Brakes just lost out in a pulsating
Willie Knibbs Memorial Challenge Cup semi-final first leg tie at Lye
Meadow, falling to a first half strike by Neil Finan.
Coming only a few days after a disappointing home encounter with Alveston,
this was a tough match against one of the league's best sides. Brakes kept
faith with the same starting line-up and the players responded well on a
heavy pitch not suited to Leamington's passing game. Alvechurch are a big
strong side and handled the conditions well, but still it was Brakes who
had the best of the early chances when, in the tenth minute, Paul Nicholls
and Jonny Burgess combined well out on the right and fed Josh Blake in the
penalty area only for his shot to go just over the bar.
As the first half progressed, Brakes stepped up the pressure and it was
rather against the run of play that Alvechurch took the lead on 37
minutes. Full back Finan cut in from the left and beat two defenders
before unleashing an unstoppable shot past James Gettings. An
equaliser almost came a minute before half-time when the hard-working
Darren Timms broke into the penalty area but saw his shot come off the
feet of the keeper.
Right from the start of the second period Brakes were attacking. A
goalbound shot from Ben Adams on 53 minutes was deflected for a corner
which came to nothing. Alvechurch were still dangerous on the break
and were denied by an excellent save from Gettings, who tipped the ball
over the bar. It could have been two in the 75th minute but Keith Rostill
shot wide with only Gettings to beat.
The best chance for Brakes came shortly after when a Nicholls shot hit the
bar but, despite the efforts of the excellent Burgess coming forward time
after time, the ball would not go in. The stage is set for a lively
return encounter at the New Windmill on March 1 and co-manager Barry
Proctor is in no doubt his side can win. "That was a cracking
cup tie and an excellent performance from the team. We almost camped out
at their end in the second half and I am confident that we can turn it
around next time," he said. They will have to do it without
Blake, who starts a lengthy suspension. But defender Simon Walker is ready