Sometimes a football scoreline can be very misleading. A 3-0 scoreline can often hide the actual closeness of the contest. But that was not the case in this match between Bootle and Leek which saw the visitors ease their way to a comfortable victory.
Bootle supporters may argue that the opening goals were unfortunate ones to concede with the opener an own goal and the second from Marc Grocott was one of those one in a million strikes that will be difficult to repeat.
However, there is little room for disagreement about the third from Rob Stevenson shortly after the break. This was a sublime effort that was as sweetly provided as any cherry on top of a cake can be.
The opening stages of the match gave little inkling of the one-sided contest that was to unfold. Bootle passed the ball confidently to provide the early pressure with Ben Hodkinson and Tom Peterson providing menace with their movement and Henri Ogunby and Morgan Homson-Smith rampaging down the flanks in their wing-back roles.
But the Bucks’ forwards got little change as Ollie Harrison and Josh Ryder put in solid defensive displays and the wing-backs’ defensive frailties were soon exposed as Leek’s midfield took control.
With the home back-line being pulled apart by the slick movement and passing of their opponents, Bootle were soon having to produce some desperate defending as crosses rained in on their goal.
Ryan Jones had to go full-length to keep out a Dan Trickett-Smith free-kick but the defence was finally unlocked in the fifteenth minute. A sweeping move saw Tim Grice play the ball into the area and, with his fellow defenders at sixes and sevens, Matty Hamilton got the last touch that saw him net past his own keeper.
Twelve minutes later the lead was doubled. A goal from Grocott is always something of a collector’s item and this one would be a prime piece in any collection. Picking the ball up wide on the left and some thirty yards from goal, the Blues’ midfielder delivered an effort that swerved in the gusting wind to deceive Jones and hit the roof of the net. Grocott had a broad smile on his face when he later declared that the effort was always meant to be an attempt on goal. Whether that was true or not, Leek thoroughly deserved their two-goal lead.
The result was effectively settled twelve minutes after the restart. Stevenson was back to his imperious best and capped his display with a goal from the top drawer. Cutting in from the by-line, he left Ogunby in a heap on the floor before finishing with a powerful right-footer that dipped over the keeper for Leek’s third.
Trickett-Smith, Grice and Jack Wakefield all came close to adding to Bootle’s woes but the home side survived to rally in the closing stages and should have scored a consolation when the Division’s leading scorer Hodkinson fluffed his lines when in a good position.
It was that sort of day for the Bucks. But take nothing away from Leek who put in a near faultless performance!!
Following the game Leek Manager Neil Baker spoke exclusively to Moorlands Sport and said:
“ I asked them to follow on from the second half last Saturday and I got it. When you have all your players earning 7.5 to 8.5 out of ten you generally win games. That’s what we had today – a really good team performance. All departments were good I thought.
“We restricted them to one good chance in the first half and two or three shots in the last seven or eight minutes. Other than that, I thought we were defensively strong and creative and very workmanlike in midfield and our two and a half/three strikers caused them a lot of problems. So, it was as good as it gets.
“The first goal was an own goal but it was a super move and I don’t mind how they go in. Rob Stevenson is back to something like, isn’t he? It’s taken him a while but he’s now looking the player we know he can be. The goal made his day and our day. Dan Trickett-Smith was as good as any player on the pitch and when he is he is one of the best players in the League. And I thought Tim Grice was excellent.”