England Hockey League
Bowdon 1XI 2 Leek 1XI 1
THE CHANCE to knock league leaders off their Conference North perch for a second successive week eluded Leek who were left to rue a series of missed opportunities against title hopefuls Bowdon.
The early exchanges set the tone in what proved a tough and tense midfield battle. Paul Nixon and Paul Dawson looked to wrestle control from the home side but on too many occasions the match descended into a physical and turgid midfield scrap. Leek felt that the home side were constantly breaking down play and committing fouls to stop the visitors in their tracks.
When they did focus on counter-attacking Bowdon did pose a threat on the break. And that threat was turned into a goal on 15 minutes when Mark Daniel scored from open play in only their second venture into Leek's circle.
Leek regrouped and went looking for the equaliser that their early play had promised. But the visitors were then hit with a second sucker-punch. A Bowdon forward worked his way along the baseline, avoiding three Leek defenders, before squeezing the ball past Brazier to give Alex Humphreys a simple tap-in. Leek's response was to throw Jared Oliver back into the fray with instructions to attack the Bowdon defence. And within seconds Oliver drew a series of bad fouls from Bowdon which resulted in both Humphreys and Hardingham being sent to the sin-bin. But Oliver continued to protest after the yellow cards had been brandished and was rewarded with a card himself. Further protests followed and Peter Sekula joined Oliver for an extended 10 minutes spell on the side-lines as Leek shot themselves in the foot.
With the game reduced to nine-a-side Ben White used his pace to drive into the circle and earned his side a penalty flick. But Paul Nixon failed to convert as Bowdon took their 2-0 lead into the interval.
The second half saw Leek change their structure in a bid to retrieve the game. The game became more open as the visitors looked to play a more expansive game - but the cards continued to be brandished with the Moorlanders penalised for dissent and Bowdon for illegal tackles.
When Leek did break free they produced a series of chances which on another day could have gone in. Stefan Sekula spurned a golden opportunity to score with just the keeper to beat. Dan O’Neil and Ben White both went close on several occasions while Paul Nixon and Paul Dawson looking menacing in the final third.
Leek finally got on the score-sheet after Ed Stanhope did well to turn the ball over. His quick pass allowed Dawson and Nixon to exchange passes before O’Neil slotted home. Leek pushed extra forwards on and went for the equaliser while Bowdon had another player sent off for a poor tackle. In the latter stages a well worked short corner routine saw a Nixon shot brilliantly saved by the Bowdon keeper in what proved Leek's final chance to salvage a point.