Saturday 3rd January 2004
Northern Premier League First Division
Hyde United: Tim Mullock, Steven Clegg, Ian Pendlebury, Paul Jones, John Gaynor (Craig Buckley), John O'Kane, Nicky Hill, Phil Salt (Jamie Milligan), Neil Tolson (Tony Ellis), Kieran Delaney, Matty McNeil
Leek Town: Hodgson, Brough, Hassall, Wooliscroft, Johnson, Roberts, Danylyk, MacPherson, Hadland, Ridley, Johnson. Subs: Lockett, Macari, Sheldon.
They say championships are not won at Christmas and it's probably as well as the Tigers made it three league defeats in a row and four out of the last five with another inept performance against hard-working Leek.
Hyde welcomed back Paul Jones and John O'Kane after suspension and the early signs were good as the Tigers had plenty of possession but just could not find the killer touch. A reluctance to shot when in good positions didn't help and by half time the honours were just about even.
The turning point in the game was in the 65th minutes when a disappointing Neil Tolson was brought down in the box. His resultant spot kick was weak and easily saved by Steve Hodgson. Two minutes later, Hyde paid the ultimate penalty as Steve Johnson headed in at the far post to put Leek in front. He had done the same whilst playing for Stocksbridge earlier in the season!
From that point on, Leek grew in stature, whilst the Tigers heads went down. Hyde still managed to create chances, but until they find a finisher in the box, they are going to struggle. It was Leek who should have scored again as the highly rated Phillip Hadland missed an absolute sitter at the death.
Steve Waywell now has a lot to do to motivate his team for the second half of the season. Injuries and suspensions haven't helped, but too many players are out of form and it is imperative they get back to playing the sort of football that took them to second place. To do that they need Phil Salt at his best and there were signs in this game he was regaining some of his form with some telling through balls, before he was subjected to a horror tackle in the last few minutes from former Tiger Phil Lockett and was carried off. Referee Mr.Roberts only produced a yellow card. One of his many errors of judgment in the game, but the Tigers can only blame themselves. You must take chances when they come.