Men's Conference North
Belper 1XI 1 Leek 1XI 0
A CONTROVERSIAL late strike consigned Leek to defeat in their opening Men's Conference North fixture at Belper on Saturday. Keeper Mark Brazier made a reflex save from close range which rebounded against Ben Inshaw's leg. But the whistle failed to arrive and the Belper forward played on before gleefully smashed the ball into the net for a 66th minute winner.
Leek first team coach Kev Heath said: "It was one of those reflex moments that happens so quickly that you cannot blame the umpires for not seeing it - but nearly everyone on the pitch knew it was wrong.
"Sometimes hockey just moves too quickly for close reflex decisions like this and you can see why video referrals are used at international level. Over a season these things even themselves out and you have to play on, this is a lesson the 2012 Leek squad will learn. We build on the positives and take them into the first home game of the season next Sunday against Wakefield."
On a lively new water-based Meadows pitch Leek played the more attractive style of hockey from the start. But for all their passing and control the visitors lacked a cutting edge in the opening period and failed to threaten the Belper goal on enough occasions in the opening period.
In a contrast of styles Belper looked to take full advantage of the lively pitch and new rules on deflections and own goal. The hosts looked to pepper the Leek goal from all corners, forcing maximum levels of concentration from the away defence to ensure a series of speculative smashes were dealt with in a goalless opening period.
Senior player Paul Nixon led by example after the break example by prompting numerous attacks. Chances started to as the game opened up from a tense midfield scrap into an end-to-end affair.
Leek spurned opportunities before a penalty decision failed to their way. A video replay after the game confirmed that the umpires had made the correct call though it was a tight decision.
With time running out Leek pushed for the win but left gaps at the back. And when a move broke down Belper pounced. The ball pin-balled around the Leek D before Inshaw rode his luck to bag the winner.