On a miserable drizzly afternoon in Cheshire Leek Town produced a solid, if not spectacular, performance to beat Nantwich Town 3-1 and maintain their advantage at the top of the Pitching In NPL West.
Two goals from Tom Scully and one from Tom Carr, all clinical finishes in their own right, propelled the Blues to victory, although the concession of a late goal denied them yet another clean sheet after showing good defensive resilience in the face of some spells of pressure from the Dabbers during the game.
However, goalkeepers Dino Visser and Xander Parkes, and their defence, can take great pride in a continuous spell of 798 minutes without conceding a goal – an impressive feat at any standard.
The Blues began the game showing one change from their last league outing with new signing, Lucas Weir, starting in midfield with Tom Reilly named amongst the substitutes, and with those names including Tim Grice, Aaron Opoku and Ethan Smith the Leek bench was beginning to look strong once more.
Leek began on the front foot and forced two to three early corners. However a combination of poor delivery or the strong defending of the imposing Dabbers captain Courtney Meppen-Walters meant that they came to nothing.
As Nantwich settled Louis Keenan was having to deal with the Dabbers attacking full back Amir Tavakoli who was getting forward at every available opportunity, and who would go on to deservedly win their man of the match award. Visser pulled off a good save to cut out a dangerous looking pull back from Tavakoli whilst the Iranian was just unable to reach a cross intended for him at the far post later in the half.
The Blues continued to grow into the game and Leeks own an of the match contender Scully was finding time and space in the middle of the park to initiate some of Leeks better moves whilst the pace of Rob Stevenson and Tom Carr was beginning to trouble the Nantwich back line with Carr having a good shout for a penalty denied when brought down following a burst into the area after 7mins.
There was to be no denying the striker on 16mins however when he put Leek one up. Carr received a delightful through ball from Fenton Green and showed close control and good footwork to drive past his defender and lash a clinical finish past Scott Moloney into the net.
Straight from the kick off Nantwich tried to hit back and Akiel Raffie curled an effort from the edge of the area but it was comfortably held by Visser before the Blues stunned their hosts with a second goal on 20mins.
It was a good move that cut open the Dabbers defence started and finished by Scully. He played the ball up to Carr on the edge of the area who held it up well before squaring to his strike partner Stevenson. Stevenson then delivered the perfect cross to the far post to find Scully who had continued his run into the box and he was able to head home from close range for 2-0.
Leek put together a similar move on 28mins but this time Marc Grocott failed to connect with his volley to take advantage of Stevenson’s cross, whilst at the other end a driving run by Raffie was only ended following a great block by Olly Harrison just inside the area.
Moloney then nearly gifted Leek a third goal on 37mins as he dallied with the ball passed back to him and Stevenson was able to dispossess him. Moloney managed to put in a challenge before a defender was able to provide reinforcements to deny Stevenson a shooting opportunity. Stevenson therefore worked back the ball to Fenton Green but his lobbed effort was just not high enough to clear the recovering Moloney who was able to gather above his head and spare his blushes.
Leek had their own escape just before the break when they gave the ball away cheaply on the edge of their own area before Ndene was able to clean up and clear the danger, but it was a warning for the visitors not to become complacent after what had been a relatively trouble free half.
NANTWICH TOWN 0 - LEEK TOWN 2 HT
It was the home side who forced the pace at the start of the second half with Sean Lawton setting the tone with a shot held by Visser, and for the first ten minutes the Dabbers had their best spell of the game with the Leek defence finding themselves severely tested.
Jacob Hamman had an effort fly wide of Vissers post whilst Nathan Okome’s shot was charged down after the Blues had failed to clear a Nantwich corner.
The best chance came, however, when Weir was caught in possession and Callum Saunders was able to fire across Visser but saw his effort come back off the post to preserve the Blues two goal cushion. Having survived this spell of pressure Leek began to reassert themselves and put together a good move on 56mins with Weir doing better at the other end of the pitch as he combined with Stevenson and Liam Buckley before finding Scully who curled an effort just over.
A couple of minutes later and the Blues came closer as Carr was surprisingly given time and space on the edge of the Nantwich area to turn and fire narrowly wide. The game then entered a quiet period which suited Leek down to the ground as the time ticked before a flashpoint occurred in the 69th minute when a coming together resulted in Grocott receiving a yellow card when the home support were baying for a red.
Leek manager Josh Brehaut wisely withdrew the Leek captain shortly afterwards for Tom Reilly but not before the Blues had made the game safe with a killer third goal on 71mins.
Again Carr found himself in space as he picked up the ball and looked to take on Meppen-Walters who was not the fastest player on the ground, and the Dabbers skipper earned his own yellow card for a blatant foul right on the edge of the area. Scully stepped up to take the free kick and his curled effort took a slight nick off the wall to take it beyond the reach of Moloney and into the net for 3-0.
Moloney was called into action not long afterwards when he had to tip away a cross come shot from Stevenson on 75mins whilst he saw a low drilled effort from Reilly deflected wide of his post on 77mins as Leek remained on top going into the last ten minutes.
To their credit Nantwich did not give up and again had another spell of pressure in the latter stages of the game forcing a succession of corners. The Dabbers have tended to be strong at set pieces with a number of their goals arising from such circumstances and Okome headed over from a central position on 80mins whilst Meppen-Walters had a shot deflected away following another good Leek block.
The home side finally earned their reward and ended Leek’s run of consecutive clean sheets when a cross from the left ended up in the back of Vissers net with Saunders claiming the goal although there was also a suspicion it may have come off Ndene for an own goal.
Not that it really mattered as Leek would have taken such a result before the start of such a tough looking fixture and the result now sets up a mouthwatering top of the table clash at Prescot in the Blues next fixture.
NANTWICH TOWN 1 - LEEK TOWN 3 FT
REPORT BY WINNERS LAD
Match highlights courtesy of Rocketman HERE
Moorlands Radio Post Match Interview HERE
Photo Gallery Courtesy HERE
The Blues now have a big game away (arent they all) against Prescot Cables on Tuesday 13 February, before they return to the F Ball Community on Saturday 17 February where they entertain Vauxhall Motors.
Substitutes : Parke, Smith
Attendance : 513
Man of the Match chosen by the Grace Street Posse- Tom Scully