THE ONLY bright part of this penultimate league fixture of the season turned out to be the weather, which was far better than the dire quality of hockey on display.
Khalsa needed a win to secure their North Conference status and, mathematically, Leek also needed a safety point – although it would have needed a bizarre set of results to put them in trouble.
Playing in unusually hot weather seemed to cause both teams problems, and although the match at Leek earlier in the season had ended in a goalless draw, at least that match saw some good quality hockey.
Leek should have taken an early lead when Ben White broke clear in the third minute, but he and James Gough failed to combine effectively.
Both sides forced penalty corners at either end of the pitch, neither of which were converted, although White's flick brought a fine save from Elliot Rider in the Khalsa goal.
Leek had another great chance in the 13th minute when Richard Cordon and Gough combined, only for the latter to fluff his lines again.
After a frustrating period, the game came to life for the wrong reasons just before half-time.
A poor challenge on Leek's Paul Dawson went unpunished and as play continued, another tackle led to a heated exchange with the umpires – which resulted in Paul Nixon and Dan O'Neill both receiving temporary yellow card suspensions.
The suspensions lasted for five minutes either side of the interval, during which time a nine-man Leek had little difficulty in keeping Khalsa at bay.
The second half was largely forgettable, as the heat seemed to take its toll on both sides.
Both defences coped easily with any pressure that came their way, and although both goalkeepers were called into action, the shots they saved were largely ineffective.
Leek had a major scare in the last minute when a cross-cum-shot from Khalsa's David Harris hit the outside of a post.
The highlight of the match from Leek's point of view was that the point earned has secured their National League status for a remarkable 12th season in succession –a fine achievement.
Beeston 2 Leek 4XI 2
THE SUNNY weather was not the only thing Leek were enjoying, having already secured promotion to the Midlands Premier Division with three games remaining.
Unable to catch runaway leaders Loughborough Students, and with three enforced changes, Leek set out to demonstrate why their elevation has been fully deserved.
The Moorlanders completely dominated the opening 15 minutes with some fluent passing moves, prompted by the central midfield trio of Peter Cordon, Keiran Smith and Nigel Parkes, and the speed of Andy Critchlow and Lewis Flint on both wings.
Beeston scored with their first shot of the match after a good move through midfield.
Despite its youthful line-up, this Leek side, as well as being talented, is also resilient and they bounced back within two minutes, when the senior group of Cordon, Rob Lawley and Critchlow combined for the latter to score.
However, once again a lapse in concentration in the defending area resulted in Beeston regaining the lead just before half-time.
In the second half, Leek continued to play attractive hockey and although Beeston contributed to an entertaining match, the visitors were in the ascendancy.
The versatile Calum Alcock, playing in an unfamiliar role at centre back, marshalled the defence and began to prompt several of Leek's attacking moves.
A combination of Beeston's defence, wayward shooting and the crossbar after a deft lob from skipper Lawley kept Leek frustrated.
Eventually, Leek got the break they deserved. Cordon intercepted a Beeston clearance and combined with Lawley to create a chance for Jo Priestman to bring the scores level, and earn Leek a draw.
Leek 5XI 0 West Bridgford 4
THE FIFTHS' good run of results ended on Saturday when their worst performance of the season saw them well beaten.
Leek never got themselves into the game in the first half and were 3-0 down by half-time.
The second half saw a much-improved performance by Leek but they were unable to break down the resilient West Bridgford defence.
The only real bright spot was the performance of young Henri Lockett, by far Leek's best player.
Leek 6XI 1 Finchfield 4XI 1
PROMOTED, but not yet champions, Leek achieved their goal of going up with more of a splutter than a sprint to the finish.
They managed to grind out yet another draw which gave them the point they needed – but once again, they should have grabbed all three points.
With a few changes to the side, which saw Waterhouse in goal and the introduction of the Watson clan, the strength of the team was improved but the play didn't reflect that.
Chances went begging either end, with Bell, Scriven and Fowler all going close to scoring.
The Leek defence of Arnold, Bedford and Lomax were left stranded a few times and it needed a couple of good saves from Waterhouse to keep the score level at half-time.
Early in the second half, Finchfield managed to break the deadlock through a messy short corner.
This inspired Leek to perform better, with Watson junior linking well with Hatcher and Hammond in the midfield.
The introduction of Burnett added some interesting features to the game.
