Remembering where we once were
The South Lancashire Counties Football League Premier Division is the current league in which Leigh Railway Mechanics Institute, as they were once known, now play their trade.
Reformed under the guise of ‘Leigh Genesis’, it is just about as far a cry as a Club can get from its halcyon days of the Football Conference.
The decline is so dramatic in fact that the Lancashire outfit now play their games on a Sunday.
Rovers first travelled over the Pennines to face Leigh in November 2000, where Jamie Paterson’s 19th minute penalty secured the three points for Steve Wignall’s men.
Paterson opened the scoring in the return fixture, again with a penalty moments before half time, before doubling his and Rovers’ tally a few minutes after the break. Quick-fire goals from Jimmy Kelly and Francis Tierney capped an easy afternoon at Belle Vue in the host’s penultimate home game of the season.
Rovers repeated the feat the following season, with goals from Tris Whitman and Kelly (another penalty) seeing off the ten men on Bawtry Road, prior to a rout at Hilton Park in which Paterson again notched a brace against ten men. Mark Sale and Andy Watson also got in on the act to overpower the hapless hosts 4-1 in front of a reported 546.
Despite a change at the helm in South Yorkshire, Rovers’ hoodoo over their Lancashire opponents didn’t abate; with Dave Penney’s men overpowering Leigh at Hilton Park in August 2002 thanks to Paul Barnes (penalty) and Justin Jackson.
Jamie Paterson’s second half goal at Belle Vue over the festive period was enough to separate the sides the last time they ever faced each other; it ended a remarkable return of six straight wins against Leigh, and four goals for the Scot.
Relegated from the Conference in 2005, Leigh – crucially- missed their potential lifesaver when they declined to potentially merge with the now well supported FC United of Manchester.
By 2008, Leigh had fallen to the Northern Premier League (7th tier) and changed their moniker to ‘Genesis’ in anticipation of their move to the multi-million pound Leigh Sports Village.
After moving away from the Sports Village, Leigh wound up at Atherton Laburnum Rovers’ ground Crilly Park for the 2010/11 season, where they would compete in the North West Counties League (level 9).
For the past couple of season’s, Genesis have made a concerted effort to re-establish themselves as a competitive senior outfit, but are currently not part of the English Football League pyramid system and thus play on a Sunday morning.
*Rovers’ left-back Dean Barrick evades the attentions of another Doncaster favourite ‘Dino’; Mr Maamria, who had a spell at Belle Vue from 1998-2000. Dave Penney’s men won 2-0 at Hilton Park in August 2002 where a rare Justin Jackson goal was bettered only by an even rarer Brian Quailey appearance*