Sunday, 30 November 2014

Gillingham 2 Port Vale 2

Match 44/14/1153 - Saturday, 29th November 2014 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Egan 29,55
Port Vale (1) 2 N'Guessan 18, Brown 90+4
Att. 4,799

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 52/3,092

Match Report

Passing through the turnstiles at Priestfield I was handed a leaflet outlining the merchandise available in the club shop with Christmas approaching. Hardly unexpected, a stick of Gillingham rock was unavailable, had there been, it would have frustration written all the way through.

Late, on occasions very late, goals have featured throughout this season. Back in August, a win against the old enemy, Swindon Town, was denied by a last minute own goal and a visit to Sheffield United ended in defeat following a goal seven minutes into time added. It was hoped that a corner had been turned in this cycle when at the last home game against Leyton Orient, despite conceding a goal three minutes into added time, Gillingham still found a winner in the 98th minute and then a late equaliser at Bradford City earned a much welcome point.

With certain echoes of Stephen Bywater’s own goal against Swindon, a goalkeeping howler from Stuart Nelson gifted Port Vale a share of the points after Gillingham had appeared to just about hold on to their lead as the four minutes of added time had almost elapsed.

Gillingham had an enforced reshuffle of the defensive back line with the recall by parent club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, of Kortney Hause after a successful loan period. His form has not only been recognised by his club but also of England, as he had made his mark at Under-20 level during his time at Priestfield. In his place, Peter Taylor drafted in from Queen’s Park Ranger, Max Ehmer and also took Charlton’s Harry Lennon on loan. Ehmer, a 22-year-old German, went straight into the team in a five man back line with Adam Chicksen and Gavin Hoyte playing advanced roles as wing backs.

Playing with that five, with Michael Doughty stationed just in front of the central three appeared to give Gillingham problems in midfield in the opening 20 minutes finding themselves outnumbered. After 18 minutes a straight ball found Danny N’Guessan with a yard of space on the edge of the box where such space should have been denied and a shot into the bottom corner gave Nelson no chance.

The acre of space between Gillingham’s deep midfield and the front two became increasingly frustrating as long punts towards Cody McDonald and Brennan Dickenson were easily dealt with by the Valiant’s defence. However the space was put to good use on the half-hour when John Egan strode forward, exchanged passes with Jake Hessenthaler and struck a sweet 25-yarder past the Vale keeper, Chris Neal for Gillingham’s equaliser.

The home side enjoyed a period of relative dominance up to the break and Taylor’s formation with the wing backs had settled down and was working well.

Nelson made a good stop in the opening moments from Ben Williamson, a graduate of Glenn Hoddle’s Academy in Spain, who had been a nuisance for much of the afternoon.

However, it was Gillingham, after a period of pressure, who took the lead on 55 minutes, Egan planting a powerful header from Hessenthaler’s corner into the bottom corner.

Taylor made a surprise double substitution with 20 minutes remaining and whilst he later outlined his reasons for the changes, there are many who felt that the removal of Hoyte and reverting to a flat back four invited the pressure that eventually brought the Port Vale equaliser. The fact that the substitutes, Jermaine McGlashen and Antonio German, made absolutely no impact on the game also brings the decision into question.

When the goal finally came with just 20 seconds of the four minutes added time remaining, the alarm bells had been ringing loud and clear. Colin Daniel struck a post and when Louis Dodds’ effort came back off the underside of the bar to safety, it was hard not to feel that this was to be Gillingham’s day.

Michael Brown skipped a couple of challenges before unleashing a shot from 20 yards. Quite how the shot evaded Nelson I’ve no idea. It wasn’t a shot of great venom and took a couple of bounces before nestling in the corner of the net, for the most frustrating of endings.

Nelson shouldered the blame on the pitch, but many off the pitch would point to Taylor’s baffling substitutions when all appeared steady as you go with his back five.

