First-half - Byron Harrison has shirt pulled (1) (1)

Leek Town maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the PitchingIn NPL West with a 3-1 win over Nantwich Town at the Swansway Stadium, writes Liam Price.

The Dabbers were missing five key players – three through suspension and two through injury.

Paddy Kay was the latest miss through injury with a strain, which meant new midfield signings George Milner and Jacob Hamman were thrown straight into the starting XI.

That showed in the early stages as they both tried to find their feet.

Louis Keenan fired over via a nick for Leek before Amir Tavakoli, in for Jacob Edwards, marauded forwards and saw pullback just held on to by Dino Visser in the Leek goal.

The league leaders struck twice in a devastating four-minute spell.

The first goal saw Tom Carr charge through the middle and fire past Scott Moloney. It was a sharp move and good feet from Carr to make the goal.

Second-half - Leek Town keeper Dino Visser rises to grab the ball (1)
Second-half – Leek Town keeper Dino Visser rises to grab the ball

Straight from kick off Nantwich tried to hit back, Byron Harrison’s cutback was cut out and Akiel Raffie curled an effort straight at Visser.

Then, the Dabbers were cut open as the ball was stood up to the back post for former Nantwich player Tom Scully to easily head in and double the lead.

Tavakoli was providing a real threat on the right and saw another good run brought to an end by a heavy touch.

Raffie found a pocket of space and ran into it, but by the time he had shaped to shoot players had surrounded him and the effort was blocked.

Sloppiness was still a part of the Dabbers’ play, though, with Moloney getting caught on the ball outside the box and getting lucky as Leek hesitated in shooting, Scott being able to claim it comfortably in the end.

Second-half - Akiel Raffie crosses the ball into the danger zone (1)
Second-half – Akiel Raffie crosses the ball into the danger zone

The two Nantwich debutants were growing into the game and the team’s level raised with it.

Milner put on some great pressure on the Leek defence and won the ball in their box with his pressing, but nothing came of it as Harrison failed to get a shot away.

Maybe carrying some sharp words from Carden and his staff at the interval, Nantwich came out and raised their game again at the start of the second half.

Sean Lawton hit over the bar off his weaker right foot before the best chance yet.

Callum Saunders got the ball out of his feet on that trusty left foot and struck the post with a powerful effort.

If that had gone in, maybe it could have been a different game.

Nantwich had to score from this good spell but couldn’t.

Okome’s shot was blocked then Hamman had a go, driving wide with a half volley that was hard to get the control on.

Second-half - Callum Saunders fights for the ball (1)
Second-half – Callum Saunders fights for the ball

After that, Leek settled back into their groove, Scully curling over the bar from the edge of the box.

Carr was then found in an unacceptable amount of space in the box from a throw in and whipped a shot just wide with Moloney beaten.

A pair of crosses from Tavakoli and Raffie threatened to cause some trouble to the Leek defence but nothing came of them.

The third and killer goal came on 72 minutes, via that man Scully again.

He curled it in via what seemed to be a nick off the wall that took out of it the reach of Moloney.

But it was how the free kick came about that will have frustrated Carden.

Courtney Meppen-Walters had no choice but to bring down Carr on the edge of the box and take a tactical yellow card, he’d been left horribly exposed one on one and faced letting him past into the box and risk a goal attempt or a penalty.

Further chances came to make it four, sub Tom Reilly dragging wide and Moloney making a fine save from another effort.

Nathan Okome headed over from close range from a corner and it was there when it looked like Nantwich could play all day and not score.

But the Dabbers deserved a goal and got it inside the last 10 minutes.

A cross cannoned in off the face of Saunders, the first goal Leek had conceded since 16th December, an incredible club record run of 798 minutes without conceding brought to an end.

Leek, though, as Carden conceded afterwards, look like champions-to-be.

The next home game for Nantwich is against Hanley Town on Tuesday February 6 at 7.45pm, then Trafford at 3pm on February 24.

(Images courtesy of Jonathan White)

Second-half - Leek Town on the ball (1)

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