Thursday, 31 July 2014

Lydd Town 3 Tunbridge Wells 3

Match 07/14/1116 - Tuesday, 29th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Lydd Town (1) 3
Tunbridge Wells (2) 3 Bryant 2 Beecroft
Att. 50-ish

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 58/332
New ground: 258

An hour's run through the Kent countryside to one of the county's footballing outposts proved good value as Lydd Town and Tunbridge Wells fought out a feisty pre-season friendly at The Lindsey Field. There is a certain engaging beauty to Romney Marsh, but with Dungeness Power Station viewed in the distance, it also brings a certain eeriness.

From the disappointment of Saturday's comparatively expensive friendly and a game lacking a competitive edge, this match with a free entrance had a vigour that sometimes went over the top as Lydd, in particular, had no concept of the word friendly.

The Kent Invicta League side are no mugs. They came second last season to Hollands and Blair, indeed taking four points off the eventual champions, and in pre-season this year have already visited SCEL side, Deal Town, and won 5-3.

The game was not helped by some rather curious officiating by a referee who did seem rather out of his depth in a game of rough and tumble.

Pre-season remains a guessing game as to who is who with new faces arriving all the time. On this occasion Tunbridge Wells fielded Mark Wallis, who was with Lydd last season and instrumental in this friendly being played. Another new face was winger Jack Goldsmith.

Tunbridge Wells opened brightly as were quickly in front as a cross to the far post was met on the volley by Tom Bryant to open the scoring.

The Lydd Town manager obviously believed in getting the most out of his squad as he continually rotated his players with the first one leaving the field after a little more than a quarter of an hour and was still making substitutions with 20 seconds to go!

Lydd Town were completely overrun in the opening stages and from a free kick on the edge of the box Jake Beecroft slammed home a second.

At this stage, with tempers getting frayed among the home players, one of the Lydd players was taking centre stage and providing much humour with a volley of expletives directed at the sidelines or his fellow team mates in equal measure. It was a disappointment when it became his turn to take a blow such was his value to the occasion. Not to fear, he was to return to add to our enjoyment.

A third goal from a free kick was ruled out, apparently virtue of the fact that the ball had gone directly into the net from an indirect free kick.

Slowly Lydd edged their way back into the game and were rewarded with a goal before half-time.

The second half began with a second goal from Tom Bryant in very similar fashion to his first. Stealing in at the far post, he met a cross with a venomous volley that gave the keeper no chance.

Lydd are built of stern stuff and once they found themselves only one goal adrift, courtesy of a cross from the right that eluded the Wells' two central defenders and rifled home, it was almost certain they would find an equaliser which eventually came in similar fashion to their previous goal. Both were goals that would annoy Martin Larkin, the Tunbridge Wells manager.

There was still time for our friend from the first half to return and renew acquaintances with the curious official and with a bit of expansive name-calling, the referee decided on a compulsory substitution to end his evening with a further volley of expletives as he left the field.

Lydd Town are going to be a handful for their opponents in the Kent Invicta League, but without floodlights, they have no means of promotion, a similar fate suffered by Hollands last season.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Gillingham 0 Ipswich Town 2

Match 06/14/1115 - Saturday, 26th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Gillingham (0) 0
Ipswich Town (1) 2 Henshall 2, Hyam 59
Att. 1,812

Entrance: £12
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 52/274

Match Report

For the 1812 assembled at a resplendent Priestfield Stadium for Gillingham's only home match of this pre-season, the football served was not so much an Overture as an unfinished symphony.

This hasn’t been a great pre-season for the clubs that I follow. I saw Tunbridge Wells win at Rusthall and that has been the only victory witnessed so far, some of the performances have been encouraging, but this was the most disappointing by far.

In the hot sunshine, Priestfield looked a picture with its new playing surface but a new-look Gillingham failed to extended Ipswich Town, who barely needed to flex their Championship credentials.

The visitors were in front with just a couple of minutes on the clock. Gillingham’s defence was exposed down the right hand side and a low cross to the far post left Alex Henshall with a tap-in to give an early cheer for the 250 or so Ipswich supporters assembled in the Gordon Road Stand.

Tommy Smith powered a header over the bar from a corner a couple of minutes later and it appeared that Gillingham could be in for a bit of a hiding. To their credit they steadied the ship but, although John Egan headed into the hands of Dean Gerken and Doug Loft shot over the bar, they looked fairly punchless.

Six changes were made at the break and a bit more pressure was imposed on the Ipswich defence. But it was the visitors who doubled their lead on the hour mark. Balint Bajner crossed to the near post from the right for Luke Hyam to plant a firm header past substitute goalkeeper Glenn Morris.

Former Gillingham loanee Jack Marriott had the ball in the net a few minutes later but this was ruled out for offside.

