Saturday, 31 January 2015

Canvey Island 5 Tonbridge 2

Match 61/14/1170 - Saturday 31st January 2015 - Ryman Premier

Canvey Island (3) 5 Sykes 6,24,36 Showunmi 59 Tweddell 87
Tonbridge (1) 2 Taylor 39, Parter 86
Att. 321

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 120/4,582

Match Report

Sometimes these posts write themselves, others are more difficult and the odd one becomes virtually impossible. This was definitely one of the latter. All sorts of emotive words spring to mind, but if this is what we can expect from Tonbridge in the closing weeks of this season, then despair (as to its conclusion) is the one that I would choose.

More text to follow, when the frame of mind is a bit more level-headed.

Okay, so it didn’t take a week to calm down, but there have only been a couple of times when I’ve been quite as angry leaving a football ground this season. Once was Gillingham’s home defeat against Scunthorpe United, which at the time I hoped was their low point and the other was Tonbridge’s FA Cup exit at Redhill.

I can take losing on the chin; the clubs that I support do so all too often. I also respect player’s abilities and lower my expectations according to the level that I’m watching, but whether that be at Wembley or Westfield, Barcelona or Beckenham as a paying customer I deserve nothing less than wholehearted commitment and as a supporter nothing is going to stick in the throat quite like watching your team throw in the towel.

It was a bitterly cold afternoon on Canvey Island, the kick off was preceded by a heavy snow shower and the wind blowing off the estuary cut through as many layers of clothing as you had chosen to wear. It was the type of afternoon where a good football match in front of your eyes would distract you from the frost that was already eating at the extremities, what wasn’t required was a capitulation.

Since my last visit to the Prospects Stadium, a couple of small enclosures have been added on the far touchline, a welcome, sheltered alternative to the quite impressive terracing behind the goal.

Tonbridge are a side without confidence, but coming into the game, Canvey were in little better form without a win in six weeks.

After six minutes a poor clearance was returned to the feet of George Sykes, a 20-year-old loanee from Barnet, who shot across the diving body of Kyle Merson into the far corner to put the Essex side in front. It might be harsh, be it did look like a shot that Merson might have saved, and whilst the poor clearance did him no favours, it was the forerunner of an absolute nightmare for the Angels’ goalkeeper.

Enoch Showunmi, whose clubs in his Football League days featured the likes of Bristol City and Leeds United and also made two international appearances for Nigeria, was sent through on goal, but he took an age to steady himself allowing a Tonbridge defender to clear from the line.

A second goal, though, was not too far away and, on 24 minutes, Sykes crashed in a shot from the edge of the box following a corner.

After 36 minutes the game was over as a contest as Sykes completed his first half hat trick. A corner from the left from the rather portly Dave Collis, found Merson flapping hopelessly at the cross and once the ball fell at the feet of the youngster the finish was academic.

On the odd occasion that Tonbridge were able to get forward, Canvey’s own frailties at the back were exposed. A ball into the box caused confusion and Joe Taylor was on hand to stab the ball into the net from close range to give visitors a little bit of hope going into the break.

On the hour that hope was extinguished and Merson’s afternoon of despair was almost complete. Canvey were awarded a free kick, 20 yards from goal, Showunmi’s attempt wasn’t a stunning effort but somehow the ball found its way over the body of Merson after the keeper had seemingly the ball in his grasp.

The final throes of the game saw Jack Parter reduce the deficit to two with a shot from the edge of the box, once again proving the point that had Tonbridge put their hosts under serious pressure there were goals for the taking before Harrison Tweddell, who was at Longmead earlier in the season, inflicted Merson’s final indignity. A shot from Sykes was parried only into the path of Tweddell, who had the simplest of chances to round-up the nap hand.

It was cold, it was miserable and, for Steve McKimm as much as anybody else, it was a chastening experience and completely unacceptable. We understand the budget restraints, but Tonbridge, on this performance, are not sleepwalking to relegation, they are freefalling.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Phoenix Sports 1 Tunbridge Wells 0

Match 60/14/1169 - Wednesday 28th January 2015 - Southern Counties East

Phoenix Sports (1) 1 Freeman 20
Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Att. 85

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 70/4,462
New Ground: 272

A long time before FIFA recognised that a relatively even playing field was required to maintain competition in its leagues across the world and thereby introduced Financial Fair Play, at grassroots level money has forever and a day ruled to roost.

