By hook, a by crook they did it as Leek Town forced themselves into the next round of the Emirates FA Cup by seeing off North West Counties side Charnock Richard 3-2 at Harrison Park.
A much-rotated squad for the Blues saw Darren Chadwick and Sam Hall make their first starts of the season while Tim Grice was recalled to the starting eleven ahead of Zeph Thomas. While only four players were available for the bench- them four being Thomas, Andy McWilliams, Harry Brazel and young goalkeeper Jack Hurd.
Neil Baker wanted his side get off to have a good start and they certainly did when Grice took control of a long ball before beating three Charnock defenders and Chris Cheetham in the goal to open the scoring after just four minutes of play and it looked like the result could be a formality.
But it wasn’t and Charnock really stepped up and got themselves back into the game creating a number of chances with Jacob Higham going close on eight minutes when he forced Danny Roberts to tip the ball over the bar from a cross.
The Hallmark security side were level just 10 minutes before the interval when a Mark Woods free-kick was drilled into the area and Carl Grimshaw got his head of the ball to divert it into the back of the net to level the score and they could have taken the lead just before halftime when another Woods free-kick was headed just wide of the goal by Ashley Ball.
Charnock came out stronger for the second half and took the lead just two minutes into the half when Charlie Walford, playing at left back, diverted a free-kick into the far corner of the net past a helpless Roberts.
Leek responded by pushing Walford into the middle as left back McWilliams came off the bench and that change started to turn the tide in the Blues favour.
Grice could have brought the game level on 62 minutes when a poor clearance from Cheetham fell to the goal machine who broke into the area but the onrushing Cheetham was able to block the shot from hitting the back of the net.
However just five minutes later and the Blues were level when Rob Stevenson did well down the wing before pulling the ball back right across the goal line to Grice who stabbed the ball home to restore order.
From there on in it looked like there would be only one winner and that was Leek Town as they went for the third as Higham was forced to clear a corner off the line before the rebound fell to Leek captain Scott Lycett who slammed the ball against the crossbar.
With five minutes to go the tie was looking it was going to extra-time and then possibly penalties but Dan Trickett-Smith had other ideas. By his standards, he had a quiet game but when it mattered most he stepped up a bent a free-kick around the wall and in off the post to put Leek Town 3-2 up. It must have been a sense of deja vu for Cheetham as he was beaten by a similar free-kick from Trickett-Smith on the opening day of the season at Skelmersdale United.
Leek hung on as Charnock desperately threw everything at the hosts to try and force extra-time which they deserved but it wasn’t to be and Neil Bakers men will march onto the 1st Qualifying round as they visit Parkgate on Wednesday night.
The draw for the 2nd Qualifying round (which Leek will be in should they defeat Parkgate) takes place on Monday.
Following today’s tie I caught up with Charnock Richard Manager Andy Westwell:
Leek Town: Roberts, Bavangana, Walford, Grocott, Lycett, Chadwick, Johnson, Hall, Grice, Trickett-Smith and Stevenson
Subs: Thomas, McWilliams (Johnson, 57), Brazel (Hall, 71) and Hurd.
Charnock Richard: Cheetham, O’Farrell, Walker, Schofield, Sanders, Ball, Regan, Fairhurst, Grimshaw, Woods and Higham.
Subs: Halton, Stott (Woods, 75), Oxley (O’Farrell 88), Ralph (Higham, 75) and Darcey.