s night got off to the worst start imaginable when Weaver charged out to close down the onrushing Danny Elliott and, after committing himself to a 50-50 challenge, was eventually shown red after a period of deliberation by referee Thomas Kirk.
With no substitute goalkeeper on the bench, Callum Gittings swapped his defensive birth for a stint between the posts for the remainder of the game.
He made a convincing start to his new role, clutching a low drive from Branson, while Jack Storer sent a shot inching past the post down the other end.
The Gittings show continued with a confident save to deny Josh Wilde, followed by a tip over the bar to keep out Bobby Johnson’s free-kick.
While the Brakes tried in vain to conjure up a scoring opportunity, it was the discipline shown throughout the team that was the most impressive facet of their play.
Inevitably though, one clear-cut chance was always likely to fall the hosts’ way with the numerical advantage, and so it proved when Branson latched onto a return pass from Johnson before zipping a shot low into the corner of the net.
Holleran has now urged his troops to demonstrate the same characteristics from the Alfreton defeat in a bid to get themselves out of the winless rut in the coming weeks – starting with Saturday’s home fixture against tenth-placed Southport (3pm).
“Obviously the results over recent weeks and the schedules have been difficult,” he said.
“I think the players have had to put up with a lot of things going against us, but we need to show a lot of character now.
“We’ve got some home games coming up – tough games but at home – and we’ve got to turn the positivity from both the Concord Rangers (in the FA Trophy) and Alfreton games into some points.”