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AFC Telford United 4 - 1 Leamington

Match Date: 29/12/2018
Competition: National League North
Kick Off: 15:00
Attendance: 1196

Brendon Daniels11
Amari Morgan-Smith19
Amari Morgan-Smith79
Daniel Udoh90
Opposition Own Goals: 0

Team Sheet
Andy Wycherley
Ross White
Ellis Deeney
Jonathan Royle
Dominic Smith
Theo Streete
Ryan Barnett
Brendon Daniels
Amari Morgan-Smith
Daniel Udoh
Darryl Knights

Stephan Morley ( Replaced Brendon Daniels, 68 mins)

Henry Cowans ( Replaced Darryl Knights, 76 mins)
James McQuilkin ( Replaced Ryan Barnett, 85 mins)
Andre Brown
Matthew Barnes-Homer

Referee: Lewis Smith
Assistant 1: Ian Jackson
Assistant 2: Thomas Wainman
Official 4: n/a

The Bucks ended 2018 on a high, overpowering a Leamington side who took an early lead, but who were ultimately unable to contain Gavin Cowan’s side; two late dismissals, straight red cards for Connor Gudger and Jamie Hood, made it a day to forget for the Brakes.

Cowan made just one change to the Bucks side that defeated Nuneaton; skipper Shane Sutton was serving a one-match suspension for his red card a week ago at Chester, and Dom Smith stepped in to take his place, with Ellis Deeney wearing the armband. Whilst the make-up of the side remained overwhelmingly positive with attacking intent, it was the Brakes who showed first, and they made a very early breakthrough. With just four minutes gone, the visitors won a corner; the Bucks defence didn’t pick up Colby Bishop, and the Brakes no.9 met the corner just six yards out, side-footing home on the volley to beat Andy Wycherley to his right.

With Cowan recognising Leamington’s obdurate nature, a tough afternoon looked in store. The Bucks rolled up their collective sleeves and began to chip away; with eight minutes on the clock, a corner won by Ryan Barnett on the right resulted in Theo Streete volleying Brendon Daniels’ delivery wide at the far post. However, the Bucks were to trail for only a little longer. With eleven minutes played, a free-kick ten yards into the Brakes half was played into the box by Deeney; the visitors partially cleared the kick, but only to Daniels, and his rasping shot from 20 yards flashed past Tony Breeden in an instant, the keeper getting his hands to the effort but not strongly enough to deny the on-loan Port Vale winger.

The open nature of the half was maintained; Dunbar shot wide of the far post from 20 yards, looking to go across Wycherley but dragging his effort a little, before the Bucks were presented with a golden chance to lead. Just before the twenty minutes mark, Udoh combined with Morgan-Smith to send the latter surging into the Brakes penalty area; full-back Junior English halted his run, but did so illegally in the eyes of referee Lewis Smith, the Bucks forward felled. The Brakes contested the award, but to no avail, and after a lengthy pause Morgan-Smith outwitted Breeden, his firm, low shot beating the keeper to his right.

With the Bucks ahead, it was Brendon Daniels who next took centre-stage, but in an unexpected way. Just a minute after the Bucks took the lead, Streete slipped on the right of the home defence, allowing Gudger to advance; his low ball in was controlled by Bishop, and his sharp shot on the turn at the near post beat Wycherley, but not Daniels. Positioned in the six-yard box, the winger cleared the ball to safety, Bishop left frustrated.

Play swung back to the other end, with Udoh seeing a shot blocked and Daniels’ follow-up deflected for a corner. Former Buck Jordan Murphy, on loan to the Brakes from Solihull Moors, shot wide from the edge of the box, then an off-balance Darryl Knights did likewise for the home side. The shot count rose ever higher, as first Gudger, with a free-kick from 20 yards, brought a low save at his near post from Wycherley. Dunbar also got another chance to take aim from distance, but his low shot passed wide of the far post, Wycherley watchful but not needing to dive.

Daniels was enjoying his best performance in a Bucks shirt to date, and he saw a shot deflected for a corner which he took himself, firing a devilish delivery through the six-yard box that just begged a touch from someone. He helped the Bucks end the half on top, and barring two moments of superb Brakes defending they would have led 3-1 at the interval. First, Breeden did superbly to scoop a deflected Knights shot away from goal, though some fans felt the ball had crossed. Within seconds, the ball was returned from the left and met at the top of his jump by Morgan-Smith; a goal looked certain, but James Mace contorted himself astonishingly and cleared off the line.

Moments later the whistle blew for half-time on what had been a thrilling 45 minutes of football.

HALF TIME: AFC Telford United 2 Leamington 1

Both sides opened the second half positively; Reece Flanagan couldn’t time his run to the far post to meet Jack Edwards’ cross from the right, Udoh had a shot blocked and Barnett won a corner that was cleared by the Brakes. Edwards picked up a yellow card for a foul on Dom Smith, the defender left holding his face after a mid-air clash, then Daniels won another corner that Mace headed away from underneath his own crossbar.

Bishop, still working the Bucks defence, fired a shot from 15 yards over the crossbar after latching onto defender Jack Lane’s knock-down header from a free-kick, the game still in the balance. Wycherley had to hold the ball low down from Dunbar’s effort from 18 yards, gathering the ball in to snuff out any chance from the rebound, whilst his opposite number Breeden saved superbly from Udoh. The forward’s low, right-footed shot appearing destined to creep inside the post to Breeden’s right until the keeper got down and across to push the ball wide.

As Cowan and Brakes boss Paul Holleran started to make substitutions, it was almost 3-1, Morgan-Smith narrowly missing out on turning Udoh’s low cross into the net from close range. Leamington were committing extra men forward, chasing the equaliser, and it took both Deeney and White to deny Bishop before Edwards then struck a deflected shot from the edge of the box that Wycherley positioned himself solidly behind.

With just over 15 minutes left, the Brakes goal survived another close call; the Bucks located Deeney on the edge of the box and he got a shot away that came back with a thud off Breeden’s right post, cannoning to safety. The visitors were leaving themselves more open, and on 79 minutes the Bucks delivered the decisive blow; from substitute Steph Morley’s left-wing throw-in, Barnett took possession and crossed for Morgan-Smith to turn and sweep the ball home past Breeden, to palpable relief.

Leamington weren’t finished, however, and within a minute Wycherley had to spring to his left and make a fine mid-air catch to hold Bishop’s header on goal. They kept knocking on the door and saw another shot deflected out for a corner, before the hopes were dealt a severe blow as the game entered five minutes of injury time. Gudger caught Bucks substitute James McQuilkin high with a poor challenge, one that warranted sanction, but it was perhaps a little surprising to see Gudger red-carded. Within a couple of minutes, he had company; Brakes substitute Jamie Hood left his feet in a challenge with Deeney, and he too saw a straight red. His studs caught the Bucks stand-in skipper, and he took the walk to the dressing room, kicking over the corner flag and a dustbin in anger as he did so.

Reduced to nine men, the Brakes lost their shape as well as their discipline, and when Morgan-Smith beat the remains of their defence on the right he slipped the ball across for Udoh to touch the ball under the advancing Breeden. It was virtually the last kick of the game, and the final whistle saw the home fans rapturously celebrating their biggest margin of victory this season, as well as one of their best performances.

Leamington: Breeden, English (Hood 58), Gudger, Clarke (Gittings 74), Mace, Lane, Dunbar (Obeng 66), Flanagan, Bishop, Edwards, Murphy.

Unused Substitutes: Bowen, Taylor.

Scorers: Bishop (4).

Bookings: Edwards.

Dismissals: Gudger, Hood.

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