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Leigh RMI 2 Hinckley United 2

By Matt Lawton
August 11 2007

A sun-drenched opening day of the new Blue Square North season saw RMI fight out an entertaining, if at times scrappy, draw at Hilton Park against Hinckley United, defeated play-off finalists of last season, with the visitors twice coming from behind to level the scores.

Although last season only saw them survive the threat of relegation on the final day of the season, Leigh boss Stuart Humphreys had declared during the summer that he was looking for his side to mount a decent challenge for the play-off places this season, and what better way to start the campaign than a home fixture against the side that looked to be assured of a spot in the Conference until they were cruelly defeated by a late Farsley Celtic comeback in last season’s play-off final.

Hinckley manager Dean Thomas had been dealt a massive blow in the build-up to the game with the news that striker Gez Murphy is to miss a large portion of the season through injury, but it was ex-Sheffield United striker Colin Marrison who was first in to the action for the visitors when he volleyed over the crossbar within the first five minutes of play after the ball had found it’s way to him when unmarked in the RMI penalty area.

The first attack for the home side saw them take the lead when some neat build-up play created the space for midfielder Scott Willis, making his first competitive appearance since rejoining RMI during pre-season, to stroke a right wing cross that was met by the head of much-maligned striker Dan Owen, with his attempt catching Hinckley goalkeeper Sean Bowles off-guard and squeezing in to the net after less than fifteen minutes of play.

Within seconds of their first goal of the new season, Leigh could have doubled their lead when Steve Settle flashed a volley over the crossbar after the winger had latched on to a smart pass from debutant midfielder Phil Charnock.

By this point, RMI were largely dominating proceedings and again had a decent chance when a determined Andy Heald run had seen him beat several players, only for his final shot, on his weaker right foot, to trickle straight through to the goalkeeper.

Heald was made to rue his wastefulness not long afterwards when a speculative free kick from Hinckley’s right hand side was allowed to bounce across the face of RMI’s penalty area and in to the path of defender Tom Birch, who made no mistake in sweeping the ball past Leigh goalkeeper John Lamb after twenty two minutes, leaving the sides level at the break.

After the disappointment of losing their lead from a set piece, RMI hit the front again within a matter of minutes of the restart when again they were allowed plenty of space on their right flank, with some quick passing able to release Settle, who’s low cross was flicked past the goalkeeper by the onrushing Kevin Rapley, sending the vocal home supporters in to raptures.

Rapley almost increased the Leigh lead when he was left one-on-one with the Hinckley goalkeeper, only for his original shot to be well-saved, and the rebound deflected wide.

Controversially, the somewhat unsighted referee, much to the fury of Leigh players and fans alike, ruled out a corner kick, and it was from the resultant goal kick that Hinckley were able to attack the RMI territory, with the ball quickly in the Leigh penalty area, though a back post volley was saved superbly by Lamb, tipping the ball around the post.

It was from the following corner that Hinckley were back on level terms for the second time in the game, with the Leigh defence again indecisive at a set piece and as such leaving Jon Stevenson with a simple volley in to the roof of the net, with the unorganised defence leaving him unmarked at the back post.

With the sides level at full-time, Leigh were left to rue their mistakes at the back while Hinckley will be happy with a deserved point ahead of their home game with Midlands rivals Worcester City on Monday evening, while Leigh travel to Barrow on Tuesday evening before the following Saturday brings a trip to Redditch United.


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