Leek Cup Round Three

Audley 1

(Callum Middleton)

Leek CSOB Reserves 2

(Tom Swann x2)

Attendance: 39 (approx. headcount)

Town Fields

2018 has a lot to live up to if it is going to get anywhere near the standards of 2017. I had a great year of football watching with 108 games, 411 goals and averaging around 3.8 goals per game. I went to 72 different grounds with 45 new grounds visited!

Some personal highlights include Patrick Cox’s goal within 20 seconds for Fleet Town away at Petersfield Town, the Fuerteventura derby between Union Puerto and El Cotillo, the FA Cup final and attending most rounds, completing the Wessex Leagues and visiting Ireland for a game in June.

I ended 2017 with a trip to Hampshire League side Paulsgrove when they went top of the league with a 3-0 win over last season’s champions Bush Hill.

I haven’t made it to a game since the turn of the year, I was up for a match on New Years Day, however family commitments meant I couldn’t escape to a game. I have spent the past week battling my university assignment that is due soon and by Saturday I was keen for some fresh air.

I am currently back home at my parents this week as I begin university work and a revision period before I return to Coventry. Now I would usually spend my weekends back at my Cheshire home watching Crewe, however we didn’t make the FA Cup third round and hand no game. It did open the day up for a new ground, which is quite tough, as I have done a lot of the main non-league grounds in the area.

Whitchurch Alport versus Sandbach United was my first choice but after it was called off I was back on the computer checking out the fixtures. I quickly turned to the Staffs County League and had three options in Florence v Foley Meir, Audley v Leek CSOB Reserves and Stone Dominoes v Redgate Clayton.

Florence had declared their pitch as unplayable and switched the game to Newcastle College so that didn’t appeal and then it was a straight split between Audley and Stone.

It was only the fact that the CSOB twitter account was quick to tell me that the game is on that I picked it and the fact that I could call and see my Nan after the game for a long overdue visit.

So Audley it was. A ground I had never been to and a team I had never seen play. I’m sure as a kid I had played against various Audley junior sides but can’t be sure. I didn’t realise what kind of a setup they had at Town Fields. A little seated stand is a luxury at the level that they play at and I was delighted with the little ground when I arrived about 15 minutes before kick off.

No floodlights meant that it was a 2pm kick off which wasn’t a problem, and gave me a chance to bring my camera out for another match.

It just goes to show if you’re active on Twitter I am likely to get down to one of your matches.

This was my first time watching either side and first Leek Cup match that I have every watched and it was a perfect afternoon to take my camera out and grab some snaps. Full album can be found on my Facebook page.

Special thanks goes to the referee for allowing me to view the team sheets at half time!

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The Ground

Town Fields is a little gem of a place in the heart of the rural village Audley. Down a small side road opposite some houses sits a fair sized car park and a big clubhouse, changing rooms etc. With the wet weather it was all a bit muddy but nothing to worry about. The pitch is gated off and a little sign reads “First Team Matches Adult Admission £2” but there was nobody collecting entry money and I was never approached about an admission fee. Looking back I could have checked in the clubhouse but it was a cheap start to the year.

On entry to the ground up the corner, the pitch is bordered with a metal barrier painted in the red and white colours of the hosts. On the left side there is three separate terrace structures all next to each other with two rows of seating. The top row at the back of the stand is bench seats with metal chairs on the front row offering some shelter and somewhere to perch.

The dugouts are either side of the half way line with plenty of distance separating the opposing benches.

It is a great set up for a side that plays in the 12th tier of English football in the Staffs County League Division One. Refreshments and toilets were available in the clubhouse and the people seemed friendly enough.

Audley and the neighbouring Bignall End have a couple of nice pubs close by so if any Hoppers are in the area and stuck for a game, despite the low level of league, it is more than just a game on a park pitch.

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The Game

Leek CSOB Reserves progressed to the next round of the Leek Cup with a narrow 2-1 victory over league rivals Audley.

Just five points and seven places separate the two sides in the league with CSOB coming into the game as underdogs for the cup.

Visiting winger Tom Swann scored a quick first half brace before Callum Middleton reduced the deficit before the break.

Audley pressured the CSOB defence for much of the second half but failed to find the goal to draw level, allowing CSOB to head into round four.

It took just three minutes for CSOB to put the ball in the back of the net when George Butler played a good ball over the Audley back line and Swann raced on to the loose ball to poke it past Ryan Key in the home net.

The hosts’ main threat was through attacking midfielder Jimmy Garlick who played a good low cross into the box to Connor Jones who could only poke his shot at Aaron Woolrich.

Woolrich then produced a great save at the near post after Garlick had burst into the box and fired a shot at goal that the ‘keeper could only palm into the air before it was cleared.

Both Garlick and Jones saw soft shots sail straight into the hands of Woolrich as the hosts really looked to be in control of the fixture despite being a goal down.

At the other end Leek’s Sam Fowler saw his long range shot fall into the hands of Key before the hosts had the ball in the back of the net. Audley thought they had pulled the scores level when Dave Cooper swung a free kick into the box from the right side and it was bundled in at the back post, however the linesman had his flag up for offside to the dismay of the home bench.

Minutes after the disallowed goal and Leek managed to double the lead against the run of play. Again it was Butler providing for Swann this time whipping a cross from deep into the area and Key came off his line to punch clear but Swann nipped in to glance a header into the back of the net.

Butler nearly grabbed a goal for himself showing some neat skill on the edge of the box before playing a one-two on the edge of the box before volleying just wide.

The home side did pull a goal back on 41 minutes when Leek could only half clear a long free kick forward and the loose ball landed to Middleton who drilled his low shot from the edge of the area in off the base of the post.

Leek’s Sam Chawher was carried off before halftime, forcing the visitors into an early change as Callum Heath replaced him from the bench.

The visitors started the second half brightly with Jamie Pope showing good strength on the ball to battle into the box and fire a shot away that Key could only parry out for a corner.

Key had to be alert to tip over Butler’s long free kick that dipped dangerously close the goal before the intervention of the goalkeeper.

Audley nearly levelled with a well-worked counter attack when Josh Wilson cleared the ball up to substitute Jack Barlow who played a good ball to Garlick who fired a low shot at Woolrich. The ball was bouncing around the Leek box and fell to Garlick again who tested Woolrich with another effort at goal.

Shouts for a penalty from the Leek bench up the other end could have killed the game off when Diogo Bentley well felled inside the area by Ben Longstaff, however the referee saw nothing of it and the game continued.

With the score still close it meant for a tense finish to the game and Leek were lucky to hold on when Middleton fizzed a ball into the box and the keeper and defender both block close range efforts to keep the ball out.

Leek went close at the other end when a ball was whipped into a packed box and with a bunch of bodies at the back post it hit a CSOB player and went just wide.

If Audley were going to score it would be Garlick to grab the goal with all attacks going through the talented player. He bundled his way into the box before momentum sent him tumbling to the ground as the ball ran away from him and he was harshly booked for a dive in the box.

It was an end-to-end finish to the game and Leek sent the ball long to Heath who beat offside and wasted his one-on-one with the ‘keeper who curled the ball over the bar.

Callum Tunstall had a chance to pull the scores level for Audley when he had a chance one-on-one with the ‘keeper but Woolrich closed the angle to block the chance.

In the dying seconds Garlick had a chance to put another low cross into the box and Middleton was there but couldn’t find the power in the shot as his effort trickled into the arms of Woolrich.

2017/18 Games: 45

2017/18 Grounds: 41 (9)

Total Grounds Visited: 190 (51)

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