Thursday, 31 December 2015

Tunbridge Wells 5 Rusthall 0

Match 56/15/1261 - Tuesday, 30th December 2015 - Friendly

Tunbridge Wells (3) 5 Nwoko 2,5,30 Parsons 55, Baz 89
Rusthall (0) 0
Attendance: Estimated: 150

Entrance: Free
Programme: None Produced
Mileage: 36/4,012

Unless it has been weathered-enforced, I've never known a football club without a fixture over the Christmas period. Although the scheduled Boxing Day fixture was an unappealing away trip, the playing of the game on a free Saturday earlier in the month left Tunbridge Wells' supporters starved of football over the festive period.

To give the players game time, two friendly fixtues were arranged and although the first against Guru Nanak prior to Christmas fell foul of the weather, the second against neighbours Rusthall satisfied the fans' craving and, even allowing for the free entry, a very decent attendance assembled.

Unfortunately, with no team sheet either printed or written up, who was who in an experimental Tunbridge Wells side was guesswork apart from the regulars such as Joe Fuller and Perry Spackman.

If it wasn't clear who was who, this was no fault of the new floodlights that shone impressively brightly. Jason Bourne is overhauling the squad quickly with some returning names and some youngsters brought in from senior clubs' youth teams. Rory Head and Bradley Large have returned from University, Tom Davey has been pursuaded to return to the game and Tolly Beaton helped out on the night.

Added to those were mystery men, a left winger who we can only refer to as Baz (or even Buzz!) and a striker called Alwyn. Both of these players impressed and it would be good to get to know a little bit more about them whilst they are wearing the red of the Wells.

After five minutes, the Rusthall defence looked like they were drunken guests at a particularly raucous New Year's Eve party as they found themselves two behind to Joe Nwoko goals. His first after two minutes was from close range and his second came courtesy of the fleet-footed Baz before the striker side-stepped a couple of challenges to fire home.

All credit to Rusthall that they recovered their composure and for half-an-hour more than held their own. After some magnificent defending had denied the Wells a third, Rusthall hit the post with a far post header but then conceded on the counter attack with Nwoko completing his first half hat trick.

Large hit the bar, cutting in from the right, just prior to the break.

Ten minutes into the second half, Ian Parsons, a first half substitute, scored from close range to add a fourth.

Sadly, I have to admit to missing the final goal from Baz as a warming cup of tea became more enticing than the final five minutes, shame on me!

With very little to play for in terms of challenging for silverware (Tunbridge Wells will not go down, of that I'm sure), Jason Bourne has time on his side to allow a young side to evolve from the ashes of a poor opening four months of the season. How the young players on show in this non-competitive match transfer to men's senior football is going to make for interesting viewing for the Culverden faithful.

As a postscript I would like to thank my followers for continuing to log-in to That'll Be The Day, as it has now received its 50,000th page viewing.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Gillingham 1 Colchester United 0

Match 55/15/1260 - Monday, 29th December 2015 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Samuel 70
Colchester United (0) 0
Attendance: 7,109

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/3,976

Match Report

As the stadium announcer was declaring Max Ehmer as the sponsors' man of the match, Stuart Nelson made the second of three point blank saves that won this hard fought encounter for Gillingham. Seconds before the final whistle, he made his third and there wasn't a person inside Priestfield Stadium that didn't realise that the goalkeeper was the true recipient of the sponsors' award.

Coming into the game on the back of outstanding performances at Millwall and Swindon, this was a scratchy performance. But make no mistake, when the prizes are handed out in May, to whoever they are awarded, it won't be the three-nils and four-nil games that have won the league or promotion, it will be games like this one that might, and perhaps should, have been lost.

Gillingham made one change from their last game, Ehmer coming in for Deji Oshilaja, but Bradley Dack caused some concerns during the warm up when he appeared to turn an ankle, so it was a relief when he emerged from the tunnel fit and ready to play just before 3 o'clock.

The first half was a truly forgettable affair for all but the travelling 345 supporters who had made the trip from Essex to urge on their bottom of the table side. By half-time, they had watched on as their team had amassed 11 shots on goal, four on target whereas the home side's tally amounted to a paltry four efforts, none of which had troubled Elliott Parrish in the Colchester goal.

