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LION LEON IS STOUR STUNNER; Late strike brakes Leamington British Gas Business Football League DIVISION ONE MIDLANDS.

Byline: COLIN STONER at the New Windmill Ground

Leamington 1

Stourbridge 2

After extra time)

LEON BROADHURST provided the final act in a season of drama to send Stourbridge into the Premier Division for the first time since 1984.

A campaign which began with four defeats in the first five games ended with the highest of highs in the play-off final as midfielder Broadhurst hammered home an 115th minute winner to leave Leamington shell-shocked.

Top scorer Ben Mackey's 28th goal of the season had given the Brakes an 18th minute lead in front of a record New Windmill Ground crowd of 1,634. But it was quickly cancelled out by Nathan Bennett's equaliser.

After that Leamington dominated but they found keeper Lewis Solly in unbeatable form, with two close-range stops from James Husband and Josh Blake bordering on the unbelievable.

Stourbridge had completed a league double and defeated Leamington in the FA Cup but they were second best for long periods in terms of chances, if not endeavour.

With both sides chasing a return to the Premier Division for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

Leamington did the early pressing and a perfect recovery challenge by Bennett nicked the ball away from Mackey as he raced in on Solly and then the Glassboys custodian dived bravely to gather a Jamie Towers cross which fizzed into the sixyard box.

But Solly was the culprit in the 18thminute penalty incident which led to the Brakes taking the lead.

Marcus Jackson's through-ball sent Marsden galloping into the inside left channel and as Solly raced out he seemed to clip the attacker as Marsden lunged forward.

Referee Stefan Martin pointed instantly to the penalty spot - Stourbridge felt it was harsh - and though Mackey's kick was blocked by Solly's legs the Brakes forward rammed in the rebound.

The lead, however, lasted only three minutes. Andy Wright volleyed Ross Collins' free-kick goalwards and Bennett showed the razor-sharp finishing of a goal poacher rather than a 6ft 4in centre-back to slot into the far corner.

For the rest of the first half, Leamington conjured the better chances but without really forcing Solly into anything out of the routine.

Scott Hadland's swerving right-footer had him diving to his right and Liam Reynolds' effort flew inches wide.

The second half followed a similar pattern.

Leamington had the edge in terms of possession but found tireless Stourbridge an increasingly tough nut to crack.

Marsden had the best chance nine minutes after the interval when Jackson's weaving run into the area from the right ended with the ball bobbling to the edge of the area but Marsden's right-footed effort skewed beyond the far post.

A smart corner move led to Mackey scooping over from 20 yards after he latched on to Towers' flag-kick and then Husband drilled a right-footer just wide.

But in between Stourbridge were denied by a heroic interception by Brakes skipper Arron Parkinson. Collins met Broadhurst's corner with a ferocious volley which was heading towards the roof of the net until Parkinson blocked and then needed treatment for his pains.

Gavin Winsper threatened with a shot which bounced a foot wide after Kyle Hadley capitalised on Towers' error and crossed from the right.

Leamington ended with a flourish but Towers' side-foot into the net from Jackson's cross on 82 minutes was ruled out for a marginal off-side and then Husband and Marsden flashed efforts just wide but extra time was inevitable.

The drama intensified as Collins' deflection prompted Solly into an alert stop and then opposite number Morris produced his best save of the match to block a Craig Slater shot.

Solly bettered that to somehow keep out substitute Blake's shot and Husband's fierce drive but there was still another twist five minutes from time.

Sam Rock deserves tremendous praise after chasing down two markers to win possession ten yards inside the Leamington half and spring the perfect counter-attack.

He picked out Broadhurst on the right and there was no disputing the quality of the right-footed finish which flashed into the bottom corner.

LEAMINGTON: Morris; Cooper, Parkinson, Sanders; Towers (Parisi, 104), Hadland, Reynolds, Jackson; Husband; Mackey (Blake, 96), Marsden. Subs: Morgan, Thompson, Harper.

STOURBRIDGE: Solly; Slater, Bennett, Collins; Hadley, Winsper, Dyson, L Broadhurst, Whitcombe (Mahon, 65); Rock, Wright (Martin, 71; R Broadhurst, 89). Subs: Jones, Brookes.

Referee: Stefan Martin.

STAR MAN: Stefan Martin.

CAPTION(S):

ONE UP: Leamington men celebrate; TOP GUY: Leamington's Guy Sanders (gold) outjumps Stourbridge's Gavin Winsper during the play-off final
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 4, 2008
Words:750
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