Sunday, 30 August 2015

Tunbridge Wells 1 Croydon 1

Match 17/15/1222 - Saturday, 29th August 2015 - FA Cup Preliminary Round

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Seenan 22
Croydon (0) 1 Henry-Brown 68
Attendance: 255

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 36/824

Match Report

Here we are, not quite out of August, and for 184 clubs their hopes and dreams of FA Cup glory are already over. Ellesmere Rangers, of the West Midlands League Premier Division, may feel that their competition entrance fee of £75 could have been better spent having exited at the Extra Preliminary Round at the hands of Coleshill Town with only an 11-0 defeat to show for their troubles. Glebe, of the Kent Invicta League, were excluded from the competition without kicking a ball when their new ground in Chislehurst failed to fulfil the FA’s criteria thereby handing Tunbridge Wells with a walkover into the Preliminary Round.

Croydon arrived at the Culverden Stadium having already established their potential to be the Southern Counties East whipping boys for the coming season with four successive defeats from the start of their League season. But the FA Cup captures the public’s imagination by virtue of its unpredictability and this game was to prove that when the FA Cup comes to town you should expect the unexpected.

A scrappy opening to the game offered little in the way of entertainment for the attendance of 255 with both sides wasting an early chance without threatening the goalkeeper. Tunbridge Wells held sway in terms of possession and, therefore, probably deserved to be ahead in the 22nd minute with a quality strike completely out of context to that which had gone before. Lee Radford threaded a superb pass through to Chris Seenan who cut in from the left hand side and drove a fierce shot between the goalkeeper and his near post.

Tunbridge Wells sought to make the most of the momentum gained from the goal and their right winger Ehis Izokun was proving a constant threat and his pass to Brett Ince brought a good save from the visiting goalkeeper, Francis Ameyaw. After Jason Barton had steered a header wide from a corner, the Wells nearly paid for their wastefulness after 37 minutes in a precursor to a later incident.

A long ball forward saw the Wells’ keeper, Steve Lawrence, advancing beyond his penalty area to head a clearance. Unfortunately his header was not that of a gnarled, old centre back and the ball landed at the feet of a Croydon striker who managed to steer the ball wide of a gaping net.

Croydon opened with second half with a greater threat and Lawrence made a good save to push away to safety a well hit shot and the keeper did well to come out on top once more when he turned another shot from the same player around the post for a corner.

But Lawrence’s luck was about to run out on 67 minutes. A long ball down the right hand side saw the keeper once more advancing from his goal, but this time he lost his bearings and handled the ball just outside his area. This brought about a yellow card and from the resultant free kick, Ashley Henry-Brown drove a curling shot, full of venom, into the far corner. An excellent strike, one that was even appreciated with applause from the home support.

Lawrence, a young goalkeeper still learning his trade, would later take an amount of criticism on social media. My take, as a goalkeeper in my playing days, would be that shot-stopping comes naturally, judgement is something that is learnt over a period of time and time and patience is what the young man needs at present. The management team will have to make the decision on whether they can afford the perceived all-to-frequent blunder whilst he is making the kind of saves that kept the Wells in the game just five minutes earlier.

The game entered its best period as both sides searched for a winning goal. After 76 minutes, Joe Fuller headed against a post and five minutes later Croydon responded when they also struck the woodwork and brought another decent save from Lawrence.

The final throes saw a shot from Tunbridge Wells’ substitute Bryan Bell cleared from line after Ameyaw had saved from another substitute Khalil McFarlane, but a replay on Wednesday was not to be avoided.

A nice windfall of £1,925 is on offer to the winners as well as another step on the road to FA Cup glory.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Tonbridge 4 Brentwood Town 0

Match 16/15/1221 - Tuesday, 26th August 2015 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 4 Phipp 62 (pen), Blewden 67, 88, Whitnell 72
Brentwood Town (0) 0
Attendance: 431

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/788

Match Report

When is it appropriate to mark on the calendar the Ryman Premier play-off dates? Or can we dream they will not be necessary?

