AFC, after that momentary laps, went back on the offensive almost immediately, forcing a corner on the right. This was played deep towards the back post where captain Drew Ricketts rose highest but could only direct his header into the side netting. A few minutes later Neville Eraine's spectacular attempt at a scissor kick from the edge of the box went well wide of the target and then Raheim Faulder, from way outside the box, crashed an excellent effort off Roddy Attwood's crossbar. It was all AFC at this point but still goalless at the midway point of the first half.
Just before the 30 minute mark Dylan Robinson was the next to try his luck but this one was comfortable for Attwood. However, the pressure was maintained on the home goal and just a minute or two later we had a moment of controversy as the visitors were awarded a penalty. Now, as I tweeted at the time, from my angle it looked like a clear trip on Faulder. The referee had a similar angle on the action as well, and immediately pointed to the spot. However, the home team and their bench were not at all convinced, seeming to point to the assistant who had not signalled for an offence at all. Interestingly, as the team's left the pitch at half-time, I could hear players from both sides discussing the incident and both sets agreed that it was, at the best, a soft one. However, it just goes to show how a particular angle on an event can change how it is seen. I was convinced it was a penalty, but the angles can sometimes deceive the eyes. However, the referee had given it and he was not going to change his decision. Rahiem Faulder picked himself up and sent Attwood the wrong way from the spot. 0-1. Controversial it may well have been, but it was no more than Birmingham deserved on the balance of play.
Aside from a running battle between AFC's Armani Bennett and Leamington's Karl McGuire, which threatened to boil over but never quite did, there were not too many more serious goal attempts in the first half. Bennett did make a scintillating dash from inside his own half just seconds before the whistle, flashing a shot wide of the goal, but it didn't really trouble Attwood.
HT Leamington Hibernian 0 AFC Birmingham 1. The visitors were well on top and had the difficult, gusting wind in their favour. Despite the controversial manner in which AFC took the lead, Hibs were probably reasonably happy to only be a goal down at the break, and still in a position to get something out of the game.
With only one goal in it there was still the chance that Leamington could hit AFC on the break and snatch something from this game but in the 73rd minute, the visitors were able to double their advantage and, again, it had a touch of controversy surrounding it.
Dew Ricketts launched another one of his long throws deep into the six yard area, where Attwood and Jahmari Hyatt challenged for it. There was a mid-air collision which caused the keeper to spill the ball backwards into the net amidst home claims of a foul on the keeper. We've all seen these type of decision go in favour of the goalkeeper but not on this occasion and, in defence of the referee, there didn't seem to be a lot in it for me. 0-2 and growing frustration amongst the home team.
A few minutes later it could easily have been three when Bennett was set free and looked to be about to pull the trigger before a superb piece of covering from home captain Zach Featherstone forced the striker to screw his effort wide.
It seemed like the game was up but the home side were giving up the ghost just yet. With fourteen left to play, substitute Gabriel Maloney, who had looked very lively since being introduced, drove a shot goalward but was denied by a very good, last ditch block from a defender. That one was travelling.
As if that effort stung Birmingham into hammering the final nail in the Hibs coffin, they went straight up the other end and did just that. Two substitues combined as Baker's flick on fell into the path of Pascal Chukwu who finished clinically. 0-3.
Once again Hibs tried to respond. Featherstone launched a superb through ball for Daniel Ademola to burst beyond the defence but his shit, under pressure form a covering defender, was well off target.
Birmingham's Denzel Kosegbe-Akanbi then had the ball in the home net but the assitant's flag had already gone up. It was then left to Hibs to have the final word. Well almost. Siezing on some indecision between defence anf goalkkeepr Amhari Thomas nipped in to stab the ball goalwards only to see it cannon back off the post, summing up the day from Leamington.
FT Leamington Hibernian 0 AFC Birmingham 3. To be fair, AFC were in control of this game pretty much from start to finish. Leamington plugged away but only managed to trouble Bajrami on a couple of occasions. The result sees AFC Birmingham remain in fifth, with the teams above them all winning too. Hibs remain 12th but Continental Star's win at Boldmere has closed the gap to the bottom three slightly.
If you want to catch either of these two teams in action over the holiday, they both have games on Boxing Day. Hibs make the trip up to Solihull to face 4th placed Silhill for the first time this season. AFC Birmingham welcome seond from bottom BNJS to Illey Lane, also a first encounter this season.
Leamington Hibernian: Attwood, McGuire, Featherstone(c), Smith, Ratcliffe, Woolley, Barry, Brewster, Muanza, Blake, King. Subs: Brogden, Ademola, Maloney, Thomas
AFC Birmingham: Bajrami, Preston, Campbell, Hyatt, Ricketts(c), J.Faulder, Eraine, Robinson, Brown, Bennett, R.Faulder. Subs: Chukwu, Adams, Kosegbe, McCarthy, Baker
Leamington Hibernian live something of a nomadic existence at the moment. After ground-sharing with Hampton last season, they have now moved closer to home and play their home games at Stockton just outside Southam. The football ground is part of a multi-sports facility that also hosts cricket, netball and unusually, petanque. According to Google maps it is also the home of Warwickshire Baseball Club. There is a reasonably large car park and a clubhouse/changing block. The clubhouse looks out over the football pitches and cricket square. The main football pitch is on the other side of the cricket square from the clubhouse, bordered by Station Road on one side and Napton Road behind one of the goals. There is no spectator cover or dugouts but the pitch looked to be pretty flat and in relatively good condition for the time of year and recent weather.
Ground Number: 392
Att: 13 (headcount)