25th Oct, 2020

Puritans put the Brakes on FA Cup hopes

Ben Tyler 5th Oct, 2020

Dan Meredith drives a shot goalwards. Picture by Sally Ellis.

LEAMINGTON’S FA Cup journey came to a premature end at the second qualifying round after a slender 1-0 defeat to Banbury United.

A Kelvin Langmead header inside the opening 20 minutes decided the contest in favour of the Step Three visitors, ensuring an upset as the National League North Brakes kicked off their season with a defeat at the Community Stadium.

Paul Holleran was not afraid to blood his new signings, with five additions making their competitive bow for Leamington on Saturday,

An imbalance in competitive match action was already at play before a ball had been kicked, with the Puritans already four games into their Southern League Premier Central campaign.

Jack Lane, left, challenges for a header. Picture by Sally Ellis.

Understandably, the away side looked fresher and showed just as much when creating the first opening of the game.

Ricky Johnson called Jake Weaver into action to cut out a fizzing right-wing cross, while Sam Osborne set up Dan Meredith for two stabs at goals down the other end – the second shot deflecting into the gloves of Banbury custodian Jack Harding.

United then hit the front on 17 minutes after a tepid start to proceedings, when Johnson nodded into the path of Langmead to head home.

It was Osborne again who looked the player most likely to trouble the away side, ghosting into the six-yard box before seeing the ball snatched from his grasp by Harding just as the playmaker was lining up a shot.

A free-kick from Stephan Morley troubled the Puritans goalkeeper when Harding spilled the ball, before reclaiming it seconds later to spare his blushes and ensure Banbury remained in front at half-time.

A lacklustre start to proceedings meant few chances of note were registered until midway through the second half, with Danny Waldron finally being allowed the space to turn and crack a shot goalwards – sending his effort past the post.

Joe Parker, right, gets up for a header. Picture by Sally Ellis.

Junior English came closer still with a commanding header at the near post from a corner, but he was denied the jubilation of an equaliser as the ball flew narrowly past the post by a matter of inches.

Weaver had to keep out a flick from Jack Lane that travelled inadvertently towards the Brakes goal, as the game headed towards its conclusion.

The substitutions of Connor Taylor and Callum Gittings shook things up with 20 minutes to go, the former driving a fierce shot goalwards to test the agility of Harding.

The head of English again almost posed a real threat to the Banbury rearguard, when the defender came within inches of connecting with Lane’s flick on at a corner.

Unfortunately for the Brakes, that was the final half chance that they could muster as their cup run hopes ended with a damp squib.

A home fixture against Boston United on Tuesday night (7.45pm) offers the Brakes a chance to bounce back at the first time of asking, with their league campaign getting underway in the unusual form of a midweek fixture.

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