All Square at Newbury
By Nick Marshall
After a draw with second place Newbury, Leighton's promotion hopes are left hanging in the balance.
After collecting four of a possible 6 points last weekend, Leighton travelled to second place Newbury and Thatcham knowing a win would put them in prime position to take the last promotion place heading into the final game of the season next week.
The game started lively, with both teams pushing each other hard. Strong defensive play from Matt Franklin and Player of the Match Tony Puttock nullified the home-side's initial attacks. Leighton came close to drawing first blood when Jack Gorton
was able to go round the Newbury keeper but wide of the goal. His pass across the face of the goal was narrowly missed by Josh Gale at the back post. With Each Newbury attack Leighton were able to stand strong; Dan Edwards
pinching the ball from the hosts attacker at each opportunity he was given and Will Jenkinson
cancelling out the arial threat and marking his man out of the game. Turn overs from defence were made into dangerous attacking runs distributed by centre midfielder Benji Robinson to the wide attacking threat of Mark Stephenson
and Josh Farnfield. Stephenson nearly put the Buzzards ahead, however his shot went just wide of the goal and rattled the side board. Newbury's best opportunity saw them have the chance at the open net when a two versus one left Leighton Keeper Dan Metcalfe exposed and out of goal. Determined to not concede, Puttock was able to clear the ball off the goal line and find himself in the back of the net, rather than the ball. As the half drew to a close a quick break along the Leighton's base line opened up space for Newbury's attack and through the narrowest of margins, were able to squeeze the ball in at the near post and give them the lead at half time.
Knowing that a loss would be the end of their season, Leighton came out guns blazing in the second half. David Fry
and Gorton linked the midfield and attack to create chances in and around the Newbury D. Laurence Leech
supported the Leighton defensive line in their stronghold around the D and Metcalfe sprang into action at any attack that managed to slip through the Buzzards' guard. Composure and strength from Farnfield and Robinson enabled Leighton to hold onto the ball and Tommi Lakins hypnotising dribbles left the Newbury defensive with only one option to deal with this threat. Foul him. Which was met with numerous warnings from the umpires of 'one more like that and you'll be off'. Although it wasn't to be Newbury who were to go a man down first. Leighton centre back Franklin was sent off for a questionable back-stick. The appeals from the Leighton bench were met with a firm telling off by the umpire. Down to ten-men Leighton needed to dig deep but still push for an equaliser. This looked to be disappearing before Leighton's eyes when a well placed drag flick looked goal bound only to be kept out by Edwards on the post. Back to a full eleven it would be Newbury who now had to cope with being a man down, when a late tackle resulted in a card. With the additional space and a man up, Leighton drove and bombarded the home-team's half; Tom Billington
using the additional space to create no-end of problems for the Newbury defence, but they held firm. With eight minutes left on the clock Leighton coach Ken Mounter made the do or die decision to replace keeper Metcalfe with an additional outfield player. With the attacking advantage and nothing left to loose, Leighton went on an all out attack. A bobbling pass by Stephenson through the Newbury defence found Gale unmarked but unable to convert the chance, piercing passes from Puttock and Franklin made their way into the Newbury D but could not find a yellow stick, a well worked short corner routine found Fry unmarked but just clipped his feet; but Leighton kept pushing. With two minutes left on the clock another Buzzard short corner was awarded. A perfectly placed and weighted slap from Gorton found Fry once more and with a deflection straight off the training ground, sent the ball into the goal. Now back level, Leighton subbed Metcalfe back on, looking to not only win the game but keep Newbury from scoring. More possession and chances for Leighton only lead to despair as the final whistle was blown.
Leighton's hope of promotion now sit in other teams hands as not only do they need to beat Tring to stand the slightest of chances, they also need Newbury to lose to rivals Milton Keynes next weekend.