PAUL Holleran says Leamington’s defensive frailties tarnished an otherwise impressive performance in their 4-2 defeat to Gateshead at the Gateshead International Stadium.
Jack Edwards’ 11th-minute opener was soon cancelled out by former Newcastle defender Mike Williamson, before Alex Nicholson and Jordan Preston struck twice in quick succession to leave Brakes chasing the game after the restart.
A fourth Gateshead goal midway through the second half by Jake Southern-Cooper killed off any hope of a fightback, although Connor Taylor reduced the arrears with a strike in the 86th minute.
The Leamington manager felt his side demonstrated more quality than in the reverse fixture – a 0-0 stalemate at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium in January – but expressed his anguish having wasted a promising position in the game.
“I’m bitterly disappointed because I thought that for the first third of the game, we were in it – more so than we were in the home fixture,” said Holleran.
“We scored a good goal, had a couple of good chances and then sadly, in the second half of the first half, we’ve made too many mistakes.
“We’re talking about good experienced players who have made poor decisions and, from being well in the game, we find ourselves 3-1 behind.
“Goals change games and momentum. You’re against certainly the best side at home in the league at the moment. We came out, huffed and puffed a bit, kept a half decent shape and we were in the game.
“But I think the last two Saturdays have taken a familiar pattern – we’ve conceded poor goals and we’ve been sloppy – it’s something we need to address.”
In a second trip to the north east in as many weeks, Leamington took an early lead when Edwards cushioned a shot into the far corner from Callum Gittings’ cross to prompt hopes a first win in National League North since December was on the cards.
Eight minutes later though, the Heed were on level terms when player-manager Williamson met a free kick delivery to the far post to head the hosts level.
In response, Brakes almost hit the front once more when Joe Parker’s misplaced pass fell back into his path, encouraging him to charge forward and drive a ferocious shot goalwards, but it was matched by an equally impressive save from Bradley James.
Five minutes before the break, Leamington were behind when Scott Barrow’s cross-shot was nudged in by Nicholson at the far post.
A third followed in the first minute of stoppage time to make Holleran’s task in the half-time team talk all the more difficult. This time it was Preston who provided it, whipping a sensational 25-yarder beyond Jake Weaver into the corner.
Leamington tried in vain to pull a goal back, but instead fell further behind when Cooper cut inside on to his right foot before burying the ball into the net.
While the visitors stemmed Gateshead’s flow of attacking momentum, the game entered a lull as the game drew towards its conclusion.
A goal from Taylor, who crashed home a crisp strike into the top corner, helped the Brakes save some face with minutes remaining, but did nothing to change their current standing of 15th at the full-time whistle.
On Saturday, a trip to Concord Rangers in the third round of the FA Trophy provides a welcome distraction to Holleran and Co.