Leatherhead’s final pre-season encounter was away at Farnborough FC on Saturday 4th August and ended in a 2-2 draw. After experimenting with different personnel throughout pre-season, this game saw Bull pick his strongest eleven – giving them one last run out before the season opener, versus AFC Hornchurch next weekend, Saturday 11th August.
Leatherhead started brightly, keeping the ball well and having the lion’s share of possession in the right areas of the pitch. However, a clever dinked ball lofted over the top of the Tanners defensive line managed to find a yellow & blue shirt, with Will Seager doing superbly well to track-back and defend, thus snuffing out the danger. His reading of the game belies his inexperience and has enabled him to make vital interceptions time and time again throughout the friendlies over the past month.
Travis Gregory once again looked threatening out on the wing, continually using his rapid pace to drive towards and trickery to outfox the defender he was up against. He seems to have developed good partnership with fullback Will Salmon; often seen running pass Gregory with overlapping runs either drawing opposition away and creating space for Travis, or providing an option of good deliveries into the box. Travis’s long range dipping pile-driver was hit with venomous force and flew just over the crossbar after 7 minutes.
Farnborough were sending aerial balls long, which the rock in Leatherhead’s defence, Jerry Nnamani, ably dealt with. He was an imposing figure throughout and marshalled our defence with distinction clearly being heard barking organisational instructions to his teammates at the back.
Leatherhead were awarded a free-kick after 14 minutes, with Cullen providing a fantastic in-swinging delivering which Jerry got onto the end of, but unfortunately could not direct his header goal bound. The fluid football philosophy Nikki Bull is trying to install in this team was clearly evident. Leatherhead pieced together easy on the eye intricate passes, creating clever triangles in the middle of the park and building up attacks from the back, waiting patiently for the right time to pounce.
Dan Gallagher had a strong first half performance and was key to the Tanners winning the midfield duels and dominating possession. One of the last notable moments of the first half came when long-time Tanner Paul Semakula played a delightful chipped pass down the right wing which Travis took on his chest and played a wonderful through ball for Benyon. Unfortunately on this occasion he was slightly slow off the mark and it was comfortably collected by the Farnborough defender.
Farnborough were the first on the scoresheet, scoring against the run of play just after the restart. Fullback Simms played a clever drag-back pass after a marauding run, picking out striker Cumberbatch who used the pace of the ball to sweep it on and help its way into the bottom left-hand corner. They doubled their lead not long after striker Cumberbatch got his second of the game with a glancing flick-on from a ball sent in from the right-side corner flag, but the Tanners bounced back immediately!
A good ball was whipped in from the left into a dangerous area which took a deflection off a Farnborough player on its way into the net. Leatherhead drew level with fifteen minutes remaining. A good interchange between our trialist (no 15) and Travis saw him burst down the wing with Farnborough’s right-back left for dead. He picked out Okojie at the far post who drilled the ball home with a well struck shot leaving the GK with no chance of getting a hand on it.
The game finished two apiece, but the performance should provide Nikki Bull and Martin McCarthy with optimism going into the first league game, against promotion favourites AFC Hornchurch next weekend.