An inspired performance from goalkeeper Sam Gilder ensured that his Bishops Cleeve side would draw 1-1 and claim an important point in their quest for survival, in what could be a pivotal day in the relegation fight in the Southern League West.
With Shortwood United, Slimbridge & Barnstaple Town all scheduled to play sides in the top 10 this afternoon, both Bishops Cleeve & North Leigh were kicking off knowing it wasn’t a must win game but a mustn’t lose one.
In a first half that saw both sides struggle to keep possession for a sustained period of time it was the visitors who threatened the goal more often, with Gilder being called into action to deny Josh Thomas and George Seacole before seeing his left post clipped by Declan Sheppard.
Bishops Cleeve were struggling to get a foot on the ball, with it bouncing off the pitch like a bouncer on the opening day of a Test Cricket match. But after a long ball down field a one two between Joe Bates & Harlie Price saw the former in one on one, but his effort was blocked by North Leigh keeper Ross Grimshaw.
Grimshaw saved from Harrison Iddles moments later before North Leigh went down the other end and broke the deadlock. Liam Carroll played a beautiful 30 yard diagonal from the left hand side into Seacole, who after holding off his man, laid the ball to his left and Josh Thomas drilled the ball home.
The goal ignited the hosts and woke up a previously quiet Jack Watts. The winger began to see more of the ball and with that came chances for the Mitres.
Watts cut in from the left hand side and fired wide when he had options to his right before a deep corner fell to Watts, right on half time and his effort was deflected onto the crossbar.
At half time the feeling set in that if Bishops Cleeve would get anything from the game they would need to score the next goal and they needed to score it within the first 10-15 minutes. Cleeve didn’t do that….
Instead Cleeve came out of the blocks and levelled within three minutes of the restart. After a free kick was cleared, Harrison Iddles skied a ball up into the air. Substitute Ieuan Crowe jumped for the ball and it bounced through to Watts, inside the box and he lashed the ball home despite a strong hand by Grimshaw.
North Leigh’s scorer Josh Thomas thought he had restored his side’s lead when he cut in on the right corner of the box and fired a ferocious strike towards goal. A big glove up from Gilder clawed the ball out to deny him.
Gilder made further, more routine saves, from Seacole and Sheppard before pulling out a Peter Schmeichel like stop as Seacole charged in one on one.
Both sides had glorious chances to win the game with just two minutes left of normal time. First Jack Watts saw the ball fall to him in the box, clear, with no one around him, only for the winger to blast wide. It rebounded off the back board and into the side netting which saw a few Mitres fans think they had won it!
Cleeve nearly lost their hard earned point moments later when a delightful ball was clipped into the box. Daniel James took the ball down superbly before seeing his effort turned over by another strong glove from the game’s outstanding player, Sam Gilder.
With Slimbridge losing 3-1 to Swindon Supermarine, Barnstaple Town losing 4-0 at home to Didcot Town & Shortwood United claiming an improbable 2-1 win at AFC Totton the draw keeps North Leigh still in amongst the relegation fight whilst seeing Bishops Cleeve at least shortening the gap to Slimbridge in 21st place to 7 points, with a game in hand.
Bishops Cleeve: Gilder, Butler, Haswell, Ford, Staten, Noakes (Aitken 76′), Iddles, McCarthy (Hands 83′), Price (Crowe 41′), Bates, Watts
Subs Not Used: Tunnicliff, Jeynes
North Leigh: Grimshaw, Lymn, Grabe, James, Keightley, Chalmers, Simpsons, Seacole, Sheppard, Carroll (Hathaway 65′)
Subs Not Used: Smith, Harvey, MacDonough, Brough
Severn Sport Man Of the Match: Sam Gilder (Bishops Cleeve)
The Southern League West relegation battle continues this midweek with a plethora of games. Bishops Cleeve welcome Larkhall Athletic to Kayte Lane in a massive game on Tuesday night with Slimbridge away at promoted side Taunton Town on Tuesday, with Larkhall Athletic then travelling to Thornhill Park on Thursday night.
Barnstaple Town play Yate on Tuesday night with Shortwood travelling to Cinderford for their re-arranged game on Thursday night.
North Leigh, like Slimbridge, are in action twice with an away game at Bideford on Tuesday before entertaining Kidlington on Thursday night.
Keep up with the action all week right here on Severn Sport.