NOW Pensions Men’s Hockey League
Leek 1sts 4 Belper 2
LEEK knew that they would be in for a tough game against their visitors from Derbyshire.
In previous seasons, this fixture has been a tight affair, with little to choose between the sides.
Belper are known for having a solid defence and a forward line that will always stay in the game and pose a threat.
Leek looked to build on their solid best performance of the season the previous week at Durham The hosts created three gilt-edged chances in the opening minutes but Leek found Belper keeper Slane in fine form.
Leek started to become slightly nervous and you could sense the tension rise as the goals failed to come.
A strange set of plays then unfolded in a busy few minutes. Paul Nixon fired a ball into the circle looking for Tobi Mueller, who had slipped behind the Belper defence.
Even though the German narrowly missed the ball he put enough pressure on the Belper keeper to deflect the ball into his goal.
Just when Leek appeared to have settled and could move ahead in the game, an instant reply came from Belper.
Bobby Dawson has been faultless this season but he made a slightly rash tackle and was sinbinned for two minutes.
This led to Leek being caught out at the back and while they re-juggled, Belper stole in and scored the equaliser.
There came a series of green cards which broke Leek’s flow and gave a clear indication that the umpires would not tolerate misbehaviour.
Half-time came with a simple message on how to win the game and what would be needed to prise open the Belper defence.
Belper were dangerous on the counter attack and but for keeper Mark Brazier and defender Jon Harper Belper, they could well have scored more goals.
Richard Parker was sent on with instructions on how to change Leek’s defensive shape and in-form Jarod Oliver was pushed more forward.
Frustratingly Belper seized on a lapse of concentration and forced a penalty corner, from which they converted and took the lead in the game.
Jarod Oliver led the Leek fightback. He is looking very settled in his second season at Leek and is now playing a bigger role.
Oliver drove forward and after avoiding tackles from several defenders, rounded the keeper to convert from a wide angle.
Confidence was now flowing through the home side and clear examples of what the side are capable of were now on show.
Ben White went on a mesmerising run, where he evaded the whole Belper defence and picked out Dan O’Neil on the back post for a simple tap in.
Just when Leek could finally draw a collective sigh of relief, playing their best hockey, their achilles heel came to the fore again. Indiscipline and contesting decisions with the umpires meant that over the rest of the game, Leek would play with nine players.
However, the remaining players showed how composed they can be when up against it by keeping the ball. When the Leek side went back to ten, Ed Stanhope displayed his best form to date, tormented Belper and went tantalising close to scoring the fourth.
However, he was not to be denied and seconds later, he had another chance – which he smashed past the keeper to secure the vital three points.
Leek 2XI 3 Belper 2
LEEK started off brightly with Cunningham and Smith linking up well, but the attack was to no avail.
Belper also started with a string of confident attacks but thanks to some good defending from Linnell on the line, Leek held out.
Knight came on and added some extra pace to the attack and five minutes before half-time, he made a clinical pass for Cunningham to score.
The half-time whistle blew and Leek went into the huddle confident with a one goal advantage.
The second half started with Belper the brighter. Some neat passing led to the ball being played around the Leek keeper and directed into an empty net.
The game began to reflect the theme of previous encounters, with some bad tackles met with retaliation from both teams as tempers began to rise.
Then Leek struck again, with Ben Knight being the provider of a pass to Nathan Smith, whose shot bobbled over the line.
With the score at 2-1, Belper threw everyone up the field and with Leek under pressure, their opponents scored in clinical fashion after the ball rebounded off the keeper’s pad.
With tempers wearing even thinner, Baldo passed the ball to Cunningham, who took charge from the halfway line and scored in emphatic style.
Leek 4XI 4 Leek 5XI 3
INTER-CLUB league games always have that extra bit of interest and rivalry and this was no exception.
Both teams could be proud of the way they played. The old fifths team is slightly more direct, while the younger fourths team’s game is based on slick and quick passing.
The fifths opened the scoring through an Alun Hughes strike but the fourths drew level through Tom Greenwood.
A quickfire double from Ben Knight put the fifths 3-1 up but the fourths hit back with three goals in 10 minutes with strikes from veteran Pete Cordon, Dan Mart and Sam Wheeldon.
Edgbaston 8XI 1 Leek 6XI 5
LEEK started like they were on fire. with Dave Wright slotting home from a short corner after two minutes. Birthday boy and man-of-thematch Tom Hatcher worked well in midfield with Keiran Smith to create further chances for Wright and Alcock.
Callum Bell must have given the Edgbaston right back nightmares as he struggled to keep up with a player half his size and age.
