LEEK Town took another big step towards automatic promotion with a 1-0 victory at Chasetown on Tuesday night, but assistant manager Peter Ward insists no-one is getting too carried away just yet.
Rob Stevenson scored the only goal of the game at the Scholars Ground in the second half as Leek made it 13 consecutive BetVictor South East Division wins and 18 games since they last tasted defeat in the league.
That was back on Saturday, September 14 when they lost 2-1 at Cleethorpes Town.
With 13 games to go and with Leek sitting eight points in front of second-placed Stamford, it’s certainly looking good, but Ward says: “We’ve not won anything yet. There’s still a long way to go before anyone can start talking about promotion.
“We’ve got to keep our feet firmly on the ground and just take each game as it comes. I know that’s a well worn saying, but it’s true.”
On a cold, wet and windy night in Chasetown, Leek did what they needed to do.
There was only one goal in it, but Ward says the best team won on the night and victory could have been by a bigger margin, although Leek keeper Danny Roberts pulled off a magnificent save in time added on.
“Yes, it was a little nervy at times, it always is when there is only one goal in it, but we had quite a few chances to make the game safe. Chasetown are a decent side, they’ve got some good players and they made it difficult for is.
“They worked hard and were keen to end our winning run, as all teams are now. But the players managed the game well and secured the three points, which was the important thing, although our keeper Danny did pull off a fantastic save right at the end to stop Ryan Wynter from equalising.
“Overall, though, I thought we were the better side and deserved the win.”
Chasetown were keen to impress their new manager Mark Swann and Will Whieldon had an early effort on goal which Roberts saved, but Leek soon settled.
But it took until the 68th minute before they made the breakthrough when, not for the first time, Stevenson used his pace to get away from his marker and went one on one with Chasetown keeper Curtis Pond and it was Stevenson who came out top to put Leek ahead.
“It was a typical Stevenson goal,” said Ward. “He’s done it a number of times this season where he’s got away from his man and scored. He’s got that in him and it was a good finish just when we needed it.”
The only real scare came in the final few seconds when Roberts tipped over a thunderous header from Wynter. From the corner, goalkeeper Pond, who had gone up for the corner, connected with the cross, but Roberts was able to collect his header under his crossbar.
“It was a battle, but the lads are showing they are up for the fight. They are all in this together and working hard for one another. Long may it continue,” added Ward.
Leek return to action on Saturday with a trip to Lincoln United as they aim to stretch their winning run to 14 games.
STAFFORD RANGERS were beaten 2-1 at high-flying FC United of Manchester and remain firmly rooted to the foot of the Premier Division table and in a real battle for survival.
The defeat leaves Rangers nine points adrift of the guaranteed safety margin, but they have played four more games than the club fourth-bottom, Ashton United.
And that will put more pressure on them to get a result on Saturday when they welcome Morpeth Town to Marston Road.
Luke Griffiths fired FC ahead in the 11th minute, but Jon Moran got Stafford back on level terms 10 minutes into the second half.
Rangers were then reduced to 10 men when Dan Burns was sent off for a second yellow when he clashed with United keeper Cameron Belford following the equaliser.
Any hopes Rangers had of returning home with a point disappeared when Morgan Homson-Smith scored a winner for the home side 11 minutes from time.
Rangers created the first real chance of the evening but Josh Burns had his shot blocked. The home side immediately broke away and Tunde Owolabi shot over from just 15 yards inside the Rangers half after intercepting a poor clearance from King.
But United took the lead on 11 minutes when Luke Griffiths fired in a free-kick from around 30 yards out that deceived Stafford keeper Lewis King.
Rangers had a good chance to get back level a couple of minutes later but the trio of Berti Diau, Jaiden White and Josh Burns were unable to convert.
Rangers kept pushing and Jake Charles saw his header saved by Cameron Belford’s feet after he had climbed high to reach a centre from Hill.
The two sides traded chances as Chris Doyle headed wide for United when well placed while Stafford’s Sam Coulson shot wide from around 30 yards out.
Just after the half hour, Dan Burns picked up his first yellow card for an off the ball body check on Finlay Sinclair-Smith but Rangers were still in contention at the end of the half.
Rangers’ lack of killer touch was again evident when Diau intercepted a poor pass from Matthew Elsdon but Charles had his shot blocked and Diau lingered too long allowing Dodd to clear the immediate danger.
But, on 55 minutes, they finally found the mark. Tom Thorley’s inswinging free-kick from the left was knocked back across by Charles and Jon Moran hammered home from close range.
However, the celebrations were soon dampened when the referee showed Dan Burns a second yellow card for throwing the ball at home keeper Cameron Belford.
Aaron Morris saw his header skim the top of the cross bar but United regained their lead on 79 minutes when Dodd’s deep ball found Morgan Homson-Smith and the substitute cut back inside Hill before firing past King.
Although Rangers kept looking for a second equaliser, it was United who came closest to adding to the scoring with Josh Burns clearing off the line with Homson-Smith ready to pounce while Owolabi somehow shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
KIDSGROVE ATHLETIC goalkeeper Kieran Harrison was the hero of a penalty shoot-out for the second time in a week as Grove booked their place in the Integro League Cup quarter-finals at Gainsborough Trinity
The match ended in a 1-1 draw and went straight to penalties. With the penalty count at 9-9, Harrison stepped up to score the winning penalty to spark celebrations from the bench.
Last week, Harrison helped Kidsgrove into the quarter-finals of the Staffs FA Senior Cup, making three saves in a penalty shoot-out to beat Tamworth 3-1 on spot-kicks.
Kidsgrove got off to the ideal start when they were awarded a penalty after just 13 minutes and Lee Williamson calmly slotted the ball past Gainsborough keeper George Willis.
However, manager Ryan Austin was forced into a change just a minute later when skipper Anthony Malbon pulled up and had to be replaced by Issac Minott.
Alex Morris had a shot blocked as Grove looked for a second goal during a good spell, but the home side gradually came into the game and Harrison was forced into a good saved and then Greg Smith fired an effort over the crossbar.
At the start of the second half, Smith glanced an effort wide before he finally drew Gainsborough level, heading home after Grove failed to clear their lines.
There was no further score, so the game went to penalties, with Gainsborough taking the lead from the spot, but Tom France, Oliver Jepson, Regan Griffiths, Alex Morris, Kyle Blake, Sam Hall, James Butler, Kieran Coates all scored their penalties before Gainsborough keeper Willis blazed his effort over the crossbar, leaving Harrison to score with a cool right-foot shot to the goalkeeper’s left.
Kidsgrove are at home to Market Drayton Town on Saturday looking for a win to keep them in the play-off frame.
Kidsgrove are eight points outside the play-off spots, but have four games in hand over Stocksbridge.
NEWCASTLE TOWN chalked up a 2-0 victory at Worksop Town on Wednesday night in the South East Division.
Ryan McClean got Castle off the the ideal start with a goal after just three minutes from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by Worksop’s Deegan Atherton.
As Worksop looked for an equaliser, Joe Slinn saved well from Steve McDonnell.
In the second half, Newcastle doubled their lead on 55 minutes when Glover rose to meet a cross and power a header home off the inside of the post.
Worksop had the ball in the net three minutes from time when a shot from Matt Sykes came back off the crossbar and substitute Connor Brunt turned the ball over the line, but he was ruled to be in an offside position.
The win lifted Castle eight points clear of bottom club Wisbech Town ahead of their trip to Frickley Athletic on Saturday.