Saturday 13 April 2024

Brakes win Southern League Cup for first time

Brakes were in the Southern League cup final for the first time in April 1974.   The first leg was away to Bromsgrove Rovers.  ‘After losing 1-0 in the first leg of the Southern League Cup final at Bromsgrove on Saturday, AP Leamington now look to have a good chance in the return leg this weekend.   Despite being away from home, Leamington were unlucky not to score, particularly in the last minute of the match when they had the home defence in a terrible tangle.  Two shots were cleared off the line, but the ball just would not go into the net.

 Steve Lee was always prominent midfield for the visitors, and after a shaky first half Ernie Wilkinson came to the fore in their defence.  Bromsgrove’s goal came at a critical time, five minutes before the interval, and no one could argue with the quality of it.   Bromsgrove’s top scorer Alan Craddock scored with a perfect volley.  However, this was the only goal the home side could muster, giving Leamington, who beat them 3-0 earlier in the season, a good chance next Saturday.’

‘AP Leamington lifted the Southern League Cup for the first time with an impressive display against Bromsgrove at the Windmill Ground today.   Steve Lee brought the scores level on aggregate after 18 minutes – but In the second half AP dictated matters and went in front with an own goal from Bromsgrove full back Tombs before Neil Armstrong settled the matter with a third goal. 

Brakes went close in the first minute.  Brady swung over a centre from a free kick, goalkeeper Hooper could only push the ball out, and Shrimpton hit a cracking drive which Hooper did well to save.   Bromsgrove forced four corners in quick succession before Bowden cleared the danger.   Craddock wasted a good chance when the AP defence was caught out by a long ball and then Horne fired over when AP hit back.

AP were neater in their build up and after 18 minutes they grabbed a fine goal to put the score level on aggregate.   Goodfellow took a corner on the right and Lee rose high to bullet a header past Hooper.   Bromsgrove were using the wind with long balls deep into the AP half and, after Jones had palmed away a cross, Talbot and Goodfellow combined to clear AP lines.

Play was mainly confined to midfield where Goodfellow, Shrimpton and Lee were doing an effective job for AP but Bromsgrove went close when Craddock flashed a left foot drive wide of the post.  Then Jones dived to save from Selby.   It took a fine save from Jones minutes after the restart to keep the score sheet blank.  From Forrest’s free kick Ball send in a powerful header which Jones flicked away.   

AP hit back, but Hooper brought off a magnificent save when Horne hammered a great shot from 20 yards.  But a minute later, AP went ahead on aggregate.   The ball was cleared out of defence by AP and Tombs, attempting to find his own goalkeeper, lobbed the ball into his own net when there was no danger.  Armstrong scored a third for AP after 70 minutes.’

Brakes: Jones, Taylor, Bowden, Brady, Bowden, Wilkinson, Shrimpton, Goodfellow, Lee, Armstrong, Horne, Talbot.   Sub: Foster.

Sunday 7 April 2024

When Harbury Lane was lit up

 Getting the floodlights installed were an important step in the story of the born again Brakes:

Sunday 31 March 2024

Brakes unbeaten in two games 50 years ago

In March 1974 ‘AP Leamington’s defeat of bottom-of-the-table Dunstable was one of the less impressive of their 14 Southern League victories this season.   Enjoying overwhelming midfield mastery, Brakes spent the greater part of the game in their opponents’ half, but on a lively pitch their forwards seemed strangely out of touch.     Few really testing shots were directed at the Dunstable goal and in the end it took goals from a couple of defenders to settle the issue. 

Brakes’ centre half Tony Bowden opened the scoring with a header from an opener in the 43rd minute, but five minutes into the second half Dunstable broke away  to equalise through Alan Davies who was unmarked in the penalty area.   AP kept pushing forward but they were condemned to a frustrating 20 minutes as they sought to break through a packed Dunstable defence, whose spoiling tactics included the frequent exploitation of the offside trap.

Adrian Stewart finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute when he sprinted away on the left and centred the ball to Norman Foster, who back-headed into the net.  Five minutes from the end, Stewart was again in the picture when he slipped the Dunstable defence and passed inside to Ernie Wilkinson, a back four defender who had raced upfield.  Wilkinson found himself with no one to beat but the goalkeeper and took full advantage of the opportunity to score with a well-placed 15-yard drive.

Brakes were next away to Bury Town: AP were fifth in the table and their opponent s fifth from bottom.  ‘King’s Road on Saturday was no place for goalkeepers.  Right from the start, Bury’s Davies – so impressive for most of the season – showed that, for him, it was going to be one of those days.  He jumped about like a cat on hot bricks, scarcely gathered a shot cleanly, mistimed numerous dashes from his goal line, and altogether conveyed an air of impending disaster. 

 Leamington almost grabbed the lead after nine minutes.   Davies came out from a cross to Lee and completely missed his punch.  Luckily for him, Turner was on hand to charge down a shot from Talbot.   Generally Leamington looked the more impressive side.  Stewart was the live wire in the Leamington attack and he had a number of intriguing tussles with Bury’s big centre half Tony Smith.   It was no surprise when Leamington finally went ahead after 30 minutes.   From a right wing cross by Goodfellow, centre half Bowden headed the ball to the far post and Talbot pushed it home from close range.’

