Leek 1sts 1 Durham University 1
LEEK produced one of their best performances of the season against the high-flying students from Durham.
It was in stark contrast to the previous week's offering away to Olton & Warwickshire, which ended in a crushing 6-2 defeat.
Leek were forced to make two changes to the squad, and also changed the formation to create a greater defensive stability, with Jarrod Oliver playing alongside Jon Harper in the centre of defence. Nathan Smith and Rannch Linnell were added to the squad, and Kieran Bedford took over from skipper Mark Brazier in goal – the captain being absent due to work commitments.
As expected, Durham had the territorial advantage in the opening period and forced the first penalty corner after eight minutes.
This was well defended by Leek, and as the home side settled into the match, a midfield break from Paul Dawson and Paul Nixon created the first open play chance for James Gough.
The next clear-cut chance also fell to Leek after 18 minutes when an overlapping move down the right flank led to a Richard Cordon flick narrowly going wide.
Leek were forced into a change when Paul Dawson was injured and had to leave the field for 10 minutes.
Despite considerable pressure from Durham, Leek defended superbly, from front to back.
Goalkeeper Bedford made two excellent saves which settled any nerves he may have had, and the central defensive pairing of Oliver and Harper held firm. They were assisted by the introduction of England Seniors international Matt Boardman at left back, after the injury to Dawson.
The home side created another good chance after 27 minutes when a defence splitting aerial flick from Cordon found Ben White, who had made a great run, but the ball bounced just away from White's reach.
Having weathered a considerable amount of Durham pressure, Leek were undone by a penalty corner two minutes from half-time, which was well converted by Matt Murphy for the visitors.
The home side also had to contend with a temporary suspension for White.
Although in arrears, the half-time team talk revolved around maintaining the same level of play, and not needing to force the game.
However, the story of the second-half revolved around self-inflicted wounds to Leek, as they had to play for two-thirds of the second half with 10 players.
White's suspension was followed by one for Cordon, and a further permanent suspension for White for the last 12 minutes (which now leads to a one match suspension).
Durham also received a temporary suspension with 10 minutes remaining to Dan Vincent
In between the disruptions Leek played with a high level of commitment, and some selfless running from forwards Ed Stanhope and Gough, combined with a midfield quartet who were working overtime, prevented a well-drilled Durham side from created many clear cut chances despite their greater possession.
Leek were rewarded during one of the few periods with 11 players, when they were awarded a penalty corner. When the initial shot from White was blocked, Nixon followed up with the 'kitchen sink' to bring Leek level after 56 minutes.
Durham were desperate to create an opening to maintain their promotion challenge, but as they pushed more players forward it had the reverse effect and helped Leek defensively by creating more midfield space to retain possession.
Crucially, in the latter period of the game Durham were also reduced to 10 players at the same time as Leek.
The home side then held firm for the final seven minutes to gain a well deserved point against one of the leading teams in the division.
Leek 2nds 5 Olton & West Warks 0
MATTHEW Boardman scored twice in a one-sided affair at Leek High School, as both clubs fielded youthful sides. The visitors went behind to a Boardman penalty corner after 10 minutes.
Ben Knight angled in the second goal before James Hough slotted in from eight yards to make it 3-0.
Boardman then scored the fourth of the game, a well-executed penalty corner that flew into the top corner.
James Hudson signed the game off with a lucky finish.
Rugby & EW 3rds 3 Leek 3rds 1
A RAFT of unavailabilities saw Leek make eight changes for the trip to Rugby and saw them welcome back club veterans Imran Sherwani and Chris Orme after long absences.
The numerous changes and adverse weather conditions added to the challenge and made it very difficult both for the players and umpires alike, with the latter struggling for consistent communication in the blustery conditions.
The first half proved a difficult test for Leek who didn't cope with the direct nature of the home side's play and found themselves 3-0 at half-time.
However, the second half was a different story as the away side dominated both possession and territory and with a little more luck would have returned north with a positive result.
Defenders Orme, Charlie Belfield and Alex Ardnt provided a solid platform from which youngsters Josh Sherwani, Dan Sheldon and Ben Thomas played some good hockey and pushed the Rugby defence onto the back foot.
Angus Bedford linked well with Aaron Sherwani and Leek were rewarded with several short corners, it was from one such corner that Anthony Mellor volleyed home following a sharp save from the Rugby goalkeeper.
However, this proved to be a consolation for Leek because despite the continued siege to the Warwickshire sides goal they were unable to convert the chances to get back into the match.
Special mention goes to young goalkeeper Levi Davis, who endured a frustrating game, being very unlucky with the Rugby goals and not being able to show his considerable talents for the rest of the game due to the solidity of the Leek back-line.
Leek 5ths 5 Rugby & East Warks 2
LEEK picked up their second win on the bounce with a very good performance.