It is far too easy to get carried away with early season form; the old cliché it’s a marathon not a sprint comes quickly to mind, but Steve McKimm’s Tonbridge side are giving plenty of reason for such optimism.

A look beyond the starting eleven highlighted the strength of the bench with Sobers, Whitnall, Phipp, Webster and the new lad, Ellis Brown, awaiting their chance to prove their own point, which Whitnall and Phipp did to good effect later in the game.

During pre-season the optimism was always tempered with the caveat that there wasn’t a 20 goal striker at the club and that one would be needed to make a challenge at the top end of the table. Luke Blewden is on a mission to prove there was no need to lure the likes of Zak Attwood or Chris Smith to the club as he was the man to supply the finishes.

Blewden’s boundless enthusiasm has translated itself into goals with a hat-trick at Bognor Regis on Saturday followed by a brace against newly-promoted Brentwood Town this evening leaving him the Division’s leading goalscorer with seven goals.

Tonbridge dominated throughout the first half although Anthony Di Bernado had to be at his best to turn a shot around the post in an early foray from the visitors. Nathan Elder spurned the host's opening chance, steering a close range header wide after 16 minutes followed by a Tom Parkinson header that struck a post on 34 minutes. Blewden was sent clear just before the break by a neat header into his path by Elder, but the Brentwood goalkeeper, Martyn Guest, advancing from his goal, smothered the shot of the striker to leave the game goal-less at the break.

The introduction of Tom Phipp, a 56th minute substitute for Lee Carey, swung the game decisively in favour of the home side. He made an immediate impact with a surging run and chip that was finger-tipped to safety by Guest. This proved to be only momentary respite for the visitors as Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick (SHP) forced a save from the goalkeeper but as the ball rebounded to him, he was bundled to the floor for a penalty that was duly converted by Phipp.

Nicky Wheeler, a constant threat to the opposition, saw his free kick hit a post but the rebound fell nicely for Blewden to fire home the second goal after 69 minutes.

Tonbridge were now rampant and a shot from Elder was parried to SHP whose shot was cleared from the line as the Brentwood defence lost their shape completely. Two minutes later, they got themselves into a complete muddle with goalkeeper and defender,under pressure from Blewden, challenging each other for the ball, but only achieving a deflection to Tommy Whitnell who was able to walk the ball into an empty net.

Tonbridge wrapped up the game with a couple of minutes remaining when another surging run by Phipp from midfield opened up a pass to Charlie Webster who crossed low for Blewden to score from close range.

McKimm will almost certainly subdue talk of promotion via automatic or play-off means but in this kind of form it is almost impossible not to get over-excited about the club’s prospects in the coming months.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Gillingham 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Match 15/15/1220 - Saturday, 22nd August 2015 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Dack 37, 82 (pen)
Wigan Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 5,692

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/750

Match Report

What wasn't there to enjoy about this Gillingham performance? On a scorching hot day they have produced a high energy display against a club that two years ago were not only in the Premiership, but also winning the FA Cup. Try telling that to the miserable old beggar sitting behind me. Sometimes I absolutely despair at the expectancy of people. I sit, and I listen, and wonder why they have wasted their money buying a ticket.

As I said the weather was so hot, water breaks were taken in both halves. So having worked hard to get themselves into a winning position as the game entered into time added-on, albeit there were five minutes shown, Gillingham entered into a little bit of "game management" at the corner flag. The silly old git went apopletic calling it an absolute disgrace that they were doing such a thing when the opposing team were down to 10 men. But, considering he had spent the rest of the match labelling Luke Norris and Rory Donnelly the worst strikers ever seen on this planet, it should not have come as any surprise.

Hopefully, I can set the record straight and emphasise what a good performance this was, in my opinion better than the one against Sheffield United, by reason that Wigan at least showed some resilience and a backbone.

Gillingham set the tempo for the game from the opening minute when Bradley Dack forced a save from Richard O’Donnell in the opening minute. Such has been the season’s start made by the midfielder that it would be simple to make this all about Dack, but this has been more than a one man show.