‘Strangely enough it was Davies’ opposite number Dave Jones who made the most serious error of the afternoon.   With 20 minutes left, Jones advanced from his goal to cut off David Smith’s cross from the right, missed the ball completely, and Barry Gray coolly took advantage to score.   Until then Leamington had been the more impressive of two ordinary looking sides. 

Now it was Bury’s turn to pile on the pressure and they had a couple of chances to record their first win since January 5th.   But overall a draw was a fair result.   Leamington surprisingly relegated 27-goal striker Norman Foster to substitute.   Lee missed three good chances and had his name taken for a foul on Tony Smith.’ 

Sunday 24 March 2024

Holleran Milestone Fuels Fire for More

Following his appearance on Football Focus there is a featured interview in The Non-League Paper with Paul Holleran this morning.

Here a few excerpts.  'Being honest, it is a tough job - I am getting older and the players are getting younger.  I am 53.  You do have moments when you think "Can I keep doing this?" but the players and the fans keep me driving on at the moment.'

'Even at this level you don't stop.  Regardless of whether you are Jurgen Klopp or Paul Holleran, it is relentless, and I do 50 hours per week on top of that as well which I imagine is a bit different to Jurgen.'

'You keep ticking along and maybe become part of the furniture - it is a bit like with your wife, you begin to like them, they begin to like you.   [Not sure what Mrs. H would say about that].  The fans have always been good with me, as the years have gone by, the bond has certainly grown.'

'It does cross your mind as to whether you can do it any more, there is no doubt about that.  When we got relegated last season I felt I was the best person to stabilise the club and get it back on track.  It has been a real challenge in a tough league this season, we have had to rebuild and I am looking forward to the last few games.'

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Brakes battle to win away point against Burton

AP Leamington faced table topping Burton Albion, now a League One side, away in mid-March 1974 in a match in which the inactions of the referee were a focus of attention for media commentators (note that the report quoted is written from a Burton perspective).  ‘Burton Albion dropped another away point in their quest for the championship of the Southern League First Division North when they were unable to break through a tough uncompromising AP Leamington on defence.’

‘Phil Annable starts a week’s suspension today following his dismissal from the field towards the end of a Southern League game at Wellingborough earlier in the season, and after an amazing scene in the Leamington penalty area just before the interval he, and the Brake’s Foster, could count themselves very lucky not to be sent off again. 

The incident came after tempers frayed following several niggling fouls from both sides.  Buckley broke down the left and centred.   Former Albion keeper Dave Jones, who gave an impressive display, failed to collect the cross and both Naylor and Annable at the far post raced in to grab the loose ball.  Annable just got to it, Naylor left the race falling to the ground with a leg injury and Foster tangled with Annable.  

The first blow came from the Leamington player but he came out on the worst side of the deal.  He recovered after treatment.  Incredibly, the referee took no action against Foster or Annable and started the game with a free kick to Leamington. Naylor, who had taken a lot of stick from the opposition, gamely soldiered on in search of the elusive goal.   

Fortunately, before and after this brief period, play had been more constructive with Burton always in command and pushing forward relentlessly against a Leamington side prepared to pull everyone back and to give away a free kick if threatened, but Albion usually so creative from these set piece situations could not capitalise on them.

Right on half time, Wilkinson blocked a goal bound header from the diving Naylor after a hard low centre from Buckley.   Buckley continued to give the Leamington defence a lot of trouble and in the 70th minute Lee was booked for a foul on him.   Just before this, Buckley slotted the ball to Brown, but the advancing Jones dived heavily at his feet to collect.   Then from another Corrigan centre the visiting keeper was deceived by the flight of the ball and Buckley was able to get in a header but Bowden managed to hook it clear. 

Albion now had the crowd right behind them.  A loudspeaker message had announced that Stourbridge were trailing 3-1 at Tamworth.   Albion battled on but in the packed Leamington area had all of their efforts blocked. 

 Then at the other end Leamington almost snatched both points when they were gifted a great chance by a dreadful back pass.  Foster nipped in, but Robinson dived to save.   Burton had held a special training session in the morning before the game and this was the first time they failed to score all season.’   Burton remained four points clear at the top of the table with Brakes twelve points behind in seventh place.

Leamington: Jones, Taylor, Brady, Bowden, Wilkinson, Shrimpton, Armstrong, Lee, Talbot. Foster, Goodfellow.   Sub: Stewart.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Cup success for Brakes

Southern League Cup action was at the forefront for AP Leamington fifty years ago. Facing Waterlooville at home ‘Brakes won this hard-fought Southern League Cup tie more easily than the score [1-0] suggests.  They were much the better side and with more finishing luck could have quite eaxily reached the last four with several goals in hand.  

Waterlooville, leaders of the southern section, opened strongly and for a time presented their hosts with considerable problems.  But Jimmy Goodfellow effectively killed their resistance with his 30th minute with his headed goal and Brakes gained almost total control.  The Hampshire side did come back during a furious late assault.