Sugar Daddy’s have come and gone at places like Salisbury, Darlington and Kettering, bringing initial success but leaving nothing but turmoil. The old Kent League didn’t exactly attract the Russian oligarch or a Saudi prince but, nonetheless, each year one club would be the beneficiary of a cash injection that would skew the league in their favour.

This season Phoenix Sports have bucked the trend. Whilst it was rumoured there was cash on tap at Greenwich Borough, Phoenix have preserved an unbeaten run in the league that now extends to 20 games and have progressed to the last 16 of the FA Vase where they face the daunting trip to the north-east to meet North Shields.

On a bitterly cold night at Mayplace Road, 85 hardy souls slowly felt the chill getting through to their bones as Tunbridge Wells were the latest club to exit Barnehurst without a goal and without a point.

It all left one to wonder how a club that has counted attendances of 43, 46 and 48 this season have managed to attain such success. The answer must reside in a team spirit that is palpable from the sidelines and it never does your cause any harm when you can call on a striker that is going to give you 30 goals in a season.

Phoenix Sports have, in theory, so little to offer players of the quality of Ricky Freeman, Yacine Gnahore, Harrison Carnegie and the ex-Tunbridge Wells favourite Scott Whibley that their appearance in the green of the club can only be down to the persuasive powers of manager Steve O’Boyle.

From the moment they left the dressing room and awaited the call from the referee to take to a heavily sanded pitch that had passed a 5 o’clock inspection, the geeing up and encouragement from player to player was clearly audible but not without the occasional confrontation. After a fairly slow start, O’Boyle was getting frustrated on the sidelines and berated Carnegie when he made a poor choice of going for goal instead of a cross. Freeman was quick to his colleague’s defence and in a sharp retort the manager was told to get off the youngster’s back.

In those opening minutes, Tunbridge Wells started much the brighter and half-chances fell to Paul Booth and Brendan Cass to which Phoenix keeper, Steve Phillips was equal, but after 20 minutes the Tunbridge Wells on the front foot disappeared and only resurfacing in the last 10 minutes in which time they might well have secured an unlikely equaliser and an undeserved point.

On the half-hour, Phoenix opened the scoring with a goal simple in its making, clinical in its finishing but a nightmare bit of defending. Carnegie crossed from the right, the ball cleared Brad Potter and Rory Head and dropped to Freeman who swept it home for his 19th goal of the season.

The second half was one-way traffic in favour of Phoenix until a last 10 minute assault from the Wells could so easily have stolen a point. Chris Seenan was brought down when through on goal but appeals for a penalty were waved away and a final, desperate effort on goal following a Jake Beecroft corner saw the ball cleared from the line by Whibley to deny his old mates. From a distance of 70 yards it was impossible to confirm or not claims that it had crossed the line, or indeed had been handled, but even from that distance the Seenan penalty claim looked to have merit. But nobody will ever know, because the area behind the goal, the full length of one side and half of the length of the side where the 108 seated stand is situated was closed to spectators.

It would appear that an awful lot of work needs to be done to bring the Mayplace up to Ryman standard, but Phoenix must be confident they can satisfy the criteria as they have put themselves forward for promotion should they earn it on the pitch.

Good luck to Phoenix Sports, I hope they make it on the strength of their team spirit rather than somebody’s wallet.

Gillingham 2 Tonbridge 0

Match 59/14/1168 - Monday 26th January 2015 - Kent Senior Cup

Gillingham (0) 2 Freiter 65, Webster 83
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 250-ish

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Free
Mileage: 54/4,392

Match Report

This was a game 41 years in the waiting.

Back in 1974, FA Cup giant killers Hereford United had made their way into the Football League and their visit to Kent took me to Gillingham for the first time. One of the best games, to this day, that I have seen at Priestfield ensued and a dual allegiance to Gillingham and Tonbridge was born.

As Tonbridge Football Club fell into liquidation, relegation and an ultimately losing battle with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council to retain their Angel Ground, I was worn down by the ongoing turmoil and Gillingham took an ever greater prominence in my football watching life.

Once the new Tonbridge Angels emerged at Longmead, my interest in the club was rekindled and the two clubs sat happily alongside each other in my affections whilst never the twain shall meet.