Chances for Luke Norris and Bradley Dack were passed up before the referee, not bothering to add on the time taken for water breaks, called a close to an afternoon that left the Gillingham supporters that haven’t seen their side pre-season with a more questions than answers.

Work in progress can be the only verdict.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Tonbridge 1 Stevenage 3

Match 05/14/1114 - Tuesday, 22nd July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 1 Tweddell 53
Stevenage (1) 3 Triallist 33, Dembele 55, Bond 75
Att. 252

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 34/222

Match Report

Pre-season is a strange time watching football. As supporters we have to believe that when the manager says that results are of no consequence, it is all about fitness, shape, etc., that the professional way of thinking is the right way. So we look at performances that are encouraging but sadly end in defeat and accept it as part of the phoney war.

And so it is with Tonbridge Angels. A fresh start has seen the new manager and a complete squad of new faces on the pitch perform encouragingly with a win and two defeats against opposition from higher levels, but nobody quite knows exactly where we are in the scheme of the new season.

Against Football League opposition in the shape of Stevenage, Tonbridge, for the most part, gave a good account of themselves. In midfield they had the outstanding player on the pitch in Harry Harding and scored a beautifully crafted goal but they also conceded a couple of poor goals from set pieces.

In the Stevenage side was Charlie Lee following his transfer from Gillingham this summer and the combative midfielder gave the Longmead audience a glimpse of why he picked up in access of 10 bookings a season whilst at Priestfield with a couple of mistimed challenges. However, it was from one of his trademark long throws, headed home by a Stevenage triallist that gave the visitors the lead after 33 minutes. It was an unnecessary goal from Steve McKimm’s point of view and the Tonbridge manager will be hoping that in the weeks to come, Kyle Merson in the Tonbridge goal will be coming and collecting the ball in these situations.

Early in the second half Tonbridge equalised with a goal of real quality. Nathan Campbell found Harding on the left hand side who held the ball waiting for the overlap of full back Ben King whose cross to the edge of the penalty area was met with a curling shot into the top corner from Harrison Tweddell.

Another set piece undid the home defence a couple of minutes later when a corner was headed on and Bira Dembele was on hand at the far post to tuck away an easy chance.

Fifteen minutes remained when Stevenage put the game beyond doubt when Andrew Bond was on hand to tap in after Merson had made a fine save to deny an Adam Marriott header.

The game offered plenty of plus points for Tonbridge and it doesn’t take a professional’s eye to formulate the opinion that McKimm, whilst having plenty of work to do, is moving this group in the right direction.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Welling United 1 Gillingham 1

Match 04/14/1113 - Saturday, 19th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Welling United (0) 1 Healey 60
Gillingham (1) 1 German 9
Att. 500-ish

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 76/188

Match Report

Up and down the country, football supporters have an affinity with a local lad that is making good for his local club. When things are not going as well as they might, supporters cut the player a little slack and when things are going well, then he’s one of us.

Josh Stanford might not be a local lad to Gillingham but as a former Tunbridge Wells player with the legendary status of the goalscorer on their Wembley occasion in 2013, he is a player who I desperately would like to see make the most of his trial period at Priestfield and earn himself a contract to play alongside Leon Legge, who plied his trade at Tonbridge Angels and, possibly Gary Borrowdale, also previously at Longmead, who is also trying to earn a contract.

This was my first look at Gillingham this pre-season and they left me with a glass-half-full feeling. They dominated the first half, in which Stanford played and certainly didn’t look out of place, but their second half eleven were quite poor and, had it been not for a missed penalty, would have suffered their first defeat of pre-season.

On a hot afternoon, with temperatures touching 30degC, the first half eleven played some effective football that was also pleasing on the eye, a vast improvement on last season’s offerings. On view were new signings Jermaine McGlashan and John Egan, who both had good 45 minutes, but the player that caught the eye was one that was much derided last season, Antonio German, who looked sharp and a real handful for the Welling defenders, but at the same time endured a mixed half in front of goal.

Gillingham went ahead on nine minutes when a long pass from Adam Barratt was headed on by Danny Kedwell into the path of German who finished well. Within a couple of minutes, Kedwell narrowly headed wide at the far post as the visitors looked to establish a comfortable lead.

With an entirely new eleven taking the field in the second period, Gillingham lost control of the game as a much younger side struggled to contain the physically strong Conference side. New signings Doug Loft, who took on the captaincy, Glenn Morris in goal, Luke Norris and Brennan Dickenson featured among the youngsters.

A corner on the hour was only half cleared and with his back to the goal, Joe Healey managed to find the corner of the net with an overhead kick. Devante McKain’s far post header from a corner clipped the bar before, with a couple of minutes remaining, Callum Davies brought down Malachi Hudson to concede a penalty. Welling’s new signing Kieron St Aime committed Morris to an early decision to dive to his right but then contrived to send the ball high over the bar.

