FOOTBALL: A DRAMATIC goal minutes from the final whistle in both normal time and extra time earned Leamington their first promotion since 2013, sending them to the Vanarama National League North next season.
Heartache from last year’s playoff final was reversed this afternoon as goals from Thompson-Brown and Baker-Richardson sent Brakes fans in raptures.
Paul Holleran’s side came from a goal down to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Hitchin Town in the Southern Premier Division Playoff Final.
It comes just 12 months after Brakes suffered a 2-1 defeat to Hungerford in last year’s playoff final – a game in which Brakes initially led 1-0.
Today’s win means Brakes will play in the second highest tier of non-league football – a division they last played in during the 2015 season.
Leamington were made to work hard though as Hitchin took an early lead through 21-year-old Matthew Lench after 11 minutes.
Lench was positioned in the right place at the right time as a free kick was headed across goal before being bundled home by the promising youngster.
In front of a record Phillips 66 Community Stadium crowd of more than 2,000, Brakes had work to do.
Multiple efforts prior to the conclusion of the first half were blocked or saved as Holleran’s team trailed.
Thompson-Brown went close minutes in the second half when Edwards’ pass found the striker who dodged two defenders before placing his shot over the crossbar.
A handball shout on the edge of the penalty area was turned down 15 minutes before the final whistle, however Brakes’ breakthrough came in the 88th minute when Rolfe was sent off following a challenge in the area.
Thompson-Brown calmly converted the penalty to take the game to extra time – and Hitchin left with only ten men.
A goalless first half of extra time wasn’t repeated in the seconf part of extra time as Baker-Richardson scored with just seven minutes remaining.
Despite a late effort from Hitchin Town, Holleran’s side held on to a historic win.