As so it was for 20 years before a Kent Senior Cup tie brought the sides together at Longmead leaving me with the quandary of not quite knowing what to wish for in terms of an outcome.

But they say you never forget your first love and by the time this season’s Kent Senior Cup draw pitched to two clubs together, at Priestfield, for the first time in 53 years, my colours were going to be fixed firmly to the Tonbridge mast.

It was a strange experience, even in a low key competition, and one which I don’t think I would enjoy if they were ever to meet in the FA Cup for instance.

Gillingham fielded a stronger than expected team with first teamers, Leon Legge playing against his old club, Joe Martin starting and up front the pairing of Luke Norris and Antonio German offered the opportunity of a starting role in the JPT Area Final at Bristol City on Tuesday with the ineligibility of on-loan John Marquis.

Tonbridge for their part were left with a weakened team with three fringe players and two reserves in their starting eleven.

Tonbridge actually made a good fist of this game and by half-time had enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but lacked any sort of belief in front of goal. Meanwhile Norris and German were labouring upfront, neither doing themselves any favours in regards to potential selection on Thursday.

Gillingham, perhaps with a flea in the ear from Mark Patterson, opened the second with a little bit more intensity and after 10 minutes fashioned the best chance so far when Norris went sent through on goal by Michael Freiter, but embarrassingly lobbed the ball waist height into the arms of Kyle Merson.

After 65 minutes, Gillingham did finally break the deadlock when Charlie Webster crossed to the near post and the deftest of touches from Freiter steered the ball between Merson and the post.

Tonbridge’s best chance, so far, came almost immediately when a cross from the left found Flavio Tavares with space to fire in a shot that brought a good save out of Glenn Morris.

With 15 minutes remaining, Tonbridge brought their support to its feet with a header that appeared goal-bound only to be denied by an acrobatic clear from Norris, perhaps staking a claim for a place as a defender at Bristol City. It was a shame, it would have been nice, and even deserved, to put a name on the scoresheet.

The tie was wrapped up seven minutes from time when Webster converted at the far post with a close range header to confirm a semi-final place for the Gills.

It had been an admirable performance from the Angels and Patterson was magnanimous in his praise for their effort in which he acknowledged that for the first half at least Tonbridge had been the better side.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Glasgow Celtic 1 Villarreal 0

Match 58/14/1167 - Wednesday 21st January 2015 - Premier League International Cup

Glasgow Celtic (1) 1 McMullen 43
Villarreal (0) 0
At Princes Park, Dartford
Att. 250-ish

Entrance: £3
Programme: None issued
Mileage: 56/4,338

Match Report

Celtic v Villarreal, £3, at Dartford. Don't mind if I do!

It not going to take a Sherlock amongst you to realise that we are not exactly talking Champions League at this moment in time.

The Premier League, more of often than not criticised for its single-minded pursuit of the very last dollar, has recognised that there is a gap in the development of players between the ages of 18 and 21. In order to offer competitive football at that level, alongside the formation of the Under-21 Premier League, they have introduced the Premier League International Cup in which eight English clubs and eight European clubs are drawn into four groups of four before entering a knock-out stage with all the games, even those featuring two European sides being played in England.

This was the second game that has been hosted at Princes Park, Dartford. Unfortunately, the games are not particularly well publicised and the first, Benfica v Shalke passed me by without my knowledge of the competition’s existence.

With a 7 o’clock kick-off and my workplace just over a half-hour’s drive from Dartford, at three quid the game was far too tempting to turn away and, on the whole, it was worth braving what was a very cold evening.

If I got nothing else from the evening, then the performance of the Celtic goalkeeper, Leo Fasan, was worth the entry fee alone. Two first half saves from the Villarreal number 11 were absolutely top drawer.

On a very heavy pitch showing the wear and tear of Dartford and Greenwich Borough’s usage week in, week out it was Villarreal that made most of the early running. The Spanish side were physically bigger than Celtic and their more direct game suited the conditions.

Having survived the opening 45 minutes by virtue of the inspired keeping of Fasan and some steadfast defending, the Scots opened the scoring just prior to the break. A through ball from Charlie Mulgrew found Paul McMullen, who looked clearly offside but clinically finished into the bottom corner to the delight of the majority of the attendance. I am presuming that these are exiles based in the south, but their knowledge of these youngsters suggested that they follow Celtic far and wide.

