Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Crowborough Athletic 3 Tunbridge Wells 0

Match 70/16/1377 - Tuesday, 27th December 2016 - Southern Counties East

Crowborough Athletic (2) 3 Carrington 5 Attwood 38 (pen) Crabb 50
Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Attendance: 503

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 46/5,092

The difference in mood at the final whistle was as stark as the result itself. Whilst Jason Bourne led his side to a sombre warm-down, the exuberant Crowborough matchday announcer was exclaiming that the home side had now gone a club record 27 games without defeat. As the Tunbridge Wells supporters, who had turned up in good numbers, waited patiently for the Crows to disappear into the dressing room he chose to repeat their admirable record rather than rubbing salt in the wound with a comment along the lines of “and we didn’t even break sweat”.

Tunbridge Wells remain a precarious three points clear of the relegation places but their run of consecutive defeats now sits at six and whilst they have three games in hand of Erith Town and Beckenham, their defensive frailty hardly inspires confidence that those games will bear enough points to steer them to the calmer waters of mid-table.

Of course budgets tell the story of what players are available to the respective managers. Whilst Sean Muggeridge can parade the likes of Zak Attwood, Lee Carey and his son Henry, all with experience at Ryman Premier League clubs or higher, Jason Bourne’s cloth is cut from loaned players and youngsters.

When, five minutes in the second half, an Attwood cross was deflected onto his own post by Luke Carpenter with the rebound falling handily at the feet of Sam Crabb, who with time aplenty picked his spot into the bottom corner, it afforded the Crows the opportunity to spend 40 minutes with foot off the pedal, playing at training ground pace with the added indulgence of a little showboating to please the home support.

Perhaps there was the slightest case of what might have been with Crowborough’s opening goal after five minutes. A Tunbridge Wells attack had been thwarted with successive shots by Charlie Cornford and Ryan Crandley parried away by goalkeeper, Dan Ellis. The subsequent clearance sent Sam Carrington clear to tuck the ball past the advancing Steve Lawrence. It was a case of stretching Ellis at one end to conceding in a matter of 10 seconds.

Crowborough gathered momentum from the opener and after 16 minutes Dan Perry struck a post and, after 30 minutes, Lawrence saved bravely at Perry’s feet as the winger broke clear.

The Wells were on the wrong end of a harsh decision after 38 minutes when a penalty was awarded for handball against Jake Hampson after the ball reared up off the turf. Attwood coolly converting the spot kick into the bottom corner to double the Crows advantage.

Once Crowborough opened up a three goal lead in the 50 minute, the game deteriorated quickly as the home side went through the motions with the visitors not having the wherewithal to threaten their freewheeling opponents. Bradley Large, on as a 61st minute substitute for Crandley produced a cross for Josh Biddlecombe to shoot over the bar in their only meaningful attack of the second period.

Whilst the Crows celebrated and looked forward to a FA Vase Fourth Round tie against Eastbourne Town, the Wells face another daunting derby fixture against Sevenoaks Town on Bank Holiday Monday, 2nd January 2017.

This was my first visit to Crowborough in the lifetime of this blog. The ground has changed inasmuch that it is now fully enclosed in accordance with the ground regulations of senior football, my last time was a pre-season game well over 10 years ago when the pitch was just roped off and the touchlines strewn with dogs mess. But these days, it is professional and welcoming. Pre-game walking behind the goal having bought a cup of tea, a stray ball from the warm-up took the tea clean out of my hand! The stadium announcer kindly purchased a fresh cup for me, a very nice gesture.

Tonbridge 2 Folkestone Invicta 2

Match 69/16/1376 - Monday, 26th December 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 2 Akrofi 42 Allen 61
Folkestone Invicta (1) 2 Taylor 35 Dolan 82
Attendance: 586

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/5,046

Tonbridge Angels were forced to share the festive points with their visitors, Folkestone Invicta, equalising with a goal eight minutes from time. In fairness, it was no more than the east Kent club deserved from a competitive encounter.

Steve McKimm was without goalkeeper, Anthony Di Bernardo, who was unavailable for selection and the influential Nick Wheeler, who was still carrying the strain that kept him out of Tuesday evening’s game at Harrow. Nineteen-year-old reserve team goalkeeper, Louis Lawlor was Di Bernardo’s replacement between the sticks.

The first half was one in which neither side gained a position of dominance. Within the first ten minutes, Alex Akrofi had a snap shot that was deflected over the bar; for Invicta, ex-Angel, Joe Taylor brought a good diving save out of Lawlor and a surging run from Luke Allen ended with a good save at his near post from Folkestone’s Tim Roberts.

The game then settled down into a midfield tussle. Just shy of the half-hour mark, good work from Akrofi set up Nathan Elder for a shot across the face of goal that Roberts did well to turn to safety.

The visitors opened the scoring after 34 minutes. Taylor tried his luck from the edge of the box; the ball taking a wicked deflection to wrong-foot Lawlor.

