Football: Pejic's weary men endure six-match marathon

Non-League notebook
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By Rupert Metcalf

WHEN the former Stoke City and England full-back, Mike Pejic, took over as manager of Leek Town three weeks ago, he knew he faced a tough task - but not this tough.

When the GM Vauxhall Conference season concludes tomorrow, Leek will have played six games in eight days. These are not meaningless matches, either, for they need points to escape relegation.

Caused by four games being postponed during April, Leek's eight days of exertion started with last Saturday's home defeat by Welling. Then it was off to Stevenage on Monday, followed by another away game at Slough on Tuesday. Last night they were at home to Yeovil, while tonight Morecambe are the visitors to Harrison Park. Tomorrow the Staffordshire side's exhausted players will have to drag themselves back down to the Home Counties again for the final fixture, at Hayes.

"I read about Arsenal finding it tough with five games in 17 days, and I wasn't very sympathetic," Pejic said. "And they're full-time pros - all our lads are part-timers." Work commitments meant that Leek had to do without two key players, Neil Ellis and Dean Trott, for the two away games on Monday and Tuesday.

Pejic's selection problems have been exacerbated by two bad injuries: against a physical Welling side last weekend John Diskin suffered a broken leg and Dale Hawtin a fractured elbow. The situation is so bad that at Slough on Tuesday Pejic had to put three players he had never seen play on the substitutes' bench.

On Wednesday he spent this week's only spare evening scouting for new recruits. "This wasn't really what I was expecting," a weary Pejic said.

Emley hit the headlines with their brave display at West Ham in the FA Cup in January, but they were in the news for the wrong reasons after their 3-0 win over Parkgate in the Sheffield Senior Cup final at Hillsborough on Tuesday.

After Dean Calcutt had been sent off for throwing the ball at an opponent following the final whistle, another Emley player, Simon Jones, who had been substituted, confronted the referee. He was restrained by a team- mate, Neil Lacey (a policeman), who became involved in a fight with Jones.

Ian Banks, Emley's captain, refused to collect the trophy in disgust at what was happening, and the evening ended with Jones - sent off three times and booked 13 times this season - being sacked by the club.