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Tue 19 Mar 2024
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Stoke City
BUMPER CROWD SEES BLUES ADVANCE TO THE FINAL

BUMPER CROWD SEES BLUES ADVANCE TO THE FINAL

Jonathan Eeles20 Mar - 11:43
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LEEK SEE OFF STOKE CITY IN SEMI-FINAL

Leek Town advanced to the final of the Staffordshire Senior Cup for the second consecutive season with a hard fought 1-0 win over a young lively Stoke City side comprising of Under-21 and Under-23 players.

As he had indicated after the Prescot game at the weekend Leek Manager Josh Brehaut made changes to the starting line up to make full use of his squad. Whilst sticking with his tried and trusted back line Tom Reilly came into midfield to replace the injured Tom Scully, Dan Trickett-Smith was given his first start since his return at the expense of Fenton Green, and Tim Grice partnered Rob Stevenson up front with Tom Carr taking a place on the bench.

The Blues made the slightly stronger start to the game and had two early penalty shouts as, first Stevenson, and then Grice went down in the area under challenges, but the referee remained unmoved on each occasion and there were no real protests from the Blues players.
Stevenson was proving to be a handful in the opening stages and showed great control on 11 mins with a waltzing run that outfoxed two Stoke defenders before forcing goalkeeper Noukeu to push away his shot at the near post.

However, that was as good as it got for Leek in a first half that Stoke went on to control with considerable spells of sharp passing and movement. And, although they were often guilty of overplaying the ball at times resulting in the game becoming a little flat, it still looked apparent that the Blues defence, which has been a bedrock to their season so far, would be put to the test.

Dino Visser in the Leek goal probably had his busiest half of the season so far as he forced Keke Jeffers to shoot wide, after the winger had been played in by a ball over the top. The Blues keeper used his punching to good effect to clear a couple of dangerous looking Stoke balls into the box, before making a double save from Josh Bickerton and Jack Griffiths a couple of minutes before half time.

The impressive Sol Sidibe, anchoring the Stoke midfield, did beat Visser with a cross-shot in the final minute before the break but also beat the upright as his effort went a yard wide to ensure the half remained goalless.

LEEK TOWN 0 - STOKE CITY 0 HT

The second half began as the first had ended with Stoke again dominating possession and coming very close to taking the lead after 48mins but for the well placed Julius Ndene who cleared Tom Sparrows effort off the line following an incisive City move and cross from the left.

However, after that, and seemingly in keeping with a lot of performances over the season Leek then visibly stepped up a gear for the remainder of the second half and went on to be the better side, look more threatening and created more chances.

On 62 mins a great headed flick on from Grice allowed Stevenson to run at the last defender and he did well just to get something on the Leek strikers effort to deflect it past the post. From the resultant corner the ball was flicked on at the near post and Grice met this with a looping header that sailed over Noukeu but was headed off the line by a covering defender. Trickett-Smith lifted the ball back towards the goal but Noukeu had recovered and was able to stretch up and reach it.

Three minutes later on 65mins Stevenson was again at the heart of a Leek attack as he drove down the right and cut inside to find the supporting Liam Buckley, now pushing forward more from his fullback positon. He, in turn, played it low into the area to find Trickett-Smith but, on the swivel, he was unable to keep his first time effort from flying over the bar.

On 74mins Louis Keenan delivered a whipped in free kick that the Stoke defence just about managed to deal with. Trickett-Smith was able to retrieve and hook the ball back in which Olly Harrison met with a goal bound header that Noukeu was able to use his height to reach and pluck to safety.

Stoke were now more reliant on the counterattack particularly using the pace of Griffiths on the left and substitute Kahrel Reddin on the right, and Visser had to be on his toes to cut out dangerous low crosses from both wings in the space of a couple of minutes as the game entered the final ten minutes.

But, with a potential penalty shoot-out looming, Leek then took the lead on 80 mins with an element of good fortune. The Blues won a corner down the left and Keenan’s driven delivery was met by the head of Ndene. His effort looked to be going wide but came off Freddie Anderson to sneak inside the far post for an unfortunate own goal to give the home side the lead.

With ten minutes remaining in the tie Leek went into game management mode as Stoke strived for the equaliser. However, by this time the away side had seemed to run out of ideas on how to break down the solid Blues defence and, apart from one low effort easily saved by Visser, the Blues keeper was relatively untroubled in the closing stages.

The visitors frustrations of how their night had gone became evident in the last few minutes as they picked up a flurry of 4 bookings in as many minutes, a couple of which were for poor fouls on Stevenson who was taking a late battering from his opponents.

But this naivety from the Stoke side played perfectly into the hands of Leek as they comfortably used the free kick situations to slow play down and see out the 5 added minutes to seal their place in the final.

LEEK TOWN 1 - STOKE CITY 0 FT

The Blues will now face the winners of the other semi-final between Rushall Olympic and Kidsgrove Athletic at Stoke’s Bet365 Stadium on Tuesday 16th April. This will mean either a repeat of last years final versus Rushall that Leek agonisingly lost at the death or the third El Staffico of the season versus old rivals Kidsgrove.

The Blues travel away to Hednesford Town on Saturday in their quest for automatic promotion, now only requiring 7 points from 7 games to make mathematically certain that no other teams can catch them.

REPORT BY WINNERS LAD

Match Highlights courtesy of Rocketman HERE

Post Match Interview courtesy of Moorlands Sports Radio - JOSH BREHAUT HERE

Photo Gallery courtesy of Jim Booth - HERE

  1. Visser
  2. Buckley
  3. Keenan
  4. Ndene
  5. Harrison
  6. Weir
  7. Grocott
  8. Reilly
  9. Grice replaced by Carr (65)
  10. Tricket-Smith replaced by Opoku (87)
  11. Stevenson

Substitutes : Adey-Weston, Bavington, Cole
Attendance : 766
Man of the Match Awarded by our Match Sponsors KMF - Julius Ndene

Match details

Match date

Tue 19 Mar 2024

Kickoff

19:45
Team overview
Further reading

Team Sponsors

Club Sponsor - F Ball & Co
Community  Partner - Leek Building Society
Club Sponsor - M + M Group
Club Sponsor - LILA Connect
Club Sponsor - Buxton and Leek College
Club Sponsor - Faulkner Powell
Club Partners - KMF Group
Club Sponsor - Staffordshire Moorlands Chamber of Commerce
Club Sponsor - Railtrail Tours
Club Sponsor - MC Cleaning
Club Sponsor - MC Janitorial
Ladies Sponsors - Protech Electrical
Club Sponsor - LSGK Accountants