Brakes 3 Brackley 1: Moore festive cheer for Brakes as Stefan’s double helps down Brackley

With the rain lashing down and a fierce wind blowing across the New Windmill, supporters could have been excused foregoing the delights of Harbury Lane for the comfort of a warm fire and the last remnants of mulled wine, writes Paul Okey.

Two-goal Stefan Moore chases down the ball during Brakes' 3-1 win over Brackley. MHLC-01-01-14 Brakes Brackley Jan2

However, those who donned their waterproofs for the first game of 2014 were rewarded with a heartwarming performance from the home side which will hopefully set the tone for the remainder of the year.

Three textbook finishes and an impressive rearguard action as the visitors belatedly pressed for a way back into the match late on secured Leamington’s tenth point of a fruitful festive period.

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And, what on paper looked to be their toughest sequence of the campaign has instead elevated Brakes to the relative safety of mid-table with an 11-point buffer to their bottom three.

That the match was in no doubt in the run up to kick-off was credit to groundsman Idris Elms, but the rain-sodden pitch made for a error-ridden opening with both sides struggling to combat both the mud and wind.

There were only five efforts on goal in the whole of the half, but such is the potency of both side’s strikeforces that the first three all lead to goals.

In the 17th minute, Matt Dodd beat Eddie Nisevic on the right and sent in an inviting cross along the six-yard box which Stefan Moore converted at full stretch with the aid of the crossbar.

The in-form striker’s second nine minutes later required much more of the former Villa man, who showed impressive composure to commit Billy Turley and slot the ball home from eight yards after successive flick-ons from Ricky Johnson and Dodd.

Brackley were back in the game shortly after the restart, however, with Charlie Griffin turning the ball home from close range after a corner was only half-cleared.

Johnson was well off-target with a long-range effort before the break, while the under-worked Tony Breeden needlessly parried a speculative shot from Nisevic for a corner despite it looking to be heading wide.

Despite the conditions worsening and both assistant referees digging trenches down the wings, goalmouth action was more plentiful after the break.

Moore’s cross from the byeline evaded a posse of runners in the box, while at the other end, Griffin headed Steve Diggin’s cross on to the top of the net.

The Skrill North Player of the Month, Moore was in no mood to rest on his laurels and nearly fashioned a third with a flighted ball to the back post which was scrambled away by a combination of Turley and a defender.

There were appeals for a penalty when Dodd, revelling in the slippery conditions, was brought down by Nisevic on the right, but referee John Brooks signalled that the offence had taken place just outside the area.

Brett Solkhon was inches from converting a far-post cross, while Craig Owen’s measured shot from the edge of the box was deflected away from the bottom corner as both sides probed for the game’s crucial fourth goal.

And, when it came, it was that man Moore who was again integral to it.

There seemed little danger when he received the ball with his back to goal on the half-way line. However, after working his way to the Brackley box, he waited for support before producing a burst of pace to get to the byeline and cut the ball back for the onrushing Johnson to fire past Turley on the stretch.

Minutes later, Moore looked odds-on to complete the hat-trick his display merited, but with only the keeper to beat he fluffed his shot, with the offside flag sparing his blushes.

With the game getting away from his side, Jon Brady committed men forward and the visitors were inches away from a second when Griffin flicked a header just past the post.

Breeden had to be at his best to keep out a Solkhon header, with the midfielder crowded out in his attempts to convert the rebound.

Diggin deflected a Griggin shot wide, while Breeden turned a Glen Walker free-kick around the post for one of ten corners for Brackley.

However, with Liam Daly impressively marshalling the back line, Brakes were in no mood to surrender their ninth league win of the campaign.

brakes: Tony Breeden, Ryan Higgins, David McNa-mee, Joe Magunda, Liam Daly, James Mace, Matt Dodd, Craig Owen, Stefan Moore (Will Green, 90), Ricky Johnson (Kieron Morris 81), Lee Moore (Josh Green, 90). Subs not used: Luke Bottomer, Lewis Fenney.

BRACKLEY: Billy Turley, Neil Cartwright (Owen Story, 60), Eddie Nisevic, Eddie Odhiambo (Danny Newton, 64), Tom Sharpe (Ben Mills, 77), Ryan Auston, Izak Reid, Brett Solkhon, Charlie Griffin, Steve Diggin, Glen Walker. Subs not used: Steven Towers, David Bridges.