Leatherhead miss chance to escape drop zone

Leatherhead returned to action against Concord Rangers on Wednesday night, but lost a match 3-1 they should have won after some lacklustre defending in the second half.

A win or draw would have seen the Tanners move out of the bottom four for the first time this season, but three second-half goals from Concord left Leatherhead firmly languishing in the drop zone.

Manager Richard Brady brought in Merstham hot shot Harry Ottaway to add some extra pace to the Tanners forward line. Ottaway, who made three first team appearances for Leatherhead in August 2008, quickly settled into his new role and threatened the Concord defence with his pace, height and agility.

Following a quiet opening period, Leatherhead stepped up a gear and began moving the ball around the visitors’ half. After 15 minutes, Tommy Hutchings got his head to a powerful delivery from Mark Simmons, but the ball flew wide of the post.

Tanners had their chances in the opening half. An Ottaway header flew straight to Concord goalkeeper, Andy Young, before a scorching Simmons shot was turned behind for a corner.

Leatherhead’s best chance came after 40 minutes. A quickfire breakaway from defence resulted in an Ottaway header flicked on to Kev Terry in the penalty area, who nodded the ball straight to Young.

Concord came out much livelier for the start of the second half, winning a free kick on the edge of the Tanners penalty area after 48 minutes. Karl Beckford sent a probing ball into the Leatherhead area and Harry Elmes’s header was cleared off the line by Jerry Nnamani.

The visitors kept up the pressure and took the lead a minute later. Elmes won possession on the edge of the Leatherhead area, and made room to shoot past Chico Ramos into the corner of the net.

Concord almost doubled their lead 60 seconds later, as a low shot from Sherwin Stanley was well gathered by Ramos at his near post.

The match turned in Concord’s favour after 53 minutes when defender Nnamani limped off injured. Tanners sub Elliott Thompson moved into an attacking midfield role, while Billy Manners dropped back to the centre of defence.

It looked to have been an inspired substitution, as Leatherhead pulled level within a minute of the enforced change.

Manners cleared the ball from the heart of the Tanners defence and Hutchings outpaced his marker to drill a shot past Young from the edge of the area for the equaliser.

Further Leatherhead substitutions followed, as youth made way for experience. Thomas Brunt and Ottaway were replaced Vernon Francis and Colin Richmond midway through the half, as Tanners sought to find a way to take the lead.

But the loss of Nnamani unsettled Leatherhead, and the defence failed to pick up Ashley Miller after 76 minutes, as they sat back and gave the Concord defender room to shoot past Ramos from well outside the area.

Worse was to follow for Leatherhead five minutes later, as Concord sub Dee Okojie worked his way past three Tanners defenders unchallenged before firing the visitors into an unassailable lead from the edge of the box.

Tanners pressed forward in a vain attempt to salvage a late goal, but the visitors comfortably saw out the final 10 minutes to ease any remaining relegation fears for the Essex club.

Leatherhead: Ramos, Andrew, Gross, Coyle, Nnamani (Thompson 53), Brunt (Francis 62), Terry, Simmons, Ottaway (Richmond 71), Hutchings, Manners.

Unused subs: Lambu and Hill.

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