LEAMINGTON crushed ten-man AFC Telford United to reach the last 32 of the FA Trophy after a stunning 5-0 victory.
Josh March was the shining light in the first round tie, netting a hat-trick in the space of four second-half minutes, while Solihull Moors loanee George Carline helped himself to a brace.
Manager Paul Holleran made a couple of changes to the side that held Spennymoor Town to a draw last time out, with Steph Morley back from suspension and a starting berth for Callum Gittings in the middle of the park.
It was the latter who had the first attempt of the night when getting a shot away after defender Theo Streete had misjudged the ball, only for the effort to be deflected off target.
But with the next chance that fell their way, they took it. Carline getting into a position to slip the ball into the bottom corner of the net past Matthew Yates and give the Brakes a tenth-minute lead.
The strong start continued and captain Jack Edwards cracked a powerful shot at goal that required tipping over by the Telford shot stopper, prior to a red card for the hosts’ Riccardo Calder after a late challenge on Kaiman Anderson during a Leamington breakaway.
Calder’s dismissal proved the last action of the half, ahead of a blistering second half of play in which Holleran’s side simply could not be matched.
A penalty in favour of the away side provided March with the opportunity for Leamington to put one foot in the second round, a responsibility he duly made the most of when slamming home from the spot 12 minutes into the half.
Just three minutes later March effectively sealed Brakes’ progression with a downwards header from a Morley free kick to stun the shell-shocked hosts.
And with a fourth for Leamington and a third for the 22-year-old following seconds after the restart – when he latched onto a cross-field ball to race behind the defence and dispatch past Yates – March’s night was done and he was replaced by Connor Taylor to rapturous applause.
After a slight lull in the game, Carline added his second of the night and completed the scoring with a header from a corner with ten minutes remaining.
There was still time for Telford’s Aaron Williams to fluff a golden chance for a consolation when lifting a corner-kick delivery over the bar from a matter of a yard out.
As a result, Leamington will face a trip to Kingstonian of the Isthmian League Premier Division in the second round on Saturday January 11 for a place in the last 16 of the competition.
Next up though is a trip to Farsley Celtic in a battle of eighth against the 14th-placed Brakes in National League North on Saturday (3pm), prior to a home game on Boxing Day against Gloucester City (Thursday, 3pm).