Having failed to make it out of the FA Cup third qualifying round for 15 consecutive years, it was at this hurdle that Leamington FC once again fell, losing out 2-0 away at Kettering, having forced a replay with a 3-3 draw at home.
When the draw was announced, this looked to be a game between two evenly matched sides, both of whom had got off to a relatively decent start to the season in their respective divisions, and so it proved.
Saturday’s game was something of a ding-dong battle (whatever that phrase really means), with each side having their spells of dominance, and so it proved again on Tuesday night, with another entertaining game under the lights. On both occasions, the weather conditions were adverse to say the least, but if anything this increased the excitement of both games.
In the replay, for thirty or so minutes, Leamington were by far the better side, and should probably have led, with summer signing Kelsey Mooney going close. This failure to take their chances was always going to come back to bite them at some point, and so it proved, as, in the 34th minute, Kettering dangerman and former Leamington loanee Callum Powell went through to score.
Late on in the game, as one or two chances went unfinished once again for the Brakes, substitute Isaac Stones finished a scrappy second for the team from the Vanarama Conference North, who, in front of celebrations from a 600-strong home crowd, were on their way to the fourth qualifying round.
Leamington boss Paul Holleran was understandably disappointed by his sides exit, ruing the missed chances in the first half:
“It was so disappointing to put such a good first half performance in and then go behind … Saturday and last night we could have dealt with situations better which could have helped us progress, but it wasn’t to be. We need to move on quickly from it really.”
Hopefully, this is just a blip in what has been an encouraging start to the Brakes’ season, as they so far have defied expectations and currently sit in 10th place, only a couple of points of the play-offs. Last season, which was curtailed due to COVID, was similarly encouraging, and, should this form continue, the Brakes could well start dreaming as the season progresses.