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Match preview: Leek Town (H)



Andrew’s Match Preview


Colne v Leek Town

Holt House

NPL West

Saturday 15th April - 15:00


Colne welcome Staffordshire based Leek Town to Holt House in their last home fixture in the Northern Premier League West.


Leek Town, nicknamed the Blues, were founded in 1946, and they play their home games at Harrison Park, which holds 3,600 spectators. They have an average attendance of 615 this season, boosted by a 2,024 home gate against local rivals Macclesfield. Last season, the Blues finished in 3rd place in the NPL West with 79 points which earned them a semi-final play off spot which they lost 1-4 at home to Runcorn Linnets. In the head to head with the Reds last season, Town did the double over Colne by winning at home 2-0 in February, with goals from Scott Wara and Tim Grice and recording a 1-0 victory at Holt House 6 weeks later through a solitary strike from Louis Keenan from the penalty spot. In the corresponding fixture at Harrison Park in November, a hotly disputed Rob Stevenson goal gave the home side a 1-0 victory in front of 502 fans.


This season the Blues have won 21, drawn 7 and lost 8, and currently sit in 3rd place with 70 points from 36 games. Away from home, Leek have won 12 times and lost only twice which is the joint best away record in the league. They have been victorious on the road at Bootle 4-0, Mossley 2-0, City of Liverpool 5-0, Trafford 2-0, Witton Albion 2-1, Newcastle Town 2-1, Skelmersdale United 4-2, Runcorn Linnets 1-0, Kidsgrove Athletic 1-0, Prescot Cables 4-1, Widnes 2-0 and Ramsbottom United 3-2. In the FA Cup, Town were knocked out at the preliminary stage due to a 1-5 home defeat to Atherstone Town. In the FA Trophy, the Blues won at Coleshill Town on penalties after a 4-4 draw, defeated Atherton Collieries 3-0 away, and recorded a 2-1 home win over Worksop Town, before going down bravely 0-1 at National League North side Chorley.


On Monday, Leek lost 0-1 at home to Newcastle Town. In their last away game they overcame bottom of the table Ramsbottom United 3-2, with goals from Thomas Carr, Oliver Harrison and Tom Grice.


Leek Town players to watch - Mr Leek Town; Tim Grice is Leek’s record goal scorer and he has 16 this campaign in all competitions. Tim came through Stoke’s academy and also spent time at Aston Villa. The 34 year old striker notched 18 goals last term and has been at the club since 2011.



Young, pacy forward Tom Carr is well regarded, and he joined the club in the summer from Stafford Rangers. Tom was previously at Wythenshawe Amateurs and Avro and he has scored 15 times this season in his first try at step 4.


Former Stoke City academy winger Rob Stevenson is in his second spell with the club representing Market Drayton Town, Belper Town, and Stafford Rangers before returning in 2016. Rob has scored 10 times so far this season in 35 games.


Named in last season’s NPL West’s team of the season, midfielder Dan Trickett-Smith was prolific in front of goal, scoring 19 times. After starting out at Crewe Alexandra, Dan earned a contract at Liverpool before moving to the USA and signing for Sacramento Republic. Another in his second spell at the club, bookending a pro contract at Port Vale. Dan has scored 7 times this term in 38 appearances.


Centre-half Josh Ryder was a scholar at Port Vale and was once on the books at Wolves. He joined the Blues from Congleton Town after impressing in the North West Counties. A classy defender, Josh likes to get forward whenever possible and has netted 3 times this term in 28 appearances.


Skipper Marc Grocott, spent 10 years at Stoke City before dropping down to play for Kidsgrove Athletic. Combatative midfielder and fan’s favourite “Groctuso” has been at the club since 2017. Marc has scored 7 times this term in 42 appearances.


31 year old no nonsense defender Louis Keenan joined the club from Loughborough Dynamo in 2019 and in his first 3 seasons he played 95 out of a possible 96 games! Louis is another ever present this campaign, representing the club in 42 appearances.


Another virtual ever present since joining the club, defender Oliver Harrison was a scholar at Crewe Alexander before plying his trade in Sweden. Oli, moved to Leek on his return to England in 2019, and was selected in last season’s NPL West team of the season.


23 year old defender Scott Wara is a Fijian international. Scott came through Stoke City’s under 21 side before signing for the Blues in 2021, and he has 38 appearances to his credit this season.


Neil Baker is in his third spell as club manager, and he returned to Leek in the summer of 2017, after spending 23 years in various roles at Crewe Alexandra.