There seems to be a greater strength in depth about the squad this season. Luke Norris showed that Kedwell and McDonald have to be on their game to be continually picked and Dickenson, McGlashan and, possibly, Stanford are going to offer the pace that missing last term. On the debit side, there is still no obvious competition at left back for Joe Martin and another mobile central defender would be a welcome addition.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tonbridge 0 Dover Athletic 2

Match 03/14/1112 - Tuesday, 15th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Dover Athletic (0) 2 Elder 61, Reid 89 (pen)
Att. 252

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 34/112

Match Report

Steve McKimm’s opening night at Longmead ended in defeat but he would surely have taken heart from a first half performance that matched that of their Conference Premier opponents.

A second eleven contested the second period and, naturally enough, Dover held control and scored a couple of goals to ease to a pre-season victory against their erstwhile rivals who now find themselves two divisions below them.

McKimm let it be known that the first half team is the one he considers his strongest with the players at his disposal at this present time. The back line of James Folks, Jerome Sobers, Jon Heath and Ben King dealt admirably with the threat of Nathan Elder, Barry Cogan and Tom Murphy restricting them to a couple of efforts that didn’t overly trouble Kyle Merson between the Tonbridge sticks.

In midfield, Harry Harding, Tom Parkinson and Lee Carey all impressed with their hard work and interchangeability whilst Dee Okojie showed that he has a few tricks in his bag. Upfront, the concern would be that, for all their endeavour, Billy Medlock and Tommy Whitnall looked rather lightweight but consideration should be given that they are not going to face the strength of Sean Raggett and Richard Orlu on a weekly basis.

The readily apparent concern is the lack of height throughout the team. Owen Kabodi played the second half upfront and Troy Ferguson and Nathan Campbell in midfield and offered a few extra inches, but the latter two are presently not Tonbridge players, although Kabodi was a reserve team player last season.

In the second half, when the Tonbridge back line comprised of three 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old, it was Dover substitute Ricky Modeste that always looked the likely candidate to break the deadlock. Just after the hour mark, he stood up a cross to the far post where Elder did what he has being doing for years and converted with a header. Although the pressure for a second goal was constant, Tonbridge just about held firm until the final minute when substitute goalkeeper, James Steel, brought down Matt Locke leaving Jake Reid to score from the spot.

Abidemi Bolaji, another from last season’s reserve team, showed some nice touches in his second half spell.

With the next couple of friendlies being against Eastbourne Borough from the Conference and Stevenage from League Two, it may be that we need to see the Ramsgate friendly to truly assess where McKimm’s side are in terms of quality. But, on the evidence of last night, the fitness levels are good and the desire is more apparent than at the end of last season. Somewhere, though, a bit of muscle and a few extra inches are very much needed.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tunbridge Wells 2 Eastbourne Town 4

Match 02/14/1111 - Saturday, 12th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tunbridge Wells (2) 2 Beecroft 2, Parsons 40
Eastbourne Town (2) 4 Pogue 13,31 McClean, Snashall 53
Att. Est. 100

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 34/78
Played on 3G pitch at Hayesbrook School

This was more of what to expect from pre-season with a blazing hot sun scorching the grass, if there had been any. Tunbridge Wells’ hosting of Eastbourne Town was on the 3G pitch at Hayesbrook School, Tonbridge and sadly the surface bore a poor comparison to the pitch at Maidstone United. Speaking to the Wells’ Rhys Lawson on Twitter, he explained that he found the surface awful, very sticky and difficult to run on with the heat coming off the pitch something else.

The afternoon hadn’t started particularly well, with no referee having arrived for the 2 o’clock kick-off. When he finally arrived, it appears that he had been misinformed that the game had actually been cancelled. Some sympathy is to be had with the official considering the game had had three different kick-off times since its initial announcement.

Tunbridge Wells could not have asked for a better start to the game when in the second minute a cross-cum-shot from the left hand side by Jake Beecroft deceived the goalkeeper and nestled into the far corner of the net.

But after a shaky start, Eastbourne started to settle and they looked like a side that were possibly a week or so further into their pre-season preparations. Despite relegation from Ryman South last year, they have kept a nucleus of the side and added four signings from Hastings United. In Kenny Pogue, up front, they had a big, strong forward who had that little bit of nous from playing at a higher level. Pogue scored twice to put the south coast side in front before Ian Parsons scored a cracker of a volley to level the scores.

Whilst Parsons' shot was rifling into the net, a couple of players were squaring up to each other and a mini brawl ensued. The referee managed to get in amongst the action and was clearly heard to say to the players, after separating the main protogonists, “clear off and go and have a drink or something whilst I sort this out.” Good refereeing.

