Play Off Match Report: Leamington (away)
A narrow defeat ends a great season for Rebels
1 - 0 (Edwards, 46 min)
ManofMatch: Simon Dunn
Slough Town’s hopes of promotion were extinguished after this narrow playoff semi-final defeat at runners-up Leamington, whose goal came very early in the second half.
It has been a memorable season for the Rebels, who moved into their new home at Arbour Park back in August, and whilst the club will not be playing in National League South next season, the management duo of Neil Baker and Jon Underwood have already been busy making plans for next season with the aim of challenging at the top end of the Southern League, Premier Division table again.
Leamington thoroughly deserved their win, played out in front of a four-figure crowd, having dominated throughout – but the Brakes were given an almighty scare deep into second half stoppage time when Josh Jackman's strike was turned behind superbly by Tony Breeden in the last action of the match.
Brakes striker Stefan Moore, once of St Neots Town, hit a post with seven minutes played, and a follow-up shot was well wide.
Slough’s first sight of goal came shortly after, with Simon Dunn seeing a strike blocked by Jamie Hood, but the visitors struggled to create anything clear-cut.
On the other hand, wide player Ahmed Obeng had a strike deflected wide, and after Slough cleared the resulting corner, Leamington had the ball in the net through Jack Edwards, but the effort was ruled offside.
Slough struggled to get out of their own half at times with Leamington applying all the pressure and closing the Rebels down quickly when they had the ball. The result was rushed, often panicky clearances and misplaced passes.
The visitors were lucky to survive when Shaun Rowley missed his punch on a Leamington corner kick, with the ball flying all the way across goal. Edwards fired the ball back into the middle, but luckily from a Slough perspective, nobody could make contact.
Slough tested Breeden for the first time on 28 minutes, the goalkeeper beating away a Simon Dunn strike for a corner. Two minutes later, Lee Togwell won a free kick just outside the box which James Dobson was able to get on target, but it was too close to Breeden, who was able to save at the second attempt.
Leamington were close to taking the lead shortly before half time, but James Mace’s header was blocked on the line by Togwell with Rowley beaten.
The hosts were then dealt a blow with Obeng forced off on a stretcher after suffering a heavy collision outside the box.
Despite a dominant first half from the hosts, Slough held out until the interval but were punished for giving the ball away in the opening minute of the second half, and Leamington took full advantage, albeit with a slice of luck.
Edwards looked up and played what looked like a mishit cross into the penalty area, only to see the ball deceive Rowley and drop inside the far post to give the hosts a deserved lead.
Slough looked unable to respond, with Leamington keeping up the pressure both on and off the ball. Changes were made as the Rebels sacrificed their wide players in exchange for a more direct 4-3-3 formation, with Gavin James and Nathan Webb replacing Dobson and Warren Harris.
But the Rebels remained short on ideas and almost fell further behind as Rob Thompson-Brown’s free kick was headed straight at Rowley by Moore.
The odds looked stacked against Slough when they then lost Paul Stonehouse to injury, forcing them to make their final change with Josh Jackman replacing him.
Leamington could have wrapped the game up with 15 minutes remaining when Courtney Baker-Richardson’s header crashed off the crossbar.
Slough’s attempts to get back into the game became ever more desperate, and James saw a shot blocked by Breeden at close range after Dunn had floated a free kick into the box.
Minutes later, Dunn ran onto a James flick-on but could only lift the ball over the angle of post and bar from around 18 yards.
But the best chance by far for Slough to level the scores arrived deep into the four allocated minutes of stoppage time. Jackman volleyed towards the bottom corner from the edge of the box, but Breeden plunged down low to his right to scoop the ball away from his post and behind.
There was no time for Slough to take the corner kick though, and in the end promotion was to prove a step too far for the Rebels – though the improvement from 17th place last season to a 5th-place finish this season represents significant progress for the club.
Match Report courtesy of Slough Town FC website
For the record Leamington (2nd) will play Hitchin Town (4th) in the play-off final on Monday 1st May at 15h00.
Hitchin having beaten Merthyr Town (3rd), away, 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out, following a 1-1 draw aet.