Image: Luke James
Image: Luke James

Battling Brakes secure last-grasp equaliser to break Fylde hearts

Leamington FC winger Sam Osbourne netted a dramatic 93rd-minute equaliser against AFC Fylde to stretch the Brakes’ unbeaten streak to five matches. Paul Holleran’s side fell behind a minute into the second half, with Danny Philliskirk giving the visitors a deserved lead.

Leamington were reduced to ten players on the hour mark, with Callum Grittings dismissed for a reckless challenge on Nathan Shaw in central midfield. The challenge – which was ill-timed – flared tempers on both sides, with players growing increasingly irate at the match officials.

In the first half, however, it was the visitors who began the brighter of the two sides. Brakes goalkeeper Jake Weaver was forced into making a sliding at save the feet of Fylde attacking midfielder Nick Haughton to prevent the Coasters from taking an early lead.

The opening ten minutes of play were defined by sustained pressure from the travelling side, with Weaver sprawling to the Brakes’ aide to prevent Fylde from opening the scoring via a well-worked corner routine. The visitors would later come to rue their missed chances.

Holleran’s side soaked up offensive pressure within their defensive third

The remainder of the opening period will be remembered for a valiant rear-guard effort on the part of the hosts. Defending in a rigid 4-4-1-1 formation, Holleran’s side soaked up offensive pressure within their defensive third, taking few risks in the transition, and allowing the visitors to control the lion’s share of possession.

Fylde’s pressure, however, came good within a minute of the restart, with left back Luke Colan providing a pinpoint assist to Philliskirk. Weaver, a standout performance in goal for the Brakes, was powerless to resist as the Fylde midfielder fired home at the far post.

Fifteen minutes later, the Brakes’ woes mounted after Grittings left the field for a reckless challenge on the halfway line. The tackle, made out of frustration, typified the nature of the match, which continued to be played at a high-tempo despite Leamington’s numerical disadvantage.

As the match raced toward the final whistle, tempers flared once again in the aftermath of a late challenge from Fylde substitute Luke Brennan. Leamington’s free-kick, however, failed to dent Fylde’s lead, with Weaver’s delivery battered away with limited finesse.

Jordan Hulme clipped the top of the Leamington crossbar with a fierce strike

The visitors – who had controlled the flow of the match for much of the evening – showed signs of frustration in the final exchanges, bellowing at the referee as Leamington pushed for a late equaliser.

As Fylde searched for a decisive second goal, Jordan Hulme clipped the top of the Leamington crossbar with a fierce strike, compounding a frustrating evening for the target man.

Second half substitute Junior English played a vital role in guiding Leamington to an unlikely point, leading the Brakes’ attack with composed hold-up play as the home side rallied. English’s physicality unsettled the Coasters, who floundered amid an aerial assault from Holleran’s side in the closing minutes.

With Fylde goalkeeper Chris Neal unsettled following a botched clearance and goalmouth scramble, summer arrival Osbourne collected the ball and fired a driven shot into the net, much to the home side’s delight.

Osbourne’s late equaliser sees Leamington climb to 13th in the National League North, with the Coasters falling to third following Kidderminster’s 3-0 win over Alfreton Town. Leamington will host York City on Saturday, as Holleran’s side aim to extend their unbeaten run to six games.

Paul Holleran must be commended for getting his tactics spot-on against a very talented Fylde side. In the first half, Leamington soaked up everything that the visitors had to offer – thanks in part to a fantastic performance from Jake Weaver in the Brakes’ net. Despite falling behind after the break, Leamington dug in and continued to battle, even after Callum Grittings’ dismissal.

In the final stages, Fylde lost their heads. For 80 minutes, the visitors were in total control. In the closing stages, Jim Bentley’s side were terrorized by Junior English – who was fantastic after coming off the bench. Make no mistake, this is a huge point for Leamington, and a massive waste for the Fylde.

The Brakes showed tremendous courage in the final ten minutes, their National League North counterparts will not be looking forward to facing them at the moment.

After three heroic performances on the spin, things are starting to look up at the Community Stadium.

Leamington FC (4-4-1-1): 1 Jake Weaver, 2 Josh Martin, 3 Stephan Morley, 4 Joe Clarke, 5 Kyle Morrison, 6 Jack Lane, 7 Sam Osborne, 8 Callum Gittings, 9 Lance Smith (12 Junior English, 83), 10 Jack Edwards © (14 Simeon Maye, 52), 11 Danny Waldron (15 Dan Meredith, 67).

Unused Substitutes: 16 Connor Taylor, 17 Richard Batchelor.

AFC Fylde (4-2-3-1): 1 Chris Neal, 2 Luke Burke, 3 Luke Conlan, 4 Liam Nolan, 5 Nathan Pond © (16 Jordan Lussey, 26), 6 Alex Whitmore, 7 Ben Tollit (37 Luke Brennan, 77), 8 Danny Philliskirk, 9 Jordan Hulme, 10 Nick Haughton, 14 Nathan Shaw.

Unused Substitutes: 11 Junior Mondial, 12 Jack Sanders, 18 Kurt Willoughby.

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