The match day sponsors, not known for making the greatest of choices when selecting their man of the match, could quite easily have gone for the two goal Dack, but instead chose Jordan Houghton, who quietly, effectively went about his business in the middle of the field and never put a foot wrong.

A one-sided first half was heading towards a goal-less conclusion when Dack struck for the first goal after 37 minutes. Gillingham pressured their visitors inside their own half until eventually they gave the ball away. Houghton and Donnelly linked up with the latter laying the ball across to the edge of the penalty area for Dack to place his shot unerringly past O’Donnell.

Ten minutes into the second half, action at both ends could have seen the Gills go two ahead or back on level terms. First, Norris was sent clear but as he took one stride too long to steady himself, defender Craig Morgan denied him with a brilliant last ditch tackle. Almost directly after, Stuart Nelson was brought into action with an instinctive save to deny Will Grigg’s goalbound shot.

Norris nearly made amends moments later when, cutting in from the right, his 20 yard shot hit the far post.

Gillingham finally put the game to bed five minutes from time when Dack was brought down in the box by Donervan Daniels. Without a recognised penalty-taker on the pitch, Dack stepped up to drive his spot kick straight down the middle past O’Donnell, who had committed himself to his left hand side.

Unfortunately, for Daniels, an ex-Gillingham loanee, a clash of heads with Adedeji Oshilaja forced him from the field leaving the Latics to see out time a man shot.

Whether or not, Gillingham have the depth in the squad, or simply the ability to maintain this highly impressive start, who is to know. All I do know is that we should enjoy our moment in sun while it lasts, even that miserable old sod.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tonbridge 2 Herne Bay 0

Match 14/15/1219 - Tuesday, 18th August 2015 - Ryman League Cup 1R

Tonbridge (0) 2 Elder 73, 89
Herne Bay (0) 0
Attendance: 228

Entrance: £10
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 38/694

Match Report

There are people around who would rather not be in the Ryman League Cup and their viewpoint might well have been vindicated when Nicky Wheeler felt the weight of an awful challenge by Herne Bay's Georgio Russio and after treatment was substituted and limped away from the action. In a later incident Brett Millham took another full-bloodied challenge that left him on the ground for somewhile taking attention from the club physio. Tom Pearson was also stretchered away in a strange incident that saw him writhing in agony after taking a shot on goal, this time unchallenged by a visiting defender. Whilst Tonbridge progress into the next round of the competition, it is at some price if they are going to lose one of the early season's success stories in Wheeler.

The match throughout was messy and Herne Bay were certainly niggly and that is being polite.

Nathan Elder, who on Saturday couldn't hit the proverbial barn door, had two goals laid on a plate for him with pinpoint crosses from James Folkes for his first after 73 minutes and, late in the game, Luke Blewden stood one up for him to head in from close range. Two goals that will not do Elder's confidence any harm whatsoever.

Tonbridge paraded their new loan signing, Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick, a winger from Sutton United and he showed up well especially in the early stages when a 20 yard shot shook the crossbar.

In the Herne Bay side were ex-Angels Danny Walder and, on the bench, Mark Lovell and it was good to see the ex-Gillingham favourite Danny Spiller continuing to ply his trade at the lower levels.

I've said before, I like the distraction of these minor competitions including the Kent Senior Cup. They fill a few empty Tuesday evenings later in the season and it is a good opportunity for the blooding of youngsters from the reserve team and for supporters to see if any of these players are knocking the door for first team action.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Tonbridge 3 Needham Market 3

Match 13/15/1218 - Saturday, 15th August 2015 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 3 Blewden 16, Parkinson 25, Wheeler 85
Needham Market (1) 3 Fenn 10, Newson 53, Izzet (pen) 76
Attendance: 405

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 38/656

Match Report

Goals win matches and defensive errors (and/or questionable refereeing decisions) lose them. The points dropped by Tonbridge in this match, it can be argued, were as a consequence of failings at both ends of the pitch.

