LEAMINGTON are still in the hunt for a first win of the National League North season after a gut-wrenching 3-2 defeat at Chester on Saturday.
Despite taking the lead through Junior English on nine minutes, two goals from Danny Elliott and a Bradley Bauress strike helped turned the game on its head – ruling a Dan Meredith effort 14 minutes from time a mere consolation.
And while the Brakes have so far faltered at the start of the season, manager Paul Holleran believes there were plenty of signs of encouragement from Saturday to build on going forward.
“I’m disappointed because I don’t think the result reflects our performance and our levels at large parts of the game,” he said.
“We played well in the final third, and it was a big improvement collectively and individually from the last two games. We defended set plays better, scored two and created three or four really good opportunities as well but sadly we’ve had a penalty decision go against us.
“We’ll look back and be disappointed with the two headed goals.
“But there’s still plenty for us to look at and work on but in terms of how the week’s gone on, there were lots of plusses in terms of the individual performance, definitely from Tuesday night [a 4-0 defeat to Boston United] it’s a big improvement.”
Two changes were made to Holleran’s starting XI at the Deva Stadium, with Connor Taylor and Josh Martin slotting into the side and defender English shuffled into the more unconventional number ten role.
It was in this position where English netted the opener, firing home from Sam Osborne’s cross that flashed across the six-yard box.
Provider should have turned goalscorer when Osborne blazed over from Martin’s inviting free-kick delivery moments later, a miss that proved crucial when Elliott finished from Kevin Roberts’ centre on 24 minutes.
But the Brakes did not learn from the equalising goal, again allowing Roberts the space to whip in a cross from the right which was headed fiercely past Jake Weaver by Bauress nine minutes before the interval.
Stephan Morley went close to restoring parity before the break, nudging a volley just wide of the mark after his initial free-kick was blocked.
With Morley also involved down the other end, bringing down Roberts inside the Leamington penalty area 12 minutes into the second half, Chester had breathing space when Elliott notched his second from 12 yards.
The Brakes tried in vain to get back into the contest, Osborne denied from range with a shot that curled into the gloves of Louis Gray, while a cross from Taylor caused problems for the home stopper.
It was a moment of inspiration from substitute Lance Smith which brought the visitors back into contention, when the forward held up play before playing through Meredith, who rounded Gray and fired home with 15 minutes remaining.
A push on another substitute in Kaiman Anderson looked certain to be worthy of a Leamington penalty in the dying embers of the game – but to everyone’s surprise referee Matthew Scholes waved away the visitors’ protests.
Further controversy followed in stoppage time, when cries of a Chester handball inside the penalty area were again of little interest to the referee, denying Leamington the chance of late salvation.
With no midweek fixture, Holleran’s side host another winless side in Darlington on Saturday (3pm).