Swindon draw was a missed opportunity, says Holleran

PAUL Holleran says Brakes can ill-afford a repeat of Tuesday night’s draw with struggling Swindon Supermarine if they are to gatecrash the top five.

Saturday’s impressive point at AFC Totton looked to have set Leamington up nicely for a home clash with the Southern League Premier Division strugglers.

With Swindon keeper Ashley Harrison forced to play with a dislocated finger due to the jailing of first choice Kent Kauppinen and unavailability of stand-in Jason Hull, hopes were high that the hosts could go some way to matching Chesham’s 6-0 rout of the Wiltshire club last weekend.

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However, despite twice taking the lead, Brakes were pegged back on both occasions, with Ashley Bell’s stunning 81st-minute free-kick earning the visitors a vital point in their fight against relegation.

And, with just five games remaining and a three-point gap to make up on Cambridge City in the last of the play-off places, Holleran knows hopes of promotion are slipping away.

“It was a missed opportunity,” said Holleran.

“Even though we weren’t playing as well as we can, I was just waiting for the third goal to go in - we had three or four opportunities to kill the game off.

“And then they go and score a free-kick like that.

“I’m disappointed after working so hard to get close [to the top five].

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“We’re running out of games and we can’t afford to throw two points away like we did.”

Holleran felt the recent hectic schedule could have been a mitigating factor in Brakes’ lack of spark.

Several players limped away from the New Windmill on Tuesday night feeling the effects of injuries, with Blyth’s ankle ligament damage the major cause for concern.

And with Brakes facing a blank weekend due to the rearrangement of their fixture with St Albans, Holleran said the break could not have come at a better time, allowing his threadbare squad to regroup before the run-in.

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“That was seven games in three weeks and I felt the game caught up with one or two players.

“Jacob Blyth had a dead leg and has then done his ankle ligaments, Craig Owen had a tight abductor and Neil Barnfield felt his hamstring.

“The ten-day break will do us a lot of good.

“It will allow a lot of the niggles to clear up and help us to get more minutes into Jamie Sheldon.

“There’s still 15 points to play for and with two or three players on dual registration and Matty Dodd back we’ll be well covered.”

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Blyth’s injury is not thought to be as bad as first feared, with the teenager hoping to be back before the end of the campaign.

However, Holleran is moving to bring in striking cover ahead of Saturday week’s trip to Frome, with veteran striker Lee Steele believed to be on the verge of joining the club.

The 38-year-old hit the headlines in January after Oxford City sacked him for making a homophobic remark on his Twitter account. He moved on to Nantwich Town where he made just one appearance before being released.

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