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Leigh RMI 1 Farsley Celtic 3

By Matt Lawton
August 15 2006

RMI fell to a disappointing defeat in their first home game of the season, but it was not without controversy as an inept refereeing performance infuriated Leigh players and supporters alike. Both sides went in to the game with the aim of getting their first points of the season, with RMI falling to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Vauxhall Motors on Saturday, while Farsley had a harsh Conference North debut with a 3-0 home defeat to big-spending Droylsden.

As was the case in Saturday's encounter, RMI made the brighter start to the game and it was the home side that took the lead early on. As soon as Scott Willis won a free kick on the edge of the box, then a goal looked likely for RMI. Although Willis went against public opinion and choose to cross the ball rather than have a shot at goal, his decision was perfectly justified as his flighted ball was met by the head of Chris Simm, who put the ball in to the opposing net for already the second time this season.

The similarities to Saturdayís defeat continued to develop and it came as no surprise that RMI were pegged back to level terms thanks to a defensive mistake, just as the same thing happened on Saturday. This time centre half Mark Maddox was at fault, failing to effectively deal with a cross in to the area and as a result allowing Simeon Bambrook to get in front of him to fire the ball past John Lamb in the RMI goal.

The tide had now well and truly turned, and when former Bolton and Bradford striker Gareth Grant retrieved a seemingly lost cause and crossed the ball from the by-line, it allowed Damien Reeves to conjure up a magical overhead kick, with his spectacular strike giving the visiting Yorkshiremen a 2-1 lead at the break.

The second half followed much the same pattern to the first, with RMI having most of the possession yet the visitors, who were only promoted to the Conference North at the end of last season via a play-off final victory over North Ferriby, certainly had the edge when it came to clear goalscoring chances.

It looked as though RMI would have the chance to level the scores when Chris Simm was bundled over in the Celts penalty area, but despite the linesman frantically waving his flag to signal a penalty, along with the protests of the home crowd, it fell on deaf ears as the referee, who was by now becoming a central figure in proceedings, steadfastly refused to give in to the pressure. As the game became more and more scrappy, the referee began to lose control of the match, with several players being booked, with RMI midfielder Scott Willis on particularly thin ice as he almost constantly clashed with the referee and his assistants.

The game began to open up, with Farsley a whisker away from extending their lead when a left foot strike on the turn hammered the RMI crossbar from outside the box, while RMI right back Mark Drew was unlucky to have a shot tipped over the crossbar after a terrific run saw him beat several opposing defenders.

RMI boss Andy Nelson threw caution to the wind and brought on strikers Dan Owen and Chris McDonagh in the hope of scoring an equaliser, and it almost paid off immediately when former Bolton striker McDonagh hit the post with a header after some terrific play allowed Andy Roscoe to cross the ball in RMIís best move of the game.

However, as RMI continued to push forward in the hope of an equaliser, they left themselves vulnerable at the back and Farsleyís victory was secured when a through-ball sliced the RMI defence and allowed Reeves to score his second of the game. Such was the space in which Reeves was allowed, it seemed that he mustíve surely been in an offside position, and such was the protests of the home bench that the referee sent RMI boss Andy Nelson to the stands for the last few minutes of the game.

After a particularly controversial performance, the referee was flanked by two stewards at the end of the game as he passed a furious RMI support, while Leigh assistant boss Stuart Humphries also had his say to the man in the middle on his way back to the tunnel.

Although a physical side such as RMI were never likely to win in the face of refereeing that almost reduced the match to a farcical non-contact encounter, it doesnít disguise the fact that Farsley were deserved victors and that things needs to change very quickly indeed for Andy Nelson and his side if another miserable relegation dogfight is to be avoided.

Redditch United, RMIís main relegation rivals from last season, are the visitors to Hilton Park this coming Saturday, and a big performance will be required if RMI are to finally register their first points of the season.

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