BLUES FIGHT BACK TO SALVAGE A POINT
Leek Town found the proverbial banana skin at Coles Lane on Saturday when they had to come from two down to snatch a very important point in a nail-biter against lowly Romulus reports Mike Cope.
Blues rivals for a play-off place, Sheffield and Belper, both won away from home leaving Leek to drop below Sheffield into 5th place just one point above Belper in the race for the final two play-off spots.
Lee Casswell was looking to take all three points from the Romulus game and although his side bombarded the Roms’ goal for much of the second half, they found home keeper Lewis Exall in outstanding form with a string of superb saves to frustrate Blues’ efforts.
After the game Casswell said, “Obviously I’m disappointed with the result and the way we played in the opening half.
“We stressed to the players the importance of winning the game but we didn’t do our jobs in the first half.
“However, despite going two down after the break we changed things round and went to a three at the back with Dan Cope behind the front two. As a result we looked a lot better side and stuck at it to deservedly get back on level terms.
“We now have to focus on getting a result at Belper on Tuesday, I know we can do it with the help of our away support which has been brilliant this season”, he added.
Casswell went into the game without loan stars George Ray and Adam Roberts who both returned to their parent clubs last week, whilst Tim Grice wasn’t risked but was one of the named substitutes.
Christian Millar failed a late fitness test leaving the Blues’ boss to field Glyn Mellor, Dan Cope and Oliver Edwards whilst latest signing Matt Bradbury won a seat on the bench alongside Ben Nixon and Janie Turner.
Leek opened on the attack but a good cross from Ricky Bridge was well held by the young keeper under pressure from Matt Haddrell.
Three minutes later Jon Guthrie’s intended clearance cannoned into Edwards who burst into the box only to drag his shot wide of the far post.
In the 9th minute Tim Sanders fired in a free kick but the keeper went down to turn the effort wide for a corner.
Leek kept up the pressure and Glyn Mellor launched a long throw into the box where Haddrell looped a header over the crossbar.
Blues came close again in the 15th minute when Mellor hurled another long throw into the box which led to a goalmouth scramble and loud appeals for handling, but play was waived on and Roms were forced to charge down two follow-up shots.
Romulus ventured forward in the 22nd minute when Robinson made a good run but his shot was turned round the upright by Ben Chapman who then had to get up to tip the flag-kick over the crossbar.
Five minutes later Blues created another chance when another throw-in by Mellor was headed out to Bridge who drove in a fierce effort but a defender took the sting out of it before the keeper claimed the ball.
However, Romulus took the lead in the 32nd minute when James Reid went on a run that took him to the by-line wide of the box where he held off Guthrie and then fired in a superb rising shot from a seemingly impossible angle that took Chapman by surprise.
As Blues recovered from that set-back, Bridge fired a free kick narrowly over the crossbar whilst shortly before the break Guthrie hoisted a deep free kick into the Roms’ box where Haddrell got his head to it but the keeper was down quickly to smother the ball.
Three minutes into the second half Sanders fired in a free kick that produced a good shot from Bridge but the keeper cleared off the line with his foot and then Haddrell glanced a header narrowly wide from the corner.
Leek had huge appeals for a penalty turned down in the 54th minute leaving Romulus to counter attack and Ashley Jackson hit a 25-yarder that gave Chapman no chance and Leek were up against it.
Casswell took immediate action sending on Tim Grice and Matt Bradbury to replace Oliver Edwards and the struggling Glyn Mellor and within six minutes Leek had pulled a goal back.
In the build up Dan Cope got in a great header that looked destined for the bottom corner until the keeper pulled off an outstanding save to concede a corner. When Sanders fired the flag kick to the far post it was headed back in for Grice who produced the perfect volley to reduce the arrears.
A minute later, Sanders fired in another corner and this time Guthrie rose at the far post only to steer his header inches wide of the upright.
Chapman then launched a deep free kick to the edge of the box and Haddrell headed it down for Cope who tried his luck with a scissor kick but the ball flew over the crossbar.
Leek won another corner in the 68th minute and Matt Bradbury drove in a shot that produced another fine save by the keeper. The ball broke loose and Grice was clearly impeded but again the penalty appeals were turned down.
In the 75th minute Leek almost conjured up the equaliser when Sanders’ free kick found Grice whose shot was brilliantly saved by the keeper who then pulled off another miracle save to deny Cope.
However, the equalising goal duly arrived in the 80th minute when Ben Nixon curled a free kick from wide on the left to the far post where Haddrell’s towering header hit the back of the net.
Two minutes later Haddrell looped a shot from 25-yards straight at the keeper and then headed at the keeper again after good work by Danylyk.
Guthrie then played a good ball to the far post where Grice saw his volley saved by the overworked keeper who then gathered at the second attempt as Blues looked for the winner.
But it wasn’t to be although Cope had one final chance to nick all the points but he sliced his shot wide deep into added time.
Romulus: Exall, Evans (Price 75), Lee, Francis, Male, Demonte, Wynter, Jackson, Reid, Edwards, Robinson. Unused subs: Agbonlahor, Blissett, Day, Walker.
Star man: Ashley Woolliscroft.
Leek: Chapman, Sanders, Bell, Guthrie, Danylyk, Mellor (Bradbury 59), Cope, Bridge (Nixon 80), Haddrell, Edwards (Grice 59), Woolliscroft. Unused sub: Turner.
Cards: Danylyk - yellow