Report: Moneyfields 0-2 Whyteleafe
Whytleafe returned to action on Saturday with a 73-mile journey to Portsmouth and an Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round tie against Moneyfields FC, from the BetVictor Southern League South division. For the record, on paper it was an even tie with both teams Tier 4 in the football pyramid.
It was a proper cup day out, with a nice, shiny coach leaving Church Road at 11am sharp on Saturday morning containing the Leafe squad, senior management and a bunch of excited fans. Others made their own way to the south coast and the Whyteleafe faithful made up around 50 per cent of the crowd of 132. I travelled across from the Eastbourne area and a trying journey left me wishing that I had headed north to Whyteleafe and got on the coach instead!
Moneyfields’s home, in the Baffins suburb of Pompey, is a neat, albeit compact, tidy ground with a grass pitch in great condition. Both teams seemed up for the cup, but the first half was best forgotten with no real action of note other than two decent efforts by the impressive Corie Andrews and the little matter of Ronald Sobowale’s strike in the 45th minute, right on the stroke of half-time.
Much like Ronnie’s screaming 35-yarder at Chichester earlier in the season, this one was dead centre of the goal, but not quite so far out. Maybe 25-yards. I remember saying to the person next to me, ‘that looks like one for Ronnie’ when the free kick was awarded, and so it proved.
A two-step ‘run-up’, minimal back-lift and a rifle-bolt right foot shot saw the ball hit the top right-hand corner of the net. 1-0 Leafe at the interval.
The second half saw Moneyfields squander a couple of half chances early on, but with Ronald playing on the left wing to accommodate Junior Aikhionbare at centre forward, Sobowale was terrorising the Moneyfields right-back. Several promising runs spelt looming trouble for our amicable hosts and sure enough, in the 54th minute Ronnie went on a strong, mazy run in the penalty box evading several tackles before firing a strong shot into net from an acute angle.
This was enough for a Moneyfields FC season ticket holder to ruefully shake his head and shake my hand in the 85th minute as he headed for the exit pausing just to mutter: “We weren’t at the races today, you deserve the win. Good luck in the next round.”
It wasn’t over yet, although Leafe looked comfortable, but surely this was enough to see us into the heady heights of the third qualifying round of the cup? We all know better than to count our chickens of course, but really Leafe should have put the game beyond doubt well beyond the end. Corie Andrews and Sobowale again going close.
A word for Mannie Mensah, who is nicknamed ‘Insurance Policy’ by his team-mates, incidentally. For good reason, I’d say. He may not be the biggest in stature but the lad covers every blade of grass, tracks back, initiates attacks and glides around the midfield. Even though Ronnie bagged two goals, I’d say that Mannie deserves the man of the match award. He’s rapidly becoming a firm fan favourite.
Meanwhile, Moneyfields continued to look for a way back into the game but found a Leafe defence in resolute mood and superbly marshalled by skipper Nathan Campbell, although a couple of late chances had the Leafe fans - and chairman Mark Coote - looking nervously at our watches.
It was a joyous moment when the referee finally blew the full-time whistle!
So, into the third qualy round we go. Still too early to call the tailor BUT very exciting for the club to be just one of two BetVictor Isthmian South East sides left in the cup at this stage (Chichester City being the other – they drew 0-0 with Hartley Wintney), which is an achievement in itself.
By the time you read this the draw for the next round will have been made with the stakes raised even higher, as Vanarama National League clubs come into the FA Cup at this stage. Leafe boss, Harry Hudson – and probably everyone else at the club, really wants a plum home draw against one of the National League ‘big boys’, but will be delighted to face whoever we end up with.
How about Chesterfield or Torquay at Church Road? How good would that be?! That’s how the ‘romance of the cup’ gets you though, eh? Our journey continues …
WHYTELEAFE LINE-UP: 1 Tyler McCarthy 2 Mannie Mensah 3 Matt O’Donoghue 4 Nathan Campbell 5 Ricardo Thompson 6 Corey Holder 7 Corie Andrews (sub. 89’ 16 Tre Daley) 8 Bentley Graham (sub. 73’ 15 Jamie McGeoghegan) 9 Junior Aikhionbare 10 Martin Sontan 11 Ronnie Sobowale (sub. 90’ 14 JJ Malcolm)
Report by Steve Hole