FA Trophy first qualifying round
Evesham United 0 Leek Town 2
BLUES had to overcome a stubborn opposition to earn a crack against Witton Albion or FC United of Manchester in the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy.
The game began under blue skies and warm sunshine, but the second half was played under black skies with torrential rain and a fierce wind blowing.
Blues had to work hard and defended resolutely at times, but they went in front midway through the half through twogoal hero Jordan Johnson.
After the game, victorious Blues’ boss Lee Casswell said: “I thought it was a really important game for us, financially.
“We looked OK in the first half, although they hit the post – but so did we. They had a goal disallowed – so did we.
“Looking at how the game panned out, we got the breakthrough and added to the result in the second half and, just as important, we kept a clean sheet.
“In the second half, we were asking all the questions and in the end, got the result we were looking for.” Casswell recalled Dan Smith, Ryan Dicker, Andy Bratt, Anthony Danylyk and Dan Shelley following the midweek Staffs Senior Cup reversal and also welcomed back on-loan striker Mitch Husbands.
Evesham came close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute when Ben Chapman went down full length to turn away a shot and the follow-up effort was mishit in front of a gaping net However, Leek broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute from a moment of magic by John Johnston.
He beat his marker to cross beyond the back post for Jordan Johnson to turn past two and smash the ball high into the top corner.
Robins came close to levelling the scores when Mitchell Botfield drove a free kick into the Leek box but Lance Smith glanced a header wide.
A minute later, good work by Carl Brown saw him win the ball in midfield but his shot failed to trouble Chapman in the Leek goal.
Evesham thought they had drawn level in the 32nd minute when Nat Lewars found the back of the net but the effort was ruled offside. Despite having the effort ruled out, Evesham went on the offensive and Leek had some last-ditch defending to do to thwart wave after wave of attacks.
Blues threw bodies in the way of shots inside the box and one brave block by Smith required lengthy treatment before he could continue.
Five minutes after coming back on, Smith combined with Jordan to set up Husbands – but he failed to hit the target.
Leek then had a lucky escape at the other end when Neil Barnfield’s shot struck the upright.
Leek had a strong wind at their backs for the second half, supplemented by torrential rain.
However, both sides kept up the pace, with Leek soaking up the pressure and attacking on the break.
The home side were enjoying plenty of possession but failed to make it count where it mattered whilst Leek attacked down the flanks, with John Johnston causing the Robins all kinds of trouble at the back. In the 64th minute, Bell curled a 22-yard free kick inches wide of the upright and then a free kick by Smith into the home penalty area was nearly headed into his own net by James Loney.
Jordan Johnson then went down injured on the edge of the box, but the referee allowed play to continue – and that almost cost Leek dear, as Smith lashed a shot wide of the target.
In the 68th minute, Jordan Johnson rode a challenge just outside the box and then planted the ball sweetly into the bottom corner. But instead of playing advantage, the referee brought play back for a free kick on the edge of the area.
Johnson opted to take the set piece himself – but his well-placed shot dipped onto the top of the crossbar and out of play.
On 70 minutes, Shelley tried his luck with a fine lobbed shot that had the keeper back-pedalling to claim the ball.
Smith then found Shelley inside the box but the midfielder mishit his shot before Leek extended their lead in the 78th minute.
The ball was worked wide to Husbands down the left flank, and he took on and outpaced his marker before turning along the byline to set up Jordan Johnson with a simple tap-in.
Leek came close to extending their lead in the 80th minute when Ant Danylyk picked out the run of Jordan Johnson. He brought a superb save out of the home keeper, who had to go full length to concede a corner.
In the 83rd minute, John Johnston went on a good run down the right to get a shot on target but the keeper was well placed to make the save.
Five minutes from time, Brown attacked down the left but his angled shot looped onto the roof of Chapman’s net.
Leek then rode out four minutes of added time.