Five-star Town end on a high
LEIGHTON Town manager Craig Wells says his side aim to start next season in exactly the same way they’ve finished this – by winning in style.
Five different scorers found the back of the net as his side demolished Northwood 5-2 at Bell Close on Saturday, seeing them extend their superb run of form to six without defeat to end the season in style.
Jake Bewley, Ross Hanley, Lewis McBride, Ben Gallant and Sean Bishop gave Town all three points for the fifth time in that run which sees them finish in 13th place in the Evo-Stik League Division One Central.
And Wells has described the victory, against a Northwood side that went into the game with a chance of making the play-offs, as their best of the season.
“It was even better than the recent 4-0 win over Uxbridge,” he said, “We told the players to go out there and show the fans what they could do and they did just that.
“We wanted to finalise our own brand of football and we went out there and expressed ourselves brilliantly.
“It was just what we have been working on, particularly in the first half. We have put down a marker for next year and it’s a sign of how well it’s going when the players admit they are looking forward to pre-season training already.”
Town held a 4-1 half time advantage and made sure of their most emphatic victory of the campaign five minutes into added time at the end of the game.
The only down side to what was an otherwise perfect day was a serious injury picked up by in-form front man Gallant.
Wells admitted that he first feared his striker had broken his ankle, but was later told it was ‘only’ ligament damage, much to his relief.
“You always fear the worst when you see players go into tackles like that and remain down clearly in serious pain,” said the Town boss.
“When Ben stays down you know it’s serious and we first thought that he had suffered a broken ankle. But he went off for an X-ray and it’s not as bad as we feared.
“It won’t keep him down for too long. He’s already sent me a text message saying he’ll be back soon. He should be fine for the start of next season.”
Northwood arrived needing a win and hoping that play-off rivals Beaconsfield slipped up to see them snatch fifth place on the final day of the season.
But they were never really in the contest as Wells’ men opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and raced into a 3-0 lead after only 15.
They pulled a goal back on 38 minutes, only for Town to extend their lead just before the break.
The visitors then grabbed a consolation with four minutes to play, only for Town to have the last laugh. And ironically, if they had won the game they would have made the play-offs as Daventry Town did them a favour by pulling off a shock win at Beaconsfield.
Slough Town, Bedworth, Uxbridge and Beaconsfield will now battle it out for the right to join champions St Neots in the Southern League Premier Division in 2012/13, while Town are left wishing that the season had only just started.
“It’s been an incredible few months in charge,” said Wells, who took over as Town boss in November last year.
“We had a blip half way through the season when we lost four of fives, but we know that was down to the squad size and a lack of available players.
“When everyone is fit we’ve got an excellent team here and we’re already looking ahead to next season when we hope to continue where we left off.”
Former chairman Bruce Warner did a magnificent job during the morning to ensure the pitch remained playable after heavy overnight rain and Wells selected the same side that played so well in their 3-1 win at Slough a week earlier.
Town started well and had a terrific chance in the 9th minute but from just outside the box Sam Chapman lifted his shot over the bar.
But the hosts didn’t have to wait for long to open the scoring – Jake Bewley firing in from outside the penalty area with the outside of his left foot to give Town the perfect start.
A minute later Town had doubled their lead. The ball was played into the box from wide on the right and Lewis McBride, jumping with two defenders, controlled the ball on his chest and when it dropped he quickly struck a low left-footed shot across the keeper into the far corner of the net.
Northwood were left stunned by the intensity of Town’s opening and before they had a chance to mount any sort of a recovery they found themselves three goals down.
McBride showed some nice skills on the right before laying the ball back to Enzo Silvestri whose shot was blocked by a defender. Ross Hanley followed up and his first attempt was blocked, but the hard working midfielder was quickly onto the loose ball to drive his shot home for his second goal in two games.
The visitors pulled a goal back, but Gallant’s terrific solo goal would have been what the home fans were talking about at half time as he collected the ball just inside the Northwood half and wide on the left flank the hard working striker cleverly evaded a challenge to race down the pitch and into the box where he stroked the ball across the keeper and into the net.
After the pace of the first half it was always unlikely that Town could maintain the same momentum and the game settled at a more sedate pace after the break.
Town created the first chance in the 60th minute when Gallant knocked in a low ball from the right which the keeper fumbled but he made amends with a good save to block Silvestri’s follow up shot.
With 10 minutes remaining Gallant was left injured following an innocuous challenge and was replaced by Lorenzo Green for the closing stages.
The visitors pulled a goal back with less than five minutes left on the clock but deep into stoppage time Town put the icing on the cake when McBride set up Bishop who instantly struck a fierce shot into the far top corner of the net from distance.
Tempers threatened to boil over late in the game and after the final whistle as players on both sides squared up to each other, but that took nothing away from a memorable day for all involved with Leighton Town.
“We’ve had more handbags than Selfridges recently,” said Wells. “But you get that sometimes when players on both sides want to win so badly. I thought the officials handled it very well though. They had a terrific game.
“We’re just disappointed the season is over. We just need to keep the team together and build on this for the start of next season.”
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Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 14 C
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