Marvin Sordell had an early effort that whistled just over the bar and this set the tone for the first period, one in which Dominic Samuel and Rory Donnelly fed off the barest scraps upfront.

Gillingham's best, in fact only, chance of the first half came after ten minutes when a cross from Ryan Jackson found its way to the far post where Jake Hessenthaler just failed to convert.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes during the half-time break, Donnelly was replaced by Luke Norris and Josh Wright, who took a first half knock to the head, was replaced by Doug Loft. The changes had the desired effect and the home side showed a far greater urgency from the outset of the second period.

In the 52nd minute, Norris wasted a golden opportunity when he was sent clear down the left hand side but his powered shot only found the side netting.

Colchester, looking far from a side on a run of eight consecutive defeats, hit a post through a Chris Porter header and Ehmer had to be sharp to block an attempt from Tom Eastman.

Gillingham finally took the lead with 20 minutes remaining. After Dack had an effort partially cleared, Ryan Jackson's cross was met by John Egan, who directed a header across the face of goal from where Dominic Samuel shot home from close range.

Egan produced a thunderous shot from 40 yards plus that crashed against the crossbar as Gillingham had their best passage of play in the match.

As the game drifted towards its end, Colchester made a whole-hearted attempt to rescue something from their visit and in so doing brought Nelson to the fore. Firstly, with a minute remaining, he spread himself to repel a close range from Sordell following a George Moncur cross and as clock ticked to 93 minutes, Sordell was sent clear only to be denied by the Gillingham keeper's feet as he narrowed the angle.

The season is now past its half-way mark and if results had gone their way (they didn't) Gillingham could have been sitting at the top of the table going into the New Year. I don't think I'm alone in my surprise at their position at this stage; if they can continue to scratch results when a game doesn't quite go according to plan, who is to say that we cannot continue to be surprised?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

VCD Athletic 0 Tonbridge 3

Match 54/15/1259 - Saturday, 26th December 2015 - Ryman Premier

VCD Athletic (0) 0
Tonbridge (2) 3 Elder 34, Joseph (o.g.) 35, Blewden 50
Attendance: 267

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 74/3,920

Match Report

It is easy to see why the professionals within the game hold little store by "games in hand". At the beginning of December, Tonbridge were as many as four games adrift of other clubs at the top end of the table. But a dip in form, which has seen them go six games without a win, albeit that five of those were draws, has seen that perceived points gain dwindle. A bumper Boxing Day attendance for VCD Athletic, more than twice their average gate, was made up with a large following from Tonbridge hoping to see their favourites find some form against a home side entrenched in the bottom four. VCD's lowly league position had not been represented by recent victories at Grays Athletic and at their Oakwood ground against Wingate and Finchley.

The opening half-hour of the match saw Tonbridge apparently suffering from an over-indulgence of Christmas Pudding as they made a lethargic beginning to the game. But two goals in the space of a minute brought them to life and completely took the wind out of the sails of the hosts. A classic goal from Luke Blewden wrapped up the points as the Angels produced a fine second half performance on day when every one of the division's top five had victories.

The visitors survived an early scare when a cross to the far post was met with a towering header from Nigel Neita that went beyond Angels' goalkeeper Anthony Di Barnardo but was swept away from in front of the line by Laurence Ball. The hosts enjoyed some good possession and the pace of Michael Bakare was causing more than a few worrying moments.

After 15 minutes, Tonbridge's Simon Thomas was withdrawn with some sort of a leg injury to be replaced by Luke Blewden. This turned out to be significant as the Angels' leading goalscrorer was a constant threat.

Tonbridge's first effort on goal saw a Tommy Parkinson header saved by Tom Hadler, the Gillingham youngster that had two successful spells at Longmead last season.

The much-travelled Donovan Simmonds hooked an effort wide for VCD before Tonbridge opened the scoring after 34 minutes. Nicky Wheeler, who had switched from left to right wing, swung in a cross to Nathan Elder who was allowed time to take a touch before rifling a shot into the bottom corner.

Just 40 seconds elapsed and the scoreline was doubled. A cross from the left into the path of Elder was diverted into his own net by Ricardo Joseph, or was it? Elder was credited with the goal and, later, Elder declared that he had touched it. Who's going to argue with the big man?

