In a reverse of last seasons opening fixture Leek got off to a winning start with an emphatic and entertaining 5-0 victory over Wisbech in a game that was to be significant for the Blues strikeforce of Tim Grice and Rob Stevenson.
Such a result, however, could not have been predicted during the early part of the game with the Fenmen more than matching their hosts, and the visitors should have taken the lead in only the first minute. Full back Merson Styles screwed shot turned into an ideal cross that found Avelino Viera and the forward should have done better as he shot straight at Danny Roberts but it still required a solid save to push the ball away.
5 mins later the outside of Robert’s post was hit direct from a corner as Wisbechs bright start to the game matched the sunny sleeved shirts weather conditions.
After the early alarms Leek started to get into their stride with the main threat coming down the left hand side and Matt Bell, who was to be instrumental in a lot of the Blues best moves, delivering a couple of telling crosses that Wisbech desperately defended for corners.
The chance to break the deadlock came on 19mins when Stevenson, who was to torment the Wisbech defence all afternoon, was fouled by Emmanuel Marvin as the striker turned the young central defender inside out in the penalty area and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty.
However, the normally ‘Mr Reliable’ Darren Chadwick seemed to scuff his spot kick slightly and James Goff was able to make the save low down to his right.
The Blues did not let this set back affect them though, and took the lead just 4mins later with a well worked goal. Louis Keenan found Stevenson in the centre circle and the forward turned, drove forwards, and drew the centre halves before playing the ball wide to Bell. His cross to the far post found the lurking Grice and the striker made no mistake and put away the chance to reach the milestone of 200 goals for the Blues - a magnificent achievement.
It didn’t take long for Leek to double their lead as in their next attack, on 25mins, Stevenson again weaved his way into the box and his right footed effort, whilst not his best, still managed to squirm under the body of Goff.
After their encouraging start, the two quick fire goals seemed to dispirit Wisbech and they never threatened Roberts goal again as Leek went on to control the rest of the half and the remainder of the game.
Stevenson nearly got his second goal of the game on 32mins as he received the ball on the edge of the area, feinted to go right, went left and hit a rasping shot just wide of the upright before having another effort blocked some 12 yds out shortly afterwards.
Grice also came close on 44 mins as Billy Reeves played him in with a subtle ball over the top. After letting the ball come over his right shoulder he hit it first time right footed but the effort flew wide of the near post and the score remained 2-0 into the break.
HT Leek Town 2-0 Wisbech Town
The second half began as the first ended as Leek settled into their task of putting the game beyond the reach of Wisbech with a third goal.
It nearly came on 48mins with yet another attack down the left that resulted in Keenans cross being headed over by Jack Wakefield, when well placed, as the midfielder mistimed his jump and got under the ball.
However it did come on 55mins as some sloppy passing out of the Wisbech defence was seized upon by Bell who fed the ball to Marc Grocott, himself having a commanding game in the middle of the park, and he released Stevenson who fired the ball hard and low under Goff for 3-0 and his second of the game.
Leek continued to press and Bell tried his luck from 25yds with a low right footer before the midfielder capped a fine display on 70mins as he produced another quality cross to find substitute Will Saxon, on for Wakefield, with a fine headed finish to score on his league debut for the Blues.
By now Wisbech’s resistance had been broken and Leek were looking as if they could add to their tally with each attack made.
There was nearly a replica of Leeks third goal on 72mins as Bell found Saxon, who laid the ball into the path of Stevenson once more but this time the striker, looking for his first hat trick for the club, dragged his effort across the face of goal.
The hat trick Stevensons performance deserved did arrive just 3 mins later following a rare move down the Blues right flank. Jesse Bavanganga did well to find Saxon who got close to the bye line before pulling the ball back to Stevenson. The Wisbech defence failed to close him down as he switched the ball from right foot to left and fired the ball home from 8 yds out to make it 5-0.
With 15mins left there was still plenty of time for the Blues to put the Fenmen further to the sword but the intensity dropped as both sides seemed to settle for the result and the game became almost pre-season like with no further action to report. Even the referee joined in blowing the full time whistle bang on 90 mins playing no injury time despite there being 5 substitutions and the Wisbech trainer being called onto the pitch twice.
So, an ideal start to the league campaign for Neil Bakers team. The Blues Manager will know that far sterner tests await his side but, for now, will be able to enjoy a great result and a performance that was a marked improvement on last weeks FA Cup win over Sporting Khalsa.
FT Leek Town 5-0 Wisbech Town
Leek Town line up as follows
Substitues : Kirby, Short (unused)