MALBON TREBLE TRAMPLES THE TULIPS
Leek Town thrashed bottom markers Spalding on a bone hard, and very bumpy Sir Halley Stewart Playing Fields pitch on Saturday condemning the Lincolnshire outfit to relegation reports Mike Cope.
Hero of the hour for Leek was striker Anthony Malbon who netted a superb hat-trick to bring his tally to 10 strikes since joining the club in November.
After a fairly even first half, Blues were a goal to the good with a close range Malbon strike shortly before the break giving Leek the edge.
However, the second half was virtually one-way traffic with Leigh Skellern grabbing his first goal for the club whilst Malbon was clinical with two brilliant finishes to secure the points.
After the game the Blues boss said, “That was a good result although we didn’t play too well in the first half.
But we played a lot better in the second period and did a good, professional job in a stop-start game due to injuries.
“Well done to Malbon for netting a great hat-trick and well done to Skellern for getting his first goal for the club”, he added.
Manager Neil Cox shuffled the pack yet again with Sylvanus Bockarie replacing the injured Paul Taylor whilst Wayne Corden was preferred to Jamie Haynes.
Good football on a poor pitch was virtually impossible and the Tulips suffered an early blow when skipper Gary Pawson went down awkwardly in the box and had to be stretchered off with knee ligament damage.
Leek came close to opening the scoring in the 14th minute when Danny Roberts launched a free kick to the right corner of the box where Devon Gibson rose to head on for Malbon but his header was wide of the target.
Spalding responded in the 19th minute but when Josh Nodder crossed in for Jammal Shahin, his header also fell wide.
A minute later Matt Johnson played a lovely ball down the line for Skellern to run on to but his low cross flew across the face of goal and Malbon just failed to get a boot on it.
Play at this stage was very scrappy on the difficult surface but in the 32nd minute a great move by Leek resulted in Gibson setting up Malbon but his close range snap-shot was beaten out by the startled goalkeeper.
Leek pressed forward and a minute later another good run down the right by Gibson saw him cross in for Malbon whose shot was blocked just inside the box.
In a rare Spalding raid Corey Carruthers blasted goalwards in the 35th minute but Blues’ skipper Andy Taylor cleared the danger.
Three minutes later Bockarie won the ball in midfield before laying it off for Skellern but he heisted and the shot flew wide of the upright.
There was panic in the Tulip’s box on 39 minutes when Gibson found Malbon but his pass flew across the face of goal and deflected wide for a corner. When the flag-kick came in Bockarie steered a header wide from a good position.
The goal that Leek had been threatening came two minutes from the break following another good move that left Skellern to pick out Malbon who finished with a neat shot from close range.
Four minutes into the second half Blues stretched their lead with Gibson and Malbon combining to set up Skellern who skipped past a defender before slipping the ball under the advancing keeper.
Two minutes later Skellern attacked the Tulips’ box again but this time he hammered a shot into the side-netting.
There was drama in the 53rd minute when the referee was forced to retire from the game despite treatment from Blues’ physio Ken Ashford. The senior assistant took over in the middle and a volunteer from the crowd ran the line.
Five minutes later Blues almost increased their lead when Ruddock got up to a Ben Knight long throw and the ball struck Skellern in the chest forcing goalkeeper Leigh Cook to make a hurried save.
In the 64th minute Blues swept forward again and Corden spread a superb crossfield pass wide to Gibson who turned the ball into the box for Malbon but he hesitated and his shot was cleared.
However, Leek stretched their lead in the 71st minute following a break-away. Bockarie split the home defence with a ball forward for Malbon who burst into the box to draw the keeper off his line and then coolly stroked the ball wide of him into the gaping net.
In another rare Spalding raid a miss-timed header by Bockarie in the 76th minute fell to Shahin just inside the box but he shot wide of the woodwork.
Spalding made an effort in the final 10 minutes but Roberts in the Leek goal was a mere spectator as the Blues’ defence shut up shop.
In the final minute of normal time Corden set up Dan Cope who side-stepped a defender before getting a shot on target that forced the keeper to fingertip the effort over for a corner.
Cope then had another chance to get on the scoresheet but the keeper held at the second attempt.
Leek continued to push forward through five minutes of added time and Mark Ruddock drove a fine ball wide to Corden who turned inside a defender but his shot could only find the side-netting.
Jamie Haynes then set up Paul Rutter but he shot straight at the keeper before Malbon completed his hat-trick in fine style two minutes into added time.
Haynes set Malbon up and he burst into the box to draw the keeper off his line before hitting a superbly flighted shot over Cook and into the back of the net.
On the stroke of full time Blues mounted a final attack with Cope and Rutter combining down the right but Cope’s shot flew straight into the beleaguered keeper’s arms.
Spalding: Cook, Chappell (d’Oliveira 65), Lyon, Thompson, Pawson (Kennedy 6), Baker. Carruthers, Warner, Holding (Outram 74), Shahin, Nodder. Unused subs: Self
Leek: Roberts, Knight, Johnson, A Taylor (Haynes 60), Ruddock, Bockarie, Gibson (Cope), Millar, Malbon, Skellern (Rutter 68), Corden.
Unused subs: Heeps
Yellow card: Andy Taylor