Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gillingham 1 Norwich City 1

Match 21/09/773 - Saturday, 26th September 2009 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Jackson 36 (pen)
Norwich City (0) 1 Russell 90
Att. 7,550

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,035

Match Report

1,500 Norwich City supporters stationed behind the Town End goal being attacked by their favourites celebrated wildly as they snatched a 94th minute equaliser from Darel Russell whilst the rest of Priestfield looked on in stunned silence. As the final whistle sounded the feeling was one of gutted, arguments could be made that five minutes of added time was excessive (I had only three on my stopwatch) but the fair-minded (or neutral observers) would say that Norwich deserved a point.

The East Anglians had played for the best part of an hour with ten men following the awarding of a penalty and the sending off of goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Curtis Weston, sent through on goal by a deft flick from Simeon Jackson, was upended by the onrushing keeper. Was it a dive? I couldn’t tell from my Gordon Road seat and when referee Paul Taylor headed in the direction of the penalty box to brandish a card, I half expected a yellow for Weston as much as I hoped for a penalty. As it was a red was shown and Forster took the walk. Taylor is not a particularly respected referee (certainly not popular) and some of his decisions are completely mystifying, so why should we think that he got this one right?

Jackson kept his nerve through the long delay to put Gillingham one-up, much against the run of play. Norwich had opened brightly with Wes Hoolihan a shining star. An excellent Simon Royce save denied the tricky midfielder after a quarter of an hour and his partnership with right back Jon Otsemobor was giving the home side all sorts of problems.

Mr Taylor’s bizarre interventions brought yellow cards for Hoolihan and Gills skipper Barry Fuller following a minor spat in which the Norwich player auditioned for a part in Platoon, shame because he is so much better than that.

Just prior to half time Otsemobor was forced to leave the field following a knock and with it the Hoolihan threat did slightly diminish. The half ended with Gillingham starting to dominate territorially for the first time aided by the man advantage.

For the first 30 minutes of the second half, Gillingham held the upper hand, chances were made, chances were wasted. Gowling, Palmer and sub Nutter all saw efforts go high or wide before Jackson embarked on a one man crusade to seal the game. Four good, almost great, chances in the space of five minutes fell to the Gills ace marksman, but it was not to be. Two went wide, one went high and the other was smothered by the sub keeper, Declan Rudd. Within a couple minutes Jackson pulled up clutching a hamstring and his afternoon ended.

Norwich, with nothing to lose, started to gamble in the last 15 minutes. As they took the game on, sadly Gillingham didn’t help their cause by constantly giving the ball away. The pressure built and built until the 90th minute and beyond was reached. A superb block from a Hoolihan shot by John Nutter led to a corner and keeper Rudd rushed forward to join in the fray. Josh Gowling and Mark Bentley had manfully countered the threat of Grant Holt bruise for bruise all afternoon but with seconds remaining from the resultant corner, Holt headed onto the bar and Russell grabbed the equaliser from the rebound. Cue mad yellow-clad celebration.

I will use a phrase that I’ve used before in these columns, glass half-full or half empty? On this occasion, half empty I’m afraid, although I will admit I would have taken a draw at the start, to lose the three points at such a late stage leaves an empty feeling.

Credit to Norwich though, they’ve gone the distance with 10 men and while they had 11, I thought they were the best team we’ve seen at Priestfield so far this season and in Wes Hoolihan they have a starlet that even opposing fans can admire.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tonbridge 2 Bognor Regis Town 0

Match 20/09/772 - Tuesday, 22nd September 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbrdge (1) 2 Rook 23, Storey 74
Bognor Regis Town (0) 0
Att. 348

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/2,990

Match Report

Despite taking three points against bottom of the table Bognor Regis Town, Tonbridge’s indifferent home form continued last night. The visitors carved out six very good chances and failed to take a single one whilst the Angels benefited from a wicked deflection for their second goal.

It is really hard to understand the reasons why Tonbridge have under-performed at home, and not just this season, as their record at Longmead last term was similarly inconsistent. Whilst I have not seen a good Tonbridge performance this season, they should employ me as a lucky charm for I’ve been present at each of their three home wins!

