Leatherhead picked up a point against Margate on Saturday in an instantly forgettable 0-0 draw.
Despite the point though, they are now three points from safety after nearest rivals Harrow Borough beat East Thurrock United 3-1.
While Leatherhead had ended a run of poor results with a win against Harrow Borough last weekend, Margate came into this match on the back of an even worse sequence of results – six defeats and a draw from their last seven league outings.
So going by current form, even the most optimistic supporter from either side would have anticipated little in the way of excitement from this match. And so it proved.
Margate decided that their best way forward was to pump long balls into the heart of Leatherhead’s penalty area. Central defenders Jamie Coyle and Dan Dean stood firm all afternoon and comfortably dealt with everything that was thrown at them.
The opening 10 minutes failed to produce even the remotest chance of a goal at either end, with play breaking down time and again as long aimless balls were delivered from both sets of players.
Tanners had their first sniff at goal after 14 minutes after Dan Stubbs fouled Billy Manners near the corner of the Margate penalty area.
Mark Simmons floated in a well weighted free kick, but the delivery was just too deep for the advancing Harry Ottaway and the chance was lost.
Ottaway and Simmons combined well after 28 minutes, with the former Merstham target man winning possession near the Margate dead ball line and playing it back to the Leatherhead captain on the edge of the box. Simmons’ powerful strike produced a good low save from goalkeeper Simon Overland.
Gate created the one memorable moment of the match on the half hour mark. A half clearance from the Leatherhead defence fell to Curtis Robinson, who hit a delicious curling 25 yarder which thundered against the crossbar before being put behind for a corner.
Margate defender Dean Hill stole into the box unmarked to get his head to the ball, but Leatherhead keeper Chico Ramos reacted quickly to make a comfortable save.
Gate almost stole the lead in first half injury time, but Tom Bradbrook’s powerful shot was well blocked by Ramos.
The second half got off to a slow start with little in the way of creativity shown from either side. Leatherhead manager Richard Brady decided to shake things up a bit with a double substitution after 53 minutes, as Ryan Dolby and Elliott Thompson replaced Ottaway and Charlie Holness.
Just before the hour mark, Simmons created half a chance for Leatherhead, jinking his way past two Gate defenders before firing over from the edge of the area.
Margate’s best chance in the second period was foiled once again by Ramos, as a long range shot from Matt Bodkin was well saved by the Leatherhead keeper after 78 minutes.
Adam Gross almost stole the points for the visitors four minutes later. The Leatherhead full back played a clever one two with Kev Terry, who teed up the ball up for Gross to fire wide from just outside the box.
The over-riding memory of this match will be the poor quality of distribution from both sets of players. The fact that this was the first time that Leatherhead had not conceded a goal in two consecutive matches this season – and we are now into March - shows just how hard it has been for them to adjust to the extra pace of life in the Ryman Premier Division.
Leatherhead: Ramos, Andrew, Gross, Coyle, Dean, Simmons, Francis, Holness (Thompson 53), Ottaway (Dolby 53), Hutchings (Terry 67), Manners.
Unused subs: R Hill and Richmond.