Brooklands 1XI 3 Leek 1XI 3
LEEK men’s preparation for the 2013-14 season kicked off in earnest with a hard training session and a friendly fixture against local rivals Brooklands.
Brooklands plied their trade in the National Premier League last season and despite a valiant effort, have returned to the North Conference.
The Leek squad is going through several changes, with manager Lindsay Bromage stepping down and key players leaving the squad.
Three players have moved to the southern hemisphere and another two are unable to play due to other commitments.
Coach Kevin Heath is looking to re-balance the squad and bring in fresh faces to ensure that the first team squad remains around the 20 players.
Heath is optimistic that the new players will add to the very strong spine that the squad still possesses.
Leek went to Manchester with a smaller squad than usual – and with another four key players unavailable due to work and holidays.
The early exchanges were a little tense, with Brooklands looking the sharper and more focused – perhaps a sign of their longer preparation period.
From a Leek mistake, the sharper Manchester side took the lead in the 12th minute, with a well-taken goal.
Leek made changes and settled the side down a little and with key players now taking a stronger role, there were signs that Leek’s pattern was becoming more established.
Overall, though, Brooklands were on top and Leek’s defence had to be on their toes.
Following a mistake in Leek’s midfield, Brooklands looked to punish the visitors with a fast-paced counter and whilst this was creditable, the final finish – whereby the forward kicked the ball into the goal – was not. The umpires failed to see it, however, and the score stood.
This incident helped to raise the tempo of the game and in truth, this suited Leek’s competitive style more, and now the game started to even out.
Subtle tactical changes of personnel led to Leek putting together a series of moves which showed their potential.
A flowing move of some nine passes cut Brooklands to pieces and led to Dan O’Neil firing a cross into the circle, allowing Ed Stanhope to convert with a smart finish.
Ed Stanhope was forcing constant errors from the Brooklands defence. His new strike partner Ben Smith worked in tandem with him and the two of them looked a threat.
Just when Brooklands thought they had weathered the storm, debutant forward Ben Smith picked up a ball in the circle, turned his man in textbook style and fired the ball into the corner of the goal.
Leek sensed more goals and went looking for them, but were caught on the counter and Brooklands scored a third goal on the break.
Not to be outdone, Leek kept going forward and the other debutant, Rich Parker, appeared in the Brooklands circle and finished well from close range.