Leek 1XI 1 Olton 1
LEEK played their latest National League North Conference game against close rivals Olton and West Warks.
Olton have found some strong form recently where they have played very close games against the top two sides. They scored three goals against both Bowdon and Sheffield Hallam.
It meant that Leek had to be on their toes right from the beginning and ensure they set off with a strong start.
Unlike the previous week, Leek took the game to the visitors.
In the very first minute, Alex Mason released Ben White who won a penalty corner after driving hard into the circle. But the Olton keeper made a strong save.
There was a tight tussle in midfield, with neither side looking to give the other much space to work in.
Leek had set out a new game plan, which sometimes worked well – but it also left the centre midfield area sometimes over-exposed and demanded a very high work rate from all concerned.
With regular rotations being made in the midfield area, in an attempt to maintain the high tempo, the danger was that the fluidity of the system would be tested and leave gaps for Olton.
The exchanges were starting to even out and if anything, Leek started to find their feet and push forward.
However, they got caught on the counterattack and Olton’s Sam Mee opened the scoring in the 20th minute.
Angered by this, Leek drove forwards again and drew a second penalty corner from Olton after good work on the left wing.
The Olton defence again dealt well with the Leek corner routine and maintained their lead into half-time.
Within this final period, Leek switched back to a more familiar pattern of play and whilst looking more comfortable, they didn’t threaten the Olton goal.
The interval debrief focused on Leek maintaining the pattern of play from just before half-time, but adding to that style of play by attacking harder towards the Olton circle.
Leek felt it would be just a matter of time before the dam burst and the opportunities would fall to them.
There was a series of notable attacks, which started to draw more desperate tackles from Olton as their defenders became stretched.
The umpires were content to allow play on as much as possible when perhaps penalties for the offences committed would have been profitable.
One clear-cut penalty stroke offence was waved away and the Olton defence gave a sigh of relief, knowing they had got out of jail on that decision.
Finally, Leek got the goal they deserved when after good work on the right wing, Paul Dawson was able to steer the ball home from close range.
An Olton player was then yellow-carded for a cynical breakdown of play against Leek’s rightwing attack. Rich Cordon drove hard into the Olton Circle and in the process of shooting was badly fouled.
The umpire considered the foul bad enough to send the player to the sin bin with a yellow card and awarded a penalty corner to Leek.
From the resulting penalty corner, Leek attempted a switch routine, with Ben White looking to finish from close range.
White dived at the ball and attempted to deflect it over the line but his attempt was was saved at point-blank range on the line between the goalkeeper and the last defender.
White’s subsequent appeals suggesting the ball had hit the defender or the keeper ended with him being sent off for the final two minutes.
Two important games remain for Leek this season, against teams fighting hard to remain in the national league.
Leek Badgers 6 Buxton 0
LEEK would have hit their opponents for more than six had it not been for some fine saves by the Buxton keeper.
The home side attacked from the start but 25 minutes passed before they breached the Buxton line for the first time, Callum Bell scoring from a short corner.
Bell doubled the lead shortly afterwards with his cross towards the far post taking a small deflection and sneaking past the keeper.
Leek withdrew their solitary adult at half-time but with Convey, Lomax, Smith and Thackstone thwarting any Buxton progress, Adam Knott had a quiet afternoon in goal.
At the other end, Adam’s brother Joe scored his first goal for the club to make it 3-0.
Dan White added a fourth, which was also his first goal, before Tom Hatcher and Joe Cummins rounded off the scoring.
LADIES HOCKEY Leek 2XI 1 Rising Brook 1XI 0
LEEK had chance after chance in the first half but were unable to score from either open play or from many hard-won short corners.
Sarah Deaville played a pivotal role in centre midfield, with Kate Jones breaking through Blues’ defence time after time After the turnaround, Leek kept up the pressure and the Blues’ keeper deserved her playerof- the-match award, making some spectacular saves.
Leek’s reward came when Bev Cartlidge’s saved shot fell to Jenny Evans who switched the ball back for Kate Jones to beat the keeper.
Despite a cameo appearance by Jenny Cordon, Leek failed to capitalise on further pressure.
Lichfield 3XI 3 Leek 3XI 0
LEEK produced their best performance of the season and after a focused start went into halftime only one goal down. Newcomer Jude Goldstraw settled early and demonstrated passing ability. A re-shaped defence worked closely together to keep a check on the Lichfield side.
Expecting an even stronger attack after halftime, Leek braced themselves and produced an even better concentrated performance.
Nat Hewitt in goal produced save after save and was awarded the opposition’s player-ofthe- match accolade.
The Leek vote went to centre-back Nikki Hambleton, who time and again played the ball to safety.
Caroline Stone excelled, playing right back for the first time. A determined Karen Smith never gave up to block the attacks from Lichfield.
Charlotte Bennett and Charlotte Hudson held the shape in midfield as the final score 3-0 was a great improvement on an earlier ten-goal defeat.
Wolverhampton 3XI 0 Leek 4XI 0
LEEK travelled to Wolverhampton for their penultimate league game with a changed side that contained four of the under-14s squad.
The visitors began their day in earnest by warming up properly and then having a good team talk.
The players were reminded not to look at the league position but to focus on how well they could play.
With this fresh in their heads, Leek started brightly and soon had the higher-placed team on the back foot.
Right from the start, it was clear that the senior players had to shut up shop and let the youngsters do the running.
To their credit, they did exactly that and as soon as the seniors had adapted to their new roles, Leek looked by far the stronger side.
New coach Hall kept the momentum up by using constant reminders from the side and Leek should have scored early in the game.
The new players were dominating down both sides of the pitch, with Kim Sheldon and Lottie Moss making life impossible for Wolverhampton on their right and Elise Skelding doing the same on the other side of the pitch.
On several occasions, Leek got right up to the Wolverhampton D and Sheldon found Skelding on the right of the circle – only for her to be closed down well by the senior defenders in the home side.
Wolverhampton came back into the game as Leek forgot to use the width and concentrated far too much on trying to go straight down the middle.
However, it was Leek who finished the half with a short corner that went agonisingly just wide from a thunderous shot.
The half-ime team talk from Hall was to take the game to the opposition by using the wide players and then to try to get the telling pass into the danger area.
From the restart, Leek controlled much of the game and even when temporarily reduced to ten players, as Abbie Hulme needed refreshment, they held firm.
Wolverhampton did come more into the game in the second half but found themselves up against a stubborn defence who were determined not to concede.
Leek continued to push for the elusive goal and spent the final seven minutes camped in the Wolverhampton half – but couldn’t quite force the goal.
Overall, this was an excellent team effort by Leek and the future of the ladies section looks bright, if they can hold on to these younger players and bring them up through the club.
As if to prove the point of how good the juniors were, Kim Sheldon was named Leek player-of-the-game and Lottie Moss picked up the award from the opposition.