Forced into a defensive reshuffle following injuries obtained in the warm-up, Lee Minshull was played in a central defensive position and his absence in midfield was sorely missed. Paul Butler came in as a makeshift full back, so it could be said that there were extenuating circumstances for the defensive uncertainty that created chance after chance for the West Sussex side who went on to spurn them one after the other.

In eight games this season Bognor have only scored six goals and sit at the foot of the table, goals win matches and they will continue in the basement of this league whilst their chance-taking is so profligate.

Tonbridge could have opened the scoring in the first quarter hour when a Jamie Cade effort was hacked off the line. Following on, Lee Worgan did well to save with his legs and the first of Bognor’s shooting chances came soon after when Jason Prior shot hopelessly wide and then Charlie Oatway, son of the ex-Brighton favourite, also blasted wide from a good position.

The home side took an undeserved lead on 23 minutes when Carl Rook turned in from close range following a Anthony Storey free kick that was headed on to the striker. Tonbridge failed to build on the goal and the game made its scrappy way to the half-time whistle.

Early in the second half the signs were posted that the half would progress in a similar manner to the first. Another chance for Bognor goes begging as once again Prior shot well over the bar. Michael Birmingham, a good old pro that rumbled his way around the midfield directing the traffic, had a free kick that was not so far over the top before Tonbridge scored a second to add a little comfort to the scoreline.

Kirk Watts, who had a good second half, crossed into the box from where the Bognor defence only managed to clear to the edge of the penalty area. Storey fired back in and with the help of a massive deflection found the bottom corner. It was the stroke of fortune that had deserted Bognor all night.

Although Tonbridge were now easing towards their second home League victory of the season, Bognor still had time to manage to waste one last opportunity with a header that went wide.

There were much recriminations about an incident involving Tonbridge supporters and the Sutton management on Saturday, happy to report that despite some audible bad language from behind the goal, there was no repetition last night. The hangover from last season’s encounter when the Sutton manager slapped Tonbridge captain Storey was an obvious factor, but the behaviour of a certain element of the Angels’ support has been an ongoing discussion for almost too long. As club secretary Charlie Cole was this time subjected to the abuse, it might well be the time when the perpetrators are banned from the club and hopefully some of its reputation can be restored before it goes beyond recall.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Leeds United 4 Gillingham 1

Match 19/09/771 - Saturday, 19th September 2009 - League One

Leeds United (2) 4 Johnson 14, 38 Howson 46, Beckford 80
Gillingham (0) 1 Barcham 50
Att. 21,026

Entrance: £21
Programme: £3
Mileage: 491/2,964

Match Report

Sixteen months ago with the sands of Gillingham’s League One time ebbing away, Leeds fans taunted their counterparts with the song “we’ll never play you again”. Two failed play-offs and one Kent-based promotion, their words came back to haunt them as the two teams did meet again.

Bright enough to realise they would have to meet us once more, they didn’t sing it yesterday, but had they, on this occasion I, for one, would guess they might well be right this time.

Gillingham became the home side’s 15th successive victim at Elland Road and they played with such aplomb it is very difficult to make a case as to why they will not be taking their place in the Championship next season without the need of the dreaded play-offs.

They have strength and movement in midfield where they won game and carried a threat from their front two. On Leeds’ debit side Gillingham created several good chances and the spurning of these at crucial times contributed to the slightly flattering scoreline.

In May 2008, a capacity crowd and an antagonistic spat between the chairmen fuelled a hostile atmosphere as both clubs were 90 minutes away from their respective fates of the season. This time around, despite the two chairman’s best efforts, there was not the same anticipation or ire towards the visitors.

After 10 minutes of little more than jousting the home side took the lead when the excellent Bradley Johnson met a Robert Snodgrass corner with a powerful header from an unmarked position. Following the goal Leeds dominated the midfield area retaining the ball for long periods of time with Johnson seemingly the centre of everything.

After 38 minutes Johnson inflicted further pain with a surging run against Gills’ skipper Barry Fuller, who failed to stop the midfielder shooting across the face of the goal. Whether the ball would have found the net if it hadn’t deflected off Simon Royce’s legs is arguable, truth is Fuller could have done better.

The first of Gillingham’s chances to put a different complexion on the match came just prior to half time. Last Saturday Curtis Weston enjoyed the finest of matches against one of his previous employers, this Saturday his mood would have been vastly different. Dennis Oli, who had made very little impact, released Weston into a clear shooting position from which the former Leeds man shot wide.

