New faces on Saturday included Brighton & Hove Albion ‘keeper, Roco Rees and the not so new, Jalen Jones with Shola Ayoola starting a game for the first time.
In a match that the visitors controlled right from the start, the opening goal arrived after ten minutes. A measured long ball from right-back, Joel Colbran, close to the touchline, sent Lloyd Dawes galloping away and he held off his marker to beat Tyler McCarthy at his near post.
‘Leafe had a penalty appeal turned down midway through the half after Jordan Clarke got past Reece Myles-Meekums on the outside but, presumably, ran across him into the box rather than being tripped.
Ronald Sobowale was almost gifted an equaliser when debutant, Rees gave the ball straight to him, only for the crossbar to deny the number nine a leveller.
Moments later, Ayoola outmuscled Tre Daley on his way into the area before unleashing a powerful drive across McCarthy and into the far side of the net. Preceding a much welcome drinks break on an overcast but humid afternoon.
The hosts responded after the scheduled interlude through Clarke’s free-kick, which he struck low, around the defensive wall, where Rees gathered safely.
That set-piece chance had come on the half-hour mark and barely sixty seconds further on, Mason Doughty – on for the injured Cameron Tutt – thought Christmas had arrived early when the Whyteleafe rearguard presented him with the ball, which he took forward and gleefully blasted past a stranded McCarthy, with an identical finish to Ayoola.
Dean Patriscio hit a swerving dead-ball from the left-hand edge of the penalty area that Rees caught and held without any concern, then Joe Tennent couldn’t direct his header on target from Jesse Starkey’s corner, as chances continued to come thick and fast for both teams.
Five minutes before the interval, Starkey swung in another flag-kick that caused a mild panic in the home backline, once Jones had headed it down into the danger zone but the crisis was averted.
A relentless Dawes went on one of his trademark, mesmeric runs that took him past a succession of olive green shirts, only for it all to end in the untroubled gloves of McCarthy.
A brief moment of concern occurred when Sobowale hit his Captain, rather than the target. Fortunately, Nathan Campbell took the rocket of a ‘shot’ in his lower back and was able to continue without any serious damage done.
In first-half stoppage time, Ayoola’s ball in from the left was guided onto the post by Dawes, leaving Doughty with an open net in which to nod home a fourth.
The start of the second period saw both sides fire over the bar; Dawes, after he’d created room for himself and Sobowale (Campbell keeping a safe distance.)
Antonio Walker-Barth literally ran into a brick wall, in the form of Jones, as his run ended abruptly but normal service soon resumed when Dawes met Starkey’s corner first time, on the volley, to beat McCarthy again at his near post.
The former Chelsea Junior then had a go himself, although his early attempt at catching out the overworked custodian went wide.
Daley set up Campbell for an attempt that simply looped up harmlessly into the grateful hands of Rees, as the host (gamely) battled on.
A sixth goal was provided by substitute, Ollie Pearce as he robbed Bentley Graham of possession, strode forward and stroked past McCarthy.
He almost assisted Doughty in notching a hat-trick, after the striker pounced on a half-cleared cross, turned but missed the back stick by a matter of inches.
Golden Boot contender, Darren Budd, for once, failed to test McCarthy who pushed aside Pearce’s next shot after another sub, Callum Kealy had created the opportunity.
Doughty and Junior Aikhionbare then took it turns to clear the crossbar, although the latter had some explaining to do as he managed to set off a car alarm in the player’s car park, behind the main stand. Mason merely, mildly upset fans of Countryfile and temporarily troubled passing motorists on the A22.
Pearce swivelled and hooked a Ben Mendoza corner onto the roof of the stand – no wildlife or vehicles at risk – while Aikhionbare outpaced Ross Edwards from inside his own half and raced away down the left flank but his low delivery was fielded comfortably by Rui Buckland, at the base of his near upright.
JJ Malcolm thought he’d been played in by Walker-Barth, only for the final pass to be overhit and Mendoza fired fractionally over the apparatus, after Ricardo Thompson had bundled Jasper Pattenden to the ground, in the dying embers of a good workout for both teams.