I must admit, standing in 32 degrees of heat with half my team gridlocked on the M25, with a referee keen to start the game at 3pm no matter what, I think you could forgive me for lowering my expectations before the game on Saturday against the 2nd favourites for the League. However, during the warm up, I could see that these boys hadn’t let any of the preparation affect them. There was a real buzz amongst them, something I hadn’t felt during pre-season if I’m honest. I stood with Sinders and he felt exactly the same. It wasn’t great preparation and in addition, we didn’t have that long to warm up. However, I did feel that we were up for it.
My feelings were confirmed when we put in a quite excellent display. From Back to Front we were excellent even in the conditions and being on probably the biggest pitch in the League, but it seemed to suit us. Leatherhead surprised me by playing very little football. Everything was long and down the throat of Bradbrook to feed off of. I thought Josh and Laurence dealt with him very well. I’m an admirer of Tom, and I said before the game that we need to keep him in front of us all game and we would be ok. But typical Tom, he nicked a header with 10 to go from a very dubious free kick. He did it to me last year at Horsham. We were 1-1 with Margate with 10 to go and he hit a 30 yarder in the top corner! However, as I say, they played very direct and we totally outplayed them at times. I was there two years ago with Faversham and we were 3-0 down by half time and it was a horror show. Leatherhead were quite simply brilliant back then. We have to take heart, as if that’s the 2nd best team in the League, we are going to have a very good season, and however on that performance I would say that they may not be 2nd favourites for long! But that in the main was due to our performance. We kept the ball well, we tried to move the ball quickly and transfer it when we could. We played to our tactics brilliantly, only to be undone by one lapse of concentration. And I’m afraid that’s the difference between the top sides and those in the middle of the table and we have to learn form that.
I have to hold my hands up a little for the defeat, as I thought I had every base covered. We knew that substitutions would be important, and Rich and I had a plan for the final 15 minutes. Unfortunately, just as I sent the lads to warm up something ruined those plans. Mev (Micheal Everitt) got injured. The one thing I hadn’t planned for was for Mev to get injured. Once he came off, we re-shuffled, but in hindsight I probably made a wrong switch. That’s nothing against the lads that moved positions, but I think I could have resolved it quicker and then we wouldn’t have had a 5min spell where we just lost our shape a little. I will learn from that and not make the same mistake again.
I was very proud of the lads Saturday and I have to say if we put in that performance each week, then we are in for an enjoyable season. That was one of my best displays as Manager at any club. Loads of positives, loads to work on, we are no-where near the finished article, but we are moving to where we need to be. Fitness was good and the lads were gutted afterwards and yet buoyed by the performance. Team morale took a massive step forward Saturday and the dressing room is getting closer together.
However, we have set a benchmark and we have Maidstone tomorrow who will be hurting from Saturday. It has the makings of a great game as we are hurt as well and we want to put it right ASAP. We go in again us underdogs, but if we perform like we did Saturday then we will give anyone a game. I can’t fault the players from Saturday, but we now have to leave it there and move on. We want to take the game to Maidstone tomorrow night and I have a feeling after speaking to the players, that is exactly what we will be doing
Last word for you Supporters, and I’ll sum it up in one word………………Outstanding !