Celtic were also forced to defend deeply for most of the second half but Villarreal ran out of ideas on how to break down resolute defending and the three points earned mean that Celtic have qualified for the knock-out stages.

Hopefully, one of the matches during those stages will be held locally offering a further opportunity to watch European football at an affordable price, something that is not associated with the Premier League too often.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Highworth Town 1 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 57/14/1166 - Saturday 17th January 2015 - FA Vase 4th Round

Highworth Town (0) 1 Clark 85
Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Cass 60 (pen)
After extra time
Att. 254

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 266/4,282
New ground: 271

Match Report

Highworth Report

The FA Vase is a throwback to the FA Cup of the Seventies. The draw, which has been unkind to Tunbridge Wells with three successive away ties, sends you to places that you have never heard of and a tiny ground that encompasses a mudbath of a pitch, the like of which Ronnie Radford would have been proud to have lifted the ball towards the goal let alone the top corner.

Tunbridge Wells’ supporters, who made up more than half of the 254 attendance, won’t forget Highworth Town in a hurry if they were to progress to the later stages of the competition, perhaps even Wembley itself once more.

One of the greatest fascinations of the FA Vase is that with the clubs coming from just a couple of steps within the pyramid the teams are usually evenly matched, especially at this last 32 stage with comparisons of the differing leagues difficult to make.

The fixture had been in serious doubt with plenty of rain having fallen in the Wiltshire town in the days leading up to Saturday. The Highworth volunteers completed a sterling job with the pitch, heavy but clearly playable, passing a morning inspection.

A first look at The Elms might have suggested that this fourth round tie was going to be an easier task than the visits to Westfield and Portchester, whose facilities were superior to those than Highworth, although the pitch at Westfield was even heavier.

The outcome of the match ultimately hinged on a couple of key decisions from the referee and depending on the colours that you were wearing he got them right or he got them wrong. With the use of an ordinary pair of eyes, I felt that the match official got both decisions right, albeit that he needed a helping hand with the second big call.

Tunbridge Wells should have put the game out of the reach of their hosts in the opening 25 minutes. Within the first three minutes, a through ball from Brendan Cass sent Paul Booth into the penalty area as a defender slipped on the sodden turf. Booth rounded the advancing goalkeeper but as he lined up his shot into an unguarded net, the striker himself lost his footing and the chance was lost.

Booth had a further opportunity but chose to cross rather than take on a tight angle only to see the ball intercepted and efforts from Joe Fuller and Tom Davey cleared the bar. The traffic was very much one-way with the hosts seemingly overawed by the occasion.

Highworth, having survived the early pressure, grew into the game and there became a sense of foreboding that Tunbridge Wells would live to regret those early missed chances. TJ Bohane, a 30 goal striker, began to stretch the visiting back line bringing a save from Steve Lawrence at his near post. Just prior to the break, the noisy Wells support held its breath as a pass across the face of goal found Dan Drewett, who, from inside the six-yard box, managed the more difficult option of crashing his shot against the crossbar rather than into the empty net.

After a quiet start to the second half, in terms of chances at least, Tunbridge Wells went ahead slightly against the run of play as a result of the referee’s first big decision on the hour. From the length of the field, it was difficult to determine whether the challenge on Paul Booth was fair or foul. Highworth supporters alongside us, one of whom appeared to be a club official, vociferously claimed that the ball had been won, quite how they could make that judgement without the benefit of bionic eyes is difficult to appreciate. For my opinion, the defender made his challenge from behind, so regardless of whether he got the ball or not, it was a foul. Brendan Cass converted the spot kick to open the scoring.

The goal lifted the confidence of the Wells and for a ten minute period it appeared that a safe passage to the next round was in their grasp. Fuller blasted over after a good move opened up the opportunity for the midfielder.

With nothing to lose, Highworth mounted a final 20 minute assault on the Wells goal that finally yielded a deserved equaliser after 85 minutes following a moment of madness that Lawrence would rather forget. The Wells’ keeper charged from his box to clear but his header was charged down, leaving Brad Clark with an open net in which to place his shot.

Into extra-time and the Wells’ support fell uncustomarily quiet as the home side sought a winner. One attack after another left the Wells regularly conceding free kicks around the box from which Highworth failed to deliver a knock-out punch.