Frustrating sums up this game, sums up this season.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Westfield 1 Tunbridge Wells 5

Match 43/14/1152 - Saturday, 22nd November 2014 - FA Vase 2R

Westfield (1) 1 Milne 22
Tunbridge Wells (2) 5 Fuller 4,56,85, Cass 43, Radford 49
Att. 155

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 138/3,040
New Ground: 269

The FA Vase is synonymous with the upturn in Tunbridge Wells’ level of support. The club has done an excellent job in maintaining the interest that was generated by their 2013 journey to Wembley and when a new run in the competition is underway that support is mobilised and turn up in relatively huge numbers on unsuspecting hosts.

Westfield is a football club seemingly unknown to the local residents of Woking. Living, quite literally in the shadow of their Conference neighbours, their Woking Park stadium is accessed through the doors of a sports centre that was quite easily missed, as I did. Having walked past the entrance and proceeding to walk in a big circle, I asked a pair of Woking supporters if they knew the whereabouts of the entrance, they didn’t even know of the existence of Westfield let alone the gate.

Once inside, it is a rather strange set-up with the main stand of just a few seats set into the rear of the sports centre. There is a nice bar up a set of stairs and from there a balcony can be accessed from where probably about half of the Tunbridge Wells following chose to watch the game. Behind one goal there is another stand which can only be described as small but beautifully formed. When it went to the town planners it can only be assumed that somebody took along a model made out of Lego or from their Subbuteo set as their outline plan. It only seats 50 and evidently was only constructed because they were that many seats short to be able to compete in FA competitions. The stand quickly became bedecked with the flags from the visiting support.

En-route through a heavy rainstorm I had worried that the journey might end fruitless and on first look at the pitch I realised that I was quite lucky that it had passed an inspection. The state of the heavily-sanded midfield area could well have proved a leveler but Tunbridge Wells raced out of the blocks and were ahead within four minutes. A raking 40 yard pass from Jake Beecroft picked out Lee Radford who was brought down. The resultant free kick was met with a glancing header by Joe Fuller into the bottom corner.

To their credit, Westfield were not going to lie down and accept their fate. The Combined Counties League side took the game to the Wells and were unfortunate to have a goal disallowed for a foul on the Wells’ goalkeeper Steve Lawrence. It was one of those decisions that referees always seem to give in favour of the keeper.

They created several good chances with their number eight at the heart of Westfield’s prompting until the goal that had been coming for some time finally arrived on 22 minutes. The right winger skipped a challenge from Tom Bryant and from the bye-line pulled the ball back to Michael Milne who scored from close range.

The half remained evenly contested before, on the stroke of half-time, a Radford shot from 25 yards was spilt by the Westfield keeper to the poaching feet of Brendan Cass to give Martin Larkin a slightly more comfortable half-time talk.

Once the Wells had extended their lead early in the second half the game became largely one-way traffic. A misdirected header from midfield allowed Radford to get between two defenders to side foot into the net from eight yards.

A move of top quality on the hour deservedly put the game beyond doubt. Fuller won the ball in midfield and a 13 pass move ensued that ended with the ball back at Fuller’s feet, who, with a turn and shot into the top corner made it four.

With the lights of Woking’s Kingfield Stadium burning brightly across the park as they fought out a draw against league leaders Barnet, the voices of the 2,600 crowd was regularly audible, one wonders if they, in turn, took note of the celebrating Tunbridge Wells supporters.

The Wells finally made it a nap hand and a score line that perhaps was slightly unkind on Westfield when a corner was headed on by Perry Spackman and Fuller, falling backwards, scored with a spectacular volley to complete his hat trick.

At the time of writing the home club had not announced the attendance, whatever the number it is not an exaggerated guess that the visitors made up 90% of that total. Westfield, in defeat, will no doubt take comfort from their bar takings whilst the Wells waltzed home with the £1,200 prize money.

PS. The attendance was subsequently announced at 155.

Ramsgate 0 Tonbridge 1

Match 42/14/1151 - Tuesday, 18th November 2014 - Ryman League Cup

Ramsgate (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 1 Milham 58
Att. 86

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 110/2,902

Having given up the comfort of the sofa in front of the Scotland v England game to satisfy the preference for live football, it has to be said that my heart sank a little as the team sheets were posted in the window of the Ramsgate club shop. Apart from the erroneous detail that the evening’s visitors were Tooting and Mitcham, the Tonbridge side showed very little first team experience and probably half of the team were completely unknown to me.

