Leafe travelled to second placed Lewisham Borough on 2 December for this highly anticipated top of the table clash: it did not disappoint. Leafe enjoyed most of the possession and territorial advantage for the first half, and only a fine save from the Boro keeper, plus the offside flag, kept Leafe at bay until the 34th minute, when Allen slid home from a fine pass from Roberts. Leafe could, and should, have made more of their superiority before the break and 1-0 at half time was scant reward.
The second half was a complete opposite, with Boro pressing and starting to threaten: they got their reward with a penalty early in the second half. However, Leafe new signing James Shaw managed to save it, much to the relief of the visiting fans. Boro continued to press, and the ref again pointed to the spot for another penalty. This time, Zeppo made no mistake, making it all square with 30 minutes left to play.
This was a game befitting of the top two, and chances came and went until the 90th minute, when Leafe got a free kick 20 yards out. Another new signing, James Teodorescu, fired the ball low around the wall and to the keeper’s left to win the game. 2-1: a great game that could’ve gone either way, but Leafe took the spoils.
Our match to high-flying Rochester a week later was cancelled due to bad weather, so Leafe stayed comfortably top of the league over Christmas and into 2024.
The rest of the holiday period was taken up by cup games and friendlies, with a 2-0 win over Croydon in the Division 1 Cup, and another 2-0 win over Lewisham in the League Cup.
The last game of the year was a friendly against Chipstead that saw Leafe win 3-1 and, more importantly, raise nearly £700 for the local food bank.
The new year saw us draw against Croydon in the Division 1 Cup, and then suffer a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Old Dorkinians in the Surrey FA Cup: a well-deserved win for the visitors, who played some of the best football seen at Church Road this season.
The Leafe faithful then made a long haul trip for a return to league action against Meridian VP, who play near Charlton. Worth it, however, as Leafe ran out 2-1 winners with Roberts claiming both goals. The first was a sublime lob over the keeper after a poor clearance, and the second a lovely tap in after great work down the left from Teodorescu. Shaw again proved what a good signing he was by saving yet another penalty, before Meridian scored a blinder through Jacubbowski, to give Leafe fans a nervy wait until the final whistle.
On 16 January, Leafe hosted Tunbridge Wells in a League Cup quarter-final and, to be frank, made short work of the team from the league above. They took the lead shortly before half-time, after the Wells keeper could only push a powerful Roberts shot into the path of Aaron Watson, who finished it! 1-0 at the break was not reflective of Leafe’s dominance, but it continued long into the second half, before Mike Hill’s cheeky curling shot from the edge of the box put the result beyond doubt. Even a Well’s late goal didn’t dent the crowd’s excitement. The semi-finals will be on 20 and 27 February, although the draw has yet to be made at the time of going to press.
Next up we were home to Rochester, second in the league and looking lively from the off. They put early pressure on by taking the lead through Morgan. It looked to be offside, but the assistant ref deemed it not, so the goal stood. Leafe slowly took control but could not find a way through Rochester’s stubborn defence.
Leafe got the reward on 60 minutes, when Temi Alaka was brought down in the box and Watson coolly put it beyond the keeper. 15 minutes later, Roberts fired Leafe in front, a brilliant solo effort, beating several players on a mazy run before sending a low skidding shot past the keeper’s left hand. A cracking crowd of 341 thought Leafe had won it, but they sat back too much: deep into injury time Rochester equalised from a corner. Honours even, but Leafe should have put this one to bed early.
Another visit to Lewisham, this time in the League 1 Cup, and a 3-0 defeat saw Leafe all but out of this hastily arranged cup. Not really at the races for this one and Lewisham were good value for their win, even without some bizarre decisions from the officials, which may cost Shaw a ban after being sent off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity , despite someone actually scoring a goal!
Saturday 27th saw Leafe sneak past a resurgent Thamesmead 1-0, thanks to a 39th minute goal from Watson, his 20th of the season. Thamesmead keeper Justin Lee kept his side in the mix with some outrageous saves and surely must have been Man of the Match.
Leafe finish January 10 points clear in the league, and in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
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