That disastrous minute knocked the stuffing out of the hosts and Tonbridge were now in complete control of the game.

After five minutes of the second period, Elder played the ball into the path of Blewden, whose sublime first touch was to lob Hadler and into the top corner.

The second half became a one-way procession with only Hadler standing between Tonbridge and a cricket score as the hosts became visibly more and more dispirited.

James Folkes, marauding forward, had a couple of efforts saved and, my man of the match, Luke Allen saw a goalbound shot deflected wide.

With the top of the table clash against Dulwich Hamlet next Saturday no doubt in mind, Wheeler and Folkes were withdrawn allowing a welcome return for Jack Parter.

One final act saw a magnificent double save from Hadler to deny Allen and Blewden.

Back to winning ways for the Angels and with a performance to match. As said before in these postings, I'm not really a believer that there can be six-pointers in January, but next Saturday visit of Dulwich Hamlet to Longmead has all the hallmarks. The South Londoners will bring a large following and a four figure crowd is not an unreasonable expectation. As is often said, "Bring it On".

Monday, 21 December 2015

Millwall 0 Gillingham 3

Match 53/15/1258 - Saturday, 19th December 2015 - League One

Millwall (0) 0
Gillingham (2) 3 Samuel 20, 90+2, Dack (pen) 25
Attendance: 12,032

Entrance: £17 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 90/3,846

Match Report

Nearly six years ago I stood on South Bermondsey station waiting for a train back to London Bridge whilst, below me, the last 10 minutes or more were being played out on an embarrassing afternoon for Gillingham. Leaving before the end terminated that embarrassment and enabled us to get to the station before Millwall staged their customary lock-in of visiting supporters. Fast forward and we were happily interred at the New Den some half-an-hour after the final whistle after one of the most comprehensive results and displays that I've seen from Gillingham for some while.

I won't deny it, working in Bermondsey, I'm going to enjoy the bragging rights from this local derby.

It is 12 years since Gillingham won at the New Den and the 1,600-plus Gillingham supporters packing out the top tier of the away end were going to celebrate every minute of (as I've been told) our Cup Final!

I've also been told that League One is no place for Millwall Football Club and have only found themselves in this position by virtue of a Football Association/League conspiracy and should never be on a fixture list that contains the likes of piddling little clubs like Gillingham. They better get used to it, because on the strength of this performance, they may be alongside these minnows a while longer.

Ex-Millwall midfielder, Josh Wright, came into the Gillingham side replacing the suspended Doug Loft, despite the bereavement of his grandmother a couple of days earlier.

The opening 45 minutes was everything you would expect from a local derby. Feisty, at times ill-tempered, but it was the visitors that took control. Whilst Wright, broke up Millwall's intentions, he was the conduit for Bradley Dack to weave his magic to which Millwall had no answer.

The Gillingham support were on its feet after 15 minutes when they misinterpreted the referee's signal as Dominic Samuel was brought down as he tried to round the home 'keeper Jordan Archer. This was the first indication that Gillingham had too much pace for a cumbersome central defensive pairing of Byron Webster and Mark Beevers.

Five minutes later, Gillingham were ahead. A free kick into the box from Dack, saw the woeful Beevers allow Samuel a yard of space to steer his header into the corner of the net past Archer.

After 25 minutes, the visiting suppporters were once again at the nosiest. As Beevers and Webster dithered, Cody McDonald stole the ball on the edge of the box and was brought down by the advancing Archer with the referee this time pointing to the spot and issuing a red card to the goalkeeper. The substitution took forever, and once David Forde had taken his place between the sticks, Dack showed all his composure to roll the to his right, whilst the keeper went left.

Gillingham were now in total charge of the game and should have gone further ahead when Forde denied Dack as he broke clear.

The half had an unsavoury end when a tackle from ex-Gillingham player Joe Martin on Ryan Jackson brought a mass confrontation that eventually brought bookings for both players. Samuel went to the floor, victim of an alleged headbutt that went unpunished.

Martin had clearly lost his head and his half-time substitution could only have been made by Neil Harris to preserve Millwall's ten men on the pitch.

