Town's challenge fading fast
By Ken Brazier
Enfield Town 0 Leatherhead 1
Two sides in with a shout of the play offs locked horns and it was the Tanners who came out on top in a scrappy affair on a difficult surface. Town were forced into a defensive reshuffle after Marc Weatherstone was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury.
Lewis Taaffe's third minute cross-cum-shot went past Zaki Oulah's right hand post and Oualah was in action soon afterwards, grabbing Aaron Greene's driven effort from an acute angle low down. Greene then shot over and Dan Rumens had a header saved but possibly the best chance for the hosts came and went when a superb turn from Kezie Ibe wasn't accompanied by a finish of similar quality.
The lively Ibrahim Olutade was denied by Matt Nolan’s legs, but it wasn’t long before the same player grabbed the only goal of the game in the 23rd minute when, from a Tanners corner on the right, he was allowed a completely free header towards the near post which he directed past Nolan without fuss.
Travis Gregory tried his luck and Nolan grabbed the ball at the second attempt while, at the opposite end, a great cut back by Sam Chaney was slammed wide by Matt Johnson. Town were indebted to Nolan for a fine double save from Jack Skinner and then Olutade. After Oualah had held a curling Taaffe free kick and Ibe had shot over from Johnson’s nod down, Oualah then tipped Sam Hatton's shot round the post. But Leatherhead's back line looked well organised and not perturbed unduly.
Billy Bricknell had an effort blocked by Jerry Nnamani and Charlie Hester-Cook shot wide for the visitors when well-placed just before the interval.
Half-time: Enfield Town 0 Leatherhead 1
The Tanners almost increased their lead early in the second period when Rumens headed off the line with Nolan beaten, and then Jack Skinner rattled the hosts' crossbar. Gregory also skewed a shot wide from close range.
Town huffed and puffed but with no reward on the day; Johnson's goalbound header following a Taaffe free kick was somehow blocked by Hester-Cook. Then substitute Sam Youngs blasted a left foot drive narrowly over, before Tanners’ sub Will Seager failed to convert a decent cross from Izunna Ikebuasi at the other end.
Town skipper Ryan Blackman was stretchered off towards the end after a worryingly lengthy spell of treatment - initial reports suggested a dislocated knee - leaving the home side a man short after all three substitutes had been used.
It was a close, tense game, but there was no denying Leatherhead's tenaciousness and determination to hang on to what they had. For Town, its back to the drawing board after two straight, damaging league defeats.
Enfield Town: Matt Nolan, Mickey Parcell, Aaron Greene (Jay Porter 77), Matt Johnson, Sam Hatton (Josh Davison 68), Dan Rumens, Lewis Taaffe, Ryan Blackman, Billy Bricknell, Kezie Ibe, Sam Chaney (Sam Youngs 63). Unused: James Mulley, Joe Payne. Booked: Greene, Blackman,
Leatherhead: Zaki Oualah, Izunna Ikebuasi, Misha Djamaili Craig McGee, Will Salmon, Jerry Nnamani, Daniel Gallagher (Steven Sardinha 90), Charlie Hester-Cook, Ibrahim Olutade (Will Seager 90), Travis Gregory, Jack Skinner (John Ufuah 79). Unused: Arti Krasniqi, Robert Mundow.