Leighton’s Winning Run Ends With Draw At Harpenden
On a muddy surface that made free flowing football difficult, Leighton returned from fellow promotion hopefuls Harpenden Town on Saturday, with a share of the spoils.
Leighton started brightly and should have been ahead in the fifth minute, when sublime interplay between O’Brien and Mc Bride split the Harpenden defence, only for Silford to see his shot deflected for a corner. The ‘Reds’ were to rue this missed chance as Harpenden took the lead in the tenth minute, as Yates swept the ball into the Leighton net after an excellent counter attacking move by the home side.
It didn’t take Town long to draw level however, when following a series of unproductive assaults on the home team goal, the mercurial O’Brien split the Harpenden backline to release Silford. This time the young wide man made no mistake, drawing the keeper before firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the Harpenden net.
The game now became an exciting end to end affair with both sides creating chances but unable to steal an advantage.
Wyant had to be alert when McLeish tested him with a searing right foot drive and the industrious Tappin was on hand to make sure that the rebound did not find its way into the Town net.
On 40 minutes Collin was shown a yellow card for a dangerous lunge at Marsala and from the resulting free-kick Town took the lead. A vicious in-swinging free-kick from Hall found the head of O’Brien and his soaring header found its way into the top corner of the Harpenden net.
Leighton finished the half strongly and arguably should have had a penalty as Hatch was released by Marsala, only to be pulled back as he shaped to shoot. Amazingly the referee, who had a difficult afternoon, failed to see the infringement and Harpenden breathed a sigh of relief.
The second half was a more even affair as Harpenden upped their game. Nevertheless, Leighton looked dangerous and after excellent hold-up play by Hatch, O’Brien released Silford who was pulled down just outside the box, as he bore down on the home team goal. From the resultant free-kick, O’Brien skimmed the Harpenden crossbar with the goalkeeper well beaten. Leighton had another penalty appeal mysteriously rejected when a blatant handball by a Harpenden defender was once again ignored by the referee.
On 60 minutes Hatch was again held back as he threatened the Harpenden goal and from the resultant free-kick, Hall tested the home team keeper, who showed great agility in pushing the ball round the post for a Town corner. Leighton were looking comfortable at this point in the game, with the back four of Condon, Guiney, Murphy and Hall resolute as ever and quick to deal with any Harpenden threat.
The game arguably turned in the seventieth minute as Hatch, who had caused the Harpenden defence problems all afternoon, was forced to leave the field after an elbow left him nursing a nasty facial injury. It was a challenge that should have led to the dismissal of Collin who had already been booked in the first half. Again the referee saw the incident differently. This incident seemed to galvanise Harpenden and not long after they were level.
A long hopeful ball caused uncharacteristic confusion in the Town backline and when it fell to Yates, he skilfully cut inside and fired a low shot past the despairing Wyant.
As the half progressed, both sides tried their best to seek what proved to be an elusive winning goal and in the end had to settle for a share of the points, that with Welwyn Garden City winning again was of little comfort to either side.
On the balance of play a draw was probably a fair result, though it might have been different had the referee seen the challenge on Hatch in the same way the Town players, officials and supporters did.
Town now visit Holmer Green next Saturday where only 3 points will suffice if they are to maintain their challenge at the top of the South Midlands Premier League.
Match report by