Leek created numerous short corners and it was from one of these that Leek equalised when a one-two between Spragg and Hatcher, allowed the captain to slip the ball under the keeper.
Bedford saved Leek with a goal line clearance and Bell was unlucky not to score with a goal line clearance at the other end.
Buxton 7 Leek Badgers 0
THE BADGERS travelled to Buxton for what they hoped would be an evenly-matched game, as per the earlier clashes in the season.
The first half began with Buxton applying a lot of pressure and the lack of movement from the Badgers helped the home team's cause.
Badgers responded better in the second half and pushed more players forward to try and claw some goals back but they were caught on the break on a few occasions, allowing Buxton to add further goals.
Towards the end of the second half, the Badgers unleashed a number of shots on goal without scoring.
The Moorlanders came away from the game with a number of positives, not least a great display by keeper Lewis Wooliscroft, who pulled off some amazing saves to stop the home tally going into double figures.
Tamworth 5 Leek 1XI 1
LEEK travelled to Tamworth with a depleted squad, knowing that to get anything from the match they needed to work extremely hard.
They had the worst start possible when within two minutes, a ball found its way through the defence and was put in by a Tamworth forward.
The visitors re-grouped and didn't allow Tamworth to gain any further hold on the game.
The second half saw Leek get a little tired at times and without enough on the bench to ensure fresh legs, they conceded twice before Tracey Perkin capitalised from a short corner to reduce the deficit.
However, tired legs couldn't prevent the home side from scoring a further two goals.
The final result didn't reflect the hard work and numerous short corners which Leek created.
Leek's ability to field three under-18s, including a debut player-of-the-match performance from Hattie Barnes, shows promise for the future.
Leek 2XI 1 Stafford 0
WITH injury and availability challenges, the last-minute promotion of Barnes to the first team meant that Leek fielded a scratch team.
However, if Stafford thought that they were going to be able to take advantage of an unfamiliar line-up, they were much mistaken.
Captain Gwinnett had requested discipline and determination in the pre-match talk, and Leek did not disappoint.
Leek settled to their task and gradually built the pressure through link play, resulting in a well-struck penalty from Jones, tipped in by Owen.
Cope, Lockett and Lancaster combined well to foil countless attacks down Stafford's right and Owen dominated the centre alongside the talented Sheldon, who marked her second team debut with a performance to remember.
After the turnaround, Leek had to dig in after the injured Gwinnett was unable to take any further part and Leek had no players to spare.
Solid defending by Binks, Brindley and Bedford meant Stafford's few attempts on goal came to nothing and in the final 10 minutes Leek looked the more likely to score through the blistering pace of Moss and Lee, who both gave impressive accounts of themselves.
With such excellent performances all-round, the player-of-the-match votes were hard to split and it was honours even for Sheldon and Lockett, with Sheldon getting the nod from the opposition.
Leek Ladies 3XI 0 Barton 2XI 1
LEEK started off well against Barton and the teams were pretty even, both giving as good as they got.
Barton made some good moves forward but were stopped in their tracks by a strong defensive system made up of player-of-the-match Nikki Hambleton, newcomer Helen Hudson and Helen Earley.
In the second half, Leek continued to apply great pressure, with great runs from Becci Neale, Caroline Stone and Jess Walsh.
Leek had lots of great opportunities, but couldn't get the goal their efforts deserved. Barton scored the deciding goal in the closing five minutes.
Leek 4XI 1 Stafford 4XI 4
LEEK were forced to field a changed in their attempt to damage Stafford's hopes of moving up from second spot in the table.
But this did not to deter them from playing some excellent hockey and showing the kind of team spirit that has been evident all season.
Leek were soon on the back foot in the game and the defence had little time to settle to their new roles, but Molly Riley gained confidence and strength as the game wore on.
With Becky Bailey in goal again, Leek looked to hold the initial Stafford push and did so well, it even allowed Charlotte Allen to push forward to cause some issues for the visitors.
The midfield pairing of Abigayle Hall and Jo Shuttlewood settled into a reasonable pattern and Leek were unfortunate to go a goal behind after 17 minutes.
This did not deter the home team and they equalised from a short corner, with an excellent strike from Ange Lilley.
Stafford pushed forward more and more but Bailey in the Leek goal showed determination not to concede again. However, with 13 minutes remaining, Leek changed their formation and Stafford ran in three goals in seven minutes.
Despite the scoreline, Leek can hold their heads high and look forward to the last game of the season away to Stafford.