DEFEAT DESPITE DOMINATING
Leek Town should have won this game against Belper Harrison Park on Saturday after dominating the second half against a Nailers’ side already assured of a play-off place.
Despite Blues’ dominance, the visitors took their two first half chances well whilst Aaron Chapman pulled off three stunning saves to deny Leek from drawing level before the break.
Leek pulled a goal back early in the second half but contrived to miss chances on a regular basis despite going down to ten men with 12 minutes to go after Steve Brannan was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Casswell went into the game making two changes to his starting line-up with Michael Thomas restored at centre back and Brannan in midfield at the expence of Glyn Mellor and Ryan Connor.
Leek were strong from the start and in the 6th minute Andy Kinsey’s pass found Tim Grice who laid the ball off to Sam Hall and he smashed goalwards only for the ball to bounce back to him off a defender but his follow-up shot flew wide of the post.
The Leek goal suffered a scare in the 8th minute when Matt Bradbury’s header back to his keeper fall short leaving Jon Froggatt to latch on the loose ball. Ben Chapman forced the Nailers’ striker wide before Simon Harrison hit an effort over the crossbar.
Leek almost opened the scoring just a minute later when Shelley attacked the box before driving a shot goalwards and Chapman reacted quickly to beat the ball out with his hands.
In the 10th minute, Shelley played a superb ball into the box for the unmarked Brannan who hammered in a shot that was destined for the back of the net but the keeper again pulled off another superb save.
Blues pushed the visitors back and in the 19th minute Dan Smith and Shelley carve out a chance for Bell who won yet another corner.
Seven minutes later Belper ventured forward but Bradbury got in a good challenge inside the box only for a scramble to develop before Shaun Tuton’s shot drifted wide of the far post.
Against the run of play in the 29th minute the Nailers took the lead when Simon Harrison headed on for Froggatt who turned past Smith to find the bottom corner.
Brannan was yellow carded on 35 minutes after winning the ball in a 50-50 challenge with Greg Wright. But the Belper management team exploded baying rather unsportingly for a red card but within a minute the Nailers’ defender was back in the game none the worse for the challenge.
Blues almost equalised in the 39th minute when Shelley worked himself an opening and his shot beat the keeper but the ball drifted wide of the far post.
Leek came close again just a minute later when Bell’s free kick from 22-yards looked to be flying in the top corner but Chapman superbly palmed the effort wide for a corner.
Despite dominating much of the play Leek went further behind when Belper increased their lead in the 43rd minute. Harrison drilled in a free kick from wide on the right and Shaun Tuton glanced a header over the Leek defence into the back of the net.
Falling two behind might have seen the collapse of many a side but Blues refused to give up and a minute into time added they almost pulled a goal back.
Shelley played a fine ball wide to Andy Kinsey who crossed into the box for the unmarked Brannan and he sent in a bullet header towards the top corner only for Chapman to pull off another stunning save to deny him.
Deep into added time Leek keeper Chapman was forced to race off his line to halt the run of Tuton and was booked for a foul just outside the box.
Leek replaced Grice in favour of experienced striker Lee Morris at the break and he set up Shelley in the 46th minute but he lost the ball in the box after selling the visitors the dummy.
Three minutes later though, Shelley made amends when Brannan drove in a telling cross and Morris knocked it on for the midfielder to sweep the ball home from close range.
Leek were back in business but Chapman had to be alert in the 50th minute when he brilliantly saved to deny Harrison and keep his side in with a chance.
Leek almost equalised in the 67th minute Leek when Kinsey headed down Chapman’s deep free kick for Morris who set up Brannan but he drove over the crossbar when it seemed easier to score.
Kinsey was then set up with a chance when Shelley and Morris worked the ball to set him up but he delayed his shot and the chance was gone.
Belper put a rare move together in the 72 minute when a free kick 10 yards inside the Leek half was headed over by Harrison.
Brannan went on another superb run down the right to find Kinsey inside the box but his header was cleared by the stretched visitor’s defence.
Throughout the game Brannan had been a thorn in Belper’s side but he was hard done by in the 78th minute when he was harshly sent off.
The hard- working winger was involved in a challenge with Belper’s Shaun Roulston down the left side of the box where he was brought down by the Nailers’ defender.
Brannan went to ground and Blues were relishing a free kick in a dangerous position when the referee showed him a second yellow for simulation and Leek had to finish the game with ten men.
The last fifteen minutes were largely uneventful although Blues were doing most of the attacking right up to the final whistle and Belper were relieved to have got away with all three points.
Leek: Chapman, Smith, Bell (Mellor 88), Thomas, Bradbury, Hall, Brannan, Shelley, Grice (Morris 45), Kinsey, Danylyk. Unused sub: Connor.
Belper: Chapman, Roulston, Wright, Cotton, White, R Adams, Harrison (C Adams 75), Warne, Froggatt, Tuton (Ward 74), Graves. Unused Subs: Thomas, Ratcliffe.
Cards: Yellow – Ben Chapman, Michael Thomas Red: Steve Brannan
Star man: Dan Shelley