Leatherhead went out of the Isthmian League Cup after a 2-0 defeat against Ashford Town, a Ryman Premier League side who are knocking on the door of the play-off places.

Bob Langford gave starting chances to Marc Elston, Devon Williams and Jean-Serge Musungu with Kev Terry, Jason Henry, Bill Marshall and matt Jones being joined by new signing, goalkeeper, Dave Hyatt on the bench.

It was not an auspicious start for the home team. Within ten minutes of the start, their influential skipper John Cartledge suffered a recurrence of his groin strain and was replaced by Jason Henry – a move which saw Stewart Holmes moving into the centre of the defence.

Conditions meant that it was difficult for players to keep their feet easily and with the pitch cutting up, it was not ideal for the Leatherhead passing game. The first half was a scrappy affair with Ashford showing their premier league status and generally having more of the play. Leatherhead were not overrun and made some useful headway with Jean-Serge Musungu breaking through into the area only to see some accomplished defending halt him in his tracks and later, Marc Elston’s shot blocked following a clever cross from the tireless Tom Hutchings.

Ashford could only make their breakthrough as the first half began to wind down. Scott Todd managed to evade some half hearted Tanners tackles and cleverly scooped his cross beyond the far post where a diving header from Paul Johnson found the back of the net with some ease.

Things got worse for the Mole Valley side just a few minutes later when a clearance header only made the edge of the area where Gavin Smith ( a number 9 wearing, bizarrely, a number 19 shirt) drove home a low hard shot that Chris Lewington could only just get his hand to.

This was disappointing defending from the home side.

The second half was much better for the Tanners. With a much improved service giving Tom Hutchings far more of the ball, he was able to use his close control and body to see off most of the visiting defence’s challenges but overall, the finish was not there. Two free kicks saw the Tanners go close. The second of the two, a curling shot from Hutchings, scraped the top of the bar but it was the first – from a similar position just outside the area to the right – that was probably the Tanners best chance. Hutchings free kick crashed back off the bar to a waiting Will Jenkins whose superb volley was well saved by Craig Ross.

It was not only the Ashford keeper who had a solid game between the posts. Chris Lewington is showing what a shrewd signing he was with a string of fine saves and blocks which undoubtedly kept the home side in the contest.

Leatherhead competed far better in the second half in difficult conditions against a side who play at a higher level. The loss of John Cartledge was, undoubtedly a blow for the home side as it deprived their midfield of the services of the tireless experienced, Stewart Holmes. Holmes is nothing less than a 100% player and despite finding himself filling in in defence, put in another excellent performance. With Cartledge unlikely to be fit for the next 2 – 3 weeks, Langford will welcome back the unavailable Ryan Palmer for Saturday’s league match against Walton & Hersham. He will also take heart from the fact that, despite a poor first half, his side were not overrun by a very good Ashford team.

Team Lewington, Williams, Cartledge (Henry – sub Terry), Jenkins, Shannon, Holmes, Wilfort, Cuff, Hutchings, Elston (Marshall), Musungu