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Leigh RMI 2 Redditch United 1

By Matt Lawton
January 7 2006

A dramatic late penalty save from John Lamb won the game for RMI as they claimed their third victory in succession at Hilton Park in the Conference North. RMI goalkeeper John Lamb made up for a couple of first half mistakes to become an unlikely match winner for RMI when it seemed that visitors Redditch would claim a surprise point after almost clawing back a two goal half time deficit.

The two sides went in to the game neck and neck in the relegation fight, with both sides having nineteen points before the game, lying just above the Conference North drop zone. It would be fair to say though that RMI held a slight physcoholigal advantage going in to the game, having won the only previous fixture between the sides when they ran out 2-1 victors in Worcestershire on a rain-lashed opening day of the season.

Although confidence was undoubtedly at a new high in the RMI camp following two home victories over the festive period, it was clear that the confidence of RMI's defence was certainly shaken following several defensive mistakes in Monday's 3-0 defeat at Harrogate.

On a cold Lancashire day it was clear that both sides were fully aware of what was at stake with lots of nerves meaning a scrappy opening that did little to warm the 178 hardy souls on the Hilton Park terraces.

There were a couple of shots from distance at each end early on, before the game came to life after twenty minutes when RMI were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Usual set piece suspect Andy Roscoe lined up to take the free kick but instead of the RMI captain taking a shot at goal, he stepped over the ball and allowed midfielder Scott Willis to fire the ball in to the back of the net and put the home side in front.

This restored RMI's faith and they created a couple of chances, with on-loan winger Chris Williams particularly impressive as he tormented the Redditch full back, beating him time and again out wide, whilst Roscoe was having an above average game as he worked well with Williams down the left flank as RMI attacked the Chadwick Street End in the first half.

It wasn't until the stroke of half time that RMI doubled their lead, but it was certainly a goal worth waiting for as Chris Simm worked tirelessly to create an opportunity for Willis, who flicked the ball in to the air on the edge of the box to allow himself to connect with an exquisite volley that flew in to the net to double RMI's advantage. The game was nearly sewn up almost immediately after, but the Redditch goalkeeper somehow managed to parry Simm's goalbound shot away for a corner from close range, but a 2-0 half time lead was a fair reflection of RMI's dominance.

With the visitors realising that a defeat would put them deep in to the relegation mire, they stepped up a gear in the second period and immediately forced Lamb in to a tricky save with a shot from distance that he had a little trouble clinging on to, with the Redditch front line looking to pounce upon any possible rebound.

If that was a signal of United's intent, it wasn't a particularly ominous one as RMI again took control of the game, with on-loan striker Shaun Patterson doing superbly to beat a man out wide and put in an inch perfect cross that Chris Simm volleyed marginally over the crossbar. Patterson then turned from provider to poacher, with the young striker flicking a header just over the bar after latching on to an excellent Williams cross following a short corner routine on the left.

Leigh had the ball in the net and thought they'd sewn the game up when Chris Simm put the ball across goal for Neil Smith to put in to the net with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute, but the linesman controversially ruled the goal out for a marginal offside. RMI's luck got worse immediately after that decision when the visitors went straight up the other end and halved the deficit when Simon Hollis fired the ball past Lamb from the edge of the box with just twenty minutes remaining.

Redditch laid siege to the RMI goal but it was the home side who thought they had a chance to seal the victory when Simm was brought down in the penalty area after chasing a long ball on the counter attack, but the referee ignored the protests of players and supporters alike and waved play on.

He certainly didn't mind giving a penalty at the other end though when with barely three minutes remaining, a Redditch player went down under a seemingly innocuous challenge and the man in the middle had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Cue Lamb's heroics as he dived to his right to save the spot kick, along with two more shots on the rebound before desperately coming away with the ball from the resultant goalmouth scramble, much to the delight of the home support.

The nerves of the RMI faithful had to survive a couple of more scares before the home side got the ball in the corner to wind the clock down, with the referee finally blowing the final whistle and signalling another three points for RMI as they continue to climb the table.

It isn't all over there though, with Red Rose rivals Lancaster City visiting Hilton Park on Tuesday night, there's local pride as well as league points on offer.

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