The final, and most defining incident of the match, came with 112 minutes on the clock. The dangerous Bohane was sent clear but was hauled to the ground by Perry Spackman earning the Wells central defender a second yellow and therefore a red card. The referee immediately pointed to the spot for what should have been a winning opportunity for the Wiltshire club.

Whilst issuing the red card, the referee’s attention was sought by the linesman ending with the penalty decision being overturned in favour of a free kick on the edge of the box. This was a decision that from just 20 yards or so, I would say was completely the correct one. Assertions from the Highworth management that Bohane was two yards inside the box are fanciful. But having given the original decision, this was a mighty let-off for Tunbridge Wells.

A goalmouth scramble with the ball loose inside the six yard box was survived along with several corners and edge of the box free kicks to preserve the Wells’ interest in the competition.

There is something just as glorious in a rearguard action as there is in winning easily and this was one of those games that can lead supporters to believe that their name might well be on the trophy, albeit that a replay next Saturday cannot be taken for granted. The pitch at Culverden may prove to be a similar leveller to the one at The Elms, but with home advantage the odds now favour the Kent side.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Kingstonian 1 Tonbridge 0

Match 56/14/1165 - Saturday 10th January 2015 - Ryman Premier

Kingstonian (0) 1 Kempton 68
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 354

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 108/4,016

Match Report

The scene was set for a piece of trivia and a pub sports quiz question. Who scored the next goal at Kingsmeadow after Steven Gerrard’s FA Cup tie winning goal for Liverpool? It would have been something special for the answer to have been a Tonbridge Angels player, but sadly it was not to be and diabolical defending of a corner, 22 minutes from time, presented the award to Jake Kempton of Kingstonian.

With no wins in their last five games and only one in their last nine Ryman Premier League games, Tonbridge are in danger of sleepwalking their way into a relegation dogfight or, even worse, relegation itself. Their position was given a helping hand with results elsewhere on Saturday, from the bottom-up, the first winners were Grays, who sit in 12th position. If Steve McKimm’s side continue to be reliant on the helping hand of others they will find themselves in the bottom four and scrapping before they have realised the danger.

As a non-league stadium, Kingsmeadow is among the best, as a Football League stadium when visiting for AFC Wimbledon, it is not really of the required standard. Unfortunately, for Kingstonian, this could have consequences in the not-too-distant future. Wimbledon have long since wished for a return to their home borough of Merton and now have plans in place with the council for the building of a 20,000 capacity stadium on the site of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium.

Kingstonian, previously the landlords at Kingsmeadow, are now the tenants of AFC Wimbledon having sold the leasehold of the ground during the ill-fated ownership of the Khoslas and should the League Two club achieve their ambition of a return to Merton the ground would be sold with, it is reported, Chelsea the likely purchasers who would use the stadium for their reserve, youth and ladies teams.

The programme notes made clear that Kingstonian would move on to a site where they would find an affordable rent having “enjoyed” a virtually rent-free existence as tenants of AFCW.

The game was about to get underway with an embarrassing situation for the referee, who had forgotten that there was to be a minute’s applause for three Kingstonian officials who had recently passed away. Despite, even a loudspeaker reminder to the referee, he was about to start the match until the spontaneous applause from spectators alerted him to his error. Tonbridge supporters in the crowd would have enjoyed the time to remember one of their own favourites, Geoff Truett, who sadly passed away during the week.

The first half was quite open and it was something of a surprise to get to half-time goalless. Tonbridge came under early pressure with Kyle Merson making a good save to thwart Kempton, but also causing problems of his own with indecision.

Tonbridge did, however, grow into the game and Tommy Whitnell, playing behind Joe Taylor, leaving Marvin Williams in a deeper role, having a couple of opportunities to write his name on that trivia question.

Merson fumbled from a corner once more and it took a goal line clearance to preserve the goalless status as the hosts continued to exert the lion’s share of possession.

Any injury to Jack Parter resulted in the second half introduction of Tonbridge’s latest signing, Dane Luchford from neighbours Tunbridge Wells. Luchford, brother of the Tonbridge coach Justin, made a good impression with his direct running. First big chance of the second half came to the Angels with Taylor’s diving header from Whitnell’s cross going wide.

