Evo-Stik First Division South
Leek Town 4 Brigg Town 1
Blues missed a hatful of chances when they took on lowly Brigg at Harrison Park on Saturday – but they still managed to comfortably overcome the Lincolnshire outfit.
The home side netted three times in the opening half without reply – but went on to find the crossbar and miss a penalty shortly before the break.
Brigg looked a much better side in the second half and pulled a goal back on the hour mark, although Blues restored the three-goal margin five minutes later to secure the points.
After the game, Blues boss Lee Casswell said: "That was a good result for us, especially with Belper beating Halesowen.
"Although we knew that making changes was a bit of a risk, the thinking behind it was to create more chances.
"So we played Tim Grice up top and pushed Dan Shelley wide, with Jordan Johnson moved into a more central role – and it worked.
"Unfortunately, Jordan didn't get on the scoresheet despite his many chances but he will in the coming games, as will Tim, who netted two good goals.
"Managers always worry how players will react at being left out but the attitude of those on the bench was tremendous.
"This was a massive three points ahead of two away games at Rainworth and Chasetown, who are both outside the play-off zone – both games will be difficult.
"However, if we can maintain our home form and keep picking up points away from home, we should be in a good position in the final month of the season."
Casswell made two changes to his starting line-up with Niall MaGuire replacing Sam Hall whilst Tim Grice made a rare start at the expense of Andy Kinsey up front.
Blues attacked from the whistle, pushing the visitors back and winning two free kicks in quick succession before Grice set up John Johnston, who shot wide in the fifth minute.
Two minutes later, Jordan Thewlis drove forward to the edge of the Leek box before shooting well wide of the target.
Leek almost took the lead in the ninth minute when the Zebras' keeper made a hash of a clearance. Seeing him off his line, Jordan Johnson tried to lob the ball but failed to get enough height on his shot.
However, Leek took the lead just three minutes later when Matt Bell found John Johnston wide on the right. He crossed into the box for Niall MaGuire, whose shot was deflected for a corner.
When the cross came in, MaGuire rose highest at the far post to head home from close range.
In the 14th minute, Tim Grice chased a high ball to the edge of the penalty area, where he collided with the keeper. Grice required off-field treatment before returning to the action.
It didn't take last season's leading scorer long to get on the scoresheet.
Two minutes later, Grice was set up by Shelley and netted in the bottom corner, despite being off balance.
In the 25th minute, the visitors came close to reducing the arrears when Ben Chapman was forced to palm wide from Joshua Nichol and when the corner came in, Ant Danylyk cleared the ball off the line.
On a difficult surface, Blues put some good moves together but all too often chances, went begging in and around the box despite dominating play.
Leek finally extended their lead in the 38th minute when a superb ball by Shelley, played between two defenders, found Bell. He blasted a low cross to the far post, where Grice was on hand to turn the ball in.
In the 40th minute, Johnston tracked across the field, holding off several challenges to find Shelley, who played the ball into the box again for Grice – but this time, the big striker mishit his shot. Just a minute later, Johnston and Shelley combined to set up MaGuire but his shot thudded into the crossbar.
On the stroke of half-time Blues should have gone further ahead when they were awarded a penalty for a handling offence, but leading scorer Jordan Johnson saw his shot slam into the upright with the keeper beaten.
Brigg upped their game in the second half but Leek continued to dominate and in the 51st minute, Grice steered a header wide following a corner by Bell.
Two minutes later, Grice got on the end of a great through ball to play it square to Johnson – but he lifted his shot over with just the keeper to beat.
Brigg pulled a goal back on the hour but Nichol looked yards offside when Elliott Broughton played him through. Play was allowed to continue and the Zebras striker advanced on goal before surviving a tackle from Chapman to simply walk the ball into the net.
Leek went on to create and miss chances but in the 65th minute they restored their three-goal advantage when Bell curled home at the far post direct from a corner kick.
In the 71st minute, Grice ran onto a great through ball and burst into the box before going round the advancing keeper to get an angled shot on target – but the ball was cleared off the line.
Brigg applied some pressure midway through the half but Ryan Dicker had his defence well organised and Chapman was relatively untroubled for the remainder of the game.
Blues went on to play out three minutes of added time to earn the points and consolidate their play-off place, whilst leaving them still in with a good chance of winning the title.
Leek Town: Chapman, Smith, Bell, Dicker, Espley, MaGuire, Danylyk, Shelley (Hall 65), Grice (Donnelly 84), Jordan Johnson, John Johnston (Kinsey 70). Subs not used: Bratt, Golden.