A seemingly endless stream of crosses from Nick Wheeler found the head of Nathan Elder, but it wasn’t the big striker’s day as chance after chance went begging with the inevitable conclusion that their profligacy would be punished at the other end.

Suffolk-based Needham Market, who were making their first-ever visit to Longmead, having won promotion as champions of Ryman North, came with the vastly experienced duo of Karl Duguid and Kemal Izzet in their ranks. Duguid clocked up very nearly 600 league appearances in his 19-year Football League career, over 450 of them for Colchester United and alongside him for 13 years was Izzet, who can point to 422 appearances for the Essex League One club.

Although Tonbridge started brightly, it was Needham Market that took the lead after 10 minutes in controversial circumstances. Duguid delivered a free kick towards the penalty spot for Oliver Fenn to direct a shot goalwards. Anthony Di Barnado, in the Tonbridge goal, made a plunging save to his right, clawing the ball back from the line. Or so we thought, until the linesman’s flag indicated that the ball had indeed crossed the line. It was a big call from the official because his view must have been somewhat obscured by the goalkeeper’s body if nothing else. In fairness, the travelling support behind the goal were immediately claiming the goal.

Tonbridge reacted well to the set back and within 15 minutes were in front. After 16 minutes a cross from Charlie Webster was headed back across goal from the far post by Elder to Luke Blewden, whose looping header evaded the Needham goalkeeper.

After 25 minutes, Needham Market’s weakness under the high ball into the box was exposed once more as a Wheeler corner was headed in by Tom Parkinson for his third goal in successive matches.

As the chances were frittered away into the second half, Tonbridge paid the price with another decision that had a hint of controversy about it, but one that should have been avoided. Di Barnado played the ball out to Jerrome Sobers, who initially got the ball caught under his feet and whilst he steadied, Duguid made a challenge from behind that appeared to be a push in the back. Waved on by the referee, he played in Sam Newson who clinically finished into the bottom corner to draw the visitors level.

The home side found themselves behind with a quarter-hour remaining when Needham Market were awarded a penalty for hand ball against Sobers. A ball hit directly at the central defender from close range struck a hand and the referee pointed to the spot. It appeared a harsh decision but, perhaps, the position of both arms outstretched was enough to convince the referee. Izzet send Di Barnado the wrong way with his spot kick to put his side in front.

Five minutes remained when the persistence of Jack Parter paid dividends for the Angels. Having appeared to have lost the ball a couple of times in a run that took him across the pitch and down the right side, his cross found Wheeler, who cut inside a defender to curl a shot into the far corner for a goal his performance richly deserved.

In the last five days, and two really entertaining games, Tonbridge have scored five goals and could have expected a better return than a single point but having conceded six in the process, that expectancy total might well have been zero.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Tonbridge 2 Grays Athletic 3

Match 12/15/1217 - Tuesday, 11th August 2015 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 2 Parkinson 4, Blewden 62
Grays Athletic (1) 3 Dumaka 25,56 Carlos 86
Attendance: 439

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 38/618

Match Report

It is early season and as any manager worth his salt would say, let’s not put our heads in the clouds with a first day victory or sink into despair with an opening home defeat. A good Tuesday evening attendance of 439 had obviously been encouraged by Tonbridge’s opening day win at Enfield Town but left disappointed as a really decent Grays Athletic returned to Essex with the spoils after a thoroughly entertaining game.

Dumebi GB-Dumaka must love playing against Tonbridge, two goals on the evening brought his total to five in the last three games between the clubs, but the home side must reflect on individual mistakes that cost them at least a share of the points.

Tonbridge could not have wished for a better start, going ahead after just four minutes. A free kick from the left was delivered by Nicky Wheeler to the far post. Grays’ goalkeeper Lamar Joseph-Johnson spilt the ball at the feet of Tom Parkinson who had the easiest of finishes from close range.

