There was a surprise inclusion in Danny Heale’s starting XI in the shape of 20-year-old Hungarian striker Márk Murai. The forward has represented his country and Under-18 level and has previously been on trial with Scottish champions Celtic.
A strong wind was whipping off of the Thames and heading towards the car park end of the stadium. With this in mind, Gulls’ captain Lee O’Leary swapped ends after winning the toss so that Canvey would be playing with the wind in the first half.
Canvey took the lead on 12 minutes when they were awarded a corner which Harrison Chatting went over to take. Chatting delivered a deep corner to the edge of the box and allowed the wind to blow it back into a dangerous area.
Paul Semakula was able to clear the ball on the line under pressure from Martin Tuohy, but with none of his teammates alert to the danger he was forced to chase down his own clearance. However, Jack Simmons got to the ball first and was tripped by the Leatherhead midfielder and referee Matt Corlett pointed the spot.
Martin Tuohy stepped up and picked out the bottom corner despite goalkeeper Joe Taylor guessing the right way and diving low to his right.
Six minutes later Márk Murai had his first site of goal. Steve Sheehan had stayed forward from a free kick which had been cleared and managed to bring the ball down inside the box. Central defensive partner Ryan O’Rawe slid in on the loose ball, playing it back to Murai 18-yards from goal who shot narrowly over the bar.
Leatherhead came close to an equaliser on 36 minutes when defender Ryan Mahal sent over a cross from the right wing which found Giuseppe Sole at the back post. Sole connected with the ball in acrobatic fashion but could only watch as his shot sailed across goal and wide of the top corner, potentially kept out by the wind.
Canvey doubled their advantage on 38 minutes from another Harrison Chatting corner. Chatting once again struck the ball towards the edge of the area and let the wind curl the ball back into the area, this time finding Martin Tuohy at the back post who headed home his and Canvey’s second goal of the afternoon.
The Gulls went in at half time leading 2-0 but knowing that with the wind against them in the second half this match was far from over.
This looked to be the case six minutes into the restart when Kiernan Hughes-Mason managed to get past Luis Morrison down the left wing, but Conor Gough did very well to come off of his line and make the save with his chest.
Gough was called into action again two minutes later when former-Wealdstone and Grays Athletic left back two a free kick out on the right wing. Siva lofted the ball into the box, with the wind causing it to miss all of the players and head straight towards the far side of the net. However, Conor Gough was alert and managed to brilliantly flick the ball over with his right hand.
It should have been all over with 20 minutes to play when George Sykes played a lovely one-two with Harrison Chatting which saw the latter with a clear run on goal. With only Joe Taylor to beat Chatting instead opted to pass to Martin Tuohy to his left which caused the assistant referee’s flag to go up for offside.
Canvey were nearly made to pay for this missed opportunity immediately when Giuseppe Sole managed to shoot across goal from just inside the area on the right. The ball was destined for the bottom corner but was kept out thanks to a superb stop from Conor Gough, diving low to his right to turn it onto the post before pouncing on the loose ball ahead of Kiernan Hughes-Mason.
The contest was settled with seven minutes of normal time remaining as George Sykes collected the ball on the half way line on the left. Sykes set off on a superb run that saw him advance into the area before squaring to Martin Tuohy to complete his hattrick with a tap in.
Photo: Holly Allison
Match Highlights by Andy Wilkins
Post-Match Interview with Simon Pitts