Among the name unknown were Sean Nyarsungo, Cameron Milham and the entire bench; known to me was the wonderfully named Neville Rivelino. A Courier report later in the week detailed that in the youth section of the club there is also a Ronaldo, Romario and Carvalho.

The Ryman League Cup, never a crowd puller, failed to drag too many people away from their television sets and just 86 people made up the attendance. This was my first time at Southwood Stadium for over 20 years and, although I was assured it hasn’t changed in that time; I had no memory of the place. It did make a favourable impression though and the rounded roof the main stand that travels the full length of one side, built some 55 years ago, is a particular delight. The terraced areas behind each goal are quite a long way back from, what is an enormous pitch.

My fears that inexperience was going to the undoing of this season’s foray in this competition were to go unfounded as the Tonbridge youngsters put in an assured performance built on the solid display of Emmanuel Monthe who was commanding in the centre of the back line.

The pace of Flavio Tavares proved a positive outlet, whilst the midfield trio of Jack Brivo, Nyarsungo and Milham carried too much energy for their rather laborious Ramsgate counterparts. Upfront, Alex Teniola worked hard proving to be a constant handful.

Tonbridge dominated much of the match, so much so that James Steele was barely required to make a serious save throughout. The game was ultimately won 15 minutes into the second half when Milham earned the bit of good fortune that his deflected shot brought after skipping a couple of lusty challenges before creating the space for his goal scoring attempt.

Half-time in the clubhouse had seen Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain give England the lead at Celtic Park and the last 20 minutes were brought via the car radio as England secured a welcome victory over the Auld Enemy. But I was satisfied that my effort to leave the sofa and venture to East Kent had been worthwhile and the glimpse that was given into the future of Tonbridge Angels was very encouraging. Steve McKimm has indicated that his youthful side will be given another opportunity in the next round and this could be at Maidstone United, even with the hefty slice of optimism administered by this performance that should prove a step too far.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Gillingham 3 Leyton Orient 2

Match 41/14/1150 - Saturday, 15th November 2014 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Legge 55,74 McDonald 90+8
Leyton Orient (0) 2 Plasmati (pen) 48, Dagnall 90+3
Att. 5,891

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 52/2,697

Match Report

A clear indication that results and performances are not what Gillingham would have hoped for is when an esteemed supporter of the club, the 12th Earl of Harbledown, faced with a fixture clash, decides on Wembley to watch an England team, that, let’s face it, hardly set the nation’s pulses racing.

Ultimately the good Lord saw a similar game as England asked their fans to endure a dire first half, go a goal behind early in the second half but mount a comeback to collect three more points in what is looking a straightforward road to Euro 2016.

With no wins in eight games and positioned 22nd in the League One table, morale among supporters was understandably low but had been boosted with a midweek victory at Crawley in the Johnstone Paint Trophy that has set up an Area Semi-Final tie, ironically drawing Leyton Orient.

Leyton Orient have suffered a similarly stuttering start to the season and, for mid-November, the fixture had attained an over-egged level of importance, but was, undeniably, with home advantage, one that Gillingham would not have wanted to lose.

Gillingham were given an early opportunity to open the scoring when they are awarded a penalty after Brennan Dickenson was felled in the box by Scott Cuthbert. The ever-reliable Danny Kedwell stepped up to take the spot kick, but on this occasion his placed attempt was read by the Orient keeper, Adam Legzdins, who smothered the ball diving to his left.

The half meandered its way to the break and will not live long in the memory. Michael Doughty caught the eye in midfield and his shot that cleared the bar was a sole attempt on goal whilst Orient offered very little going forward.

The second half started with the referee, Darren Deadman, awarding another penalty, this time to Orient after former Gillingham player, Josh Wright was brought down by John Egan. Orient’s skyscraper centre forward, Gianvito Plasmati, stepped forward and his hesitation in his run-up committed Stuart Nelson and the penalty taker was able to roll the ball in the opposite direction to open the scoring.