Had they gone in with the scoreline 2-1, the team talks might have been different, but whatever was said, within half a minute of the restart the game was over as a contest. Superb movement cut through Gillingham’s back line and ended with Jonathan Howson shooting into Royce’s left hand corner from just inside the box.

As a Jermaine Beckford’s drive struck the bar and Becchio shot wide in the space of a couple of minutes following the goal, the possibility of humiliation loomed large. But credit to Mark Stimson’s side who responded with a well taken goal from Andy Barcham who drove high into the net from the left hand side of the box to momentarily silence the Elland Road crowd.

A second opportunity to impose a bit of pressure on the home side passed Gillingham by when Simeon Jackson just couldn’t rise high enough to get over the ball and his header sailed over the bar. Gillingham had shown a good deal of resilience in the face of a superior side but their resistance was finally broken when a Becchio shot came off the bar for Beckford to nod home the rebound from close range. Offside? Looked it, but television will be prove one way or the other.

Gillingham were far from disgraced but the difference between the sides showed just how far they have to go to be competitive in this division and the gap will need to be closed with a fraction of the resources available to the likes of Leeds.

Elland Road is the type of ground in which we only dreamt of playing prior to our Championship days, but as a visiting supporter the viewing is particularly disappointing. Stuck in a corner, adjacent to what was known as the Lurpak Stand that towers over the rest of the stadium, with pillars obscuring the view, it is one of the poorest positions we are likely to experience this season. If those Leeds fans had sang “we’ll only play you once more”, I’m more than inclined to say “and thank goodness it’s at Priestfield” where win, lose or draw we will, at least, have a clear view of the proceedings.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Tonbridge 1 Metropolitan Police 0

Match 18/09/770 - Saturday, 12th September 2009 -
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying

Tonbridge (1) 1 Minshull 38
Metropolitan Police (0) 0
Att. 352

Entrance: Sneaked in late
Programme: None
Mileage: 26/2,473

Match Report

The keyboard warriors and the genuine hooligans of Gillingham, Millwall and West Ham did me a little favour in forcing a 12.30 kick off at Priestfield. The police had enforced the early start on Gillingham in the face of the potential for crowd trouble, especially as the West Ham element became involved.

As it happened, at least as far as I saw, the game went off peacefully but the early finish gave me the opportunity to hot foot it to Tonbridge for their FA Cup game against Metropolitan Police. I missed the opening 15 minutes and sheepishly took my place on the sidelines having not paid for entry, the turnstile operator having retired to watch the game.

Sadly my endeavours were not rewarded with sparkling entertainment but at least Tonbridge progressed to the next round with a single goal victory. A 38th minute Lee Minshull goal ultimately proved the difference in a game that Tonbridge deserved to win, but were less than impressive. Several chances for the home side went begging before a Jamie Cade miscue fell kindly to Minshull whose scuffed shot found the bottom corner.

Fussy refereeing, a hot afternoon and a misfiring Tonbridge strike force combined to make for a frustrating afternoon (and made me feel less guilty about not paying!). After half-an-hour of the second half Paul Booth laid on a sitter for Carl Rook, who somehow sidefooted wide, it was synonymous of the match in general.

The £3,000 prize money will be a welcome entry to Tonbridge’s credit column and a place in Monday’s draw for the Second Qualifying Round offers the opportunity for further riches.

Gillingham 2 Millwall 0

Match 17/09/769 - Saturday, 12th September 2009 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Barcham 6, Weston 40
Millwall (0) 0
Att. 8,097

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/2,447

Match Report

Bragging rights among supporters are an important part of football. Tonight I hold those rights on the Bermondsey shop floor at which I work and I’m going to enjoy lording it for some little while. Once again little Gillingham have upset mighty Millwall, a club that is perennially in the wrong division and are only in these nether regions of the Football League due to administrative conspiracy.

Gillingham have been victims in the past of the curse of the returning ex-player. Curtis Weston, a Millwall cup finalist at 17 years of age, haunted the south Londoners with a high quality performance and a 25-yarder into the bottom left hand corner to put the home side two goals clear at the break. Weston was absolutely superb and run himself into the ground culminating with a standing ovation on his substitution with 10 minutes remaining and the game all but won. In the absence of Mark McCammon, he played further forward than usual, dovetailing wonderfully well with Simeon Jackson in a first half in which Millwall had very few answers to the questions skilfully posed.

