Leek overcame what on paper had looked a difficult tie at United Counties League outfit Gresley Rovers.
The home side had made it a very competitive match with their close pressing game but eventually ran out of steam giving Dan Trickett-Smith the chance to settle the contest with a superb effort after Ollie Harrison had provided a first-half opener.
The main talking point of the game came in first-half added time. Harrison had already made the breakthrough for Leek in a keenly-contested first period that had seen the visitors provide the lion’s share of chances. The impressive central defender netted just four minutes from the break when he muscled his way through the defenders at a corner to head powerfully home.
As the clock ticked down to half-time there was an enormous melee on the Gresley goal-line with the Leek players desperately trying to force home the loose ball through a ruck of defenders making last-ditch efforts to defend their goal. With the Leek players claiming the ball had already crossed the line, the referee blew his whistle to award a penalty and after an inordinate amount of time administered a yellow card to George Clark for a handball.
Trickett-Smith hit the spot-kick past Lewis Fenney and had appeared to have given vital breathing space to Leek. But, after fierce protests from Gresley players, Stephen Davies consulted his Assistant and cancelled the goal. It was later advised that Trickett-Smith had played the ball twice when taking the penalty.
Gresley almost took full advantage of that lifeline after the break. A period of sustained pressure produced a succession of corners. Then Scott Wara – who had an excellent debut – sliced an attempted clearance against his own post as he dealt with a dangerous cross from Kane Lee.
Fellow-debutant keeper Sam Booth had to grab a fierce drive from Louis Briscoe at the second attempt as it spilled from his hands in greasy conditions and then had to bravely throw himself in the way of an inrushing forward to make a block after his attempted punched clearance had failed.
Mason Frizelle should have done better with a weak headed effort before Lee and substitute Steve Hart both hit off-target from good positions. However, Leek weathered the storm and provided the killer blow in the 76th minute.
Good approach play by Billy Reeves following a free-kick saw the ball played to Trickett-Smith who created space for a copy-book left-footer that curled beyond Fenney’s despairing drive – a goal worthy of winning any contest.
The Blues saw the remaining minutes out with comfort against rapidly tiring opponents to book their place in the next round.
Following the game Leek Manager Neil Baker spoke exclusively to Moorlands Radio and said “I thought we played well and eventually wore them down. I was pleased with the debutants. I thought Wara was magnificent, Matt Booth was generally comfortable in goal. He made one mistake but recovered well. Zack Clarke showed good movement but doesn’t jump his height and doesn’t win much in the air. Overall though that was a good performance. We just need a good draw in the next round.”