Market Drayton has proven to be less of a happy hunting ground for Leek in recent seasons but, with the exception of a couple of periods in the game when Drayton applied some pressure, the Blues came away with a deserved victory to maintain their 100% start to the season.
The winning goal came from a disputed penalty which was given by the referee with the Market Drayton players complaining that the offence started from outside the area, their grievances appearing to be justified by most spectators in line with the incident.
This should not detract, however, from a solid Leek performance that earned the 3 points on offer with Ash Rawlins, the Market Drayton goalkeeper, clearly being the man of the match with a string of good saves.
Kicking upbank in the first half an unchanged Leek side from Saturday made a quick start and nearly took the lead as early as the 3rd minute. Joshua Agbozo broke up-field with a strong run and fed Billy Reeves on the overlap. His low cross was sliced by a defender onto the crossbar and out for a corner with Tim Grice waiting to pounce. From the resultant corner Rob Stevenson met the ball but headed over.
Draytons first chance came after 10 minutes. Joe Thomas, who along with Ryan McClean were behind most of Drayton’s better moves, saw his shot from outside of the area fly a couple of yards over Danny Robert’s bar.
Their second chance came from a Leek attack after Tim Grice had had an effort from 20 yards saved after good work from Billy Reeves. A long ball forward saw Darren Chadwick misread the bounce of the ball and McClean latched onto the ball but saw his lifted effort over Roberts also lift over the bar.
Immediately Leek were back on the attack down the left hand side and took the lead on 16 mins. Some good interplay between Louis Keenan and Marc Grocott saw the latter manage to pull a low ball back from the by-line. A Draycott defender seemed to mis-kick his clearance and the ball fell to Grice 6 yards out who sold another defender a dummy on his left foot before rifling the ball high into the net with his right.
Leek’s lead was to be shortlived, however. Olly Harrison lost out in a challenge that allowed McLean to advance into the area and his left foot shot was able to beat Roberts to make it 1-1 after 19 mins.
It wasn’t until the half hour mark was reached before another chance came. Leek were awarded a free kick some 30 yards out. Before Drayton had time to organise it was taken quickly to Grocott who advanced and took a left foot shot that Rawlins tipped onto the bar. The resultant corner was cleared to Jacob Twyford on the edge of the box but his low shot was comfortably held by Rawlins.
Leek finished the first half strongly. On 40 mins some crisp passing between Grice and Twyford allowed the latter to slip a through ball through to Rob Stevenson but his powerful shot was straight at Rawlins who made the save but couldn’t hold it and the ball was cleared for a corner. As that came in it was flicked on at the near post but Chadwick, coming in at the far post, could not get a clean contact on the ball and it was cleared.
On 42 mins a lovely ‘Cruyff’ type turn by Stevenson saw his far post cross just clear the head of Chris Baker. However, Agbozo was following up and saw his powerful shot fly wide of the near post.
A minute later Stevenson again caused the Drayton defence problems as he cut in from the left and unleashed a shot that Rawlins again tipped over the bar before Chadwick mistimed his jump with what would have been a free header from the corner.
The half ended with Drayton having one last attack and Grocott getting a great block on a shot that looked to be on target but, unfortunately, injuring his ankle in the process, and resulting in a half-time substitution with Charlie Walford replacing him in midfield.
HT Market Drayton Town 1 - Leek Town 1
Drayton started the second half strongly as Leek adjusted to the loss of Grocott and Thomas had a shot deflected for a corner in the 47th min that was subsequently defended.
As Leek got back into their stride Rawlins again came to Drayton’s rescue as he got down low to push away an Olly Harrison header from a Twyford cross with no Leek player following in to put away the loose ball.
On 57 mins Leek appealed for a penalty as, following a low Twyford cross from the right, the ball fell to Stevenson and he fell to the ground as he tried to control and shoot following a tangle of legs with a Drayton defender. Maybe with this incident in his mind the referee then awarded a penalty to Leek.
Following a series of Leek corners the pressure was mounting on the Drayton defence and as Stevenson was fed the ball into feet and tried to turn and attack the goal a Drayton defender was clearly holding and impeding his advance. Whilst the foul looked to have commenced on the edge of the area by the time the referee blew his whistle both players were 2-3 yards inside and so a penalty was given despite the Drayton appeals.
Darren Chadwick ignored the protests to calmly slot the ball low to the keepers right as he dived left to put Leek 2-1 up on 68mins.
The incident stung Drayton and they responded with McLean showing good skill and pace to beat Keenan but failing to find a finish to match with his shot flying over Roberts’ goal.
Leek hit back and in the 77th minute Rawlins somehow produced a triple save to keep Drayton in the game. Stevenson drove to the by-line and cut the ball back from the right, Walford saw his effort well parried by Rawlins with the ball falling to the feet of Twyford, his shot was again parried and the ball looped up to Grice. His first time volley looked goal bound but somehow Rawlins managed to get a hand on it to keep it out. A truly remarkable period of action.
Lewis Short came on for Twyford in the 82nd minute as Neil Baker looked to tighten things up in midfield and hold on for the last 10 minutes or so, content to soak up Drayton pressure and use the pace of Stevenson on the break. And, other than a couple of free kicks that were launched into the box which gave the Leek travelling faithful some nervous moments, the Blues were able to see out the remainder of the game.
So, on the basis of past seasons, a potential banana skin out of the way for the Blues who now look forward to the FA Cup tie against Whitchurch Alport on Saturday.
FT Market Drayton Town 1 - Leek Town 2
Report by Winners Lad
Leek Town line up as follows
- Grocott replaced by Walford (46)
- Twyford replaced by Short (82)
- Stevenson replaced by Kirby (90)
Substitues : Bavanganga, Bott (unused)
Yellow Cards : Agbozo