Edgbaston got themselves back into the game in the first half and two one-on-one opportunities were excellently smoothered by keeper Adam Knott, making his sixths debut.
The Leek defensive line up of Gayes, Scriven and Lomax provided Edgbaston with very little to work with and kept the score to 1-0 at half time.
The second half saw the younger Leek side take full advantage of Edgbaston forgetting to field a full team and soon added two further goals – through Alcock and a great strike into the roof of the net from Critchlow.
Phil Davies and Paul Houston went close to scoring before Alcock, set up by Sokhal, added his second.
Edgbaston broke well down the left and managed to pull one back with some good passing around the keeper.
This spurred Leek forward again for Critchlow to round the keeper and finish the game off.
Leek 7XI 3 Lichfield 7XI 3
AFTER a good start away at Stafford last week, the sevenths were confident of a result against Lichfield. Leek started well but several times allowed some sloppy passing and easy turnover of the ball. They went 1-0 down after allowing too much space to Lichfield, enabling them to win and convert a penalty corner.
Leek’s equaliser came after a solo run the length of the pitch by Jerry Watson, who slotted comfortably past the Lichfield keeper.
A strong Lichfield side then extended their lead to 3-1, with their adults up front making their presence felt.
Leek then decided to start playing flowing passing hockey, with the juniors distributing the ball well around the pitch.
Leek won several penalty corners, one of which was converted by Jim Rayner. A goalmouth scramble in the last ten minutes was converted by Joe Cummins to bring Leek level.
Leek Badgers 0 Buxton 1
LEEK headed into Saturday’s game hoping to bounce back from the previous week’s defeat at Cannock. However, their efforts were thwarted by a well-organised Buxton side, who took the lead mid-way through the first half.
Leek’s defence resisted any further Buxton attacks, with Josh Johnson in goal producing a string of good saves.
Lucas Barrow and Ellie Poole made some important contributions at the back, enabling Charlie Thackstone and Sam Brereton to push forward.
With Buxton fielding an adult in goal, any forays into the opposition area were broken up.
This allowed Buxton to see out the game for the win in what was a good match, despite the foul and miserable conditions.
Leek 1XI 3 Edgbaston 3
LEEK met early on a miserable Sunday morning to take on league rivals Edgbaston in the first round of the cup.
Straight from the off, Leek put Edgbaston under constant pressure and created many chances inside Edgbaston’s D.
Great play from the off showed Leek to be the stronger team throughout the first half.
Dominating most of the first half, Leek were unlucky not to convert many short corner and goal opportunities.
Heading into the second half, Leek again put Edgbaston under pressure with their skilful play and hard work.
Leek suffered from a bad umpiring decision leading to Edgbaston scoring the first goal.
Shortly afterwards, Leek were unlucky and conceded a second goal.
However, Leek did not let this get their spirits down and continued to play a strong game, creating another short corner opportunity.
This led to Emma Clowes calmly slotting the ball into the back of the goal from a straight strike at the top of the D.
Within minutes, Leek won another short corner and using an unusual routine Leek’s Hazel Mycock scored the equaliser.
Leek 2XI 2 Dudley 1XI 0
AFTER an undeserved scoreline from the previous week, Leek came out in determined mood.
In the first ten minutes, Leek showed their strength and held possession, pressuring Dudley’s defence time and time again.
However, it was not until the second half when Kate Jones made a great strike to fly past Dudley’s keeper.
The Leek defence held strong, with a few unlucky breakthroughs being cleared out to the wings from Leek keeper Rhiannon Bedford.
Rosie Dober-Obel in defence linked up well with Sami Cope in midfield and pushed the play into Dudley’s defensive half, pressuring the goal once again.
Soon, a determined run from Jenny Evans, ended with a well-placed pass which found Jones and resulted in another goal in Leek’s favour.
Leek 3XI 1 Stone 3XI 1
LEEK started off well against Stone, pushing forward and attacking well.
Despite her injuries, captain and opposition man-of-the-match Lydia Whittaker continually pushed forward to set up numerous scoring chances.
With a lot of pressure being applied by Stone, Leek’s defence Karen Smith, Caroline Stone and Nikki Hambleton got through a lot of work.
Keeper Hannah Boulton pulled off a great save after Stone were awarded a penalty flick.
A HOCKEY camp is being held at Leek High School on Monday, October 28 from 10am to 3pm. The cost is £10 and participants should bring a packed lunch. The camp is aimed at players of all abilities aged between 7 and 16, and sticks can be provided. For newcomers and existing players who introduce a friend, the session will cost just £5 for both the existing and new player.