GOAL FEAST ROUNDS OFF THE SEASON
Leek Town and Belper Town served up an eight goal feast in a terrific game to round off the season in style at Christchurch Meadow on Easter Monday.
Blues triumphed 5-3 with Paul Rutter netting a hat-trick. His treble came just 23 days after Anthony Malbon had become the first Leek player to achieve the feat for five and a half years!
Stuart Heeps was forced to patch up the side following the home win over Shepshed Dynamo with Mark Ruddock working, Matt Woolley declaring himself unavailable and Leigh Skellern serving a ban picked up in Sunday football.
Paul Rutter started up front and Jamie Haynes came in at right back. Paul Taylor moved to the centre of defence and Matt Johnson slotted in at left back whilst Ant Malbon played in an unfamiliar central midfield role.
Blues were ahead in just the second minute when Paul Rutter was fouled in a race for the ball with goalkeeper Alessandro Barcherini inside the box. Rutter picked himself up to find the net but only after the ball had squirmed through the keeper's grasp.
Dan Cope doubled Leek's advantage on 13 minutes when he spread the ball wide for Wayne Corden to cross into the box where the Blues’ leading scorer chested the ball down before turning to smash a shot across the keeper into the bottom corner from 16 yards out.
In the 29th minute a great ball down the line found Cope and he crossed into the box for Corden who made room for himself before unleashing a fierce drive that forced Barcherini into a diving save at the foot of his right hand upright.
Belper spurned a number of chances to pull a goal back and came closest on 35 minutes when the ball struck a post in a goalmouth scramble.
The home goal survived a bizarre incident two minutes from the break when the keeper rolled the ball forward ready to clear down-field but Rutter intercepted to plant the ball in the back of the net only for the effort to be disallowed!!
Rutter netted his second 10 minutes into the second half when Malbon set up Cope and his mis-hit shot landed right in the path of the Blues’ number nine who poked home the ball from close range.
Leek were cruising at this stage and slowed the game to walking pace in the warm afternoon sunshine before getting a big wake-up call.
Nailers substitute Paris Simmons came off the bench to score of the inside of the post with his first touch on 65 minutes and a minute later the home side won a penalty which was converted by Jon Froggatt.
An almighty fracas followed as Danny Roberts became embroiled in a wrestling match with Froggatt and Luke Fedorenko whilst retrieving the ball from the back of the net. Roberts and Fedorenko were both yellow-carded for their trouble but Froggatt escaped a caution.
Blues were creaking at this stage but the nerves were settled five minutes later when Malbon played the ball wide to Devon Gibson who crossed low to the far post where Cope was on hand to sweep the ball home from close range for his second of the game.
A mis-directed clearance by Barcherini in the 77th minute almost proved costly for the Nailers. The clearance fell to Gibson 40 yards out and the Blues’ winger was quick to seize the opportunity and drove a long ball back into the box but it fell narrowly wide of the target to save the back-pedalling keeper’s blushes.
Leek made the points safe on 80 minutes when Malbon was tripped in the box and Paul Rutter tucked the penalty away with rather more aplomb than his first effort for his hat-trick.
There was still time for the home side to pull another goal back in added time when Paris Simmonds scored his second, but Blues were home and dry by then.
The victory lifted Leek to a finishing position of 16th having finished the season with four wins from five games in April.
Belper: Barcherini, Pride, Davis (Simmons 63), Thompson, Plant, Adams, Wiggins-Thomas, Smith (Fedorenko 60), Froggatt, Thomas, Rushbury (Thorpe 60). Unused subs: Barnard, Carney.
Leek: Roberts, Haynes Johnson, A Taylor, P Taylor, Malbon, Gibson, Millar, Rutter (Allen 83), Cope, Corden. Unused subs: Heeps.