Monday, February 16, 2009

Phil Marsh hat-trick as Leigh Genesis end victory drought against FC United

12:34am Monday 16th February 2009

By Matt Lawton

FC United of Manchester 2 Leigh Genesis 4

BARELY 24 hours after rejecting a possible move to FC United of Manchester, Genesis striker Phil Marsh showed the hosts exactly what they are missing out on with a remarkable hat-trick as Leigh secured their first league victory since October in particularly stunning fashion.

Although United manager Karl Marginson was left disappointed by Marsh’s show of loyalty to remain with Leigh, the hosts still managed to field a debutant striker in the shape of former Hyde United man Carl Lomax, who joined Jerome Wright and Danny Williams in a three-pronged attack.

The game began in almost unbelievable fashion as Leigh found themselves with a golden opportunity to take the lead after barely twenty seconds of action when Marsh hared through on goal, only to be brought down by former Bolton Wanderers goalkeeper Sam Ashton; Marsh dusting himself off to clinically score from the spot and put his side in front within a minute.

In recent fixtures, Leigh have been left to rue early missed chances but, with a one goal advantage, they almost appeared to invite pressure on themselves as they looked to defend their slender lead.

Leigh goalkeeper Danny Morton found himself called upon to tip a Neil Chappell header over the crossbar before United left back Simon Garner flashed a shot narrowly wide of goal after fifteen minutes.

Just two minutes later and United were a coat of paint away from finding themselves on level terms when Chappell’s deflected shot deceived Morton, only for the ball to strike the goalkeeper’s left hand post.

Although the hosts were largely dominating possession at this stage, that wasn’t to say that Leigh didn’t post a threat on the counter attack, and they came close after twenty one minutes when a cute lay-off from the lively Chris Thompson gave Karl Brown a view of goal, with the midfielder curling his twenty five yard effort just wide of the target.

Leigh man Alex Cunliffe had made all nine of his previous Genesis appearances as either a forward or midfielder, but with captain Chris Page at right back and right-footed Richmond Botchey playing rather unfamiliarly at left back, Cunliffe was in sterling form alongside Ben McHugh at the heart of the Leigh defence, nullifying Lomax’s aerial threat on countless occasions as the Leigh defence dominated in the air, with Lee Merricks’ young side enjoying a one goal half-time lead.

In front of over 1,800 spectators at Gigg Lane, Leigh looked, if anything, the more likely to add to the scoreline in the early stages of the second half as first United ‘keeper Sam Ashton was grateful to pounce on the ball after spilling a low Chris Thompson strike, created by a smart turn from the on-loan striker, before Kyle Lambert sent a shot flashing across goal after an incisive Steve Settle through ball on the counter attack.

FCUM struck the Leigh woodwork for a second time on 61 minutes with an ambitious Carl Lomax strike from long range before finally getting on level terms on 64 minutes when winger Carlos Roca drew a soft free kick from a Botchey foul. Morton did well to parry Garner’s fizzing set piece, but the rebound fell only as far as Neil Chappell, who got his name on the scoresheet at long last to equalise.

In previous matches, such a hammer blow might have been the death knell for Leigh’s young side, but their character shone through on this occasion and they found themselves back in the lead just six minutes later when Phil Marsh scored his second penalty of the afternoon. The Leigh striker did superbly to retrieve what originally appeared to be a lost cause in the corner of the field before heading back towards goal, knocking the ball through the legs of Adam Tong as he looked to pull the trigger, only for Tong to bring Marsh down in the area.

At this point, Leigh had just twenty minutes to hold firm, and they were lucky to escape when Chappell headed over the bar when left unmarked just six yards out, but their resistance was finally broken with just five minutes remaining when, in an almost identical fashion to United’s first goal, Carl Lomax notched a debut goal on the rebound after Morton had parried an original shot from long distance.

Again, Genesis might have crumbled after conceding such a heartbreakingly late equaliser, but incredibly they went straight up to the other end and regained the lead within sixty seconds of being pegged back. Former Rochdale man Kyle Lambert, playing out wide rather than in the centre of midfield for the first time for the club, did well to break down the right flank and round United’s full back, laying the ball off for Chris Thompson to joyfully sweep home the second of his, to date, three game loan spell from Blue Square Premier side Barrow.

Most sides would have been truly delighted with the score at 3-2 as the game headed in to stoppage time, but Genesis weren’t done there as, despite an exhaustingly hectic afternoon in the Leigh attack, Phil Marsh showed enough alertness and anticipation to latch on to a routine Danny Warrender throw in to Sam Ashton, tackling the FCUM goalkeeper and nudging the ball over the line for his hat trick strike, to the wild delight of the travelling Leigh support.

Shortly afterwards, Marsh was brought off to a standing ovation as he was given the chance to deservedly lap up the applause for all it was worth, before returning to the field at the full-time whistle to herald a joyous, if unlikely, Genesis victory on an afternoon where bookmakers had been offering odds of as much as 8-1 for Leigh to collect all three points from Gigg Lane.

Collect those they did, and they will be looking to build on such a terrific performance when they take on Kendal Town in a ‘home’ fixture at Ashton United’s Hurst Cross home tomorrow, Tuesday, 7.45pm start.

Leigh Genesis; Danny Morton, Chris Page, Richmond Botchey, Andy Heald, Ben McHugh, Alex Cunliffe, Kyle Lambert, Karl Brown (Scott Sephton), Chris Thompson, Phil Marsh (David Hill), Steve Settle (Dale Whitham)