Deeside Ramblers 2 Leek 1XI 3
LEEK started their NOW: Pensions Men’s Hockey League campaign away to the newlypromoted North Premier champions.
Deeside are an established club, who have a strong pedigree and an excellent new playing surface.
Leek set their stall out very early, with the previous week’s training drills implemented right from the start.
The forwards and midfield looked sharp and chased down the ball quickly, while Ben White and Ed Stanhope looked lively in attack.
With the evergreen Paul Nixon and Paul Dawson supporting their presses, the home side looked startled.
White and Nixon combined to create the opening for Rich Cordon to put Leek ahead after only four minutes.
New German signing Tobi Mueller continued his pre-season good form, and he teased the home defence into giving away a penalty corner.
From the resulting attempt on goal, the keeper made a good save and the ball was quickly moved forward for Deeside to equalise.
Leek’s regained the lead from their second corner, which saw Mueller convert from close range.
Deeside came out with more purpose in the second half and gained the initiative after Paul Nixon was given a temporary two-minute suspension.
The flow of play changed, with Leek looking unsettled.
Several Leek players stood strong, though, and showed their resilience in particular Bobby Dawson and Jon Harper. Skipper Mark Brazier showed he was equal to the sporadic attempts on his goal.
Peter Sekula had to leave the field with a nasty injury which required treatment, but Paul Nixon returned to steady the ship.
Leek then started to get a foothold again in the game, and created several gilt-edged chances to finish off the game.
Just when it appeared to be calming down, Paul Nixon was sent from the field again and would take no further part, and Paul Dawson quickly joined him.
Sekula returned to the nine-man side and Leek hastily repaired the holes.
The 17-year-old German Ole Bernhardi was now playing centre midfield and showing calmness above his years in holding the midfield together.
Deeside did get a second goal through a pushover scramble in the Leek circle, and this set up the final period of play with Leek still carrying a threat.
Just when Leek had settled again with 10 players and started to play some controlled hockey, vice-captain Dan O’Neil was sent from the pitch as well, to set up a nervous final two minutes.
Leek’s defence kept out the final penalty corner of the game and ensured that the vital three away points came their team’s way.
Lessons will be learned ready for the visit of West Bridgford to Leek this Sunday.
Leek 2XI 3 North Staffs 1
NORTH Staffs were welcomed to Leek High School for their hosts’ second pre-season friendly.
Leek started the stronger of the two teams and opened the scoring when Chris Baldo slotted the ball home.
After the interval, Leek looked like a different team, chasing long balls and hitting the ball off the end of the pitch.
Despite a poor second half, Nathan Jones converted from the top of the D to leave the Staffs keeper rooted.
Leek were pegged back several minutes later after some poor defending gifted an opportunity to the Staffs forward, who punched the ball past the Leek keeper to make the score 2-1.
Alex Arndt make up for his team’s poor second half with a great solo effort, after beating three Staffs defenders, before pushing the ball over the prostrate keeper’s head from a tight angle.
Leek 3XI 2 North Staffs 5
LEEK set about building on their recent performances in preparation for the start of the league campaign and tried to grab hold of the game. Unfortunately, their opponents rugged, direct style caught Leek out and it was 1-0 to the hosts at half-time.
Knowing that they needed to raise their standards in the second half, Leek soon equalised and then took the lead from a short corner.
North staffs battled back and made it 2-2, which gave them the momentum at a pivotal point in the game. They then converted three goals from counter attacks for a convincing victory.
Leek 5XI 9 North Staffs 2
ON PAPER, this should have been a difficult game for the 5ths – but a seven-goal blitz in the first half sealed an easy victory.
Leek’s mixture of experience and youth was simply too good for their opposition.
In particular, Leek youngsters Sam Bellfield, Ben Thomas, Dan Sheldon, Jo Priestman, Angus Bedford and Lewis Flint all played some sublime passing hockey to create numerous chances and goal-scoring opportunities.
Leek Badgers 0 North Staffs 2
LEEK’S junior team succumbed to their second successive 2-0 loss, but the storyline was very different from the previous week.
Leek dominated the majority of this game against local rivals North Staffs but were unable to convert pressure into shooting opportunities.
This enabled North Staffs to hold on for 55 minutes and then sneak the lead through a rare venture towards Leek’s goal.
Having volunteered to play for North Staffs who were short of players, Joe Tattersall lifted his game and created the goal to put his team mates down.
This rocked Leek slightly and having lost their one senior player, Mick Burnett, with an injury before half-time they found themselves up against it.
However, they pushed forward, looking for an equaliser, only for North Staffs to break away to score a second and decisive goal.