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Stevenage Borough 3 Leigh RMI 1

By Matt Lawton
January 13 2007

RMI's FA Trophy adventure ended with an eventful defeat at Stevenage, but Stuart Humphreys' young side can hold their heads high after mounting a determined challenge to stay in the competition.

Despite the setback of last weekendís 4-0 defeat in the Kettering rain, the RMI side and their vociferous support made the long journey south in buoyant mood, with hopes of a replay or even a victory dominating the conversation; a victory in itself for Stuart Humphreys considering the almost suicidal level of morale that he was faced with after a poor start to the season.

Coming up against a full-time side for the second week in succession showed the Leigh club a glimpse of what they need to do if they are to progress on and off the field, and it seemed as though Stevenage would teach them a footballing lesson in the early stages as they dominated possession and forced a couple of corners.

However, once RMI had got that shaky start out of their system without conceding a goal they managed to exert a little more authority on the game and could have twice taken the lead, firstly when an Andy Roscoe free kick flew only inches over the crossbar before Hugh McAuley was denied only by a stunning save from tangerine-clad Stevenage goalkeeper Alan Julian.

After that scare, the home side stepped up a gear and found themselves in possession of the ball for several long periods, so it came as no surprise when their pressure eventually told and they took the lead. The hosts had looked particularly threatening when attacking down the flanks and putting dangerous crosses in to the box, and it was from that tactic they took the lead as a cross found the unmarked Jamie Slabber, and his header squirmed agonisingly over the line, despite RMI goalkeeper John Lamb getting desperately close to clawing the ball to safety.

Stevenage managed to retain possession in an effort to kill off the game before RMI suddenly found themselves having a purple patch in their visitors half, and they levelled the scores when McAuley wasnít to be denied with his second shot from distance, with the RMI midfielder sending the ball in to the top corner of the net from almost thirty yards out and prompting mass delirium amongst the RMI faithful stationed at the opposite end of the ground.

RMI were starting to become the dominant side as the half drew to a close, and they might have even snatched the lead when some good football led to Mark Jackson firing over the top, but the half-time stalemate undoubtedly suited RMI down to the ground.

Action from RMI's defeat at Stevenage

The opening exchanges of the second half saw the Conference National side dominate in terms of both possession and territory, and as such forced Humphreys in to making his first change, with Chris Simm joining the fray in the place of Jackson.

Simm was in to the action almost as soon as he came on to the field as he saw his goalbound shot blocked after heíd latched on to a neat Dan Owen header, but that proved to be a false dawn for RMI as a shot across goal at the other end fortuitously dropped at the feet of Steve Morrison, who was left with the simple task of slotting the ball past Lamb to put RMI a goal behind.

The game then began to a develop a sinister edge to it as a dangerous challenge from RMI full back Steve Brockley in a fifty-fifty situation sparked a ferocious brawl that involved all twenty two players on the field and could well land the clubs in hot water with the Football Association.

Brockley was booked for his part in the melee, as was captain Mark Maddox, who was promptly sent off in controversial circumstances when the referee deemed that the next tackle of Maddox was enough to earn a second yellow card and an early bath.

To their credit, RMI continued to try and make a game of it, but that effort partly led to their downfall when Steve Porter lost possession in midfield, and with most of his team mates left stranded in attacking positions, the home side made a quick counter attack which ended with Brockley putting the ball in to his own net as he slid along the ground to try and intercept the cross.

At this point, Leigh could have quite easily capitulated and lost by a few more goals, but instead they turned straight on the attack, and although they had plausible penalty claims turned down when it seemed a Hugh McAuley free kick had been blocked by the hand of a Stevenage defender, they eventually were rewarded the chance to get back in to the game from twelve yards when McAuley was brought down on the edge of the area.

With the game entering stoppage time, McAuley dusted himself down to take the kick, only for it to be a relatively poor effort and as such providing a fairly comfortable save for the tangerine-clad Julian.

Although that miss meant that RMIís hopes of an unlikely comeback were effectively dashed, there was still time for the hosts to go close, only for Lamb to again prove his worth with a terrific save to knock the ball wide of the post, despite originally being wrong-footed and heading in the opposite direction to the ball.

Although there is obviously much disappointment in the fact that RMIís hopes of a cup run have been ended for another season, much solace can be provided from the fact that the Railwaymen put in a terrific amount of effort and certainly didnít look out of place against a side challenging for a play-off position in the Conference National, and that is certainly an encouraging factor ahead of Stalybridge Celticís visit to Hilton Park next weekend.

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