FA Trophy third qualifying round
Brackley Town 0 Leek Town 0
TWO major refereeing decisions failed to go Blues’ way when they travelled to Conference North highflyers Brackley Town in the FA Trophy on Saturday.
On the hour mark, John Johnston’s pace took him into the six-yard box, where he was upended by a combination of defender and goalkeeper, prompting prolonged and legitimate appeals for a penalty.
However, referee Sian Massey waved play on.
Then, with the game entering its final five minutes, Johnston rose to power a header into the back of the net from a Matt Bell corner.
But Blues’ celebrations were short-lived after the linesman flagged for a foul – despite the referee being right on the spot – and the goal was disallowed.
The defender involved in the incident said after the game that he had got underneath the ball but the ref failed to spot it.
Brackley looked a powerful side, passing the ball about well, but a series of outstanding saves by Ben Chapman and some good defending kept Leek in it at times.
Casswell made two changes to the side that won at Witton earlier in the week, with Ryan Dicker and Mitch Husbands replacing Paul Donnelly and Dan Shelley, whilst Brackley included former Leek striker Ben Mills in their line-up.
Blues were first to show and in the second minute Husbands played the ball wide for Johnston, who took on the defence before crossing low to the near post, forcing rookie keeper Alaster Worby to go down to smother.
Nisevic got the better of Dan Smith in the ninth minute but his shot was deflected wide for a corner that Chapman punched clear only as far as Brett Solkhon, who headed way over the crossbar.
Leek put a good flowing move together in the 20th minute and Husbands tested Worby with a shot from 22 yards that the young keeper got his body behind.
Blues continued to push forward and a minute later, Johnston went on a great run down the left before being crudely halted from behind by Elliot Sandy, who somehow escaped a yellow card.
Jordan Johnson took the resulting free kick and blasted round the wall, only to see the ball flick off a defender straight at the keeper who saved with his feet.
Leek then won a free kick wide on the right and a home player booted the ball away but again avoided a yellow card.
Brackley came close to opening the scoring in the 25th minute when Danny Newton blasted in a shot that produced a superb save from Chapman.
Leek carved out another fine move in the 27th minute when Jordan Johnson set up Johnston, whose shot was palmed wide by the keeper.
There was danger in the Leek box in the 36th minute when Tom Sharpe worked his way into the area but just as he was about to pull the trigger, in came Smith with a superb last-ditch tackle.
Blues cleared the ball and Johnston robbed Reid of the ball before bursting forward to play it square for Husbands, who just failed to get a boot on it.
Sam Hall then picked up a caution for an innocuous tackle before Mills glanced a header wide shortly before the half-time whistle.
After the break, Brackley were guilty of some poor defending, giving Andy Kinsey a chance – but the ball got tangled in a sea of legs.
Then Mills headed wide from a deep cross before Dicker was brought down defending the Leek box – but still there was no reaction from the referee.
In the 56th minute, Reid’s shot from distance flew wide and then Solkhon headed a corner onto the roof of the net as the home side looked to get on top.
Then, with 60 minutes on the clock, Brackley survived long and loud appeals for a spot kick and were lucky to survive with their goal intact.
Blues put the incident behind them and pushed forward in the 65th minute, with the ball being played wide to Shelley. He crossed in for John Johnston, who shot straight at the keeper.
Three minutes later, Blues attacked again with some good approach play and Jordan Johnson found Shelley – but he blasted inches wide of the upright.
Chapman held a high Brackley corner in the 70th minute and Leek countered with Bell crossing from the left – but when the ball was only half cleared, John Johnston hooked a shot wide.
Brackley turned up the pressure as the game entered the final 15 minutes and when Nisevic crossed from the left, Chapman had to go down to claim the ball.
A minute later, Johnston combined to set up Ant Danylyk but he skied his shot way over the crossbar.
Brackley almost broke the deadlock in the 79th minute but Chapman pulled off an amazing double save in a crowded box.
Bell drove in a corner on 85 minutes and Leek had two shots blocked before that controvercial decision to deny them a goal and a hard-earned victory.
After the game, Blues boss Lee Casswell said: “I thought we were outstanding against a very big, strong and athletic side that had lost only one game all season whilst conceding just eight goals, but we stood up to them.
“In order to get anything out of the game, we knew we would have to defend against them – especially in the heart of defence, where Ryan Dicker and Andy Bratt did a magnificent job.
“From Andy Kinsey up front all the way back to Ben in goal, the lads all contributed to the game and I can’t speak any higher of them.
“We caught them with our pace down both flanks but they are a good side and were not distracted by their upcoming televised FA Cup replay against Gillingham [which Brackley won 1-0 on Monday, reaching the second round of the cup for the first time in the club’s 123-year history].
“However, I was disappointed that we had the goal disallowed and we were definitely due a penalty in the second half, although they had a good shout for one in the opening half.
“As far as the replay is concerned, we are still massive underdogs but we will give it a good go.”