By Rod Ellis
Leatherhead recorded their 10th away win of the Ryman League Division One South season with a hard-fought 3-2 victory at table toppers Maidstone United.
Goals from Matt Smart and Tom Bradbrook saw the visitors come from behind twice, before Neil Jenkins scrambled home Tanners’s winner after 85 minutes.
The win brings Leatherhead, in third, to within two points of second-placed Dulwich Hamlet – a side they will face again after the Ryman League decided last weekend’s abandoned meeting between the pair will be replayed.
This was Tanners’s first visit to the new Gallagher Stadium and their first opportunity to play on Maidstone’s all weather 3G pitch, and Richard Brady’s men quickly adapted to the near perfect playing conditions.
Stones created the better chances in the opening exchanges with Alex Flisher proving a handful for Leatherhead’s defence down the left.
Withstanding a wave of attacks in the opening 20 minutes, Tanners had a chance to take the lead midway through the first half.
Bradbrook laid off a ball for Liam Wright down the middle whose 30-yard effort was turned behind for a corner by Maidstone keeper Deren Ibrahim.
Tommy Hutchings created a number of opportunities in front of goal but he failed to test Ibrahim on every occasion.
After 32 minutes, Hutchings took the ball past two defenders before shooting wide from the edge of the box.
Leatherhead were punished for that miss two minutes later as Maidstone opened the scoring.
Shaun Welford was given room down the left to send over a cross to the far post, where the ball was played back for Alex Brown to tap home from a couple of yards.
Stones had a good opportunity to double their lead two minutes later - Alex Flisher tormented the Tanners defence down the left before sending a probing cross deep into the Leatherhead penalty area, only for Stuart King to fire over from five yards out.
Leatherhead equalised against the run of play on the stroke of half time.
Smart won the ball on the left side of the Maidstone penalty area and somehow found a gap between Ibrahim and the near post to fire home from the narrowest of angles.
In the second half, Hutchings had a great chance to put Tanners in front after 50 minutes but he fired over from the edge of the box with only Ibrahim to beat.
Maidstone pushed forward and managed to restore their lead after 61 minutes, as an unmarked King receiving a long, looping diagonal ball at the far post and turned it home from three yards.
Stones looked comfortable with their lead but Tanners equalised for a second time after 79 minutes when Smart sent a long, high ball into the Maidstone area and Bradbrook reached it before Ibrahim to nod it over the line from close range.
The goal visibly shook Maidstone’s players and the vast majority of the 1,800 plus crowd.
Tanners proceeded to dominate the final 10 minutes as both sides searched for a winning goal.
Hutchings fired over from 12 yards before Bradbrook forced Ibrahim to turn another shot behind for a corner.
Eventually, Mark Simmons sent in a probing ball from the right, Stones failed to clear it and Jenkins prodded it over the line for the winner.
Tanners can now claim a remarkable record of having won their last seven away league matches – a run stretching back to a 3-2 win at Hythe Town on November 6.
This weekend, Brady’s men turn their attentions to winning games at home with the visit of basement strugglers Three Bridges.