Millwall just could not cope with the pace of the home side. Andy Barcham and Dennis Oli time and again left defenders trailing in their wake and the forward pair’s movement left them with spinning heads. There was just six minutes on the clock when Weston (pictured) laid off to Barcham who let fly from 25 yards with a searing drive into the top corner.

If there was a negative within the first half performance it was that Gillingham should have been home and hosed by the time the whistle sounded on 45 minutes. Jackson had a goal ruled out for offside, pulled another couple of chances wide and Danny Jackman shot weakly when in a good position. In reply, Steve Morison, who once interested Mark Stimson, was a bit of a handful, but was admirably contained by the central defensive pairing of Josh Gowling and Mark Bentley. He was through on goal just before half time but was thwarted by a smothering save by Simon Royce. Meanwhile, ex-Gillingham favourite, Neil Harris made little impression in his quest to be the ex-player doing the haunting.

Whilst the home support roared their approval at the half time whistle, the near 2,000 Lions fans filling the Town End greeted their side with a chorus of boos. They are knowledgeable football people, they knew their side had been comprehensively outplayed. A little green man from Mars could equally have come to the same conclusion.

The second half began with a couple of substitutions from Kenny Jackett and Millwall made a better fist of the next 45 minutes, but still the better chances came and went to the home side as the killer third goal threatened but failed to materialise and there was always the nagging worry that one goal might just let the visitors back into the game.

For leading scorer Jackson it was not to be his day, at least in a goalscoring capacity, as another couple of chances went begging and Oli blasted into the Rainham End with reckless abandon. Royce was forced into his only real save of the half from a Jimi Abdou header but by this time many of the Lions fans were on the A2 heading home.

In his after-match Radio Kent interview manager Stimson commented that the first 45 were the best in his term at the club and it would be hard to disagree. Gillingham’s movement was a delight, both goals were stunning strikes and until we meet again in April the Bermondsey shop floor is my stage. Now . . . to gloat or not to gloat that is the question!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

England 5 Croatia 1

Match 16/09/768 - Wednesday, 9th September 2009 -
World Cup Qualifier

Att. 87,319
Entrance: £43.90
Programme: £6
Mileage: 100/2,402

Match Report

England needed no 999 calls last night as Croatia were swept to one side by a stunning World Cup qualification performance. The ninth day, of the ninth month, of the ninth year will long be remembered as the day that England booked their ticket for South Africa, extracted the ultimate revenge on their nemesis of 2008, but most fondly for the day that Fabio Capello’s side produced a style and a result for the world to sit up and take notice.

Two years ago on this blog I reproduced a classic Sun front cover, a burst ball lying in the gutter, as a disastrous defeat was leapt all other by the national press, it is only fair that today’s Sun gets reproduced to redress the balance. Gone is the Wally with the Brolly, in his place, Fabio with the Bolly. The Italian with the misfiring English is now talking our language and the nation is taking notice and that will create Capello’s next problem, managing our expectations. We go to every World Cup Finals with misguided hopes, the cart goes in front of the horse and we are always left disappointed. Will those expectations be different this time? Probably not, and mainly because we are good, very good.

A noisy Croatian contingent produced an atmosphere that was reminiscent of November 2007 and a nervous apprehension to match. Missing was the rain and a man with an umbrella. Nerves were dispelled as England produced a first 20 minutes that blew away the opposition. The first time that Aaron Lennon was given the ball and the opportunity to run at an absolutely useless Nikola Pokrivac we knew that this game was there for the taking. An early penalty appeal was denied before Lennon attacked the box once more to be scythed down by Simunic. Frank Lampard despatched the penalty and we sensed that we were about to witness something special.

For Aaron Lennon read Theo Walcott in Zagreb a year ago. On that day Croatia had no answer to the Arsenal flyer, last night his North London counterpart terrorised the hapless Croats. On 18 minutes he ran once again at his bemused full back who backed off giving Lennon space to float a cross to the far post for Steven Gerrard to easily head home. An attempted chant of Easy, Easy was stifled as, perhaps like myself, images of Carson diving over balls and that damn umbrella remained set in the brain.