Last time out for the Reds - On Monday the Reds nipped over Pendle Hill to take on local rivals Clitheroe. Two changes to the side who lost 0-1 to Widnes on Saturday, with Tom Fagan replacing Ellis Wallbank at right-back and Lucas Weaver came in for Malik Diakite. The game couldn’t have got off to a better start for Colne, when after 11 minutes, a promising attack saw Owen Watkinson brought down in the area by Blues keeper Chris Thompson and Lucas Weaver dispatched the spot kick. Colne held their own for the remainder of the half until on 45 minutes Sefton Gonzales’ third dive in the area finally paid off and the ref pointed to the 12 yard spot. Reece Webb-Foster stepped up and made sure the two sides went in level at the break. Only 5 minutes into the second half the game change for the worse for the Reds, when Jacob Hanson was quicker to a Hakan Burton clearance than Danny Kyobe, and his header sent Webb-Foster free down the right wing, where Reece’s cross found an unmarked Gonzales, who tapped home to turn the scoreline on its head. Clitheroe pressed for a third for the next 25 minutes as the Reds seemed to accept that a counter attack was their only recourse. Finally a substitution appeared with 15 minutes remaining, albeit enforced, due to an injury to Harry Winstanley, as Malik Diakite entered the fray. Tom Fagan switched over to left-back and Matty Kardacz dropped back to cover at right-back. A minute later the game was over as a result, when great work on the left by Marc Pugh found the head of Billy Priestley and the outcome was inevitable. Whilst Cuan Bradley and Luke Stowe sat on the bench twiddling their thumbs, a shocking from behind kick from Danny Wilkins on Lucas Weaver saw him sent from the field, with Owen Watkinson somehow receiving a second yellow in the ensuing fracas. Clitheroe’s Abimbola Obasoto came off the bench in the last minute and grabbed himself a goal to round off their second half dominance and make the scoreline 4-1. Tom McCann replaced a limping Eddie Elewa-Ikpakwu in injury time. Colne’s midfield stood up well throughout the contest, but Tom Fagan’s battling display and encouragement for the duration, earned him the visitors’ man of the match. The Reds’ 17th loss of the season leaves them in 18th place with 37 points from 36 games.



Who’s on Ashh’s couch? - Ben Anderson will miss out once again with a niggling groin strain which hasn’t settled down and he’ll struggle to return before the end of the season.


Harry Winstanley limped off on Monday and he has a grade 2 hamstring injury which, means he’s played his last game this season.


Jack Doherty is recovering from surgery on his ACL injury and will begin his rehabilitation when ready, under the watchful eye of Accrington Stanley. This injury has ruled him out for the season.


Team news - They’ll be changes in defence with Harry Winstanley out injured and Finley Devenney missing out due to work commitments. Tom McCann has played at left-back this season and could slot in, or Tom Fagan could switch flanks. Matty Kardacz will be favourite to drop back to centre of defence, although Ellis Wallbank can cover at centre-back or right-back. 433 doesn’t seem to have worked for Paul Weller, so a return to 442 with Stowe and Diakite balancing out the midfield and Weaver joining Watkinson in attack could be the way forward. Cuan Bradley will be hoping for some action as he’ll be needed next week with Owen Watkinson suspended for the final game at Workington.


Leek Town arrive at Holt House with only 2 away defeats all season. A very strong and well organised rather than spectacular side, who score plenty of goals from set pieces and corners, they’ve already cemented a home promotion play-off spot and are chasing 2nd place. They were surprisingly beaten 0-1 by Newcastle Town at home on Monday in a game where they had all the possession, but could not break down a determined Newcastle back 5. Last Saturday they expectedly won 3-2 at bottom of the table Ramsbottom United. Despite the fact that Leek are still chasing 2nd place to ensure a home tie if they reach the play-off final, they do have an eye elsewhere, which could affect their team selection and enthusiasm. On Monday evening, Town play Rushall Olympic in the Staffordshire Senior Cup Final at Vale Park. A prestigious competition in that area of the country; the Blues have put out strong sides in previous rounds to try to get to the final and emulate their only success in the 146 year old competition, which came back in 1996.


The Reds were unfortunate to not get anything from their positive performance in the reverse fixture back in November, losing 0-1 to a controversial “was it or wasn’t it over the line” goal. Losing 3 out of the last 4 home games isn’t the form Colne would like going into another must win encounter, especially considering their lacklustre performance last Saturday in the 0-1 loss to fellow strugglers Widnes. The young side struggled to adapt to the change in formation and thus chances were at a premium. In his post match interview on Monday, Paul Weller accepted that things weren’t working in the final third of the pitch, so a change in approach is expected there. There’s no ifs, buts or maybes left any more; the Reds need the 3 points if they are to have any chance of avoiding playing North West Counties football next season. Play up Colne and leave nothing on the field!


Admission Prices are:

Adults : £9

Concessions : £6

Under 16’s : £2

Under 12’s: Free


Colne Football Club

Holt House

Harrison Drive

Colne

Lancs

BB8 9SJ


Upcoming games

Sat 22nd April - Workington v Colne - 15:00 NPL West


Today’s NPL West games - 15:00

1874 Northwich v Workington

Glossop North End v Clitheroe

Hanley Town v Witton Albion

Kidsgrove Athletic v Widnes

Macclesfield v Prescot Cables

Newcastle Town v Trafford

Runcorn Linnets v Ramsbottom United

Skelmersdale v Bootle

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