Report: Tooting & Mitcham 1-2 Whyteleafe
A rainy – for a change! – evening in Mitcham on Tuesday evening when The Leafe took on BetVictor Isthmian South Central side, Tooting & Mitcham in the decider in Group 10 of the Velocity Trophy.
What is effectively the Isthmian League’s league cup has undergone extensive changes this season into a group format. If matches are drawn then penalties ensue – no extra time or replays – and the winner of the shoot-out gets an extra point.
In what has seemed like months of matches it all came down to this one being the decider. If it was a draw, then Chertsey would progress. However, if there was a victor in this match, that team would go through to the knock-out phase to face Bet Victor Premier League opposition.
Both teams lined up with shall we say, ‘heavy squad rotation’ with Harry Hudson blooding seven debutants in this match, including Hamilton Antonio from Dulwich Hamlet and Aristade Bassele from Corinthian Casuals.
I guess it can be best described as a scrappy game, not helped by the greasy pitch, no doubt – indeed this match should have been played five weeks ago but rain played a part there and the game was postponed. A bit of a theme with the weather at the minute.
The first half was an even affair although there wasn’t much to thrill the hardcore crowd of 57 although Whyteleafe looked the more impressive going forward. Tooting had beaten us fairly comfortably a few weeks ago in the FA Trophy – at Church Road – but looked nothing like as threatening in this game.
Leafe striker Junior Aikhionbare could - should on another day – have scored five within thirty minutes but from his shot in the 19th minute new forward Bassele opened his account for Leafe with a nicely taken goal.
Tooting & Mitcham, to their credit, went in search of an equaliser and replied within just three minutes when a move down the Leafe left saw Junior Timite unmarked and he managed to fire a shot past Leafe reserve keeper Sheikh Ceesay.
However, more Leafe pressure – we always looked likely to catch the Tooting defence, playing a high-line, on the break – resulted in Aikhionbare finally getting his goal. Actually, that turned out to be the deciding goal.
A much-changed Leafe side saw Helge Orome and Jamie McGeoghegan start alongside Corey Holder in a back three (neither of those two ever let anyone down and both played well in this game).
The two young 17-year old full-backs making their debuts, Remell Griesen on the right and Lesley Duru on the left, really impressed with their effort and endeavour, while midfielder Antonio Walker-Barth also shone. Good also to see Martin Sontan back in form. A lot of Leafe’s best moves were instigated by him.
Anyway, in a closely fought Group 10, with just three points separating all five teams, Whyteleafe emerge as winners of the group and we now progress to face Bet Victor Isthmian league leaders, Horsham. The date has yet to be set.
Horsham were promoted from our division last season via the play-offs and have started this campaign strongly. It will our first visit to their brand-new ground, too. Watch out for the date on the Leafe website.
Leafe boss, Harry Hudson said: “We were really pleased to build the momentum from Saturday’s win at Whitstable. We need to get a run together and winning away against Tooting & Mitcham is a great result.
“We rested a lot of our first teamers in the game and I thought that the boys that came in were superb – a total of seven debutants.
“We now look forward to the Horsham game. They are flying in their league and I have heard that their new stadium is exceptional! Up The Leafe!”
Whyteleafe line-up: 1 Sheikh Ceesay 2 Remell Griesen (sub 85’ 17 Ross Craig) 3 Lesley Duru (sub 62’ 12 Ricardo Thompson) 4 Jamie McGeoghegan 5 Helge Orome 6 Corey Holder 7 Junior Aikhionbare (sub 73’ 15 Jack Garner) 8 Hamilton Antonio (sub 62’ 14 Bentley Graham) 9 Aristide Bassele 10 Martin Sontan 11 Antonio Walker-Barth. Sub Not Used: 16 Tyrese Sutherland