This very nearly became two almost immediately, a cross from the former Liverpool full back Andrea Dossena saw Plasmati sliding in at the far post but narrowly failing to make contact.

Gillingham were level within seven minutes when a free kick lofted into the area by Jake Hessenthaler was met at the far post by Leon Legge, whose looped header deceived Legzdins to drop under the bar and into the net.

Kedwell, who had struggled to make an impression against the solid Orient central defensive pairing, made way for Cody McDonald and Bradley Dack, once again overlooked to my frustration, replaced Jermaine McGlashen. The pair fashioned an opportunity almost immediately but McDonald’s shot hit a post.

With 15 minutes remaining Gillingham took the lead with a goal almost identical to their first. Hessenthaler once again pumped a free kick to the far post which was met by Legge, but this time his header deceived Legzdins to squeeze in at the near post. It was strange that a goalkeeper that had read a first half penalty so well had been beaten having lost his bearings twice in the second period.

Doughty, who had produced what might well have been a man of the match performance then saw red for a second yellow card for a senseless throwing the ball over the head of an Orient player when a throw had been awarded to the visitors. This gave Orient the impetus for an onslaught in the final 10 minutes.

Gillingham lived dangerously, but were holding on, until three minutes into the five of added time, Cuthbert threw a long cross into the box and Chris Dagnall met it with a powerful header to equalise from close range to the delight of the impressive 800-odd Orient fans gathered at the Town End of the ground.

Seemingly, it was game over, but there was to be a final twist. Well past the added five minutes, a free kick lumped into the box produced a corner and the referee decided there was still time available for its taking. Legge was up, looking for his hat trick of headers, Hessenthaler delivered the corner and a touch fell to McDonald who spun and struck to fire home an unlikely winner.

Three sides of Priestfield joyously celebrated and one wonders how the 12th Earl, who would have been closely following events, might have reacted as perhaps the anthems were being played. Any curses would have been directed at UEFA for their scheduling that forced him into his own personal club versus country dilemma.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sittingbourne 2 Tonbridge 3

Match 40/14/1149 - Tuesday, 11th November 2014 - Kent Senior Cup

Sittingbourne (2) 2 Bankole 33 Richardson 36
Tonbridge (1) 3 Williams 42 Okojie 65 Partner 90
Att. 119

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 33/2,645
Played at Woodstock Sports FC
New Ground: 268

Match Report

Doris led me down an unexpected direction and I said to her (because we all talk to our SatNavs), “it’s down to you now love, because I haven’t a clue where I am.” Having been previously warned that a first visit to Woodstock Sports was best not done in the dark, I was fully expecting to find the ground in the middle of nowhere, I wasn’t to be disappointed. But Doris successfully directed me to a decent sized car park which led to an elaborate clubhouse with very appealing dining facilities that I wondered who it might serve as there appeared no local custom.

The ground itself was of reasonable Kent League standard, albeit that their tenants, Sittingbourne, are Ryman South status. A nice-sized seated stand is positioned behind one goal with an area of covered terrace towards the corner flag of one length. A bus shelter type covered enclosure houses about 50 supporters behind the other goal. The full length of the opposite side was out of bounds to occupation by spectators.

Unfortunately, the pitch wasn’t helped by the drizzly rain and quickly became a cabbage patch.

This is the fourth ground, over the years, that I have watched Sittingbourne. Theirs is a rags to riches and back again story as a supporter of the club made me aware of how they ended up at Woodstock. Back in 1990 they left the Bull Ground with an absolute fortune in their pockets after selling up to developers. They moved to Central Park and with a plush new stadium and a healthy playing budget they were expected to move through the divisions and possibly knock of the door of the Football League. Sadly, they massively overspent on the stadium, which was a wonderfully appointed facility for the level of football they were at. And from there, their history literally went to the dogs.

With the Bull Ground money having disappeared into a black hole, with a multitude of rumours as to its whereabouts, the club was forced to go cap in the hand to the council and lease the ground back. The council sold the lease to a greyhound racing company who took preference on the availability of dates of usage and the football club were eventually forced to decamp to the adjoining training ground, christened Bourne Park in 2002.

