Evo-Stik NPL First Division South Leek Town 0 Halesowen Town 2
LEEK threw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at Halesowen Town on Saturday but suffered their first ever defeat against the visitors when they went down 2-0 in an entertaining game on a difficult Harrison Park surface.
Despite the conditions, both sides played some decent football at times but Blues came up against Yeltz keeper Paul Evans, who was in inspired form pulling off a string of outstanding saves to keep his goal in tact.
The opening half was pretty even with both sides having spells in charge whilst good chances went begging at either end.
However, after the break Blues mainly dominated until the visitors opened the scoring against the run of play and then Leek piled forward looking for the equaliser that never came.
Halesowen went on to secure the points with a goal from the penalty spot 3 minutes from time but only after suffering a battering as Leek piled forward, looking to get something their play deserved.
Casswell went into the game without leading scorer Tim Grice, whose place was taken by Adam Roberts. He partnered Peter Wright up front, while Matt Haddrell had to be content with a seat on the bench.
From the start, Matt Bell soon got the measure of full back Eric Bowen to get some telling crosses into the box, and as early as the third minute Wright almost opened the scoring, when he got on the end of a cross from Bell.
However, the ball wouldn’t come down quickly enough and Wright’s improvised shot just cleared the angle of post and crossbar.
Halesowen responded in the ninth minute but Luke Corbett failed to trouble Ben Chapman, before Sam Hall tested the keeper with a superb shot from distance.
Leek suffered a blow in the build-up to Hall’s shot when Danny Smith fell awkwardly and had to limp out of the action with a twisted knee. He was replaced by Tom Urwin.
This upset Casswell’s plans, as Tim Sanders was pushed back to fill in at right back.
In the 14th minute, Blues skipper George Melling played a superb ball to Matt Shelley, who raced forward before evading a challenge to get into the box, where he shot across the keeper and inches wide of the far post.
A minute later, Leek were back on the attack and Bell drove in another cross for Roberts, whose header clipped the top of the crossbar. A mistake by Hall in the 23rd minute almost gifted Halesowen the lead when leading scorer Ben Haseley worked himself an opening but a great challenge by Melling cleared the danger.
With the pitch cutting up, play got bogged down in the middle with both defences on top until Mitchell Botfield won the ball and went on a run only to fire over from 25 yards.
Leek almost broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute when Tim Sanders hoisted a free kick into the Yeltz box that caused panic, leading to a spell of sustained pressure in the area until the keeper took charge getting down bravely to smother the ball. Halesowen countered with Aaron Griffiths smashing a shot into the crossbar, and a minute later Griffiths saw another effort palmed away by Chapman.
Shortly before the whistle, Leek came close again when Michael Thomas rose to head goalwards from a Sanders’ corner but the keeper went down to clear off the line.
Halesowen pushed forward from the off in the second half, with Haseley attacking the box but Thomas held him off leaving Neil Barnfield to blast the loose ball over the crossbar.
Adam Robert’s header on 50 minutes was well saved by Evans and a minute later the Yeltz keeper was called on to pull off a brilliant double save to deny Roberts and Wright following a superb Leek move involving Sanders and Shelley.
Six minutes, later Sanders played a fine ball forward for Wright who ran through the visitor’s defence and then held off a defender before blasting goalwards, only for Evans to pull off another stunning save.
Despite the Leek pressure, the visitors took the lead against the run of play when Corbett rode a challenge by Thomas to get in a shot that Chapman took the sting out of but the Leek keeper could do nothing when the ball fell kindly for Corbett to stroke into the empty net.
Moments later, Blues almost drew level when Sanders drove a free kick into the box. Hall’s shot was deflected to Wright but his effort was cleared off the line by the in-form keeper.
Blues mounted numerous raids midway through the half but the visitors defended resolutely.
In the 77th minute, Bell saw his cross cleared off the line and Blues had further chances blocked and hacked clear before Halesowen sealed their victory with a killer goal just three minutes from time.
Halesowen attacked on the counter and Jean- Michel Gueyes twisted and turned inside the box before being brought down by Thomas.
The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Haseley made no mistake from the spot.