Leatherhead crashed to a 5-1 defeat at Ashford Town on Tuesday.

Ashford has not been a happy hunting ground for the Tanners this year. The 5 goals from Tuesday night’s game has meant that the “Nuts & Bolts” have scored 13 times against the Mole Valley side since the beginning of the season. Bob Langford and his men will be pleased that they do not have to face them again this season.

Leatherhead was without long term injured John Cartledge and Iain Hendry, Tony Cuff had a leg injury from Saturday’s encounter with Walton & Hersham and ben Shannon was unavailable due to work commitments. Ex Youth teamer, Jack Holmes made his senior debut on the right side of defence.

In truth, Ashford was not 4 goals better than the home side. Seb Barton in their goal had far more action than Chris Lewington – other than picking the ball out of the net. That said, they took their chances against a Tanners defence that, far too often, defended set pieces poorly and gave their visitors far too much time on the ball in crucial areas.

Ashford made their breakthrough after just 5 minutes James Humphreys found himself in acres of space about 25 yards out and let fly with a low, fierce shot that gave Lewington no chance.

The Tanners had looked lacklustre on the previous Saturday but, at least showed more application on this occasion. Inexperience and a lack of options in defence and the midfield has made them vulnerable when defending and this was shown again just 15 minutes later. Ashford were awarded a free kick for an innocuous challenge by Ryan Palmer. The ensuing cross was not dealt with by a generous home defence and Craig Wilkins was able to hit home from beyond the far post.

Leatherhead were, by no means out of the contest. Jean-Serge Musungu had been delivering some deadly accurate dead ball kicks and this time, from a corner on the left, his cross was met by one of the smallest players in the Tanners side, Jason Henry who headed home unmarked. This spurred on Leatherhead and they started to take the game to Ashford with Tom Hutchings bossing defenders who towered over him and Henry running at Darren Braithwaite down the right flank.

With the half time break looming, it was the officials who again had a hand in the play. Tony Brown was clearly 5 yards offside when he collected the ball in the Tanners half. The linesman, who was some 15 yards behind the play, did not give the offside and Brown’s cross to the left flank resulted in a foul. The free hick was met by central defender Sean Ray and the Kent side regained their 2 goal margin.

The second half opened brightly for the Tanners. Within 5 minutes of the re-start, a Hutchings free kick fell loose in the area but Will Jenkins was unable to set himself for the shot and was quickly closed down by an experienced Ashford defence.

With the Tanners now starting to press, there was some hope that they might claw their way back into the game but, with their main chances coming from Tom Hutchings free kicks, although he went very close on a number of occasions, most sailed over the bar.

The visitors extended their lead with 15 minutes left on the clock. A free kick was, yet again, not cleared and Elliot Braithwaite drilled a low shot into the home net. The final nail in the coffin was hammered home in injury time when a very rare error from Chris Lewington saw the ball squirm underneath him from a Mitchell Sherwood shot to make it 5.

This performance underlined the progress that Leatherhead need to make to ensure that the club’s promotion ambitions are met. Injuries to key players have not helped but the overall inexperience in the side have shown how difficult it will be to compete against fairly average but more experienced sides. Bright spots were the accomplished debut of Jack Holmes at full back, the tioreless efforts of Stewart Holmes in the midfield and the fact that Iain Hendry has resumed training. The Tanners are in need of his experience.

Team Lewington, Williams, Holmes, Jenkins, Palmer, Holmes, Henry, Wilfort, Hutchings, Terry (Marshall), Musungu