My friendly Sittingbourne supporter informed me that at the end of the 2013 season it was decided that they could no longer afford the £30,000 a year rent and moved into Woodstock Sports’ facility.

There were familiar faces in the Sittingbourne team with ex-Tonbridge players Ollie Bankole, George Crimmen and Matt Hardin, whilst on the sideline was the newly-appointed manager, Nick Davis, previously at Tunbridge Wells.

Tommy Whitnell immediately caught the eye but his finishing was poor as a couple of good chances were spurned with a weak finish straight at the keeper and another which he pulled wide. Tonbridge were to regret those chances when Bankole got on the end of a cross to put the hosts in front and this was quickly doubled when a free kick from the right was headed back across the face of goal by Crimmen to Jono Richardson who tucked it home from close range.

Tonbridge needed a reply before the break and it duly came with a couple of minutes to go when Marvin Williams chipped the ball over the advancing keeper for an assured finish.

Williams was to live up to his moniker of Marvellous Marvin with a second half display that put the hosts on the back foot. Steve McKimm introduced further pace into the side with Dee Okojie a second half substitute for Whitnell. With Flavio Tavares also causing concern for the hosts with his pace, the half was to be completely one-way traffic.

The equaliser eventually came on 68 minutes with a sweet, curling shot from Okojie into the top corner.

McKimm could justifiably point to his substitutions as another, Jack Parter, came up with a winner just as penalties were looming on the horizon with a 25 yard beauty into the top corner giving the Sittingbourne keeper no chance.

All that was left was to head for home back down the pitch black country roads. Next round Doris, we’ll head for somewhere a little more accessible!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Tonbridge 0 Billericay Town 1

Match 39/14/1148 - Saturday, 8th November 2014 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 0
Billericay Town (0) 1 Cleaver 79
Att. 398

Entrance: £3 Senior (Late entry)
Programme: Too Late
Mileage: 36/2,612

Match Report

There is a new lady in my life and she may become a bit demanding of my time. So it was, for this Ryman League match at Tonbridge, I not only arrived 30 minutes after the start, but was not even supposed to be there at all!

Just to clarify, the new lady is Molly, an eight-week old cocker spaniel puppy who we had collected on Saturday lunchtime. I had purchased a ticket for Gillingham’s FA Cup tie with Bristol City, but as time ebbed away, Tonbridge was going to offer a greater amount of football time.

On arrival, I was informed that the home side had enjoyed the majority of possession but had suffered two injuries leading to the substitutions of Lee Carey and Chris Piper. Sadly, I had also missed the act of remembrance which had been signalled by The Last Post, played by a young lad with a trumpet, a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives 100 years ago and in subsequent conflicts.

The remainder of the half had emphasised my fellow supporter’s views as Tonbridge continued to dominate but the lack of a cutting edge without the departed Billy Medlock was clearly apparent.

A week ago at VCD, I and many others, were bemoaning Medlock’s selfishness when shooting and a pass was a much better option, but how Tonbridge could have done with some of that single-mindedness in this game. Too many times, an extra touch, an extra pass was played when begging for a shot a goal.

Alex Teniola, who is the in-house replacement for the departed striker, had a quiet game with his only chance being a first half shot across the face of goal. With Tonbridge enjoying the possession, the full backs, Jack Parter and James Folkes, were offered a licence to get crosses into the box, but these were capably dealt with by Billericay’s keeper, Billy Lumley.

The sucker punch arrived on 78 minutes. After a scramble inside the six-yard box which led to Lumley making a double save and with the protestations of handball ringing in the referee’s ears, Billericay broke away and with a three-on-two situation worked the ball to Jacob Cleaver to score past Tom Hadler.

In one last desperate assault on the visitor’s goal, Lumley made an incredible double save to deny Dee Okojie and preserve the points for the Essex side, who at the final whistle moments later celebrated their victory, shall we say, enthusiastically.

So it was that disappointment at Longmead was compensated with new found Puppy Love at home. Aahh!