Second half goals from Matt McClean and Luke Snashall sealed a reasonably comfortable victory for Eastbourne whilst Tunbridge Wells can take heart from encouraging performances from full-back Callum McCarthy, who looked quite assured for his tender years and Danny Powell was also a livewire when he came on as a second half substitute.

Almost without question, the Wells will be glad to return to the green, green grass of home for next week’s friendly against local rivals and now fellow members of the Southern Counties East, Crowborough.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Rusthall 2 Tunbridge Wells 3

Match 01/14/1110 - Tuesday, 8th July 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Rusthall (0) 2 Parsons 50, Carey 60
Tunbridge Wells (0) 3 Powell 51, Beaton, Cass
Att. 162

Entrance: £2
Programme: None
Mileage: 44/44

I’ve enjoyed this World Cup, it has had far more good games than bad and some have been downright thrilling. The United States throwing everything and the kitchen sink at Belgium, the agony of the Swiss as they hit the post in the last throw of the dice against Argentina and the bewilderment of Spain’s capitulation to Holland in the group stages all produced magnificent memories alongside many more. Never mind that England were the fall guys of the tournament, those three games taught us nothing that the majority of people didn’t know already.

Despite there being two semis, a dead rubber and a Final still to be played, it was time to lever the backside off the sofa and get Season 2014-15 underway with a pre-season friendly at Jockey Farm for Tunbridge Wells’ visit to Rusthall.

Quite often pre-season, games are interrupted midway through the half for a water break as the players battle with a hot summer’s day. Not so on this occasion as a torrential downpour led to flooding en-route to the game and a delay of 15 minutes to the kick-off as the deluge continued. All of which was a bit of a nuisance, because despite wanting time away from the sofa, I still wanted to be home and back in said position for the mouth-watering prospect of the host Brazil versus an ominously threatening German side.

With no programme or team sheet to aid the identification of the new players donning the red shirts of Tunbridge Wells, the opening minutes were consumed with the task of getting to know who was who, with not complete success I would hasten to add.

The one thing that became apparent and not a little disconcerting is that there has been a big turnover of players at Culverden this summer, something that has gone largely unreported. Lewis Mingle’s departure to Hythe was known, as was Andy Irvine’s departure from the club, but not his destination. The list of players not on show at Rusthall and, shall we say, their rumoured destinations, amount to Chris Oladogba, who has seemingly retired, Scott Whibley who has joined Rochester United, Jon Pilbeam who has decamped to VCD whilst Irvine has ended up at Ashford. Andy McMath has left the club whilst Chris Seenan’s absence was hopefully nothing more than unavailability.

It does appear that there is a lot of money swilling around the Southern Counties East League with Greenwich signing Gary Alexander, fresh from the Football League. Ashford and Sevenoaks also, seemingly, with cash to fund a promotion push. Add the unknown element of Lingfield and Crowborough and the sense is that this League is going to be even tougher to get out of this season.

The first half was a struggle as players got to know each other as much as we were getting to know them. New signing Brendan Cass was partnered by Danny Powell as the pair battled for scraps in Rusthall’s territory. Nick Barnes was positioned in central midfield rather than the winger that we were used to seeing in his Longmead days. He put himself about and certainly can be expected to do a job at SCEL level.

The second half saw Rusthall taking an early lead through Matt Parsons but seeing it immediately cancelled out when a shot from outside of the box by the unknown left back taking a heavy deflection off Powell leading the home keeper stranded. Alex Carey restored the home side’s lead on the hour mark with a well hit shot low to Steve Lawrence’s left and into the corner of the net.

At this point, 65 minutes in, it was time to depart for home to claim my seat on the sofa for the World Cup Semi Final and what transpired left me open-mouthed and staring at the box in total disbelief.

When Thomas Mueller put the Germans ahead on 11 minutes my immediate thought was that now we will see what the Brazilians are made of, having been unconvincing throughout the tournament. Nowhere, even inside a vivid imagination that I do not possess, did I foresee the six minutes between the 23rd and 29th minutes happening at Jockey Farm earlier, let alone the Semi Final of the World Cup. The Germans scythed their way through inept defending to register a five goal lead by the half-hour mark. It was jaw-dropping, in some ways it was heart-breaking to watch Brazil being ruthlessly demolished. Most of all, it was literally bizarre. These things just do not happen, especially not to Brazil. With the game over, two more goals were added in the second half to complete the humiliation as a nation wept.

Meanwhile, in my absence at Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells showed at least a modicum of resilience that the Brazilians would have done well to possess with goals from Tolly Beaton and Brendan Cass earning a 3-2 victory.

Season 2014-15 is underway, but in the coming 10 months, nothing is going to astound me quite like the TV viewing of Brazil’s horror show.

Nick Barnes