The second half was a quite different affair and I was a little disappointed that Gillingham allowed the depleted home side the majority of the possession and with it, several very good chances to reduce the deficit. Stuart Nelson made a good save from Lee Gregory and a header in front of goal from Aiden O'Brien should never have cleared the crossbar. It made for uncomfortable viewing as, with a typical Millwall crowd backing them, a goal would have put the home side right back in the game despite their man disadvantage.

Gillingham were still making chances on the break as Beevers and Webster looked vulnerable with every attack. Forde escaped being the second Millwall goalkeeper to see red when he cynically took out Samuel, but given the position on the touchline, the referee issued a yellow card.

As the clock ticked into time-added another piece of comedy defending from Webster gave Samuel the opportunity to dink the ball over Forde from an acute angle to trigger as mass exodus of home fans from the Den and extended celebration from the Kent fans.

Looking back on this post, I know its biased. But when you have been told continually about what a tin-pot club you follow it's nice to force-feed a little humble pie.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Chatham Town 1 Herne Bay 4

Match 52/15/1257 - Tuesday, 15th December 2015 - Kent Senior Cup 2R

Chatham Town (1) 1 Osei 45
Herne Bay (0) 4 Johnson 59, Parkinson 63, Williams 75,82
Attendance: 71

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/3,756

Match Report

For the first time this season, a postponement diverted me away from my original destination to a first alternative. Tonbridge's Ryman Premier encounter fell foul of a waterlogged pitch at Longmead, as had the previous night's Ryman Under 18's game that I was also planning on attending.

It is quite amazing how often, when games all around Kent have been called off, Chatham's Maidstone Road ground seems to survive the onslaught. A playing surface laid on clay was the reason given to me some time ago.

Back in August, at Longmead, I got an inkling that Herne Bay were a useful side, despite on the night being a bit overly physical. Their league position, third going into this Kent Senior Cup encounter, indicated I might have been a good judge and their performance on a horrible evening confirmed those thoughts.

It was a pleasure to see Lee Browning back on a football pitch after a couple of months out of the game without a club, although it took a while to recognise him with his new look, a very heavy beard. As he has done for many a year, he bossed a midfield looking the quality player on the pitch.

This is the first time I've seen Chatham since Kevin Horlock took charge and from this viewing he has a uphill job on his hands.

The night turned on a second half disaster for Chats' goalkeeper, Ryan Nicholls. The home side had gone into the break with a barely deserved 1-0 lead courtesy of a goal from Kwabena Osei. On the hour, Herne Bay were level when a header at the far post from a corner went through Nicholls' hands. Four minutes later, another fumble allowed Dan Parkinson to score and when a shot from outside of the box was only palmed into the path of Danny Williams with 15 minutes remaining the keeper's night of misery was complete.

A sweeping move and a fierce shot from Williams wrapped up the evening and progressed Herne Bay into the quarter-finals where they will have a home tie against Dartford.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Gillingham 0 Burton Albion 3

Match 51/15/1256 - Saturday, 12th December 2015 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Burton Albion (0) 3 McCrory 59, Atkins 90+1, O'Connor 90+5
Attendance: 6,230

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/3,724

Match report

Gillingham's home record came crashing down around their ears on a day that is best forgotten and moved on quickly from, especially in the case of the club captain, Doug Loft.

For 36 minutes Gillingham struggled against a strong wind and a decent team that arrived at Priestfield at the summit of League One. They rode their luck and had Stuart Nelson to thank for a succession of saves. Had they got into the dressing room at the break with a full complement of staff and to return to the field with the wind at their backs, who knows what might have happened. But having been booked 10 minutes previously, Loft stupidly kicked out after being pulled back by Stuart Beavon. The referee, who had a poor afternoon, didn't have a great deal of options available to him and Loft was dismissed whilst Beavon's original challenge went unpunished.

Beavon tested Nelson once more before the Brewers took the lead 13 minutes into the second half. The ball was laid back from the edge of the box to Damien McCrory who drilled a low shot past Nelson from 20 yards.

Gillingham responded almost immediately when a speculative shot from 30 yards out on the left hand side, sailed over the head of Burton's keeper, John McLaughlin, but crashed against the bar.

In fairness, Gillingham made a valiant effort to rescue the game. Justin Edinburgh made attacking changes and whilst they enjoyed a little more forward possession they didn't produce many chances and the threat of being caught on the break was always evident.

