Leek shook off the rustiness of the previous week and opened their Pitching-In Northern Premier season in emphatic style as they swept visitors Wisbech Town aside with a 5-0 win. Rob Stevenson (3), Will Saxon and Tim Grice got their names on the scoresheet and each of them had a personal reason to celebrate a landmark achievement.
Stevenson’s first hat-trick for the Blues would probably have won the Sponsors’ Man of the Match award but he would have been pushed hard by members of Leek’s midfield in the vote. Matt Bell was the focal point for much that was good about the home side’s play and he was well-supported by Marc Grocott who was at his industrious best.
However, take nothing away from Stevenson whose presence caused panic in the Fenmen’s defence with every touch. He could owe much of the first of his three goals to a little bit of fortune as James Goff allowed the ball to wriggle from his grasp and over the line for what was Leek’s second goal of the afternoon.
Stevenson’s second – and Leek’s third – of the afternoon came shortly after the break when the forward was released down the right after which he cut in to unleash a fierce shot across the face of the keeper and into the bottom corner. The hat-trick – and the end of the scoring – came fifteen minutes from the end. A pull-back by Saxon found Stevenson who juggled the ball from left to right foot before firing into the roof of the net.
Saxon himself had already been able to celebrate a little earlier as he marked his first competitive appearance in a Blues’ shirt by notching his first goal for the club. He found free space at the far post and was able to steer his header home.
But the biggest celebrant of the day was Grice who netted his much-awaited 200th goal for Leek. The finish was made easy for him by another perfect cross from Bell that saw the goal gaping and Grice accepted the far-post chance with glee.
Not only was the goal an important personal milestone, but it also broke the deadlock and paved the way to victory. In truth Leek could have won by a greater margin. Darren Chadwick had a penalty saved after Stevenson had been felled in the area and Jake Chadwick will be disappointed that a clear opportunity went begging as he could only loop his header over the bar.
For Wisbech it was all a case of what might have been. In the opening seconds Merson Styles played in a peach of a cross to find Avelino Viera but Danny Roberts made a fine point-blank save. Shortly afterwards Billy Reeves mistakenly thought an effort was going wide but the ball hit the post and had to be scrambled away. But as the visitors struggled, they could only muster one more chance and that was a weak effort in the closing stages from Dylan Edge that was easily pouched by Roberts.
Following the match Grice and Manager Neil Baker spoke exclusively to Moorlands Sport with the striker saying “I knew I would score the 200th but I am glad it has come early in the season. I have been so fortunate to have been playing for Leek for so long. This is probably the best squad that I have been involved with. I’ll go out tonight and have a few beers but not too many. There’s a match on Tuesday!!”
Despite the victory, Baker promised there would be changes for the Mickleover game. He said “We stepped up a notch from last week. Mind you we needed to. There would be changes on Tuesday no matter the opposition or competition. I need to get some minutes into the legs of some of the other players. I can’t keep telling them they are good players and not play them. I have the confidence that I could make changes and not jeopardise the performance level.”