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Leigh RMI 2 Worksop Town 1

By Matt Lawton
April 28 2007

Two first half Dan Owen goals helped Leigh RMI secure Conference North safety with a pulsating victory over relegation rivals Worksop Town on the final day of the season at a sweltering Hilton Park. After last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Scarborough, RMI found themselves in the fortunate position of only needing to avoid defeat to Worksop in order prevent relegation to the Unibond League, with such a result meaning that the visiting Tigers would be visiting the likes of Matlock and Fleetwood next season.

Stuart Humphreys’ side found themselves in a rather similar situation last year when they needed to defeat Northwich Victoria if they were to have any chance of finishing in the Conference North relegation spots. Although victory over the champions wasn’t enough to avoid a bottom three finish, circumstances enabled RMI a second bite of the Conference North cherry, with Worksop wearing an almost identical attire to that of the defeated Vics of last season. An omen if there ever was one.

In front of RMI’s biggest crowd of the season, it was the visitors who created much of the more clear opportunities, despite Leigh dominating possession, with goalkeeper John Lamb, arguably RMI’s player of the season by some margin, required to make a smart save in palming a strike over the crossbar before doing well to keep hold of a Worksop header from ten yards out.

With Kevin Rapley a particularly lively figure at the head of RMI’s attack, it was the Hilton Park side that deservedly took the lead shortly before the half hour mark when Dan Owen bravely latched on to a long ball and delightfully lobbed the Worksop goalkeeper, with each player having to receive treatment from the resulting collision but with Leigh having the joy of a one goal advantage.

Leigh were denied a second goal when midfielder Hugh McAuley had a swerving shot from outside of the area well saved by the goalkeeper but the hosts didn’t wait too long to double their lead when a Owen met a McAuley cross with a glancing header to get his second goal of the afternoon and send the delirious home fans in to the raptures ahead of a comfortable half-time lead.

After dominating a large portion of the first half, RMI began the second period where they left off with left winger Andy Heald striking inches wide of the post after a flowing passing move before Kevin Rapley had a goal controversially disallowed for a potentially debatable offside decision from the referee’s assistant.

With a degree of class and composure that has been missing from RMI’s play for such a long period throughout the season, the home side looked to see out the clock with some delightful periods of possession as they passed the ball throughout the side, denying Worksop a sniff of the ball as the time ticked by.

However, such a comfort zone suddenly became an uncomfortable situation when Ben Saunders pulled a goal back with ten minutes remaining, though the Tigers still needed to score two more goals if they were to somehow prevent RMI from staying in the Conference North.

As the game neared it's conclusion, winger Kieran Lugsden had a plausible penalty appeal turned down as his goalbound strike was blocked on the line by what seemed to be a Worksop arm on the line, with neither side added to their goals tally by the end of the encounter.

Despite the odds being stacked against them, Worksop came close to levelling the scores on a number of occasions in the final exchanges, but the final whistle came after an excruciating period of injury time, prompted a pitch invasion from the delighted home support as they celebrated an unlikely “Great Escape”, with the movie’s theme being fittingly boomed around Hilton Park as the celebrations continued long in to the evening.

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