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Leigh RMI 4 Hucknall Town 3


By Matt Lawton
December 5 2006

A Mark Jackson hat trick went a long way to securing RMIís third successive victory, but it wasnít without difficulty as the home fans were put through a nerve-wracking, though thoroughly exciting, evening. On a chilly Tuesday evening in what was RMIís second home game in four days, the Hilton Park faithful were treated to a terrific encounter between two committed sides, and with more than a hint of controversy thrown in besides.

Although RMI were on the attack within the first minute when Andy Roscoeís free kick from the edge of the area was deflected away, it took the visitors only four minutes to take the lead when John Lamb was beaten for the first time since a Dave Merris goal for Harrogate in their 2-1 November 18th victory.

A long throw from former Swansea and Birmingham veteran Andy Legg, once the world record holder for the longest footballing throw in, caused mass confusion in the RMI defence and Liam Hearns made no mistake in taking advantage of the mayhem and knocking the ball past Lamb in the midst of the goalmouth scramble.

RMI were level within fifteen minutes when a freak deflection saw the ball hit the crossbar and, with the Hucknall goalkeeper stranded, Mark Jackson was left with the simple task of chesting the ball in to the empty net from close range. Although not the prettiest goal, nor the most perfectly crafted, it was Jacksonís first in an RMI shirt, and proved to be the benchmark of a terrific eveningís work from the former Preston striker.

Jackson could have had his second goal almost immediately afterwards, but he was thwarted by the Hucknall goalkeeper, before John Dillon forced a decent save with a strike from distance as RMI looked to quickly hit the front.

With seven minutes of the first half remaining, Leigh finally got the advantage that their pressure deserved when Jackson connected superbly with a Dillon cross to grab his second goal of the game, though he was somewhat fortunate to be awarded the goal as the referee over-ruled his assistant, who had previously raised his flag for a Leigh player in an offside position.

Just when it seemed it couldnít get much better for RMI, they seemed to be home and dry when, on the stroke of half-time, Dan Owen latched on to a cross from the impressive Steve Settle to head his side in to a two goal half-time lead, leaving the visitors shell-shocked.

The talk at half-time was of how well RMI had done to play themselves in to such a commanding position, and they started the second half in much the same fashion, with captain Andy Roscoe picking out Owen with an inch-perfect left wing cross, only for Owen to head the ball narrowly wide of the target when left unmarked.

The visitors had thought that they had pulled a goal back, only for the referee, placed perfectly on the goal line, ruled that a wrong-footed John Lamb had managed to claw away a deflected shot, just as it seemed to be heading for the back of the net.

RMI survived that scare and, with just fifteen minutes remaining, were in dreamland when a terrific Lee Unsworth cross found Jackson, who stylishly lobbed the goalkeeper on the volley to collect a well-deserved hat trick in beautiful fashion.

With a 4-1 lead, RMI were seemingly coasting, but it certainly wasnít the end of the excitement as Hucknall reduced the deficit barely two minutes later when Michael Fox superbly curled a long free kick in to the corner of Lambís net. RMI still had a two-goal lead, but it was game on.

The nerves started to kick in for the home fans as Hucknall hit the crossbar twice in quick succession, before RMI were once again indebted to Lamb, who pulled off a terrific save before Jackson missed a chance to seal the victory at the other end when he was again denied when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

RMI had a golden opportunity to confirm the victory late on, but the referee turned down the appeals of a seemingly definite penalty when substitute Kieran Lugsden was brought down by the Hucknall goalkeeper, only for Lugsden to be booked for diving when it appeared that he would have certainly scored had he not been brought to the ground when dribbling around the goalkeeper.

The referee further incensed the home crowd when he ruled that five minutes were to be added on at the end of the second half, and fingernails were almost at their end when Andy Legg made it 4-3 with a controversial free kick.

Just as they had done in their home meeting with Hucknall last season, RMI put their faithful support through an emotional roller coaster, but managed to get the three points in the end that gives them a little breathing space between themselves and the third relegation spot that is currently occupied by Barrow.

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