Leatherhead lifted the Mick Sullivan Trophy with the hosts getting the lesser prize… The Hayden Bird Cup… after an entertaining second half performance.
It was not that the first half was not impressive. It just seemed to lack chances but you could not fault the effort made on either side. It was Tomi who had the first chance to score for the visitors. Put through and clear on goal his powerful shot was aimed straight at the ‘keeper who had done well to come out smother. Dembelle too managed to wriggle through the defence but could not get enough space to get the shot away and it bounced off his shin to safety.
Second half and the game was still played with plenty of huff and puff but little in the way of clear cut chances until Mahal came on and added some new pace down the right wing. From his run on 69 minutes we won a corner and on the second attempt of swinging the wall in we got our goal. It was a dangerous ball into the ball, low and hard and could have gone in on its own. Perhaps it did as Mahal, Jerry and Tomi all seem to want a part in it. I seem to think it came off Tomi and he certainly got the lion share of the praise from his fellow players.
Our lead did not last long. A nice build of play saw the ball in open space just inside the box and it was lashed home by their winger. Wells got his hands to it but it was simply too well struck to save.
Merstham now looked the more purposeful but with Mahal we were quick to break. Also we welcomed back Sam Blackman, who after adjusting from playing football from soccer, looked very composed. His best moment came when he danced through the Merstham defence with his shot going just wide.
It was from a break we got the winner. Tomi chased what appeared to be a lost cause but just managed to get a cross in which eluded the sole defender and ‘keeper but not Hughes Mason who had the presence of mind to chest in the cross.
Merstham started to press for the equalizer again when Mahal went on another run down the right. His cross beat the ‘keeper and found Tomi along in front of goal. He had scored a goal and created another. Perhaps now his confidence was up. Alas if it was it did not help as from three yards the ball was ballooned up over the bar. At first we cried, then laughed and then began to panic as it looked increasingly likely that the miss would cost us two points. On the death a powerful header beat Wells and from my angle it looked to have dipped under the bar, but it sailed just over and the ref blew the final whistle.
A fantastic victory that makes it three in a row and was felt hard by the local supporters by the boardroom who are usually so smug. In fact, if you’re a teenage boy smiling to yourself on the way out you could expect to be told off for such a show of disrespect…
So. The Tanners have some time to see in the new year then look forward to the visit of Hampton & Richmond…