Ngoyi strike fails to spoil the party

Brakes signed off from the Southern League on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run in a front of a season-best crowd of 1,027, writes Paul Edwards.
Brakes celebrate with the Southern League Premier Division shield. MHLC-27-04-13 Brakes Apr92Brakes celebrate with the Southern League Premier Division shield. MHLC-27-04-13 Brakes Apr92
Brakes celebrate with the Southern League Premier Division shield. MHLC-27-04-13 Brakes Apr92

Despite everybody’s focus being on the presentation of the giant Premier Division shield there was a game to be played and Brakes struggled to get out of first gear in the opening exchanges.

Laurie Walker was forced to punch a left-wing cross behind for a corner from which a shot flew over the bar and the returning Jamie Hood got back well to clear from Greg Ngoyi after the Saints striker threatened to burst clear.

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Richard Batchelor also headed a free-kick behind for a corner but gradually Leamington found their feet and began to pose far more of a goal threat.

Stefan Moore was desperately unlucky to see his shot across goal flash just the wrong side of the far post after he had nipped in to intercept a back pass and Batchelor sent a diving header inches past the upright.

Liam Daly’s stunning first-time drive from just outside the box produced a save to match from Nick Jupp but Brakes’ pressure finally told with five minutes of the first half remaining.

Matt Dodd drew a foul from Josh Urquhart as he cut into the penalty area and took on the responsibility himself, stepping up to nonchalantly clip the ball into the roof of the net and maintain his 100 per cent record from 12 yards.

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Chris Henry, who had tormented Brakes in the reverse fixture at Clarence Park, sliced a shot well over the bar for the visitors, but Leamington had the bit between their teeth and Lee Chilton’s first-time pass needed a brave claim from Jupp to deny Batchelor.

The Saints keeper was furious with his defence as they conceded again a minute before half-time, however.

A harmless ball was played across the edge of the penalty area and Urquhart ignored his goalkeeper’s call and took possession, only for his attempted clearance to fall into the path of Ricky Johnson, who drilled the ball into an empty net.

Batchelor forced Jupp into another fine stop early in the second half, his rasping first- time drive producing another superb reaction save from the St Albans keeper.

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A raking cross from the right wing was met by Chilton on the opposite side, the midfielder sending in a looping effort that was again dealt with by the keeper.

Batchelor also saw another header kept out before Walker was forced into action at the other end, saving two efforts from James Kaloczi.

The game had an end-of-season feel to it but the closing stages were played out in a raucous atmosphere with a packed Harbury Lane End in full voice.

Stefan Moore sent a couple of shots over, while Walker saved a drive from Ngoyi, who scored the goal of the game a minute from time, crashing a 25-yard shot into the net.

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And so to the moment some Brakes fans had waited 30 years for as their heroes lifted the Southern League Premier Division shield once again.

A moment to savour for all concerned.

Brakes: Laurie Walker, James Mace, James Husband (Martyn Naylor, 61), Joe Magunda, Jamie Hood, Liam Daly, Matt Dodd (Craig Owen, 63), Lee Chilton, Stefan Moore, Ricky Johnson (Lee Moore, 74), Richard Batchelor. Subs not used: Tom Berwick, Niall Cooper.

St Albans City: Nick Jupp, Josh Urquhart (James Gray, 58), Layne Eadie, James Kaloczi (Brad Wadkins, 82), Ryan Wharton, Fabio Bufano, Richard Graham, Curtis Shaw, Greg Ngoyi, Elliot Bailey (David Keenleyside, 67), Chris Henry. Subs not used: Matt Taylor, Simon Martin,

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