A feature of Grays play throughout the evening was the pace on the flanks of Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson and Joao Carlos. After 25 minutes, a long cross beyond the far post was retrieved by Fortnam-Tomlinson and his pass across the face of goal presented Dumaka with the type of chance strikers of his quality are not going to miss.

Early in the second Joseph-Johnson made a good save from a Parkinson header, arriving late in the box. Parkinson appears to be blossoming in his midfield pairing with Tom Phipp. They already have a great understanding and Parkinson is able to make these late runs with the security of Phipp behind him.

The game quickly turned on 56 minutes. Sonny Miles had a goal disallowed after burying a powerful header but the referee decided that he had climbed on the back of a defender. Grays immediately broke down the right hand side and when Jack Parter missed his tackle, Fortnam-Tomlinson was sprinting clear, his cross to the near post found the clinical Dumaka and in the blink of an eye the visitors were in front.

It was to Tonbridge’s credit that they hit straight back. Just beyond the hour, Phipp sent Luke Blewden on his way through the middle and as Nathan Elder peeled away from two defenders, Blewden ran through the gap and powered home a shot from the edge of the box.

At this point, the home side looked favourites to go on and take the points. Charlie Webster steered a header well wide from close range before with four minutes remaining another individual mistake cost them dear. A long cross into the box from Luke Ifill was partially punched to safety by Anthony Di Barnado to James Folkes whose misplaced pass found the feet of Carlos. The impressive winger cut in from the left and curled an absolute beauty into the far top corner to delight the 20 or so travelling supporters behind the goal.

Tonbridge might still have retrieved something from the game when, in time-added, another Parkinson header was smothered by Joseph-Johnson at the feet of the onrushing Blewden in the nick of time to preserve the Essex side’s lead.

If any reminder was needed, the Ryman Premier is a league where there is quality that will capitalise on mistakes and Grays had that quality in the last third of the pitch. Tonbridge need to eradicate these errors but at the same time they can draw positives from their own performance.

A new home for the video man, Trevor Spielberg

Monday, 10 August 2015

Gillingham 4 Sheffield United 0

Match 11/15/1216 - Saturday, 8th August 2015 - League One

Gillingham (2) 4 Norris 8, Oshilaja 43, Egan 82, Dack 90
Sheffield United (0) 0
Attendance: 7,511

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/580

Match Report

One of the few benefits of night shift working is that during the summer you can get up for an afternoon’s cricket. I also utilise the push notification gizmo on my phone that informs when a wicket has gone down. Over this Ashes series I have developed an internal time clock that breaks my sleep about half-way through the morning session and I cannot resist a peep at the phone to see what has been happening. It appears to me, that each morning I’ve gone through this ritual it has ended with the words “I don’t believe that”. In fact, I was so distrusting of the message with the Aussies on 26-5 on the first morning of the fourth test that I had to turn the television on to confirm it. This Ashes series has been like something out the 1980’s TV series Tales of the Unexpected.

Perhaps not quite so unexpected was the final coup-de-grace as Australia surrendered their last three wickets in 40 minutes to give England an unassailable 3-1 lead with the Oval Test remaining, but it did set up the day nicely for Gillingham’s opening day fixture against the bookies’ pre-season favourites for League One, Sheffield United and a continuance of the Tales of the Unexpected summer.

I thought I could guess Justin Edinburgh’s first day line-up, and couldn’t have been more wrong, although I don’t think I would have been alone on that score. Biggest surprises were the omission of Max Ehmer in favour of Deji Oshilaja, the loanee central defender from Cardiff City and, in midfield, the introduction of 18-year-old Emmanuel Osadebe, a signing from Tottenham’s Foundation College programme (that’s a step below a Development XI).

Edinburgh also made the choice of Brennan Dickenson at left back in preference to Bradley Garmston and the goalkeeper’s jersey went to Stuart Nelson. Leading the line in the absence of Cody McDonald was to be Luke Norris.

Over 1,800 expectant Blades’ supporters packed out the Brian Moore Stand, to a man, I would guess, believing that, under the stewardship of Nigel Adkins, this would be the first step in their quest to finally end their five season sojourn in the third tier of English football.

