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Nelson 1 Leigh RMI 0 (after extra time)

By Matt Lawton
November 15 2006

An inexperienced RMI side were left to rue several missed chances as they crashed out of the Lancashire FA Trophy at the first hurdle to North West Counties League side Nelson. Hosts Nelson had to have their game with local rivals Colne abandoned on Saturday with their Victoria Park pitch under almost two inches of rainfall, and bearing in mind that the weather put paid to the original scheduling of this cup tie, the Nelson club deserve great credit for getting the game to even take place, especially when you consider that it was hardly a perfect night for football as the heavy rain and gale-force wind swept across the sparse East Lancashire ground.

It was the home side that were doing all of the running early in the game as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but the youthful hard work of the Leigh midfield meant that RMI goalkeeper James Mann had little more to deal with than speculative long range efforts.

As the first half wore on, RMI starting to get in to the game and create a couple of goalscoring opportunities, with winger Steve Settle doing superbly to cut inside on the edge of the penalty area, only for his shot to fly over the crossbar, before young striker Mike Kavanagh was inches away from a goalscoring connection to a Settle cross that evaded everybody in the Nelson penalty area.

The early stages of the second period again saw Mann to be the busier of the two goalkeepers, and he did superbly to tip a long-range free kick over the crossbar after the wind served to increase the swerve and pace on the ball.

Some superb footwork on the left flank from RMI full back Ian Taylor to give himself the space to put in a good cross deserved a better response, but Kavanagh’s header could only hit the side netting.

RMI were beginning to take control of the game and should’ve taken the lead when Mark Jackson beat the Nelson offside trap, only for the Nelson goalkeeper to tip the ball past the post and deny Jackson a goal on his full debut.

Nelson were quickly becoming indebted to their goalkeeper as he pulled out all the stops to ensure that his side remained on level pegging as he managed a terrific double save to deny first Jackson and then Girdlestone, before Girdlestone hit the rebound wildly over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

It was exactly the escape that Nelson were looking for, and although Kavanagh missed another chance late on when he headed the ball over the bar after finding himself unmarked inside the penalty area, the home side had held out for extra time against a side three divisions above them in the non-league pyramid.

As the temperature continued to plummet and the rain started to fall, the bottle of whisky that was won in the half-time raffle was looking all the more sensible as the thirty minute period of extra time began.

The game was decided just before the mid-point of extra time when a great run allowed the Nelson substitute to get his shot away, and although he was denied by a reflex save from Mann, Wayne Morrison gleefully tucked away the rebound to claim victory for Nelson.

The drama wasn’t over though, and Dan Owen came agonisingly close to grabbing a last gasp equaliser, only for his goalbound header to be superbly palmed away by Nelson goalkeeper Bobby Harris with barely a minute of extra time remaining.

For the second year in succession, RMI find themselves falling at the first hurdle of the Lancashire FA Trophy though, in truth, the virtual reserve side that took the field this evening perfectly illustrated the fact that Conference North survival is by far and away the main priority for the season.

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