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Leigh RMI 2 Northwich Victoria 1

By Matt Lawton
April 29 2006

We beat the champions, but it wasn't enough as Redditch's victory at home to Barrow condemned RMI to their second successive relegation on the final day of the Conference North season. On a warm and sunny April afternoon, RMI were to meet their destinty.

RMI's biggest crowd of the season of 629, boosted by a large away support that had made the short trip from Cheshire, created a great atmosphere as the Vics celebrated their promotion, while the RMI faithful put their nerves to the test on the final day of the season as they waited with baited breath to see if their side could stay in the Conference North.

For the first time in quite a while, the home support really got behind the lads, as was requested in several rallying calls via the local press and this website in particular as RMI went in search of survival.

The Hilton Park faithful urged for attacking football, and Andy Nelson's side did not disappoint.

The home side were quickly on the attack and they roused the home support with a series of encouraging attacks, forcing several corners and throw in's as they pressed forward in search of an early goal to settle their nerves.

Despite the early pressure, it looked as though the visitors were to take the lead when Jonny Allen got behind the RMI defence, only for his delicate chip to saved by John Lamb in the RMI goal, much to the relief of the nervous Leythers.

RMI themselves could've taken the lead not long afterwards when Gary Williams made an excellent break to get himself one on one with the Vics goalkeeper, only for a Northwich defender to recover superbly and complete a terrific tackle on Williams, just as he was about to pull the trigger and put RMI in front.

Williams didn't have to wait long though for his side to take the lead when on the half hour mark, midfielder Scott Willis scored a truly superb goal in front of a delirious Tommy Sale Terrace, cutting inside and curling a right-footed shot in to the top corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area, leaving the Vics goalkeeper helpless, and the RMI supporters breathless.

News had filtered through that relegation rivals Redditch were 1-0 down at home to Barrow, and although Redditch equalised in that game barely a minute after RMI had taken the lead, as things stood, RMI would be safe and it would be Redditch who would be relegated.

RMI continued to dominate and they could've doubled the lead only for Neil Smith's strike bounced off the post, before Williams again fluffed a one on one chance as RMI showed the sort of form that earlier in the season raised the hopes of RMI fans that they could've even managed to reach the play-offs with a little more luck.

For a magical fifteen minute period, RMI played football to rival the Brazilians, while there was a party atmosphere on the terraces as the Leigh faithful celebrated survival and the Vics contingent celebrated promotion.

That mood didn't last for too long though when former RMI star Chris Williams returned to haunt his old club by taking advantage of confusion in the RMI defence to tap the ball past Lamb on the stroke of half-time to level the scores.

The half-time score was announced that Redditch were still drawing 1-1 with Barrow and as it stood, RMI were down.

That merely spurred on the home support and as the second half started, they again roared on their side in the hope of regaining the lead.

Despite RMI pouring players forward, the visitors posed little threat, even on the counter-attack and it was RMI who took the lead again with twenty five minutes remaining when substitute Chris Simm found a way through the defence before firing the ball in to the net. Cue bedlam on the terraces.

"We are staying up" chanted the home support, and as their heroes hung on for a famous victory, thoughts turned to Worcestershire and the drama undoubtedly unfolding at Valley Stadium.

News was coming through that Redditch were also leading 2-1, but as the final whistle blew at Hilton Park and both sides celebrated, the tension became unbearable as we waited for news to come through of Redditch's final score.

It almost seemed that the entire mobile internet network would crumble as supporters searched desperately for the final score from Redditch, and as it became apparent that Redditch had been victorious, a tremendous sense of disappointment set in, crucially painful when compared to the delight of only a few minutes previously when we had deservedly beaten the champions.

We tried everything in our power, and we achieved everything we could, but we just didn't have the luck with other results that we needed.

A big hand must go to the RMI support who were superb all afternoon in getting behind their side, and it was a truly enjoyable game of football to see out the season.

A big thank you must also go out to the huge Northwich away following, who were gracious in their promotion and particularly kind in their good wishes for our club. It really warms the heart for such comradeship on the terraces, and on behalf of I'd like to wish the Vics the very best of luck in their Conference National campaign for next season.

As for RMI, to the Northern Premier we go, the place where it all began for the club in Leigh, and I'm looking forward to it already...up the Leythers!

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