The Puritans won the premier division clash 1-0 at the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium where Bell came off the bench to bag the winner with virtually the last kick of the game.
Up until that dramatic ending it looked as though it would be a point apiece. New signing Martin Asiedu Ofosu had the pick of United’s chances and Courtney Baker-Richardson struck the woodwork for the Brakes.
Asiedu Ofosu made his full debut but, as expected, Ricky Johnson was ruled out through injury while Brakes midfielder Darren Pond was unable to face his former side following a head injury.
The leaders had the first chance. Ahmed Obeng set up Richard Gregory whose first time strike was straight at Jack Harding but the keeper could not prevent the ball spinning away for a corner.
That chance apart, it was a fairly tepid opening for a derby encounter with both sides feeling their way into the contest.
A neat build-up from the Puritans ended with Conor McDonagh sending in a testing cross which just evaded Asiedu Ofosu in the six-yard box.
United began to impose themselves on the game and went on to enjoy their best spell. Asiedu Ofosu’s clever flick-on sent McDonagh away but he was well marshalled by James Mace who made sure all that United got was a corner.
From Zac McEachran’s ensuing flag-kick Richard Taundry had to head clear. McEachran’s second corner ended with Luke Carnell heading the ball back into the six-yard box where Jack Westbrook got the final touch but Tony Breeden comfortably saved.
Leamington had another chance when Jack Edwards headed straight at Harding. But United should have broken the deadlock with the best move of the half just before the break.
McEachran exchanged passes with Asiedu Ofosu inside the area. But when McEachran’s low cross came into the six-yard box, Asiedu Ofosu miskicked, the ball ran on to Callum White who saw his close range effort cleared off the line by Connor Gudger.
But the Brakes went close shortly after the restart. Baker-Richardson took advantage of a slip by skipper Andy Gunn and cut inside before striking the foot of the upright from 15 yards.
Following that scare, United soon picked up from where they left off and Asiedu Ofosu exchanged passes with McDonagh before flashing a shot across the goal for a corner. Moments later Asiedu Ofosu created an opening for himself but again failed to pull the trigger and the chance was gone.
More good play from McDonagh in the box set up George Nash who fired over the bar. United continued to probe while the Brakes always looked dangerous on the break.
But with the game three minutes into stoppage-time McEachran found space on the right and his low cross found the unmarked Bell who seemed to take an age to beat Breeden from close range.