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Stalybridge Celtic 2 Leigh RMI 1

By Matt Lawton
March 6 2007

Despite the heroics of striker-turned goalkeeper Chris Simm, ten man RMI fell to a cruel 2-1 defeat at Stalybridge, conceding a goal in heartbreaking fashion with the very last kick of the game. After winning their past two encounters against Worcester and Hucknall respectively, RMI made the short trip to Tameside in confident mood, aiming to make amends for the 3-1 defeat to Stalybridge at Hilton Park in January, whilst also hoping to dispel memories of last season’s 6-1 thrashing at Bower Fold.

With the advantage of playing down the Bower Fold ‘slope’ in the first half, the home side dominated much of the first half, with Stalybridge striker Mark Hume having enough chances to have claimed an early hat trick, firing the ball wildly over the crossbar when in a terrific position and then having a header cleared off the line before his bad luck was completed with a strike against the post that bounced back in to the grateful arms of RMI goalkeeper John Lamb, who also survived a plausible penalty appeal when Tony Dunne appeared to bring his man down in the box.

In preparing for the game, RMI manager Stuart Humphreys had to contend without midfielder Steve Porter and centre back Mark Maddox, who were both forced off the field in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Hucknall and failed to recover from their injuries in time, while winger Steve Settle was also missing from the side.

Celtic continued to dominate proceedings and were denied the opening goal by a fantastic Lamb save, tipping a seemingly goalbound header from ex-RMI striker Steve Brodie over the crossbar before RMI finally created a chance of their own when Andy Roscoe shot inches over the bar when an Owen Roberts cross found it’s way to the RMI veteran.

After withstanding the early Stalybridge onslaught, RMI slowly brought themselves back in to the game, with winger Kieran Lugsden having a header well saved by home goalkeeper Simon Bishop, before Owen Roberts fired a free kick over the crossbar and then saw a shot go inches wide of the post after he was neatly played in to position by Chris Simm, with the sides remaining level at the break.

After holding out in the first half, RMI started ‘down the slope’ in the second period, with Kevin Rapley forcing a smart Bishop save when shooting on the turn before Leigh took the lead twelve minutes in to the second half when a Rapley free took a massive deflection off the defensive wall and went in to the net after Simm was brought down on the edge of the box.

The game was turned on it’s head with barely twenty minutes remaining when RMI goalkeeper Lamb horribly misjudged a long ball in to his area and desperately brought down Mark Hume when he was about to knock the ball in to the empty net, leaving the referee with little option than to send him from the field.

With no goalkeeper on the bench, Leigh striker Chris Simm was forced to don Lamb’s gloves and shirt and go between the posts for the remaining period of the game, and his first thankless task was to pick the ball out of the back of the net from the resultant Lee Ellington penalty.

The expectations of the travelling faithful were changed in an instant, and RMI boss Stuart Humphreys introduced Mark Jackson, Adam Girdlestone and Sam Fairhurst to the fray in a bid to at least get a vital point from the encounter.

With such an inexperienced goalkeeper in their side, RMI were fearful of conceding a second goal whenever Stalybridge came forward, but in true Roy of the Rovers fashion, Simm was equal to everything that was thrown at him, looking relatively safe when tested from long distance, whilst seemingly remarkably confident at claiming crosses and long balls.

Just as it seemed as though RMI had held out for a point that their second half resilience so richly deserved, the ball broke to Ashley Winn on the edge of the penalty area and he fired an unstoppable strike in to the bottom corner of the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time to break Leigh’s heroic resistance, condemning them to a devastating defeat with the very last kick of the game.

Although relegation rivals Barrow and Redditch both managed to win their encounters this evening, third bottom Scarborough had their game postponed, meaning RMI retain their five point cushion above the drop zone ahead of the massive home game with Barrow this coming Saturday.

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