Chances came and went with reckless abandon for the rest of the half. Emile Heskey, who did a good job as the target man, he linked well, drew fouls in dangerous places, but in front of goal, oh dear, oh dear. Lampard shot over, Barry drew a good save from Vedran Runje, it would be no exaggeration to say that England should have been five clear by the break, but they wasn’t and an early second half goal for Croatia would resurrect the nerves.

The useless Pokrivac made way for Ivan Rakitic and for a spell Croatia looked to be making their way back into the game. They had a penalty appeal, one that, as is said, “seen them given” and Green was actually forced into a save, before a Glen Johnson cross was met by Lampard to add a third. On 66 minutes, the cries of Easy, Easy were able to start in earnest. Wayne Rooney chased a lost cause to the bye-line, brilliantly hooked the ball back to Gerrard who did superbly to direct a soaring header for a fourth.

Much has been said and written about Glen Johnson’s abilities as an international full back. Last night for the most part he had a good game. His forte has always been his forward play but with question marks against his defending. On 73 minutes he allowed Rakitic too much room to deliver a cross and despite Robert Green’s best efforts saving first from Srna before Eduardo finally scored. Such is Capello’s intensity that despite the four goal advantage, his mannerisms showed he was furious that once again England had failed to complete a clean sheet.

Vedrun Runje aided and abetted England’s nap hand with a rick of Paul Robinson in Zagreb proportions when he miskicked a back pass directly to Rooney who was almost embarrassed to shoot into the empty goal. It was hilarious, but for Runje and for Croatia it was in keeping with the evening, it was humiliating.

Such was the ease of the proceedings the celebrations of reaching the World Cup Finals, at the earliest opportunity ever achieved by an England side were fairly muted, certainly nothing like the way qualification for 2002 was greeted at Old Trafford following Beckham’s goal against Greece. But I guess this is Capello’s way, nothing has been achieved . . . yet.

Capello is the man. Who talks these days about whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together, last night they were magnificent. Beckham might still be there, hovering on the bench, but on the right hand side we have a wealth of talent, all of them flyers, and what was unfulfilled potential in Lennon, Wright-Phillips, Walcott (add in Milner and Young on the other flank) is beginning to blossom. Can Heskey, wasteful in front of goal, continue to lead the line on the strength of being a fulcrom for better, dare I say, world-class players, Capello will decide on his merits against that of the free-scoring Jermain Defoe and I for one am absolutely convinced his decision will be validated.

Big decisions of our own need to be made now qualification is secure. I don’t think either of us have the stomach to turn our backs on the opportunity to go to South Africa next year. Air fare and hotel room prices are rising rapidly, daily, but cash cannot be allowed to deter us, after all we are going to win the World Cup. STOP IT!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gillingham 3 Exeter City 0

Match 15/09/767 - Saturday, 5th September 2009 - League One

Gillingham (1) 3 Jackson 4,46 Rooney 78
Exeter City (0) 0
Att. 5,107

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/2,302

Match Report

A League One encounter between those that have and those that have not. We are not, of course, talking Princes and Paupers, just those that have an on-loan Charlton striker and those that wish for one. On the strength of Stuart Fleetwood’s ineffective performance yesterday, and taking into account he was considered further up Phil Parkinson’s pecking order then perhaps we should be careful what we wish for, but then again we all know different don’t we?

Fleetwood’s marshalling into non-existence was part of an excellent team performance from Gillingham building on last Saturday’s point at Walsall and the midweek Paint Pot progress. Josh Gowling and Mark Bentley both had superb games in the centre of defence, whilst Simeon Jackson underlined his value to the club both in the present and the future.

A little under a year ago at St James’s Park, Gillingham produced an absolutely horrible performance to get beaten 3-0 in a game in which they were completely outplayed, yesterday the scoreline was reversed in a game that took a similarly one-sided pattern. In each half the home side were fast out of the traps and found the net on both occasions. In the fourth minute Barry Fuller surged into the penalty area where he was felled by the veteran Marcus Stewart. Jackson converted from the spot via the left hand post to give Gillingham an early advantage.

Exeter’s on-loan keeper Oscar Jansson sporting the most flourescent of orange kits, may well have best spent his warm-up time introducing himself to his defenders as for the majority of the match, and especially the early period, the lack of communication could not have been more evident had they written it in the skies.

