REIGNING champions Leamington began their defence of the Birmingham Senior Cup with victory over Highgate United on Tuesday night.
Josh March’s goal on the stroke of half time was the difference, in a match which the hosts were unable to fully kill off the game.
Manager Paul Holleran pointed to a lack of ruthlessness in the final third from his team on the night, and said: “In spells we did well, especially at the start of the second half, but we didn’t kill the game off.
“We weren’t clinical enough and it got a bit scrappy in the end but it served its purpose.
“We got people on the pitch who needed minutes, we had a little look at Josh March a bit deeper, Callum Maycock got some minutes into his legs, so it’s a slightly better result than when we played them last time.”
The first chance of the night fell the way of the full-strength hosts when Kieran Dunbar fired goalwards from Kaiman Anderson’s free kick, but failing to provide a finish to truly test Highgate stopper James Beeson.
George Carline was next to trouble the visitors goal, going past a defender before unleashing a shot that Beeson was again equal to.
Chances continued to fall to the Brakes, who were moving the ball around with ease and only needed a goal to show for their fine efforts on the night, though the deadlock somehow remained when James Mace sent over from a matter of yards.
The pressure was ramped up by the hosts after the half-hour mark, though a lack of goalmouth action seemed to confirm a goalless opening half.
But up stepped March with the decisive say on matters, showing good instinct to lift the ball into the net while grounded to open the scoring.
A change at half time perked up the Brakes, with Jack Edwards’ introduction having the desired impact immediately when the midfielder knocked the ball into Kaiman Anderson’s path, who clipped the crossbar.
Anderson was then kept out by Beeson, before flashing a ball across goal that evaded the on-rushing Dunbar.
Connor Taylor’s shot was kept out and then headed into the net by Anderson – only for the forward to be denied following a foul on the goalkeeper.
The final chance of the night fell the way of Coventry City loanee Callum Maycock, who came within inches of opening his account for the Brakes with a powerful drive.
With their progression confirmed, Leamington return to National League North action at home to Gateshead on Saturday (3pm).