A Hard Fought Draw Keeps Promotion Dreams Alive
By Nick Marshall
Against the odds Leighton pull off a well earned point against West Hampstead.
An injury struck Leighton side, with six of their regular players missing, travelled to fellow mid-table battlers West Hampstead this weekend.
As the first whistle opened the game it also opened the heavens and the weather conditions remained till the final whistle. The home-side looked to push Leighton back into their own half, however strong defensive play from Leighton skipper Jack Gorton
and Gordon Browne
, making his return to first team hockey, kept the hosts' attackers at bay. After a shaky few minutes Leighton were able to find some rhythm to their play with Finley Bell-Taylor
winning a short corner which unfortunately the Hampstead keeper was able to keep out the goal. A strong West Hampstead centre was able to pick it's way through the Leighton middle and create a number of chances, but were denied by the Buzzards' man between the sticks, Dan Metcalfe. Leighton came closest to taking the lead when a rebound from a short corner fell to Player of the Match Tom Billington
, but he was unable to get his shot off and put the Buzzards ahead at the end of the half.
After the break Leighton were on the back foot once again, but were able to prevent a series of West Hampstead short corners being converted into goals, most notably being a mid-air, goal-line save from Matt Franklin on the back post. A high attacking line from the Hampstead forwards was broken through Franklin's trade mark aerials, finding the dynamic runs of Will Jenkinson
at the top of the Leighton formation. In the middle of the park Benji Robinson showed great composure, in his first outing for Leighton's first team this season, distributing the ball to Leighton's front line. A well placed pass by Billington found Leighton debutant, Tom O'Reilly
, who expertly deflected the ball at the back post past the West Hampstead keeper to give Leighton the lead. Leighton were able to create a number of other opportunities, but couldn't convert them into real scoring chances. As the clock ticked down and the rain continued to pour, the home-side picked up their pace and were rewarded with a short corner. The initial shot was well saved by Metcalfe, but the second rebound was scooped high into the goal to bring the game back level. From here Leighton looked to keep hold of the ball and run the clock down. Some over enthusiastic tackles from Laurence Leech
saw him become overly familiar with one of the umpires again, but keep the West Hampstead attack out of Leighton's half until the final whistle.
This was a game that on paper, should of been an easy win for West Hampstead, but demonstrated Leighton's heart and determination to keep pushing for the top of the table.
Next weekend a replenished Buzzards will be back at Vandyke entertaining fifth placed Banbury, who sit just behind Leighton on goal difference, at 12:30pm.