They were punished twice in the closing minutes, firstly on the 90, Lucas Atkins took a cross into the box and slotted the ball under Nelson and, with the final kick of the match, Anthony O'Connor diverted a shot into the net to give the game a slightly flattering scoreline in the visitor's favour.

The wife passed the comment as I left for Priestfield that this was a six-pointer, I have to say I don't think that you can have a realistic six-pointer in December. But, despite the caveat of going down to 10 men, there was enough evidence before the sending off that against the better sides in the division, Gillingham might just be a little short if they are to mount a serious promotion campaign. Fourth in the table coming up to Christmas, there cannot be a Gillingham supporter that would not have accepted that position back in August, now is the time to strengthen and kick on. Over to you, Chairman Scally and Edinburgh.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Greenwich Borough 2 Tonbridge 2

Match 50/15/1255 - Tuesday, 8th December 2015 - Kent Senior Cup QF

Greenwich Borough (1) 2 Alexander 36 (pen), 78
Tonbridge (1) 1 Brown 33, Whitnell 48
Greenwich Borough won 3-2 on penalties
Attendance: 101

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 72/3,668

Match Report

As Gary Alexander's penalty rose high into the night sky in the general direction of the Dartford Tunnel, could it be that Tonbridge were finally to win a penalty shoot-out? Luke Blewden hit the crossbar, Ellis Brown the underside of the crossbar and when Charlie Webster's spot kick brought a good save from Craig Holloway, the Angels had once again conspired to lose the lottery, this time from 2-0 up.

It was a frustrating end to an evening in which the senior side had twice led and, for the most part, appeared to be in control of the game.

Steve McKimm fielded just three non first teamers in goalkeeper Aaron McGuigan, who had contributed greatly in getting to this quarter final with a fine performance in the previous round against Faversham; Stephen Panayi at left back and in midfield, Connor Pring. Sonny Miles, in light of suspensions and injuries in the central defensive area, made a welcome return.

Craig Holloway, in the Borough goal, made decent first half saves from Panayi and Brown, whilst ex-Angel Scott Kinch wasted an opportunity before Tonbridge opened the scoring after 32 minutes. Charlie Webster was released down the left hand side by Pring and from the bye-line squared a pass across the face of goal where Brown was on hand for a tap-in.

The lead lasted barely three minutes when a driven shot caught the hands of Miles from very close range in the penalty area. It was one of those decisions where it has to be questioned whether the defender had any chance of getting out of the way of the shot, seemingly the referee thought he did. Alexander stroked the ball into the net off the inside of the right-hand post with McGuigan committed to the other direction.

Tonbridge regained their lead three minutes into the second half when a Webster cross deceived Holloway, who allowed the ball to travel to the far post from where Tommy Whitnell was on hand to tap-in from no more than a yard.

At this point, Tonbridge should have gone on to dominate the game, but they allowed Greenwich a lot of possession and, although chances were very much at a premium, Kinch in particular, wasting a couple, the pressure was mounting on the visitors.

This eventually told in the 78th minute. A ball over the top of Tonbridge's back four found Alexander who showed all his experience with a composed lob over the advancing McGuigan.

Time was played out until the dreaded shoot-out and the fatalistic among us already knew the game was up for Tonbridge. At 2-0 were we unduly pessimistic? Five minutes later the contest had reached its inevitable conclusion.

Taking one of very few positives from the game, Connor Pring had a splendid game in midfield and looks a very good prospect, one for McKimm and his staff to nurture.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Tonbridge 2 Burgess Hill Town 3

Match 49/15/1254 - Saturday, 5th December 2015 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 2 Elder 19,54
Burgess Hill Town (1) 3 Gargan 2, Fisk 75, Smith 78
Attendance: 457

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,596

Match Report

Results at Stoke City and Chelsea on Saturday served to prove that, even with all the money in the world, everybody is liable for "one of those days". Roman Abramovich and the Shiekh Mansour probably drowned their sorrows in something other than PG Tips, but hopefully they felt the same way as I did, crawling back under the duvet having had "one of those days" when everybody around me would have benefited from yours truly staying there in the first place. Tonbridge also had "one of those days" and for their misfortune I almost feel I have to take some responsibility.

