Leatherhead were thoroughly outplayed on Saturday by a well organised Wingate & Finchley side, who left with a 1-0 win at Summers Lane.
A well executed header from Leon Smith was all that separated the two sides in a scrappy match, made all the harder for both sets of players by a blustery wind.
Leatherhead hardly managed to threaten Wingate throughout. They lacked shape and cohesion in midfield as, time and again, they opted to pump long balls forward from defence, instead of using the full width of the pitch to take advantage of a good playing surface.
Tanners were fortunate not to lose by a lot heavier margin. Wingate missed chance after chance to build on an early lead, whereas a solitary Tom Hutchings effort midway through the second half was the visitors’ only real goal scoring opportunity in an untidy match.
Former Aveley defender Ryan Andrew came in to Leatherhead’s starting line up at right back, replacing an injured Liam Pestle, while Elliott Thompson earned a start in midfield following his influential second half display last week against Hastings.
Blues took the lead after eight minutes. Tanners failed to deal with a cross from the by-line, leaving Wingate’s tall centre forward Smith with room to head home past the outstretched arms of Leatherhead keeper Chico Ramos.
Wingate created several chances to build on their opener. A Kieron Street shot was turned behind for a corner before an effort from David Laird came back off the post.
Leatherhead pressed forward but lost possession on the half way line after 24 minutes, allowing Smith to break clear and take the ball to the edge of the box before firing wide.
Blues created further chances during the final minutes of the opening half. Smith sent another close range header over the bar before Ramos made a fine save from another Laird effort.
Wingate had a great chance to double their lead after 50 minutes. Smith broke clear in the middle of the visitors’ half, but the Blues’ leading goal scorer took one touch too many as he bore down on the Leatherhead goal and Ramos bravely gathered the ball at the striker’s feet.
Thompson and Rob Hill made way for Jack Pallen and Adam Gross in a double substitution for Leatherhead after 51 minutes, but the hosts kept pushing forward in search of that elusive second goal.
Ross Parmenter fired wide and then Smith pulled away from Tanners’ centre back Jerry Nnamani before hitting another shot wide.
Leatherhead failed to produce a shot on target until the 62nd minute. Hutchings broke clear in the box, but Wingate keeper Bobby Smith stood up well to block the shot from ten yards out.
Tanners had a half-chance to snatch a late equaliser when Vernon Francis got the ball back from the by-line, but Colin Richmond scooped his shot high over the bar from the corner of the box.
Leatherhead: Ramos, Andrew, Hill (Gross 51), Coyle, Nnamani, Simmons, Francis, Thompson (Pallen, 51), Terry (Lambu 64), Hutchings, Richmond.
Unused subs: Billy Manners and Ryan Thomas.