Late goal takes points
Shortwood 2 North Leigh 1 - words Harry Ash, photos Brian Rossiter
Yet another comeback win was sealed in the second half by Shortwood, though in truth Wood were the dominant force for the best part of an hour. Paul Meredith said, “We took a while to get going today and it is understandable to an extent because we haven’t played in a few weeks. The first goal against us was a poor one to concede as we just switched off, but credit to the boys in the second half, they turned it around in testing conditions and were worthy winners.”
North Leigh started brightly, with Dan James’ effort from a tight angle forcing George Burton to tip the ball onto the bar and over. Shortwood’s slow start was compounded in the twenty-fifth minute when a low cross from Piers McGlynn was pounced upon by Roger James, who poked the ball through the legs of Burton to give North Leigh the lead. Shortwood responded well, and could easily have equalised six minutes later, but Jack Freeman mishit his volley wide from seven yards out, following Jordan Morris’ cutback. The resulting goal kick presented Wood with another chance, as Jack Griffiths failed to lift the ball over Will Hawes, who proceeded to sprint towards goal, but, forced wider than he would have liked, he fired wide with his weaker right foot. In the closing five minutes of the half, Hawes had two more half chances, the first coming from a Nick Humphreys cross from the left, which the striker controlled impeccably before being dispossessed just as he prepared to shoot; and the second, with two minutes of the half to play, saw his header from a Humphreys corner deflected onto the crossbar and eventually cleared.
The second half can be defined by two Shortwood substitutions; the first came at half time, with Bakare Aliu being replaced by Liam Meredith and signalling a switch to three at the back, and the second coming almost twenty minutes into the half, as Shortwood’s most dangerous player in the first half, Will Hawes, came off for Harry Burns. Seven minutes into the second half, North Leigh’s Elliot Keightley almost scored an own goal as he stretched to intercept Joe White’s cross, with Griffiths forced into a good save low to his left-hand side. A minute later, North Leigh created their best, and almost only, chance since taking the lead, but George Seacole finished wide of the near post from close range following James’ cross from the right.
In the sixty-fifth minute, seconds after the introduction of Harry Burns, Shortwood equalised. Burns, with his first touches of the match, picked the ball up in the centre and found Liam Meredith on the right hand side of the box, who controlled before blasting the ball in off the bar at the near post. Four minutes later, Burton produced an impressive save to deny Michael Hopkins from range, before a fallow ten minutes or so was broken by the third red card of the season for Alex Kibble. He picked up his first booking with thirteen minutes to play, for what appeared to be for dissent, before, just two minutes later, he was adjudged to have dived after he overran the ball about twenty-five yards from goal. The referee had a good view of the incident and didn’t hesitate to show Kibble a second yellow card. Between those two yellow cards (which were the only bookings of a largely well-mannered encounter), Morris tested Griffiths with a vicious drive from all of thirty yards, which must have swerved unpredictably before the ‘keeper unconvincingly shovelled the ball behind for a corner.
Having been reduced to ten men, it was reasonable to expect that Shortwood would have to cling on to a point in the closing ten minutes, but the North Leigh pressure never materialised, from a side, it must be said, that looked very tired after their attempt at aggressive pressing in the first half. In the final minute of normal time, Wood won a free kick about thirty yards from goal, left of centre. Liam Meredith whipped it into a dangerous area, allowing his brother, Ryan, to send a looping header into the net, with the help of a deflection. The win meant that Shortwood climbed above North Leigh into seventeenth place.
Man of the match - Nick Humphreys
Shortwood: George Burton, Bakare Aliu (Liam Meredith 46’), Tristan Haswell, Ryan Meredith, Ryan Thwaite,
Alex Kibble, Jack Freeman , Joe White (Ben Prictor 82’), Jordan Morris, Nick Humphreys (C), Will Hawes (Harry Burns 64’)