On paper this away tie at an undefeated Whitchurch Alport side looked a tricky one for Neil Baker’s side and, for the first 48 minutes of the game at least, so it proved, with Whitchurch more than matching their higher league opponents, until a moment of fortune swung the game Leek’s way.
With Marc Grocott’s ankle injury, sustained in the midweek win at Market Drayton, keeping him out of the game Baker brought in Charlie Walford onto the left hand side of his favoured diamond formation in an otherwise unchanged line up.
If Whitchurch’s biggest ever crowd, swelled by a sizeable following from Leek, were anticipating a rip roaring cup tie then the first half would have left them feeling a bit deflated.
On a slow playing surface, which Leek seemed to particularly find hard to come to terms with, as it did not suit their slick passing game, both sides produced a cagey affair with little in the way of chances as they sized each other up.
What few half-chances that were created were by the home side with their first coming after 3 mins when the Whitchurch no.4 tested Danny Roberts from 30 yards.
Leek’s first chance came after 13 mins when Tim Grice’s shot was pushed wide by Dave Parton, in the Whitchurch goal.
Two chances fell in quick succession for Whitchurch thereafter. A cross from the left led to a looping header from the no.8 which went a yard over and then a minute later Billy Reeves inadvertently stood on the ball in midfield and allowed Whitchurch to break forward and feed the no.9 inside the area but his shot from out wide was easily saved by Roberts.
It took until the 31st minute for Leek to put together the best move of the half, some great interchange of passes down the right involving Chris Baker & Twyford saw the latters low cross back heeled towards goal by Grice although Parton was untroubled as it went wide
It was quite symbolic that the match ball had to be replaced after 35 minutes as it had become flat, much like the game and atmosphere.
There was a brief sign of life on 38 minutes when a misplaced Whitchurch pass led to Walford finding himself in space at the edge of the area, and his left foot shot had to be tipped over by Parton. Walford also had an effort from a free kick some 25 yards out that he kept low but Parton was equal to it and shovelled it away for a corner.
Thereafter the game once again drifted to half time and Leek’s first half was perhaps summed up when, in the space of a minute Darren Chadwick (twice) and Billy Reeves put passes straight out of play under no pressure at all.
HT Whitchurch Alport 0 - Leek Town 0
Neil Baker would have shown his displeasure at half time with the Leek players, but it didn’t show for the first couple of minutes when the second half kicked off and all the signs were there for a repeat of the first until a goal came out of the blue on 48 minutes.
A nondescript passage of play resulted in the ball falling to Twyford some 20 yards out in the centre of goal. His shot was heading straight for Parton until it deflected off an unlucky defender and looped over the stranded goalkeeper into the empty net.
The goal seemed to affect the Alport players and for the next 10 minutes Leek completely dominated the game and, but for Parton, should have extended their lead.
On 51 minutes Walford won a tackle in midfield and released Rob Stevenson. He took the ball on but his shot was straight at Parton.
A great flick header from Grice on 54 mins again released Stevenson who drove into the area. He was crowded out but the ball fell to Twyford whose shot was again straight at Parton.
Just 2 minutes later another Leek attack saw the ball played through to Grice in the area. He took it round Parton but, as he shaped to shoot, lost his footing and allowed Parton to recover and block his eventual effort.
Another 2 chances came and went. On 58 minutes Twyford got in down the right and crossed to the far post. Rob Stevenson had got inside of the full back and was able to meet the ball but Parton produced a great save with his legs, and then saved again a minute later as Stevenson returned the favour and played in Twyford.
After surviving this period and, therefore staying in the game, Whitchurch made a number of substitutions to try and turn the tide and, themselves, had a period of pressure which Leek stood firm against.
Although not on target the home crowd got excited by an overhead kick by the Steve Jones on 72 minutes and this served to spur them on and force a couple of corners culminating in a shot that Roberts did well to tip over seven minutes later.
Baker made his first change after 81 minutes as Lewis Short came on for Twyford, and Leek switched to a more defensive 4-4-2 for the last 10 minutes.
The real chance that Alport had been waiting for finally came six minutes from time. Substitute Steve Jones was put clean through on goal, but Danny Roberts came to Leek’s rescue as he quickly came out to save and then smother the effort when an equaliser looked certain.
It was to prove a costly miss / great save (depending on who you support) as Leek made the game safe 3 minutes later. Walford was fouled in midfield but the referee played a good advantage which allowed Stevenson to run on and finally beat Parton with a vicious near post effort that rifled past the goalkeeper into the net, 2-0 to Leek.
Whitchurch knew the game was up after that, and it was just a matter of Leek running down the clock which they did to maintain their 100% start and seal a place in the next round of the FA Cup, which is drawn on Monday and will be played on 21 September.
.FT Whitchurch Alport 0 - Leek Town 2
Report by Winners Lad
Leek Town line up as follows
- Twyford replaced by Short (80)
- Stevenson replaced by Kirby (90)
Substitues : Stanton, Goode, Bavanganga, Thompson, Cortes-Smith (unused)