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Leatherhead over-power Merstham despite early setback
Leatherhead recovered from an early setback to take all three points from a 3-1 win against Merstham at Fetcham Grove.
The win keeps Richard Brady's men in the Ryman League Division One South play-offs - and they could move up to second if they beat Folkestone on Tuesday night, and Maidstone lose at Burgess Hill.
Merstham took the lead with a stunning free-kick from former Fetcham Grove favourite Jack McLeod, but Tanners responded with goals from Jamie Coyle, Tommy Hutchings and Liam Wright to secure the points.
Leatherhead boss Richard Brady was forced into seeking another new goalkeeper this week after on-loan shot-stopper Louis Wells was recalled by Dartford.
Andy Young stepped into the breach to become Leatherhead’s eighth custodian of the current campaign, having spent last season in goal for Concord Rangers.
Neil Jenkins made his first start for Tanners at left back, while Sam Blackman replaced Kev Terry in the starting line-up in midfield.
Merstham began positively but missed a good opportunity to open the scoring in the second minute when an unchallenged Dominic Ogun ballooned a shot high over the bar from the edge of the box.
Tanners had more of the ball in the opening 20 minutes without really troubling Merstham keeper Lloyd Anderson, while the new Leatherhead goalie showed his experience, intercepting a long through ball from McLeod to Mark Nwokeji before saving from a powerful shot from Lee Newman.
Merstham’s pressure paid off with a goal after 26 minutes - Newman was fouled just outside Leatherhead’s penalty area and McLeod hit a sensational free kick over the wall and into the top right hand corner.
The goal was the catalyst Leatherhead required for stepping up a gear and showing more creativity in their attacks.
Wright was put through on goal after half an hour, but Anderson came off his line to make a brave save at the former Merstham midfielder’s feet.
Tanners equalised after 31 minutes - Matt Smart delivered a well-flighted free kick into the Merstham six-yard box and Coyle out-jumped his marker to head home at the far post.
Whatever Brady said to his players at half-time must have had the desired effect, as Leatherhead took the lead within two minutes of the restart.
Merstham failed to close down Tanners danger man Hutchings, who punished them with a deadly left foot strike from 25 yards.
Leatherhead sealed their victory seven minutes later, when Merstham failed to clear a Jenkins corner and Wright squeezed the ball across the goal-line at the near post.
With a two-goal advantage, Tanners began moving the ball around in midfield with the intention of holding possession for as long as possible.
Merstham captain David Graves showed his frustration, making a two footed challenge on Tom Bradbrook under the watchful eyes of the referee, who showed no hesitation before issuing a red card to the offender.
Bradbrook nearly added a fourth goal for Leatherhead a couple of minutes later when his long range effort crashed against the crossbar.
Merstham were made to defend a string of Leatherhead corners in the closing stages but Tanners were content to hear the final whistle without the addition of any further goals.