Chances for both sides were at a much greater premium than in the first half before Kingstonian opened the scoring. A corner, found the head of arguably the smallest player on the pitch, and Kempton was able to steer it into the corner for the decisive goal. It was a disappointing goal to concede, from a distance of 70 yards, it was clear that the scorer had a free header to convert.

There was still plenty of time for the visitor’s to respond but the game petered out with barely an assault on the Kingstonian goal worthy of note.

I hope to be back at Kingsmeadow next season resulting from Kingstonian's continued tenancy at the stadium and, more importantly, the fact that Tonbridge haven’t woken up and found themselves in Ryman South.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Tonbridge 1 Peacehaven & Telscombe 2

Match 55/14/1164 - Tuesday 6th January 2015 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 1 Carey (pen) 17
Peacehaven & Telscombe (2) 2 Burton 19,25
Att. 248

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 36/3,908

Match Report

The old joke goes, that such and such club’s form came down with the Christmas decorations. On 12th night, the optimism that Tonbridge supporters took from two good festive performances, took a severe dip as they produced one of their worst performances of the season against Peacehaven and Telscombe.

If the FA Cup performance at Redhill can be ignored, which obviously it cannot, then Tonbridge have reserved their poorest form for Peacehaven, having taken a season’s worst beating on the Sussex coast and then allowing the visitors to comfortably take home the points from this reverse encounter.

The ever-changing back four featured new signing Frantz Tchonang Ngassa from Whitehawk with Kyle Merson replacing the recalled Tom Hadler in goal.

Tonbridge started brightly and were rewarded in the 17th minute when Lee Carey scored from the penalty spot after Marvin Williams had been brought down.

The goal seemed to have the reverse effect from confidence building and the hosts went into a shell from which they never emerged.

Peacehaven quickly restored parity with Tom Burton converting a cross to the far post and, with 25 minutes on the clock, Burton was once more in the right place when a corner wasn’t cleared.

Although Williams’ speed and directness caused the visitors problems he became something of a lone ranger whilst his team mates were struggling to recognise each other as pass after pass found only an opponent.

A little while back I was discussing with a fellow Gillingham supporter the reason why I have found my football a lot more enjoyable with Tonbridge than with the Gills this season. Whilst they are in similar positions in their respective divisions, I felt that at Tonbridge you could see light at the end of the tunnel, there were reasons to be optimistic. Unfortunately this was the type of performance that categorised those opinions as delusional.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chatham Town 0 Aveley 5

Match 54/14/1163 - Saturday 3rd January 2015 - Ryman North

Chatham Town (0) 0
Aveley (1) 5 Holland 16 Baker 53 Elliott 62, 75 Elbi 70
Att. 143

Entrance: £5
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/3,872

Match Report

For the first time this winter weather decimated the non-league programme and I was left to search for a game.

As both the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells games had disappeared from the fixture list before I got out of bed following my night shift, a first look at kentishfootball’s updated fixture list showed very little choice available, but an old favourite fall-back Chatham were still holding out hopes of getting their game on.

When the Game On message appeared on Twitter it was a pleasant surprise as the rain was still tumbling outside of my window. At the ground, I was informed by a local resident that the area sits on chalk, literally a spade’s depth below the surface which always gives the Maidstone Road ground a chance.

In fact, the pitch looked in pretty good shape all things considered and the groundsman can only be congratulated on his efforts, but a couple of hours later he must have wondered why he bothered.

Chatham were unbelievably poor and, once Aveley had ridden some early pressure from the hosts, and a 30 yard effort from Billy Holland nestled in the bottom corner after 16 minutes, they were always in control of the game. Unfortunately, my head was in my phone at the time, taking in a goal for Port Vale against Gillingham.

Chatham responded in sorts and created a couple of chances with Maidstone loanee, Richard Davies, rising above the mediocrity.

The second half was nothing less than a disaster for Chatham as Aveley picked them off almost at will. A poorly defended free kick allowed Junior Baker to head in from close range and five minutes later when a cross from the bye-line was converted with a tap in from Marcus Elliott the game was over.

A bizarre goal on 69 minutes, Chatham goalkeeper Tom Welham’s clearance rebounding off Petrit Elbi and into the net made it four and within five minutes a surging run from Paul Preston created another close range finish for Elliott to complete Aveley’s nap hand.