 But the home defence stood firm and Dave Avery’s header wide of the near post was the closest Waterlooville came to forcing a replay.  With Steve Lee, Keith Shrimpton and Goodfellow gaining a hold in midfield, AP spent most of the game going forward and they should have added to their lead.  Norman Foster saw a terrific right foot shot cannon from the bar; Neal Armstrong headed across the face of an open goal; and Lee was slow to react to a clear chance when the ball bounded loose in the penalty area.’

Brakes then went to Nuneaton Borough for the semi-final.   ‘Delighted Jimmy Knox summed up AP Leamington’s humbling of Nuneaton Borough yesterday “We wanted to win – they expected to.”  And that’s not a bad assessment from the AP manager, who takes the club into the final of the Southern League Cup for the first time in their history.

  For AP ran, and fought, and harassed their Premier Division opponents into total submission in a colourless semi-final at Manor Park.  And after wearing down Borough with sheer determination, they struck a three goal blast in the last seven minutes.

  Goal No.1 came in the 84th minute when Ivor Talbot was given the freedom of the pitch to slam in a 35-yarder while Borough’s defence stood and watched.  Goal No.2 came five minutes later when Talbot again did the damage.  He robbed Kirk Stephens on the halfway line, ran on to have his effort half-saved by goalkeeper Keith Ball and Neil Armstrong tapped in a simple goal.  Goal No.3 came a minute into injury time. And what a shocker for Borough!  Ray Bridgett brought Armstrong down a few yards from the by-line over 20 yards out.   And Steve Lee cheekily scored direct from the kick!’

‘It was no less than AP deserved, for they gave Borough’s tame attack little scope; snuffed out the midfield and looked sharper in attack.   My man of the match was Steve Lee, whose promptings from the middle of the park proved too much for Borough.  But AP also had in Ernie Wilkinson, Dennis Taylor, Tony Bowden and John Brady four defenders who were in control of their job.’

Shell shocked Nuneaton supremo Geoff Coleman said ‘there will be no drastic steps taken.  Coleman’s words will comfort his players who cannot be other than shocked by their own performance.  For without taking anything away from A.P., who played exactly to manager Jimmy Knox’s plan, Borough were tragically under par.   They showed none of the fight and tenacity that took them through a run of nine games without defeat.’

Sunday 25 February 2024

Brakes win in 1974, but coverage is grudging

In February 1974 ‘Weakened AP got the result they desperately wanted agsinst Merthyr Tydfil – but it was a close call. An uninspired first half saw AP Leamington spend most of the time pushing forward against a packed Merthyr defence.   The home side were first to threaten when Lee and Talbot linked to put Stewart clear.  But the centre forward was only able to direct his shot into the side netting. 

Both teams were having difficulty in keeping a footing on the saturated surface and mistakes were plentiful.   When Wilkinson got in a tangle he presented Merthyr winger Jerratt with a shooting opportunity.  Only four minutes remained when Ivor Talbot and Trevor Hubbard combined to give Adrian Stewart the ball 15 yards out and the centre forward turned quickly and beat Dilwyn.   Otherwise, the scrappy game produced little in the way of finishing action. 

Both defences put up determined barriers and most of the play was contained in a crowded midfield.   Merthyr had the game’s outstanding performer in form Welsh international Barrie Jones.   His class stood out.  But AP boasted the greater work rate and Stewart’s goal was just about deserved on the run of play.’

‘Tamworth slithered and slumped to defeat’ against AP Leamington in the League Cup.  Presumably fair minded local reporter Allan Bates referred to ‘this match in the mud at Kettlebrook on Sunday when a poor AP Leamington side were just good enough to progress to the next round of the Southern League Cup.   [I have rarely read such a one sided and grudging report].

Conditions mitigated against good football, and neither side were able to master them, rarely able to string together more than two consecutive passes.   In Tamworth’s defence, it should be appreciated that they had played on Saturday afternoon and that their four on loan players were ineligible.   The first half was mainly controlled by Leamington, but despite their territorial advantage, the scores were level at half time.   

In the second session, Tamworth came more into the game, but got caught at the back when Leamington scored the winner.  Leamington went ahead after only two minutes play.   The goal followed some untidy play around the Tamworth penalty area.   Tamworth failed to clear on the Leamington right and Armstrong crossed for Talbot to beat Richards.  Their lead was short lived and Tamworth equalised six minutes later.   It was mainly a defensive battle for the home side from then on, with Leamington failing to turn their chances into goals.   Little effort was needed to keep Leamington at bay.   

Disaster struck the home side after 71 minutes when Leamington went ahead again.   Defensively a three against two situation developed which allowed Lee to put in a shot that Richards could only parry.   Agonisingly the ball trickled towards goal and would have passed wide but for Armstrong getting a boot to it almost level with the post.  The fight continued with the home side still pushing forward, but a goal would not come.’  AP Leamington: Jones, Taylor, Brady, Bowden, Wilkinson, Shrimpton, Armstrong, Lee, Talbot, Foster, Goodfellow.  Sub: Hubbard.   Attendance: 313.