BRAKES HALT TI­TLE TALK

Leam­ing­ton wary of pro­mo­tion ri­vals

The Non-League Football Paper - - EVO-STIK NPL PREMIER, NORTH & SOUTH - By Steven Coney

LEAM­ING­TON boss Paul Holleran be­lieves his side will have to see off at least six chal­lengers to win the Evo-Stik League South­ern Pre­mier ti­tle.

The Brakes are five points clear at the sum­mit head­ing into 2017, al­though near­est ri­vals Slough Town have two games in hand.

Holleran’s men have lost just once in their last 15 league games and head to Ban­bury on Mon­day hop­ing to get back to win­ning ways af­ter the Box­ing Day draw with neigh­bours Strat­ford Town.

De­spite their ad­van­tage at the top, the Brakes boss – who led the club to the South­ern Pre­mier ti­tle in 2012-13 – knows all about the ups and downs of the game and says there are seven clubs that could still claim au­to­matic pro­mo­tion.

“The play­ers have been fan­tas­tic so far, we’ve had a lot of away games, but we’ve done the ba­sics re­ally well,” Holleran told The NLP. “We’ve got a slight points ad­van­tage, but there are teams be­low us with games in hand who will fancy their chances. “Even at this stage of the sea­son, you’ve got seven teams who could fin­ish any­where from one to seven. We’ve got the ad­van­tage, but we’ve got to drive it home.

“You want to en­sure you’re in the pack go­ing into the New Year and we cer­tainly are.

For­tu­nate

“The year we won the league we were very for­tu­nate with in­juries, but this sea­son has been much more try­ing which is why I’m so pleased with where we are.”

The Brakes were 26 min­utes away from an in­stant re­turn to Na­tional League North last sea­son, but Hunger­ford Town came back to claim vic­tory in the play-off fi­nal.

Ex­pe­ri­enced Holleran knows what it takes to be suc­cess­ful at Step 3 and agreed to stay on as Leam­ing­ton boss – a de­ci­sion that has been vin­di­cated so far this cam­paign.

Fol­low­ing two sea­sons that ul­ti­mately ended in disap- point­ment, the Brakes boss is hope­ful 2016-17 will have a much hap­pier con­clu­sion.

“Get­ting rel­e­gated from the Con­fer­ence North was re­ally tough and it’s dif­fi­cult to get things to­gether and bounce back,” he added.

“You’ve got to go again and you need the right char­ac­ters around you. I did step back and think about whether I was go­ing to stay on.

“I’m very fond of the club and I was con­cerned about it. Was it best for me to walk away? I hon­estly thought I was the best man to get the club go­ing again. So far, that has proven to be right and I’d love noth­ing more than to take Leam­ing­ton back up to Step 2.”

PIC­TURE: Steve Walker

DE­TER­MINED: Leam­ing­ton man­ager Paul Holleran, in­set, doesn’t want his side to slip up

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