Our fourth game of pre-season came at home versus Hampton and Richmond Borough FC (H&R) drawing a 205 strong crowd to Fetcham Grove, and provided an opportunity for the fans to catch a glimpse of our summer signings confirmed earlier week. Starts were given to Seager, Gregory, Cullen and Hippolyte, with Dembele making an appearance off the bench. Leatherhead started the game strongly, showing their desire to play fast football with intelligent interplay in the middle of the park; stringing intricate give-and-go passes together. The Tanners also showed their intent to apply pressure on H&R with a high press which worked well early on, rushing H&R defenders into making rash decisions thus conceding possession. The first significant Leatherhead chance of the night came after 13 minutes when striker Okojie fired the ball across the six yard box, requiring the smallest of touches to guide the ball into the net. Unfortunately, our new no10 Cullen was agonisingly close but unable to get a toe on it, and the ball went out of play.
Leatherhead’s right winger Travis Gregory (formerly of Glaswegian giants Rangers) was Leatherhead’s most lively threat throughout. He set the tempo early on with delicate chest control from a cross-field ball; a clever faint and rapid acceleration helped him to get away from his man before being brought down illegally, and not for the first time in the evening. His quick feet and swift speed off the mark caused trouble for the opposition, and he drew many fouls in dangerous areas of the pitch for the Tanners. However he was not the only one on the pitch proving challenging for defenders. H&R’s left-winger no11 Taurean Roberts also proved a handful for Leatherhead’s right back, continually getting a half a yard of space to deliver balls in the box as a result of his extensive skillset including a tricky foot roll and step.
Due to the extreme heat, players took a drinks break half way through the first period, which the managers also used as an opportunity to get some tactical information forwarded onto the players. H&R broke the deadlock immediately after the re-start; a goal from Lucien inside the area which may have taken a small deflection of a green shirt but either way beat Nikki Bull to put the visitors 0-1 ahead. H&R’s goal seemingly knocked the wind out of Leatherhead’s sails, who struggled to regain a foothold in the game for the remainder of the first half. Gregory had a well-struck shot on 38 minutes that the GK could only parry away, and he was mightily fortunate the onrushing Cullen and Okojie could not capitalise and prod it home.
The second half saw the introduction of Dan Gallagher who instantly looked to inject more energy and dynamism in the Tanners performance. A notable moment occurred in the 62 minute when former Japan U20’s forward Cullen used his brilliant vision to switch the play from left to right, picking out Gregory with a superb 40 aerial pass up field. He travelled 25 yards with the ball with the defender back-tracking unable to stop Gregory’s mazy run. He did get a shot away, but unfortunately it took a heavy deflection meaning it was of no threat or danger to H&R. Despite this, new boy Gregory’s lightning pace, tricky footwork and fierce shots made it seem as though Leatherhead had a real chance of nabbing a goal and getting Leatherhead back into the game.
The game finished 0-1 to the National League South outfit, H&R. Despite the loss there were many positives to draw from the game and take forward in our preparations for our first league game in just over two weeks’ time, away at AFC Hornchurch. The performances of Gregory, no13 Blonski, no3 Bozier and Will Seager all caught the eye. Leatherhead play Championship academy team Reading U23’s on Saturday afternoon at Fetcham Grove, and our pre-season campaign comes to an end next week with consecutive away fixtures against VCD Athletic and Farnborough FC. Your attendance at those games is greatly appreciated and doesn’t go unnoticed, so let’s rally the Green Army behind team and help push them onto victory in our remaining pre-season encounters.
C’mon, you Tanners!