It was heartbreak for Leek Town as they lost to Radcliffe FC in the Evo-Stik West playoff final.
The Blues had taken the lead in the first half through Rob Stevenson, but the hosts came back in the second half to take the victory and seal promotion.
Leek were dealt a blow before kickoff when captain Darren Chadwick was unable to play after he picked up a knock on his calf. It meant that Scott Lycett started in defence with Ollie Harrison coming onto the bench, while Niall Green was given the captain’s armband.
The hosts had to be alert early on in the game as Scott Metcalfe would be wondering how he didn’t score when after 12 minutes of play, Tunde Owolabi squared the ball to him. However, his effort was cleared off the line by Danny Roberts.
Leek took the lead after 31 minutes when Dan Trickett-Smith, playing his last game for the club before his move to Port Vale, found Stevenson with an excellent cross. The forward controlled the ball very well and, he was able to see off two defenders before slotting the ball past Ollie Martin.
Despite taking the lead, Leek had to be alert as Green had to clear a corner off the line before Metcalfe was left wondering how he didn’t score when he put a shot over the bar when he was near the goal line.
At the interval Radcliffe brought off Lee Neville for Matthew Crothers and, he made an instant impact as within seconds of the second half starting he crossed to Owolabi, who managed to get in front the Leek defence to guide the ball into the goal for 1-1.
The hosts then took the lead just after the hour mark when defender Lewis Short brought down Kyle Harrison, which gave the referee no option but to point to the spot. Ben Wharton took responsibility and slammed the ball home despite Roberts getting a hand to the ball.
It was going to be a real test to get back into the game and as such Neil Baker brought on Tim Grice, Rio Adebisi and Naill Maguire for Jordan Johnson, Short and Charlie Walford respectively.
Leek could have had a penalty of their own in the final 10-minutes when Stevenson burst into the area and, was bundled off the ball by Harrison. However, the referee waved away the protest of the Leek players.
The final chance for Leek fell to defender Green in injury time, when a Trickett-Smith free-kick caused chaos in the area. Green saw his half-volley pushed onto the post by Martin.
A disappointing day for Leek, but they can be proud of what they have achieved this season, making the playoffs final in what has been a very competitive division.
After the game, Neil Baker spoke to Moorlands Radio and expressed his pride in the players for their efforts this season, but was disappointed on the defeat at Radcliffe.
Jon Macken also took time out of his team’s celebrations to speak to Moorlands Radio.
Leek Town: Roberts, Green, Short (Adebisi,65), Grocott, Lycett, Sanders, Walford (Maguire,65), Reeves, Johnson (Grice,65), Trickett-Smith and Stevenson.
Unused subs: Harrison and Chapman.
Radcliffe FC: Martin, Harrison, Neville (Crothers, 46), Haywood, Grogan, Lacy, Lindfield, Williams (Brown, 86), Wharton, Owolabi (Rokka, 84) and Metcalfe.
Unused subs: Carr and Burns.