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Match Report - Newcastle Town FC vs Leek Town FC


02/04/2024

By Chris Gibbs


Leek secure the title with narrow win.

 

Yesterday was never going to be about us. The majority of a bumper attendance of 729 came to see Leek be crowned league champions and thanks to goals from Tim Grice and Dan Trickett-Smith, that it exactly what they saw.



But during a first half where we dominated possession and fought back exceptionally well after falling behind just five minutes in, we gave the champions a thorough examination, which they only just passed.


It looked like our rivals from across the Moorlands might be on easy street after taking the lead from their first attack. Rob Stevenson has scored 21 league goals this season and although he didn’t add to his tally yesterday, it was his turn and shot which led to Tim Grice tapping home at the back post to set Leek on their way.


We responded by dominating possession, culminating in a series of corners one of which led to a Ben Kershaw shot being tipped behind by Leek stopper Dino Visser.


Leek’s attacks were more sporadic, but it was only a fine save from Slinny, which kept a superb curling free kick from Dan Trickett-Smith out on 25 minutes.

In only his second game for us, Ben Kershaw was becoming increasingly influential, though he would have been bitterly disappointed when blazing over after being set up by Jake Avery.


Six minutes before the break we passed up an even better chance as Ewan Catt finished meekly after George Lewis had robbed Tom Reilly of possession deep in Leek’s defensive half and laid the ball off to the wide man.


But just as it looked as though we might go into half time with no reward for our endeavours, the former Leek man Jake Avery broke through the middle and lifted the ball over Visser with the visitors’ backline unable to get back to clear as the ball nestled into the corner of the net.


Momentum was with us, but the half time break came at a bad time. As champions do, Leek regrouped and within five minutes of the second half were back in front. Stevenson was again the instigator – his shot being blocked with Dan Trickett-Smith reacting sharply to edge his side closer to the title.


The first half dominance we enjoyed wasn’t replicated in the second half, but we kept ourselves in the game through impressive character and determination. As the game entered injury time and news filtered through that Prescot had been unable to beat Runcorn meaning Leek’s result became immaterial, we pressed our visitors back.


Ollie Ritchie, who had a fine game at left back – got forward for the umpteenth time and put in an excellent cross which Lewis Nolan fired over the bar. Then in the sixth minute of injury time, Jake Avery nearly got his ninth goal of the season for us – he also got two for Leek way back in August – but had a shot blocked on the line.


However, when all is said and done, the result was a fair one and it has given us a clear indication of the standards we need to aspire to if we are to improve our fortunes next season. For 45 minutes we were more than a match but once the champions had gone in front a second time, there was a certain sense of inevitability about what followed.


There is no doubt that our club is on an upward trajectory but today was Leek’s day. To win the league with four games to spare is a truly exceptional effort.


Congratulations Leek on becoming the Pitching In Northern Premier League West Division champions. Your achievement is richly deserved.

 

Team: Slinn, Osbourne, Ritchie, Smith, Jordan, Stubbs, Lewis, (Barry 82), Graham, (Nolan 78), Avery, Kershaw, Catt, (Jones 65).


Man of the match: Ben Kershaw – the 20-year-old, who is on loan from Stoke City, was assured on debut at Northwich on Saturday and imposed himself on the game here. Excellent in possession throughout.  

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