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Leigh RMI 1 Colne 0

By Matt Lawton
November 15 2005

Leigh RMI secured their safe passage through to the Second Round of the Lancashire FA Co-Operative Challenge Trophy with a hard-fought victory over North West Counties League Division One visitors Colne at a drenched Hilton Park. <p> </p><p>Although the competition has a new high profile sponsor in the form of United Co-Operative, there was the still the same low key feel of a typical county cup encounter, despite this season's re-branding to become the Co-Operative Challenge Trophy, having previously been known as the Marsden Trophy.</p><p> </p><p>At a rain-soaked and sparsely populated Hilton Park, it was pretty obvious from the start that, despite the return of experienced midfielder Gareth Stoker in what was largely the strongest Leigh squad available, both sides have much higher priorities for the season, and the county cup is still way down the pecking order, despite it's new look</p><p> </p><p>RMI started fairly brightly, winning a free kick on their right flank, with a header flashing wide of the target from the resultant set piece, before some excellent passing saw RMI keep possession for a lengthy period of time, resulting in a chance for defender-cum-striker Neil Smith who fired straight at the Colne goalkeeper from distance.</p><p> </p><p>In an uneventful first half the visitors rarely threatened, and even then only on the counter-attack, though they did come close around the half hour when a shot from distance flew past John Lamb's left-hand goalpost</p><p> </p><p>The evening was brightened up a little for the home support on the stroke of half-time when a smart lay off on the edge of the Colne penalty area created enough space for Neil Smith to make up for his earlier miss and send an excellent shot in to the bottom corner of the net.</p><p> </p><p>Andy Nelson's young side started the second period in much the same vein that they finished the first, almost doubling their lead immediately after the restart when Smith, looking for his second goal of the evening, latched on to a sliderule through ball, firing the ball past Colne goalkeeper Ross Baxter, only for the ball to cannon back off the post.</p><p> </p><p>RMI started to create more chances as they looked for the 'killer' goal, with Stoker turning back the years to beat several players on a mazy run, only for his shot to be blocked on the edge of the box, while centre half Liam Coyne sent a shot flying over the bar when he found himself unmarked in the area off a corner.</p><p> </p><p>The Railwaymen continued to create chances, even after Andy Nelson decided to make a couple of substitutions to freshen things up. Two of the those replacements, Graham Tench and Chris Simm, both forced Baxter in to making smart saves from distance, tipping the ball around the post and over the crossbar respectively, with the save from Simm particularly impressive after the striker created space with a mazy, jinking run.</p><p> </p><p>Colne thought they'd grabbed a late equaliser but a header at the back post was nudged around the post by RMI goalkeeper John Lamb, before the resultant corner saw Lamb somehow came up with the ball in the middle of a goalmouth scramble.</p><p> </p><p>As the visitors pushed forward, substitute Mark Drew might have sealed the victory for RMI, robbing a Colne defender of the ball on halfway before spotting Baxter off his life, only for Drew's measured strike to drop agonisingly over the crossbar.</p><p> </p><p>The final whistle blew shortly afterwards, finally seeing off the dogged Colne challenge. A win is a win, especially in a cup competition, but if any representatives from Nuneaton Borough were present at the game, I wouldn't imagine that they'll quite be quaking in their boots just yet ahead of Saturday's meeting between the sides.</p><p> </p><p> </p>

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