After completely dominating the first 20 minutes, Gillingham received a set-back when Mark McCammon pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring strain. The big striker had been extremely effective and his departure was disappointing as his form and contribution had been improving match on match. Such is McCammon’s fitness record that a cursory remark, “have a good Christmas, Mark” might not be so far off the mark.

Jansson’s lack of understanding with his defenders allowed Andy Barcham to catch him in no-man’s land only to watch as his shot clipped the bar as the home side continued to dominate.

Just eight seconds of the second half had elapsed when Jackson pounced on a weak back header by Richard Duffy to lift the ball over the stranded man in orange. I’m not in the school of thought that Jackson is, at present, a million pound striker, but this was the type of strike that attracts clubs to pay money of that order.

Curtis Weston almost found Jackson five minutes later but an interception denied the striker a hat-trick opportunity. This passage of play also brought to our attention Exeter’s Troy Archibald-Henville, a name so long that it arched on the back of his shirt in a horseshoe shape until it virtually disappeared into his shorts. It brought much amusement as people endeavoured to read it, the funniest suggestion I heard being Dagenham and Redbridge!

A 74th minute double substitution brought to the field of play the combination that was to seal the game four minutes later with a third goal. John Nutter, who had been sent clear by the excellent Chris Palmer, crossed for Luke Rooney (pictured) to crash in a spectacular first senior goal. It was the icing on the cake.

It would be very easy just to say Exeter were poor, make no mistake they were, but that would detract from a very good Gillingham performance in which they looked secure at the back, creative and pacey in midfield and had an arch predator in front of goal. Derby day next Saturday, we can only hope that (a) our form holds good or (b) Millwall are as bad as Exeter . . . the latter I cannot imagine.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tonbridge 3 Ashford Town (Middx) 2

Match 14/09/766 - Monday, 31st August 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 3 Minshull 47, Rook 63, 90 (pen)
Asford Town (Middx) (0) 2 Bulley 46, Johnson 61
Att. 440

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/2,257

Match Report

For 44 minutes of this Ryman Premier clash it appeared that I was at the same game as Saturday’s encounter at Walsall. It was dull, chances were few and far between as the players struggled with the heat of a hot August Bank Holiday and a pitch that was solid as a rock under a carpet of grass that looked great but from all accounts is quite difficult.

After 20 minutes and against the tempo of the game, Lee Worgan was forced into a finger-tip save from a speculative 25 yarder from Ricardo Joseph. Both sides created a couple of half chances that failed to extend either keeper until just before half time when firstly Jamie Cade ran into the box and had a shot that was well saved by Ashford keeper, Craig Ross, his parry fell to Kirk Watts whose shot was also turned away for a corner. From the resultant corner, Paul Booth headed just over to end the half and set the scene for an altogether better second period.

The second half was only seconds old when a looping header from Malachi Bulley crept in off a post. It was just the tonic the game needed as Tonbridge responded immediately. Watts centred a great cross that was met by Lee Minshull with a powerful header into the top corner.

The Angels should have gone into the lead when Booth missed when it seemed easier to score before some awful defending once again handed Ashford the lead. A free kick into the box left Paul Johnson with a shooting chance that he scuffed badly. Rather than capitalising on their good fortune, the Tonbridge defence returned the ball to Johnson who this time scored with another half-hit shot.

Once again Tonbridge managed to respond quickly. Gavin Dayes, a 58th minute substitute, crossed from the right to the back post where Carl Rook headed home. The home side now held the ascendancy and Ross did well to tip away a long range shot from Anthony Storey. Rook saw an acrobatic volley just clear the bar and had another shot that went in the same direction as the time ticked away.

On the 90th minute Tonbridge were awarded a penalty. Minshull, a worthy man of the match, sent Watts free down the left hand side whose cross was clearly handled by Vinnie O’Sullivan. Rook converted from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way. There was a sense of deja-vu from last season’s exciting encounter with Ashford when Tonbridge came back from two goals down to win by the same scoreline with a goal well into time added.

So alls well that ends well for Tonbridge who would nevertheless have frustrated their manager, Tommy Warrilow, with some sloppy defending. But the win moves them into third place in the Ryman Premier, a good start given the uncertainty surrounding the club as the season commenced.