Those supporters were to depart Kent a couple of hours later shell-shocked not only by the result but a performance that did nothing to justify their pre-season favourites tag.

A weapon that Edinburgh has kept under wraps during pre-season was the long throw of Ryan Jackson, the right-sided defender brought in from Newport County. Adkins was later to say that the throws had not caught them by surprise. If that was the case then they didn't plan very well to cope with the missiles being launched into their penalty area with little sign of a run-up.

After seven minutes, one such throw from Jackson had goalkeeper George Long flapping and eventually the ball was bundled over the line by Norris, although in the melee, the goal was initially credited to Osadebe.

Several more bombs from Jackson rained in on the United goal each one causing mayhem as Long and his defenders struggled to deal with them. A corner from Dack saw a clearance from the line following an Oshilaja header and finally just before the break their fragility in the air brought a second goal for Gillingham when the same two players combined, this time for the central defender to head home.

Dickenson, who had a fine game as a raiding wing back, supplied crosses and opportunties for Norris and Ben Williamson before eight minutes from time delivering a corner that was met with a powerful header from John Egan to wrap up the game for the home side.

There was still time for some Dack magic to round off the afternoon when he weaved his way to the edge of the penalty area from wide on the left to curl a sumptuous effort beyond the despairing dive of Long and into the far corner. It was the perfect end to a perfect opening day for Gillingham supporters.

This is a very young Gillingham side, one that is just as likely to unexpectedly frustrate as thrill in the manner in which they demolished Sheffield United. But that is a sacrifice on the altar of youthful exuberance I am prepared to accept in exchange for the high energy performance that also displayed with some real quality and who is to say where that might take us in the coming months.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Tunbridge Wells 4 Hildenborough Athletic 2

Match 10/15/1215 - Tuesday, 4th August 2015 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tunbridge Wells (3) 4 Parsons 14, Izokun 20, Bryant 38, Cornell 60
Hildenborough Athletic (1) 2 Chandler 44, Unknown 58
Attendance: Est. 150

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/524

That’s pre-season done for another year and many questions have been posed and now we look to Messrs Edinburgh, McKimm and Bird for the answers.

As this is a post relates to Tunbridge Wells, I’ll concentrate this preview of the up-coming season with their chances in Southern Counties East. I don’t think there is a harder league to get out of than the SCEL. With its status in the pyramid only offering one promotion place and appearing to have one club (at least) every season with a budget that exceeds everybody else, the task for those with a realistic budget is monumental. But Phoenix Sports proved last season that it can be done and whilst Greenwich Borough and Ashford United might be holding the big bucks, perhaps another Phoenix can emerge from the chasing pack.

The early pre-season turbulence at Culverden has settled down and from the three games I’ve seen, whilst there are plenty of reservations, general opinion (and mine) is that the football is more pleasing on the eye. Defensive fragility was very much in evidence at Chatham and against Hildenborough, a Kent County League side, two converted far post headers posed a few more questions for the Tunbridge Wells back line.

The pre-season revolving door of players may have unearthed a gem in Ehis Izokun (Izzy to his mates!) who skips defenders for fun, but his style might not be conducive to the heavier pitches of mid-winter onwards and perhaps contributed to his departure from Sittingbourne where their Woodstock pitch is not the best.

If goalscoring is a bit of a worry, manager Keith Bird would have been cursing his luck to have seen new signing Elyon Marshall-Katung go down with an injury after only seven minutes and during the half-time break stretchered away to a waiting ambulance.

Ian Parsons was the beneficiary of a mazy run and cross from Izokun for a tap-in after 14 minutes and, after half-an-hour, a goalkeeping howler allowed the winger a goal of his own, with a celebratory back-flip for good measure.

Full back Tom Bryant was allowed time to steady himself in the box to make it 3-0 after 38 minutes and a deluge of goals threatened. But, to the credit of Hildenborough, they didn’t throw in the towel and just before half-time a long cross to the far post found an unmarked Jake Chandler to reduce the deficit.

