Leek’s unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-3 defeat at the hands of Mossley.
Disappointing though the result was with the Blues trailing at the break by a three-goal margin after strikes from Harry Pratt, Jordan Butterworth and Andy Keogh, the travelling support feared the worst as the Lilywhites dominated the first seventy minutes of the match. A two-goal burst inside two minutes with Tim Grice and Dan Trickett-Smith netting gave Leek a glimpse of a point that had seemed so far out of their reach but the three-goal deficit ultimately proved just too much to haul back.
An uncharacteristically poor defensive display in the opening half eventually proved to be Leek’s undoing but keeper Danny Roberts had the sort of game that he hopes will be quickly erased from his memory bank. The opening goal was definitely down to him and, although he would complain about the porous defence in front of him, he will probably feel that he could have done better with the third. Add in a rare miss by Grice when in an eminently scorable position and the recipe for disaster was writ large by the time of the break.
Any game-plan thought out by the Leek management was quickly destroyed as the home side took the lead after just five minutes. The ball was played back to Roberts who dallied with his distribution and paid the ultimate price. Pratt quickly closed down and nicked the ball away from the keeper who was put onto his backside to watch the centre-forward slide the ball into the empty net.
As the game wore on Leek were forced more and more on to the back foot and, in a rare attack, Grice was put clear only to place his effort wide of Dale Latham’s left-hand post. Leek were left to rue that failure to convert as their defence were unable to clear a cross from their right and the ball made its way to the unmarked Butterworth who fired home under the keeper’s body.
Worse was to come in added time when Keogh brushed aside some limp challenges to force his way into the area and registered the Lilywhite’s third with a fierce drive that went through Roberts at his near post.
Roberts showed the class normally witnessed by Leek fans when he performed heroics to deny Man of the Match Pratt’s perfect header with a flying save to his left and prevent a fourth goal for the home side. That save proved something of a turning point in the game’s fortunes.
Some excellent approach work by Trickett-Smith saw the ball fed to Grice who coolly rounded the keeper to reduce the arrears before Trickett-Smith registered a second for the visitors as he met an excellent cross from substitute Lewis Short to head home from close range.
Unfortunately for Leek, despite some late pressure, a third goal proved impossible and Leek slipped out of the Play-Off positions.
With Neil Baker too ill to travel, Jamie Cullerton took charge of proceedings and spoke exclusively to Moorlands Radio after the match. He said, “At 3-0 you’ve got a mountain to climb. To concede just before half-time when nobody takes responsibility was a poor goal. We did win the second half but it was in vain. I am more disappointed with the first half performance than I am with the second half showing really because ultimately that’s what cost us the game. I thought even in the first half dome of our general play was good at times, our link up play was good. We looked good and could have scored a couple of times but it was ultimately down to our poor defensive showing in the first half that cost us the game. At half-time I didn’t change the shape because I didn’t think that was causing us too many problems. It was essentially to shore up at the back and get individuals to play as we know that they can do but to keep on playing as we were because I felt that we could get a foothold in the game.”