Leek Mens 1XI 2
Khalsa 1XI 2
LEEK Men’s North Conference league campaign resumed after the long winter break with an away league fixture against Khalsa, a new addition to the national league.
Leek’s preparation for the game had been hampered by a disrupted January programme, with the snow forcing the cancellation of three planned friendly matches.
The club faced a similar issue last year, which led to a congested fixture schedule in February and March which ultimately took the momentum out of their season, with the small squad simply running out of steam.
With that in mind, Leek have added another nine players to the first team squad this season and had a strong line-up for the Khalsa match.
Leek looked to take the game to their hosts and the early signs looked promising, with the ball being moved quickly and Leek looking to probe the home defence.
This led to Leek securing a penalty corner in just the second minute. However, the chance went begging, with Ben White flicking the ball in range of the home keeper.
Khalsa looked slightly rattled and were busy adjusting their shape to ensure they could lock out the visitors and prove difficult to break down.
Content with clearing their lines, Khalsa hit a 70 metre long ball to a lone high forward, who ran into the Leek circle and secured a penalty corner of this own. Aaron Nagra showed how to finish a corner by flicking the ball high into the roof of the Leek goal.
Leek were now looking to get into the game and unpick Khalsa’s determined defence, who were content to defend in numbers and counter quickly when the chance came.
Leek’s passing at this stage was less than crisp and Khalsa were content to sitback and wait for the threat on the break.
A second goal for the home side came out of nothing when Alex Iodine got on the end of another long ball and finished well.
Leek looked to raise the tempo of the passing to try to prise open the miserly Khalsa defence but it was hard going and no real open play chances came to fruition.
It was always likely to be a set play that would get Leek back into the game. Paul Dawson duly obliged and applied a trademark finish with a rasping flick to get Leek going.
Leek started to find their rhythm now and openings started to come, Dawson broke through the defence line and went one-on-one with the keeper.
As Dawson tried to go around, the Khalsa keeper appeared to kick his legs from under him but the umpire took no action and Dawson’s shot was unsurprisingly off-target, increasing Leek’s frustration.
After the interval, Leek regrouped and with extra width and height, the channels started to open. The tempo was now more to the visitors’ liking and the game flowed from end to end.
Khalsa also sometimes ventured out of their own deep defence positions and carried an occasion threat which ensured that Leek’s defence had to be on their toes and goalkeeper Mark Brazier had to play a high position and intercept the ball several times.
Leek now substituted defendes for extra forwards as they pushed forwards.
Following another move in the circle, defender Rich Cordon drove along the base line and allowed Dan O’Neil to finish from close range. The umpire could have awarded Leek a penalty corner earlier in the move – fortunately, he played the advantage. The closing stages of the match saw two Leek players sin-binned, Paul Nixon for crashing into a Khalsa defender and Stu Waby for a challenge on an opposing forward.
Khalsa then had another penalty corner opportunity but skipper Brazier was equal to the challenge and saved well.
With a format and shape regrouped the nine Leek players set out to attack again and they pinned back the startled Khalsa side and went for the win.
Stefan Sekula showed his calmness when in close control and evaded three aggressive tackles in the circle before a fourth clumsy tackle stopped his progress and the umpire awarded Leek a penalty flick. Ben White stepped up to take the penalty but it was easily saved and Leek were left to rue a missed opportunity to win the game.
Leek Men’s 2XI 2 Loughborough Students 2XI 2 Leek Men’s 2XI 6 Barford Tigers Men’s 2XI 0
AN UNDER-STRENGTH men’s second team enjoyed a productive weekend, securing four points out of six.
On Saturday, goals from Alex Ardnt and a late equaliser from James Gough secured a wellearned point againstf Loughborough.
On Sunday, a much-changed side easily beat Barford Tigers with goals from Alex Ardnt (2), Richard Vincent, Tom Gordon and a double from Rich Hutchins.
Leek Men’s 3XI 2 Edgbaston 3XI 3
LEEK travelled to Birmingham with only 10 players yet determined to grind out a result.The visitors created several goal-scoring opportunities in the first 10 minutes and should have been at least two goals ahead.
Just before the end of the first half, Edgbaston converted two goals by overloading the leek defence on the break.
Leek refused to give up, though, and in the second half they converted a short corner through Tyler Henry sneaking up at the back post. Leek drew level shortly after with Steven Birch crashing the ball into the goal from the top of the D. Leek had the chance to take the lead from a penalty flick but Anthony Mellor saw the keeper pull off a wonderful save with his stick. Leek kept on pushing but tiredness took its toll and with 10 minutes remaining, Edgbaston took the lead to claim victory.
Leek Men’s 5XI 1 Warwick University 4XI 2
THE STUDENTS of Warwick proved too strong for Leek. The fifths never quite got the game level up to their usual high standard and despite equalising through a Jules Brooks penalty corner and having a number of late chances to grab a point, they were beaten for only the second time this season.
Telford 0 Leek Badgers 1
BADGERS travelled to a cold and windy St George’s Park in Telford to play a side which beat them 7-0 in the corresponding fixture last season. The scoreline reflected the excellent progress the players have made and the strength of playing together as a team.
Telford fielded an U16 Scottish international but as the game developed, this proved to be their main threat, which the midfield battled hard to nullify, and Leek’s superior team-based passing game saw them through.
Joe Priestman continued his rich goal-scoring run of form, finishing off an Oliver Watson cross in the first half after some great inter-play with Tom Hatcher.
Leek defended resolutely, with Dan Lomax and Charlie Thackstone standing out, whilst Adam Knott made some fine saves to preserve Leek’s lead, having to work far harder for his clean sheet than on another occasions this season.
Leek Ladies 1XI 0 Cannock 0
AFTER a long Christmas break due to the adverse weather conditions Leek were able to host second in the league Cannock this weekend.
Leek started well, pressurising Cannock’s defence from the start, with Mycock and Bradbury linking well up front. Cannock were able to capitalise on a quick break and won a short corner which was disallowed due to a high shot.
This spurred leek on to press harder and linkage play between C Hurst, James, G Hurst and Clowes allowed Leek to press forward – but they were not able to capitalise and the game remained scoreless at half time.
After the interval, both Leek and Cannock created chances and Leek withstood pressure from short corners with GK Morley making many superb saves to keep Leek in the game.
During the last few minutes of the match excellent play by Walton fooled the keeper but her shot was cleared off the line by a Cannock defender.
Leek Ladies 2XI 0 Lichfield Ladies 2XI 5
LICHFIELD began this game second in the league, so this was always going to be a difficult game.
Leek pressed from the off and matched Lichfield’s play for the first 20 minutes. The midfield and forwards worked tirelessly to press up the pitch while the defence stayed strong to deny the opposition.
However, Lichfield grabbed the lead with a deflected goal which keeper and man of the match Boulton was unable to direct away from goal. Not to be deterred leek restarted the game strongly, looking to regain a level footing. However, a controversial short corner lead to Lichfield doubling their lead going into the break.
Play didn’t seem to go leeks way after the restart and Lichfield were able to add another three goals.