Dave Wright opened the scoring for Leek when his powerful shot found the top corner of the net.
Rugby drew level from the penalty spot before Wright again scored after picking up a rebound from an Andy Spragg strike.
The second half saw Leek encamped in their opponents' half as they pushed forward at will.
However, a series of superb saves from the Rugby goalkeeper kept them in the game and with 10 minutes remaining, they broke away and scored an equaliser.
Leek responded brilliantly, however, and within six minutes were 5-2 ahead after sixth team captain Andy Spragg scored possibly the quickest hat-trick on record.
The best goal of the game was the fourth when a series of clinical passes ended with Spragg exchanging a quick one-two with young Sam Wheeldon to completely outwit the Rugby defence.
It was a great team performance, with man-of-the-match Phil Davis having a superb game at right midfield.
Leek 6ths 3 Lichfield 5ths 2
LEEK welcomed Lichfield as they sought to cement their position at the top of the league.
The efforts made to raise a team were well rewarded, with a few old faces dusting off their shin pads and rooting out a stick to play.
Although the scoreline was close and the game tense in the latter stages, Leek's experienced players combined well with the energy of the junior players to dominate this game for long periods.
Leek opened the scoring from a short corner, Rob Allen rifling from the top of the D to leave the keeper with no chance.
A couple of defensive lapses allowed Lichfield back into the game with a well-taken equaliser and the teams turned around at 1-1.
Leek pressed to retake the lead in the second half but squandered a series of good chances.
With 15 minutes to go, Leek were caught short-handed at the back and conceded a short corner, which Lichfield converted to take the lead against the run of play.
Leek lifted their game, though, with Joe Knott, Callum Bell and Josh Egan driving forward from midfield to create problems for Lichfield, Allen pulling the strings behind them.
This pressure eventually told and Leek drew back level through Rob Fowler.
Leek did not settle for a draw and with time running out, a short corner saw Allen draw the on-rushing defence before playing the ball wide to Roger Gayes, who crossed the ball to Bell at the back post to sweep into the goal.
There was still time for Jas Sokhal to demonstrate some aerial mastery and send the ball beyond the bewildered keeper, only for the umpires to disallow the goal before drawing the game to a close and a well-deserved win.
This keeps Leek's lead of nine points at the top of the table with six games to play, although Barford Tigers in second have a game in hand.
NoDe Minis tournament
LEEK hosted two teams from both Buxton and North Stafford hockey clubs on Sunday for a mixed friendly tournament.
Each side played four games against teams from the other clubs in what turned out to be a glorious morning.
The teams were well-matched throughout, with a single goal separating the teams in each game.
Any children interested in playing hockey can come to training at Leek High School from 6pm to 7pm every Friday.
Players start from as young as five years old and are grouped according to age and ability. There are now more than 80 children playing for Leek on a regular basis.
Leek Badgers 0 Old Wulfs 1
THE BADGERS travelled to Wolverhampton for their second game against Old Wulfs this season.
The home side bolstered up their team after their previous 10-0 defeat by the Badgers, with two senior players and four under-15 players that play in the senior teams joining the line-up.
The first half started with the teams evenly matched, with Josh Johnson making his usual fine saves and the defence doing a superb job, Jack Snape in particular making some brave tackles.
Half-time came with no goal for either team, but the second period was a different story, with the Badgers stepping up their game and applying the pressure. They gained a number of short corners but they couldn't quite convert them into a goal, due mostly to the very experienced defence.
All the play was in the home side's half, with great play from the midfield and forwards.
The one time the ball spilled into Leek's half, a Wulfs player took a desperate hit far out of the D. This went into the goal, with one of the umpires awarding the score, believing it had deflected off the Badgers' goalkeeper
Leek 1sts 2 Edgbaston 2
LEEK faced one of their toughest matches of the season, not only facing the team second in the table but battling extreme weather conditions.
Leek dominated play during the first 10 minutes and this hard work was rewarded when Meg Walton calmly put away her side's first goal from the top of the D.
Leek continued to put the Edgbaston defence under pressure and created many chances without scoring .
However, a short blip in concentration led to Edgbaston scoring the equaliser just before half time.
Leek were in high spirits after a great first half but had not lost sight of the tough second half they faced.
The stand-in defence of Rhiannon Bedford, Sarah Deaville, Suzi Stubbs and Hazel Mycock prevented Edgbaston from converting any attacking play.
A solid show of teamwork from defence, through to midfield and on to the forwards, resulted in many opportunities for Leek to score their second goal.This came from a clean shot on goal from Hazel Mycock during a short corner routine.
Leek were keen to maintain possession and the lead but unfortunately during the last 10 minutes, they suffered from a poor umpiring decision, resulting in an Edgbaston goal.