Greenwich Borough 1 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 38/14/1147 - Wednesday, 5th November 2014 - SCEL

Greenwich Borough (1) 1 Vines 44
Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Luchford 19
Att. 89

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 64/2,576
Played at Princes Park, Dartford FC

Match Report

Money is a big factor at Southern Counties East League level and every season one club has just that little bit more than the rest. It doesn’t always translate into success, but there can be no doubt it helps. Greenwich Borough are this season’s recipients from a rich benefactor, in this case the owner of the club’s sponsors, DGS Marine. The club’s new found resources and the lure of Conference status facilities at Prince’s Park, have brought Football League experience in the shape of Gary Alexander and Gary Borrowdale, who both entered Step Five football directly from League level.

Alexander, now 38, looks to have spent a considerable amount of his wages from Greenwich at the bakers whilst Borrowdale, who was three months away from fitness, 12 months ago whilst at Tonbridge, still appears to have that time frame on his horizon.

Despite his girth, Alexander still has the nous that experience brings and will always prove a handful to defenders at this level. But, Tunbridge Wells to their credit, produced their best performance of the season and resolutely defended a second half in which they were forced back for the long periods.

Prince’s Park is far too big to accommodate just 89 people, 50% of whom were there to support the visitors. The lack of people makes for a surreal experience, even though the Tunbridge Wells' vocal choir did their level best to create an atmosphere. With the fireworks of November 5th providing an explosive backdrop the players, from both sides, set about to produce an entertaining game.

The Wells made a bright start with Lee Radford proving a dangerous outlet down the left side of the field and it was from one of his crosses that Dane Luchford rose at the far post to head the visitors in front. Unfortunately, for the Wells, Radford was injured soon after and with his departure their threat significantly reduced.

Greenwich equalised on the stroke of half-time when Joe Vines stabbed the ball home from close range after Steve Lawrence had made a fine initial save from a header.

The second half was mostly about Tunbridge Wells steadfastly defending and, when called upon, Lawrence making match saving stops. But, as often happens when one team is asked to fight a rearguard action, the best chance of the half fell to Luchford, who steered an unchallenged header wide from six yards.

This was a good night in Tunbridge Wells' season of inconsistency, brought about by the constant chopping and changing of the squad, the latest of which sees the departure of central defender Nick Davies, who is to return to his old club, Sittingbourne, as their manager.

Greenwich’s resources have been further enhanced with a run to the final qualifying round of the FA Cup, whether the cash benefit is going to extend to promotion to the Ryman League there is serious doubt with Erith and Belvedere setting a fierce pace. The rest of the League may only look on with envy, but as many clubs have found to their cost, these benefactors rarely stick around for any length of time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Chatham Town 0 Worthing 1

Match 37/14/1146 - Tuesday, 4th November 2014 - FA Trophy 1QR Replay

Chatham Town (0) 0
Worthing (0) 1 Bugiel 83
Att. 123

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 33/2,512

Match Report

Despite being rewarded for turning out on a rain-lashed night at Maidstone Road with a pretty lousy match to view, I still felt that the football gods had been with me on this occasion. An afternoon had been spent regularly checking the travelling time to Harrow Borough Football Club and the notorious M25 rush hour traffic. An initial journey time of 1 hour 35 minutes had risen closer to two-and-a-half hours when I decided that I might be left sitting in traffic as the game kicked off and decided that opting for the easier option of Chatham's Trophy replay against Worthing might be a wise move.

As I pulled into the car park at Chatham, my mobile phone dinged with a notification from Football Web Pages, match at Harrow postponed. What would have been a minimum of four hours travelling time had been avoided; as I donned a heavy coat and gloves for the first time this season, I was thanking my luck stars.

As illustrated at Tonbridge in the Ryman League Cup a month ago, Chatham, shorn this season of the extravagant talent of Alfie May and the goals of Ade Yussuf, have a lack of potency in the final third of the pitch and this cup exit further highlighted their weakness.

