Leek ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in a match billed as an eliminator for the Play Offs. With the two sides only separated by goal difference going into the game, it was important that the Blues put in an all-round performance. And that is what was provided in front of Harrison Park’s biggest crowd of the season.
Mossley arrived in the Moorlands boasting two of the Division’s leading scorers in Ben Halfacre and Max Leonard who had contributed 39 goals between them. But Leek defended so well as a team that the Lilywhites’ star duo was forced to feed on scraps leaving Danny Roberts largely a spectator other than when the visitors were awarded a somewhat harsh penalty.
There was little to choose between the two sides until the opening goal. A corner from the left was eventually worked out to Billy Reeves who was standing just outside the area. His shot appeared to be hit with no great amount of power but went through a sea of legs to deceive Mossley keeper Josh Ollerenshaw. He was only able to stand and stare as the ball went low into the right-hand corner.
That goal came on the stroke of the half-hour and Leek doubled their lead just eight minutes later. A foul by Ben Richardson gave Dan Trickett-Smith the opportunity to deliver a free-kick from the angle of the penalty area. The dead ball was fired in hard and low and a diving header from Niall Maguire did the rest.
The visitors were given a lifeline just four minutes after the break. A long throw was helped on by Adam Jones’ header to Richardson who was standing on the 18-yard line. He struck a powerful ball into the area where it was blocked by Marc Grocott some five yards away. Referee Jamie O’Connor deemed the arm to be in an unnatural position and pointed to the spot from where Leonard converted with aplomb.
Leek quickly regained their control and could have restored their two-goal advantage shortly after conceding. Trickett-Smith threaded a ball through to sub Aaron Bott but Ollerenshaw rescued Mossley by denying Bott with his legs.
Leek effectively settled the result midway through the half. The visitors had struggled to cope with a period of sustained pressure from the Blues and a cross from Rob Stevenson was nodded home from close range by Jack Sanders. This was the defender’s first goal in Leek colours.
Mossley had contributed well to the game but a confident approach by Leek allowed them to see the game out without a major scare.
An ecstatic Assistant Manager Jamie Cullerton said “We are delighted with that result. The players stuck at it and we didn’t let the penalty have too much of an influence on the game. We dug in and defended well as a team although I think that the performance wasn’t as good as that on Tuesday. We knew that Mossley are dangerous up front but we defended very strongly. We had to cope with long balls, long throw-ins and lots of crosses but we gutted it out and did so well that Danny (Roberts) did not have a shot to save. If we can repeat performances like those on Tuesday and today, we will be okay for the rest of the season.”
The only down side to the victory was that Tim Grice had to be replaced at half time due to a hamstring injury.