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Leigh RMI 2 Stalybridge Celtic 1

By Matt Lawton
August 20 2005

A terrific last-gasp free-kick from Andy Roscoe gave RMI a dramatic 2-1 victory against Stalybridge Celtic at Hilton Park this afternoon. After the disappointment of Tuesday night's 1-0 home defeat to Droylsden, it was the first big challenge of Andy Nelson's management at RMI to ensure that the confidence of his young charges stayed high and that they got back to winning ways as quickly as possible.

Boosted by the return of gritty midfield veteran Gareth Stoker, Nelson's side responded in style and they played some excellent passing football in the first half, going close on several occasions while putting the Stalybridge goal under plenty of pressure, with the likes of Steve Smith, Lee Thompson and Steve Brockley all playing superbly.

Despite being an initial injury doubt after going off in Tuesday's defeat to Droylsden, Liam Coyne was an extremely commanding figure at the back, constantly putting paid to any attacking threat from Stalybridge whenever they pushed forward.

However, despite going close on several occasions through Thompson, Lee Shillito and a couple of half-chances, the two sides went in level at the break, though the general feeling on the terraces was that it'd only be a matter of time before RMI would break the deadlock if they continued to play with such enterprise and vigour.

Despite that optimism, it was actually the visitors who came out the more determined in the second half, and it was them who took the lead, somewhat against the run of play when striker Lee Ellington, brother of West Brom's former Wigan striker Nathan, shrugged off the suspicion of a foul on Coyne to take advantage of the extra space and put the ball in to the corner of the net.

Once again, RMI boss Andy Nelson had to re-instate some confidence in to his side, and much to their credit, they didn't cave in and concede any more goals as they may have done in the same situation in previous seasons. Despite that, the game threatened to merely peter out and Stalybridge to grab an undeserved smash-and-grab three points as RMI's attacking threat slowly diminished, with only an excellent strike from Andy Roscoe that went barely inches wide to show for their efforts.

It took the substitution of impressive striker Lee Thompson to liven things up again for RMI, with substitute Chris Simm adding a little more directness to RMI's play, and in turn bringing RMI's midfield back in to the game just as they were starting to lose the battle in the middle of the park.

With the fourth official indicating that there would be four minutes of playing time added on at the end of the game, RMI's desperation for an equaliser increased dramatically, and it was Simm who incredibly levelled the scores for RMI in injury time with an absolute screamer, avoiding a couple of despairing tackles before firing the ball like an arrow in to bottom corner of the net with only a few minutes remaining to get his third goal in three games, putting another nail in the criticism he has received in the past from the RMI faithful.

The equaliser lifted the atmosphere another notch and sent RMI's confidence through the roof, and from then on there only looked to be one winner. With the crowd really getting behind the young RMI side, who saw out a chance for Stalybridge to grab a winner almost straight after the equaliser to go up to the Chadwick Street End and force a winner.

They got their big chance when a foul on half-way allowed Andy Roscoe to lump the umpteenth ball in to the box, but it seemed as though the ball would simply run through to the Celtic goalkeeper. As the ball came towards the penalty area, the linesman spotted an offence by a Stalybridge defender, and after much deliberation with the referee, a free-kick was awarded to RMI on the edge of the box with time ticking away.

The much-maligned RMI captain Andy Roscoe stepped up and calmy swept a terrific free-kick past the Stalybridge goalkeeper and in to the net. Cue delirium on the Hilton Park terraces.

Stalybridge barely had time to kick-off before the full-time whistle went, much to the delight of the home supporters, though the Stalybridge number 5 wasn't too impressed, launching a vicious tirade of abuse at the match officials, presumably in protest at RMI's late winner, an outburst that may land him in hot water with the authorities, should the referee choose to include it in his post-match report.

So now RMI travel to Cumbria next weekend to face Barrow, and their confidence will be high after running out worthy winners in today's game, and they impressed even the most cynical RMI fan with some of the best football that a Leigh side has displayed in quite some time.

Two wins from three games....we aren't used to this!!

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