On a night when the heavens opened and the pitch became increasingly slippery , Chatham appeared to be unwilling to follow their visitors lead and take the pot shot from 20 yards plus when the opportunity arose. Worthing did this on several occasions and although these efforts failed to produce a goal, several of them required retrieving at the second attempt by the Chats keeper, Tom Welham.

On the night, Chatham’s front two, Austin Gacheru and Junior Kaffo laboured against some resolute Worthing defending. Gacheru, who took the bulk of the criticism from the faithful sat around me, curled a second half shot narrowly over the angle of bar and post whilst Kaffo, quite impressive at Tonbridge made very little impression.

The game was settled with eight minutes remaining, a relief to everybody I’m guessing that wanted to avoid extra time as the cold was beginning to bite at the extremities, with a far post header by Omar Bugiel, who drifted into position unchallenging following a corner. The goal was greeted by the half-dozen Worthing supporters behind the goal that had braved the weather and gave their team noisy support throughout.

I was glad to get back indoors to the warmth of a cup of tea within half-an-hour still thanking the heavens that I wasn’t stuck on that blessed motorway.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

VCD Athletic 0 Tonbridge 2

Match 36/14/1145 - Saturday, 1st November 2014 - FA Trophy 1QR

VCD Athletic (0) 0
Tonbridge (1) 2 Medlock 44, Taveres 90+3
Att. 156

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 74/2,479
New Ground: 267

Match Report

A point I’ve alluded to whenever Tonbridge have been involved in Cup ties has been that I’ve never considered them a particularly lucky Cup side. Some of that misfortune has not been bad luck at all, on a couple of occasions in recent times when they have received what was perceived as a favourable draw they have proceeded to waste the opportunity.

So it was, walking away from my first visit to the Old Road Sports Ground, home of VCD Athletic, I was able to reflect that, on this occasion, Tonbridge had certainly enjoyed the rub of the green after a second half in which their goal led a charmed life.

On a very mild day, not befitting the first day of November, Tonbridge enjoyed a first half in which they dominated possession but failed to test the home goalkeeper, Nick Blue, on too many occasions. Dee Okojie was both the most serious threat and also the most frustrating as his mazy runs presented problems for the VCD defence but all too often lacking in end product.

Billy Medlock was exercising his shoot on sight policy that has brought him goals aplenty this season with a 30 yard effort that skimmed the bar and another shot that was blocked when a pass to Chris Piper was a far better option. But Medlock was to prove his predatory instincts just prior to the break when he diverted a Laurence Ball shot into the net from close range to open scoring.

With his substitution, 15 minutes from the end, Medlock’s goal may prove to be his last in a Tonbridge shirt and it emerged after the game that the striker had accepted the offer of a loan period on dual registration from Sutton United in Conference South for a month. This a major setback for the Angels with Medlock, on 17 goals for the season, far and away their leading scorer.

In the VCD side was the heavily bearded Michael Power who had a previous, unfruitful spell with the Angels that didn’t lead to great endearment with the Tonbridge faithful. Directly after the opening goal he gave more ammunition to the visiting support with a woeful header that cleared the bar when left unchallenged on the left of the six yard box.

What appears to have been a bad injury to Tonbridge’s Tom Parkinson, stretchered from the pitch by VCD’s assistant manager Ray Powell and the Tonbridge manager, Steve McKimm, knocked the visitors from their stride early into the second half and led to the attacking intentions changing hands.

Debutant goalkeeper, Tom Hadler on loan from Gillingham, comfortably saved an shot from Lewis Perkins but was mightily relieved when a shot from the evergreen Leigh Bremner looped into the air following a deflection only for the ball to be put wide from a couple of yards.

Ben King cleared an effort from the line and Bremner stabbed a shot from a corner into the side netting, once again from close range. The Tonbridge fans and Hadler knew this was to be their day when, as the game entered time added on, a volley from Lea Dawson crashed against the upright with the young keeper well beaten.

Tonbridge sealed the game in the 93rd minute when a breakaway ended with Flavio Tavares finishing neatly from the edge of the area into the bottom corner.

Somebody might have whimsically mentioned that Tonbridge’s name may be on the Trophy. Historically, I don’t believe their cup fortune can last that long.