BLUES COMPLETE DOUBLE OVER MILLERS
Leek Town consolidated their play-off position when they completed a timely ‘double’ over New Mills at Harrison Park on Easter Monday reports Mike Cope.
Blues went up into 4th place in the table after inflicting a 4-goal drubbing on the Derbyshire outfit and, if it hadn’t been for the Millers’ keeper Jamie Coates, the final score might well have been doubled.
This was a game of high drama with both Leek and New Mills in must win situations – Leek needed to stay above Belper in the play-off chase whilst the visitors harboured outside chances of extending their season by two games.
The drama unfolded on the morning of the game after torrential overnight rain flooded the Harrison Park surface leaving the game in some considerable doubt.
Blues’ officials took the precaution of calling in the match referee to inspect the ground whilst numerous backroom staff members began the huge task of getting rid of the lying water.
Leek’s hard work was rewarded when the match official declared the pitch playable but that decision enraged New Mills who clearly thought otherwise.
Lee Casswell made one change to the starting line-up with Ricky Bridge replacing Ben Nixon in midfield.
Meanwhile, New Mills named only two substitutes and things got worse for them when Mark Innes picked up an injury in the pre-match warm up and had to be replaced.
The game kicked off with the visitors on the attack and, with less than 2 minutes on the clock, Ross Needham got round the back to beat Ben Chapman with an angled shot.
But the celebratory cheers raised to salute the ‘goal’ disappeared when the ball got stuck in the mud just three yards out and Leek were able to clear.
Mills continued to push forward and on 9 minutes James Moss hoisted in a corner but Carlos Meakin steered his header wide of the target.
Four minutes later Jack Benson curled a corner into the Leek box where Nicholas Swirad rose only to power his header wide of the near post.
The Millers suffered a double injury blow in the 14th minute when their central defensive pairing of Swirad and Anthony Barras clashed heads under pressure from Matt Haddrell and had to leave the field for treatment to head wounds.
In the 16th minute play resumed with the visitors down to 9 men for around 3 minutes before they sent on Liam Millen to replace Swirad.
However, Leek took the lead in the 23rd minute when Tim Sanders played a superb ball from one touchline to the other and Ricky Bridge laid the ball off for Tim Grice who blasted home from 12 yards out.
Two minutes later Mills were back up to 11 men when warm-up injury victim Innes was sent on to provide nuisance value.
Leek extended their lead in dramatic style in the 32nd minute when Mills’ keeper Coates came off his line to challenge Grice who won the ball just inside the box and then got in a shot off balance that crashed into the crossbar.
With Coates stranded, a defender on the line got his head to the ball but Adam Roberts followed up to net with a stunning diving header from 6 yards out.
Just a minute later Bridge won another race with Coates to play a good cross into the box but the ball was cleared off the line.
Leek brought off striker Grice as a precaution in the 35th minute and replaced him with Dan Cope.
On the stroke of half time New Mills came close to pulling a goal back when they put a good move together and Ross Needham hooked a shot goalwards but Chapman got down well to palm the ball wide.
With the rain still falling at half time Blues’ Chairman Andy Wain led the ground staff in forking the centre of the pitch for 15 minutes during the break.
Leek upped their game in the second period and in the 47th minute Cope brought the ball under control but his shot failed to trouble the keeper.
Meakin’s shot from distance flew well wide of the target in the 50th minute before Matt Bell crossed to the far post where Cope got up to glance in a header that saw Coates having to palm the ball wide for a corner.
A minute later Cope shot straight at the keeper following another cross and then Roberts found him on a run down the right before crossing for Haddrell to head down for Anthony Danylyk whose shot got stuck in the mud.
Haddrell was winning most things in the air and in the 56th minute he headed another ball down for Cope who burst into the box only to blast his shot straight at the keeper.
The goal that Cope was threatening duly arrived in the 58th minute courtesy of a superb pin point cross from Bridge wide on the left. Cope rose above the defenders to loop a well placed header over the despairing keeper and the ball nestled in the bottom corner.
Bridge went on another good run down the left in the 61st minute and he turned a defender on the by-line and tried a shot from a tight angle that flew straight through the six yard box with no one on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Ashley Woolliscroft fired in a pile-driver from distance in the 64th minute and Coates was forced to go down to save.
Leek extended their lead in the 69th minute after Danylyk was barged from behind on the edge of the box. Play was allowed to continue and the ball fell to Cope whose shot was blocked but Oliver Edwards followed-up to lash the loose ball home from 8 yards out.
In the 72nd minute Edwards crossed into the box for Cope but he headed wide under pressure then Cope glanced another header wide of the upright.
In the 83rd minute Bridge got on the end of another Edwards cross but his shot was blocked and Cope saw his follow-up effort deflected wide.
Cope had another two chances in the dying minutes and Edwards also came close before the referee blew the final whistle.
Leek: Chapman, Sanders, Bell, Guthrie, Danylyk, Ray, Grice (Cope 35), Bridge (Nixon 90), Haddrell (Edwards 65), Roberts, Woolliscroft. Unused subs: Lane, Hackney.
New Mills: Coates, Bowler, Moss, Swirad (Millen 19), Barras (Innes 27), Lonsdale, Meakin, Benson, Newham, Deegan, Horrocks. Unused subs: None.
Star man: George Ray
Photo: Malcolm Hampton