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Leigh RMI 3 Blyth Spartans 1

By Matt Lawton
March 13 2007

During Saturday afternoon’s devastating home defeat to relegation rivals Barrow, it looked as though RMI were certainties for the drop, but this evening faith was restored for the Leigh faithful with a resounding 3-1 victory over Blyth at Hilton Park. With a remarkably large vocal support travelling to Hilton Park from the North East to support a Blyth side that is still in the play-off hunt, the odds were stacked against Stuart Humphreys’ side, who had just three days to get the debacle of their Barrow hammering out of their systems ahead of Tuesday night’s encounter.

Although it was the visitors who certainly held the physical advantage with height and strength in abundance across virtually their entire team, RMI certainly looked in the mood to make a game of things and fight for every ball, something that was in complete contrast to the meek surrender of Saturday.

Despite another low turnout on the terraces, the visiting Spartans contributed to a boisterous atmosphere as Leigh grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the early stages, having a Chris Simm ‘goal’ correctly disallowed for offside before Steve Settle thumped a sweeping Andy Roscoe cross against the crossbar.

Former Notts County and Chester City striker Kevin Rapley has proved to be a revelation for the club since signing from leaders Droylsden, and he has formed a terrific understanding with Chris Simm in a striking combination that created the first goal of the game after twenty minutes, with an intelligent flick from Rapley putting Simm in the clear, leaving him with the task of rounding the goalkeeper and putting the ball in to the net.

Just as it seemed as though that setback would spark the visitors in to a comeback of sorts, Leigh went for the kill and were denied a second goal only by a terrific save from the goalkeeper when the head of Simm met a dangerous Owen Roberts free kick, before the visitors created their first meaningful chance when Tony Filipek was beaten down RMI’s right hand side, with a deflected shot bouncing agonisingly wide of John Lamb’s post.

That proved to be a suitable warning as to what the visitors can be capable of, and they were back on level terms on the stroke of half-time when Owen Roberts was adjudged to have brought down a Blyth man in the penalty area, leaving Richard Forster to score from the spot.

It is often said that the worst possible time to concede a goal is shortly before half-time, but it instead proved to be the inspiration that RMI needed to win the game, taking the lead with half an hour remaining when Rapley again provided the killer touch to give strike partner Simm the chance to go around the goalkeeper and score for the second time in the game.

By this stage, RMI were well and truly on top of their game and they scored a third not long afterwards when a superbly sweeping move sent Neil Briscoe down the left flank, with his inch-perfect cross being met a bullet Chris Simm header that sealed both his hat trick and the game for RMI in joyous circumstances.

With a two goal advantage and time ticking away, Leigh were clearly beginning to enjoy themselves, and a jinking Steve Settle run in to the box was unlucky to produce little more than a smart save after Rapley latched on to Settle’s low cross.

Blyth hit John Lamb’s right hand post with the very last kick of the game, but it wasn’t to spoil Leigh’s evening as they celebrated a deserved victory that reinstates their five point cushion above the drop zone, with yet another vital clash coming up when RMI visit second bottom Redditch United on Saturday afternoon.

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