A RESOUNDING 4-0 defeat to Boston United on the opening day of the season meant it was a tough return to National League North football for Leamington on Tuesday night.
While the Pilgrims are viewed by many to be promotion candidates this term, the Brakes will take little comfort from the result – their first league action in almost seven months – having also been dumped out of the FA Cup by Banbury United three days earlier.
Paul Holleran, celebrating his 50th birthday, made two changes to the team that turned out in the cup, replacing Jack Edwards and Dan Meredith with Callum Gittings and Joe Clarke.
Jake Weaver was forced into action between the Leamington sticks just two minutes in at the Community Stadium, doing well to stop Paul Green’s attempt on the line.
An even half of football followed with few chances of note, but it was the Lincolnshire visitors who delivered the crucial first blow with a goal five minutes before the interval.
Green was the man to provide it, taking advantage of Weaver being out of position attempting to claim Andi Thanoj’s corner.
Jack Lane almost hauled his side back onto level terms with the first attempt on target of the second half, forcing a header goalwards which tested Boston ‘keeper Ross Fitzsimons.
Other than that, United were fairly comfortable in dealing with Leamington’s threat, with Danny Waldron given little to chew on up front as the solitary striker.
With just 23 minutes remaining, the visitors turned the screw and secured the two-goal cushion they craved – another corner from Thanoj falling to the head of Tom Platt, who headed the ball into the path of Luke Shiels to finish.
Nine minutes later, the Pilgrims rubber stamped the three points with a third, Thanoj making a real habit of being the visitors’ goal provider after his inch-perfect free-kick landed on the head of Scott Garner to guide into the net.
There was still time for a fourth and final goal too, with Jordan Thewlis completing the scoring with five minutes to play after Fraser Preston’s free-kick unsettled the Brakes’ defence.
The story remained the same in Saturday’s FA Cup second qualifying round loss too – albeit by a much more slender 1-0 scoreline – as Kevin Langmead’s header 17 minutes in sent Southern League Premier Central side Banbury through.
There was perhaps an imbalance at play prior to kick off, with the Puritans already four games into their season at Step Three, while Leamington had yet to get a taste of competitive action for the 2020/21 campaign.
An effort from Waldron, who guided a shot just past the upright, and two commanding headers from Junior English threatened to restore parity for the Brakes in the second half.
But it was not to be, as Leamington’s FA Cup journey came to a premature end.
A trip up north to Chester’s Deva Stadium is next up on the schedule for Holleran’s side, as Leamington search for a positive result to kickstart their season on Saturday (3pm).