By Tommy Churchyard
Poole Town have extended their lead at the top of the Southern League Premier to eight points after comfortably beating 9-man Leamington 1-0 on Saturday.
A fantastic diving header from Marvin Brooks put Poole ahead after 20 minutes and the Dolphins never looked like squandering the lead against their promotion rivals, who finished the game with nine men.
The Dolphins will feel they should have won by more, with a missed penalty from Steve Devlin amongst a number of missed chances.
However Poole will be very happy with their performance and this result is a massive step towards promotion for Tom Killick’s men, who sit comfortably top of the table at the half way point of the season.
Poole went into the game hoping to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat at Kettering last weekend, but looked very nervy in the first 10 minutes as they struggled to hold on to the ball at a blustery Tatnam.
However, the first major chance of the game fell to Poole’s new signing Lee Wart who squandered a huge chance on his home debut. Wart was sent through one on one with only Tony Breedon to beat but failed to round the Leamington stopper, who got down brilliantly to claim possession.
Poole started to gather some momentum and began to look more comfortable on the ball with Steve Devlin firing over after some great work on the right wing from Luke Burbidge.
The pressure paid off shortly after as the Dolphins took the lead on the 20 minute mark. The tricky Burbidge clipped a delightful through ball straight into Brooks’ path, who met the pass with a diving header of equal quality which beat Breedon from 12 yards.
Leamington almost responded immediately, but James Fry’s cross was slightly too high for Robert Ogleby who couldn’t keep his header down from 6 yards.
Poole then had a great chance to double their lead when Devlin beautifully slotted in Wart, but he lacked composure and fired high and wide from 18 yards.
With Poole controlling the game, Leamington began to get frustrated. This was exemplified by Josh Edwards, who was lucky to escape with a booking after he clattered Luke Roberts with a very clumsy late challenge.
However, many Poole fans around the ground will feel that justice was done three minutes later, when Edwards stupidly kicked out at Devlin off the ball and the referee had no choice but to produce a second yellow card, sending Edwards for an early bath.
Poole had a lucky escape just before half time, Nick Hutchings saving well to prevent goal scorer Brooks heading into his own net from a rare Leamington corner.
The second half started very quietly, with Poole dominating possession but failing to create any clear openings. Luke Tallack had a half chance saved by Breeden followed by Roberts shooting wide after some great footwork.
Poole were pushing hard for a second but Roberts’ couldn’t convert from 8 yards after the ball fell to him following a goal mouth scramble.
Leamington were really struggling to get out of their half and their afternoon was nearly made even worse after it appeared Wart was pulled down inside the box. But the Brakes got away with it as referee Ben Knight waved away strong appeals from the Poole supporters behind the goal.
However Poole’s wish was granted 3 minutes later, as Jamie Hood deliberately saved Roberts’ volley with his arm, leading to a straight red for the Leamington number five and a penalty to the Dolphins. But Breeden got down brilliantly, saving Devlin’s penalty and keeping the Brakes in the game.
The last of the action came in the 90th minute, when Burbidge really should have put the game to bed but was too casual on the ball when one on one with Breeden and allowed the Leamington defence to get back and dispossess him.
Shortly after, the final whistle was blown, wrapping up a poor afternoon for Leamington who failed to have a shot in the second half.
Poole Manager Tom Killick spoke to The Bournemouth Rock after the game. He said: “I thought we played well, a combination of good defending, good goalkeeping and slightly wasteful finishing meant that it was a bit more nerve-racking than it should have been towards the end.
“Last season was a difficult time but it’s in the past and the payers are doing really well at the moment. There is only one objective [to win the league] and that’s what we’ve got to look for”.
Poole Town return to Tatnam on Tuesday night, hosting Hungerfood Town.