Kent was feeling the force, albeit in a very minor way to which Cumbria was later to suffer, from Storm Desmond leaving playing conditions difficult for both sides. Steve McKimm had drafted Sam Rents into the side on loan from Margate to cover for the injured Jack Parter.

The home side got of to the worst possible start, going behind after just two minutes. A throw in from Rents was quickly returned behind him leaving Chris Smith to move into the vacated space and deliver a cross for Sam Gargan to side foot home from very close range.

Tonbridge responded well and should have been on level terms after 11 minutes when a Nicky Wheeler to cross to the far post was redirected across the face of goal by Laurence Ball from where Jeromme Sobers, diving in, directed his header just wide.

After 19 minutes the Angels were level following brilliant work from Wheeler, who cut back from the bye-line to deliver an inch perfect cross for Nathan Elder to head in off the underside of the bar.

On the hour came a game changing moment when Ball took a boot to the face in the centre circle. A long delay ensued, and although the central defender could make his way from he field, he was too groggy to continue. The reshuffle saw the influential Tom Parkinson go back into central defence with Tommy Whitnell coming on as substitute.

This took the momentum away from Tonbridge and it was Burgess Hill that went closest before the break when a cross from Sam Fisk was deflected onto the bar and over by Parkinson.

Early into the second half, Tonbridge enjoyed a stroke of fortune as a thunderous free kick from Gargan cannoned back off a post before after 54 minutes the home side took the lead. A cross from the David Fitzpatrick on the right was met with another header from Elder, who troubled the Hillians central defence constantly.

Fifteen minutes remained when a two minute spell turned the game on its head. A Fisk cross from the left hand side, almost inexplicably, found its way past Anthony Di Barnardo. Such was the surprise at the ball nestling in the corner of the net, that it could only have been a deflection off Sobers that took it past the keeper.

A couple of minutes later, a session of head tennis failed to clear the danger and the final header forward found Chris Smith, who lobbed the advancing Di Barnardo to give Burgess Hill the lead. Smith, who evidently chose Burgess Hill in preference to Tonbridge in the summer, had not really impressed at the point, but this was a predatory finish.

Sobers limped away from the action five minutes from time leaving the home side without a recognised centre half on the field and with Sonny Miles still to return to action leaves a worrying situation.

In the past eight days Tonbridge have had three opportunities to reach the summit of the Ryman Premier and with Dulwich Hamlet surprisingly beaten at home by Needham Market this was a golden chance. But, no medals are handed out in December, and I for one, am happy to see them fly under the radar for a while later.

One of those days, a bad day at the office, all meaningless phrases that can be put in the past as long as they don't happen too often.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Holmesdale 2 Tunbridge Wells 7

Match 48/15/1253 - Wednesday, 2nd December 2015 - Southern Counties East

Holmesdale (0) 2 Akers 52, 63
Tunbridge Wells (5) 7 Nwoko 7,31,77 Cable 11, Seenan 19 (pen), 29,48
Attendance: 88

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: Free
Mileage: 78/3,518
New Ground: 283

Match Report

Crisis, what crisis? Jason Bourne might justifiably have exclaimed, as on a windy evening, Tunbridge Wells literally blew their hosts away in a devastating first half-hour.

The winds of change have blown through Tunbridge Wells Football Club through the course of this turbulent season. Since my last time at a Tunbridge Wells game, the manager, Keith Bird, has departed and the revolving door of players has continued apace. Jason Bourne has brought some old faces back to the club alongside some youngsters, one of which was to really catch the eye on this evening.

My first visit to Holmesdale’s Oakley Road ground left an impression of darkness. An unlit walk down an un-made drive was hazardous and once inside the ground the stand on the far side with its black background was invisible, at least to my eyes, until set against the red shirts of the Wells players in the foreground.

Several of the Tunbridge Wells players were on view for the first time for myself and Joe Nwoko was quick to announce himself with the opening goal after seven minutes. A 30 yard shot at goal found the bottom corner past a very young goalkeeper.

Nwoko turned provider three minutes later when his run down the right hand side and pass across the face of goal left Rikki Cable with a tap-in from a couple of feet.

An isolated foray on the visitor’s goal should have brought a goal for Holmesdale but a weak shot allowed Steve Lawrence a comfortable save. Moments later, they were three behind. A run from KJ McFarlane was ended with a trip just inside the penalty area and Chris Seenan converted from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way.