The deficit was further reduced early in the second half when another unmarked far post header brought the score a lot closer than it should have been. Hooley Cornell restored some order having been sent clear one-on-one with the keeper, he finished well on the hour.

Expectations are no more than consolidation for Tunbridge Wells and that is disappointing for the best supported club in the League. They will achieve that minimal ambition with ease, of that I’m sure, and with more than one big spender in the league, this is probably not the season to be throwing money the club might not have at a futile tilt at promotion. The problem for the Tunbridge Wells board is when is the right time? Next season might have exactly the same scenario because, as I have already said, there is always a club with that little bit extra in the budget.

Meanwhile, Tonbridge and Gillingham appear to have recruited well during the close season and both offer good reason for optimism. Perhaps not for automatic promotion, but definitely an improvement that could leave them on the edge of the play-off places in their respective divisions. In both instances, whether there are enough goals in the team is the concern that moderates that optimism. Both have very difficult opening games, Gillingham are hosts to my favourites for the League One title, Sheffield United, whilst Tonbridge travel to Enfield Town, who made the Ryman Premier play-offs last season only to lose their place after having points deducted for an ineligible player.

It’s a long slog through to May, at times we will be frozen to death and, no doubt, wondering why we are wasting our time, but would we have it any other way, of course not!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dorking Wanderers 1 Tonbridge 3

Match 09/15/1214 - Saturday, 1st August 2015 - Pre-Season Friendly

Dorking Wanderers (0) 1 Duff 82
Tonbridge (2) 3 Blewden 2,10 Whitnall 89
Attendance: Est. 100

Entrance: £1.50 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 120/486
New Ground: 277

Lurking somewhere behind Box Hill, the picturesque backdrop to the West Humble football ground, is the concrete car park better known as the M25. As I set out for Dorking Wanderers and the ridiculously early kick off time of 12:30, I thought to myself, this was first battle with the M25 this season. Latest score: M25 1 Wink 0. Reminder to oneself, always allow an extra hour when tackling this most fierce of opponents. My half-hour buffer was 10 minutes short of the required time and subsequently the first goal of the match had been scored by the time I arrived at a football ground where the satnav had also proved to be not a lot of help.

Another couple of minutes sitting on the motorway, or if I hadn't fluked a sighting of the ground, and I would have missed the second goal as well. A well worked move from the visitors opened up the Wanderers defence leaving Luke Blewden to drive a shot past the goalkeeper. Blewden had been credited with opening goal by those Tonbridge supporters assembled behind the goal as a Sonny Miles effort was drifting wide before the striker diverted it goalwards.

Everything about West Humble was kind of "pretty". Nestling in the foothills of the North Downs, with its cabin style clubhouse and wooden perimeter fencing at a perfect height and width for leaning on; looking out on the most beautiful, lush pitch that you could wish for in non-league, it was a scene that could have emanated from the Sound of Music!

Music to the supporters of Tonbridge Angels was the stylish football they exhibited in a first half in which they dominated their hosts, who this season will debuting in Ryman League South. There were several missing faces, James Folkes, Lee Carey, Jeromme Sobers, Nathan Elder and Anthony Di Barnado, who definitely will not be available for the opening game of the season. Will Godmon, an 18-year-old from Maidstone, deputised between the sticks and whilst he wasn't over-stretched, he looked capable of stepping into the breach next Saturday.

Tom Parkinson was outstanding in midfield and Nick Wheeler once again had licence to thrill.

The hosts gave a far stronger showing in the second half and deserved their consolation goal before they were opened up once more allowing Tommy Whitnell a sublime finish in the final minute.

There was talk at the ground that a new facility being built on the site of the old Dorking Football Club Meadowbank ground might be utilised in the future by both Wanderers and Dorking, who are presently in exile at Horley. Whilst a new stadium with a 3G pitch facility would obviously be cost effective for both clubs, and allow Dorking FC a route back to their home town, it would be a shame for football to lose such a lovely setting.