Stefan Moore scored an absolute screamer for Leamington to win a tight game as Hednesford Town surrendered a one goal lead in the second half to fall from top spot in the process.
Wins for AFC Telford United and Solihull Moors means The Pitmen have been caught at the summit of The Skrill North with their next fixture, away at local rivals Telford on New Year’s Day, taking on huge significance.
Rob Smith’s side took the lead after a scrappy, atmospheric start at The New Windmill, as new signing Nathan Blissett latched onto a ball into the right channel and hit a precise shot into the far corner on 24 minutes.
Wayne Riley latched onto a Blissett flick on, hitting his shot wide on the stretch with his left foot, but it was the home side who turned the screw in their search for an equaliser towards half time.
Dan Crane saved a Ricky Johnson shot superbly from close range on 31 minutes, Hednesford man of the match, Darren Campion, blocked a Matt Dodd shot on the line and Moore skied an attempt over the bar on the stroke of half time as The Pitmen desperately held onto the lead.
Despite reaching the break a goal to the good, Hednesford conceded an equaliser within 90 seconds of the restart when Moore skipped past John Disney and crossed for Johnson to finish at close range and then, out of the blue, Moore hit an outstanding volley from distance which flew beyond Crane to give the home side the lead on 61 minutes.
The Pitmen sent Nathan Woolfe, Marvin Robinson and Greg Pearson into the fray as they chased an equaliser but, to their credit, Leamington held firm with Liam Daly particularly imperious in the air as every cross and long ball seemed to fall to the big defender.
Campion came closest to levelling proceedings with a thunderbolt of a left foot shot which Tony Breeden punched clear and, from the resulting corner, Paul McCone headed over at the near post with three minutes to go.
An honest and hard fought match finished in unsavoury fashion as a 19 man brawl led to Kris Taylor, Elliott Durrell, Daly and Lee Moore all seeing yellow but all the handbags served to achieve was The Pitmen being unable to make that final push for an equaliser.
Rob Smith’s team now move on to a tricky looking away assignment at AFC Telford United on New Year’s Day with further tough matches against North Ferriby, Bradford Park Avenue and Solihull during January which could very well make or break their promotion aspirations.
Crane, Disney, Campion (c), Bailey, McCone, Taylor, MacPherson (Woolfe 69), Durrell, Blissett (Robinson 69), Riley (Pearson 80), Thorley
Subs Not Used
Breeden, Higgins, McNamee, Magunda, Daly, Mace, Dodd, Owen, S Moore (Green 86), Johnson (Husband 78), L Moore
Subs Not Used
Bottomer, Feeney, Connolly
Bookings – Durrell, Taylor, McNamee, Daly, L Moore,
Star Man – Liam Daly
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Attendance – 803
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Photos by Colin Rogers