After 25 minutes, Seenan doubled his tally when a pass from Nwoko sent Seenan through and his aim was unerring as he found the bottom corner past the bewildered keeper.

After 32 minutes, one really had to be fearful for Holmesdale and a potential cricket score as the Wells added a fifth. A perfect through pass from Stephen Ikpeme found Nwoko who rounded the keeper before slotting the ball into the empty net.

It was that through ball that really focused the attention on Ikpeme. Until then, in his role as defensive midfielder, he had gone about his business quietly and efficiently, but now with the scoreline so one-sided he had the licence to express himself. On-loan from Maidstone United’s Ryman Under-18 side, he is built like no 18 year-old from my day. Powerful, he dominated to the point that he appeared to frighten most of the hosts’ midfield.

The second half looked to be taking on the same pattern as Seenan completed his hat trick just two minutes into the period. Laid on by Nwoko, who had an impressive night, the Scottish striker found the top corner from around the penalty spot.

Then, completely out of context with the rest of the contest, Holmesdale’s Danny Atkins produced two pieces of fine striking to reduce the deficit and perhaps add a little respectability. After 52 minutes, Atkins found the top corner, past the despairing hand of Lawrence, with a 25 yard free kick and ten minutes later, a shot from even further out rifled into the bottom corner.

There could be little concern with such a decisive scoreline, but any lingering doubts were put to bed with 13 minutes remaining when a punt forward from Ollie Cooke sent Nwoko beyond the Holmesdale back four with the striker coolly lobbing the advancing keeper for his hat trick goal.

Hopefully, this was a sign that the recovery of Tunbridge Wells is underway. Their holy grail of a Vase run ended with the disappointment of an exit at their opening stage of the competition at Knaphill and there is little left in the season but to fight for a respectable finishing league position. This can be easily achieved with a bit of stability in the remaining months, Bourne has the best wishes of the Wells’ support earned by his longevity as a player and if a few more gems in the likeness of Ikpeme come his way, then his task will be made that much easier.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Staines Town 1 Tonbridge 1

Match 47/15/1252 - Tuesday, 1st December 2015 - Ryman Premier

Staines Town (0) 1 Abdullah 53
Tonbridge (0) 1 Elder 62
Attendance: 198

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 140/3,440

Match Report

Successive away games have brought the same result with two vastly different performances that were influenced heavily by the state of the surfaces. The Staines pitch resembled a bowling green in comparison to the cabbage patch at Billericay and Tonbridge were able to express themselves accordingly.

There is always something irritating about visiting Staines. Late postponements were the signature of my first two visits and now it is being turned away from the car park if you are not a member of the gym. Never trusting the M25 during evening rush-hour, extra time was allowed and, of course, it was plain sailing round the motorway leaving enough time to find a parking space elsewhere once turned away.

The home side started well enough with a shot wide and a header comfortably saved by Anthony Di Bernardo before Tonbridge took control of the game. After 12 minutes, David Fitzpatrick sent Luke Blewden through, but a moment's hesitation was enough for Tommy Brewer to make a saving tackle.

Staines' goalkeeper, Jack Turner, made the first of several good saves when he clawed away a Tommy Parkinson header from a Blewden long throw and a couple of minutes later saved with his feet at the near post a Blewden shot.

After 38 minutes, Parkinson should have put the visitors in front when he steered a close range header wide after a perfect cross from Nicky Wheeler.

Parkinson was substituted during the half-time break with Anthony Riviere taking his place. The visitors continued to take the game to their hosts and it was something of a surprise when, from 20 yards, a low shot from Ahmed Abdullah found the bottom corner.

A second substitution was necessary as Blewden limped off to be replaced by Tommy Whitnell. After 55 minutes, Turner produced another good save to turn over the bar a Nathan Elder before Tonbridge found an equalier a couple of minutes later. A fine run and cross from Fitzpatrick offered up a simple chance for Elder who buried his header from close range.

Fifteen minutes remained when another very good save from Turner denied Elder after some good work from Jack Parter, who also had to be substituted before the end.

If Tonbridge were slightly fortunate to leave Billericay with a point, here they were deserving of the full compliment. As I overheard a Staines supporter telling another, "you can see why they are at the top".