Away team make themselves at home at the Grove
My pre-match routine at Kingsmeadow mainly involved putting provocative stickers on the Oyster machine at Norbiton Station before searching for vintage Alan Dowson T-shirts in the club shop. Approaching Fetcham Grove for my first “home game” this season, at a miscalculatedly early 12.30pm, I had nothing to do but wander into Leatherhead Library to research our new locale and landlords. And there it was: nestled between Alternative Sports and the Home Maintenance section, a copy of “How Green is Mole Valley? A History of Leatherhead FC”.
This seemed a fitting title on a day when it wasn’t quite clear how green Mole Valley was. Some of the tell-tale signs of a K’s home game were there: I bought a Golden Goal ticket from Brian, I supplicated myself to Mark Murphy on the turnstile, there were more smatterings of red and white hoops than you’d get at an ordinary away game.
Other things confused: there was real milk at the tea bar; a sign outside informed us that there was no parking available for “visiting fans”, without saying who was who; the players didn’t come out to Tears for Fears**; and there was, it must be said, a lot of green paint and green seats and green shirts in a part of Mole Valley which is itself very green (Evidence: I even met a thrusting horse in the curious farmland behind the leisure centre, something that is statistically less likely to happen on Kingston Road).
(**Thanks to Rob for blasting it out when the players emerged for the second-half.)
So where the K’s began and the Tanners ended only became truly apparent when the goals started going in – unfortunately all of them for the away (home) side. Behind the netting and the bar-cage, Leatherhead fans cheered while, curiously, the mainstand barely moved, suggesting a K’s takeover of the seating areas. Perhaps Mole Valley is only half Green after all.
What turned into a grim 4-0 defeat started fairly brightly. While this iteration of K’s don’t really create chances, there are spells of action in the opposition half that suggest a game-plan. Striker turned centre-back turned striker Ricky Sappleton was upfront in a 4-3-3, with Tom Derry and Ben Ward-Cochrane (provider of a mere four assists in a friendly against Hornchurch mid-week) buzzing ineffectually like wasps at an abandoned picnic.
Leatherhead took some time to adjust but then realised there were goals to be had if they got the delivery right. Two crosses from Sean Clohessey produced two goals before half-time for Lee Minshull and former Womble Jack Midson.
With K’s having only scored one goal all season, a comeback seemed unlikely – although a spirited 15 minutes after the break did produce a chance for Derry and the odd enterprising run by substitute Jack Parter. A largely one-paced midfield toiled without advancing. And Sappleton occasionally thought about doing things before confronting the mind-body problem.
On a sunny day, the only obvious solution to the game was a retreat to one of the many grassy knolls around the pitch for a lengthy catch-up with friends. Marriages, births, deaths, trips to Gibraltar. Meanwhile, Leatherhead got two more through Chike Kandi and Yannis Ambroisine: crosses uncleared, hesitation, indecision and punishment completing a rout. The Tanners fans sang something about Kingston and home.
The final whistle and a final thought: we need to score at Fetcham Grove. We need a bundle. We need some fun. Then it might start to feel just a bit more red and white.
Match report by Taimour Lay.