The most satisfying part of the afternoon was being able to throw a few bob into the collection bucket for Matt Solly who broke and dislocated his ankle at Thurrock the previous week and is unable to work until such times as he is mobile once more. Evidently, Kevin Watson, Chatham’s manager was so disappointed with his team’s performance he ordered that the team’s wages for the match was donated to the fund.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Maidstone United 1 Tonbridge 1

Match 53/14/1162 - Thursday 1st January 2015 - Ryman Premier

Maidstone United (1) 0 Greenhalgh 45
Tonbridge (0) 1 Miles (o.g.) 84
Att. 2,226

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,840

Match Report

It was an unsavoury end to this A26 derby between two bitter rivals that captured the headlines after the two clubs had contested a hard-fought draw in front of an all-ticket, capacity crowd with Tonbridge finding an unlikely equaliser, seven minutes from the time, when their former player, Sonny Miles deflected a free kick from Lee Carey past his own keeper.

Tonbridge saw out the final minutes of the contest and on the final whistle celebrated the result perhaps a little to heartily for some of the more fickle Maidstone supporters. What happened next did neither club any favours and dishonoured the values of non-league football.

The game itself had largely gone off without incident; Maidstone carved out the lion’s share of the chances but, without the cutting edge supplied by Alex Flisher and the bustling centre forward play of Jay May, were fairly toothless in front of goal. Two sets of supporters, who are supposed to dislike each other intensely, stood side-by-side without segregation and with no apparent problem.

The vocal element of the Tonbridge support had followed the time-honoured tradition of changing ends during the half-time break whilst the Town End Maidstone support always choose to remain in position. Even with that close proximity there was little to concern the stewards; at least it appeared that way from a distance.

At the final whistle, the Tonbridge players went to the Town End to acknowledge their support and unwittingly ignited the disturbance that followed. I can only draw my conclusions of what occurred from a safe distance of 30 yards of so. Two wrongs have never made a right and this occasion was no different. In their celebration, the Tonbridge players perhaps strayed a little too close to the fencing behind which both sets of fans were gathered and when beer was thrown at them, some sought the perpetrator and a punch was thrown before some sort of order was restored.

The Maidstone United Unofficial Forum has made for interesting reading in the aftermath with a serious introspection of their own club’s role in the disturbance. The beer throwing was not, it appears, an isolated incident and the club’s policy of selling beer from a stand outside of the clubhouse for people to take pitch side is brought into question. This practice is one that I have always felt was trouble waiting to happen and have stated that point previously on this blog. From a Tonbridge point-of-view, it is impossible to condone the throwing of a punch and, doubtless, serious disciplinary action from the Football Association will follow.

The ending was such a contrast to the warm welcome that had been offered as we entered the Gallagher. Wearing our colours, we were not hiding our allegiance to the visitors and were met by a club official who guided us to the various facilities on offer, including, of course, the beer stand! And, although there were a couple of misguided comments in our direction on the way out, there was no tension as we took our place alongside Maidstone supporters.

The game itself was one of very few chances. Tonbridge, shorn of the services of Marvin Williams, whose achilles could not be risked on the 3G surface, struggled to create anything at all going forward, but with one piece of magic from Dee Okojie, whose 20 yard shot clipped the bar with Lee Worgan beaten, they may well have found themselves in front.

In the ten minutes prior to the break, the hosts mounted a continuous assault on the Tonbridge goal with Tom Hadler saving well from Tom Mills and Ben Greenhalgh. The pressure finally told on the stroke of half-time. Matt Bodkin, a serious threat throughout, had a goalbound shot blocked by Laurence Ball but the rebound fell kindly for Greenhalgh to drive his shot into the centre of the goal.

The second half was largely one-way traffic with Hadler making a good save from Greenhalgh before a Steve Watt header was cleared with claims that the ball had crossed the line.

The livewire Alex Akrofi placed a shot millimetres wide of the far post after a run into the penalty area with defenders frightened to put a foot in to stop him.

The points seemed destined to reside with the hosts and bring to an end to a run of 10 matches without defeat in all competitions against Maidstone when Miles’ moment preserved the record.

Maidstone should, in reality, get promotion this season. Even if they fail to overhaul Margate at the top of the table, they are going to enter the play-offs as hot favourites. Perhaps it was with this in mind, that four old fools gathered together for the photograph below, sensing that it might be somewhile before we are once again assembled at the Gallagher.