Folkestone’s lead lasted eight minutes when a run and inch-perfect pass from Allen saw the ball through to Akrofi who buried his shot into the bottom corner.

After five minutes of the second half, Akrofi won a free kick on the edge of the box after being unceremoniously brought down. Allen’s free kick was well saved by Roberts with a save low to his left.

On the hour mark, Allen was brought down on the right hand side of the box. The midfielder took the free kick himself, seemingly bringing a brilliant save out of Roberts, who clawed the ball out of the top corner, but following-up, Akrofi bundled the ball home. After the match, McKimm confirmed in his interview that the referee had awarded to goal to Allen as the initial free kick had crossed the line.

In the closing 20 minutes, Folkestone went in search of an equaliser pushing the Angels back who were struggling to find an outlet in the wide areas. The leveller duly came with eight minutes remaining when Mitchell Nelson gave away a foul on the left hand edge of the box. Ronnie Dolan drove his free kick low and hard past the wall and into the right-hand corner of the net.

Steve McKimm in his post-match interview commented that he felt that his side had dominated for long spells. " We've had a lot of the play and done enough to win the game", he said, "but it wasn't to be in terms of coming away with three points. My target was to have 46 points from 23 games and instead we have 38 points from 22 matches so we are slightly behind , but if we get a win on Saturday we'll be close to that target. We are in a good position, and will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. We reached the play offs last season so our minimum aim would be the play off final, but remember we don't have a given right to win this league. Players are coming back and we'll only get stronger."

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Hastings United 1 Faversham Town 0

Match 68/16/1375 - Tuesday, 20th December 2016 - Ryman League South

Hastings United (1) 1 Collin 44
Faversham Town (0) 0
Attendance: 330

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 46/5,008

Life can deal its frustrations and a day with the world’s slowest, double-glazing surveyor ranks up there with the worst. My football intentions had been to take my chance with the M25 traffic for Tonbridge’s game with Harrow, but as the surveyor had decided he had nothing better to do with his day, the time drifted frustratingly away. Clock and Google Maps watching, I reached a time when the arrival and kick off time no longer tallied and as the man was still tapping away on his computer, it was time to change tack.

Such was the frustration that I decided to break the promise to myself that I would not do neutral matches this season, but after such a tiresome day, I needed some entertainment, which is exactly what Hastings United have been doing this season with goals aplenty.

But when you break those promises, more often than not, you end up reminding yourself why you had made the promise in the first place.

There were plenty of ex-Gillingham, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells players in both sides to make it an interesting proposition, one of those, Frannie Collin stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Hastings were the dominant side from the outset with only the lively Kieron Campbell posing a threat to the home defence.

But a melee following a challenge by Callum Emptage after 41 minutes eventually brought a red card for the Hastings man, although it was questionable whether his tackle was any worse than that of Faversham’s Sam Bewick seconds earlier.

The home side responded to the setback within three minutes when a cross from the left was deftly headed home by Collin, who had had the ball in the net twice previously only to see a linesman’s flag rule both of them out.

The great entertainers were forced into a more pragmatic approach in the second half and I’m sure their supporters would have gone home fully appreciative of the defensive effort that took the 10 men to the three points.

It was a cold evening and the football, especially through neutral eyes, frustratingly, didn’t captivate to take your attention away from the frozen extremities. It was just one of those days.

With hardly any football available on Christmas Eve, I will sign off until the Boxing Day clash between Tonbridge and Folkestone, so to all who read this blog, wherever in the world, I wish you a very happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Tonbridge Angels U18 4 Corinthian U18 2

Match 67/16/1374 - Monday, 19th December 2016 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge (2) 4 Frimpong 20 Cussen 35,82 Bray 72
Corinthian (2) 2 Mills 23 Oladipupo 24
Attendance: 47

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: Free Team sheet
Mileage: 38/4,962

Tonbridge Angels Under-18s came from behind to beat a Corinthian side that defended deeply and looked to catch the home side on the break.

Jay Stubberfield was unable to call on the services of Sid Sollis, who was suspended and the injured Henry Ikejie and Ollie Baker.

A minute’s silence was held before the start of the game in memory of Jack Morrisson, a 16-year-old goalkeeper who had played for Corinthian and was well known to players of both sides. The young man had died whilst out fishing at the weekend.

Tonbridge opened strongly and carved out several chances with Jack Bray twice bringing saves out of Corinthian’s goalkeeper, Harry Earle. So it came as no surprise when they took the lead after 20 minutes. A long ball was played out of defence by Ryan Gallifant into the right hand channel from where a pass inside from Ziyad Ghali found Richard Frimpong, who struck low into the right-hand corner of the goal.

Corinthian had a good outlet in the pacey Louis Clarke and the tall, powerful Ryan Mills, when did they start making 18-year-olds of his build and stature!

After 23 minutes Mills bulldozed his way through a couple of challenges before shooting past Lewis Mitchell to bring the scores level.

The Angels were rocked back on their heels when they found themselves behind within a minute. The ball was played through to Bamino Oladipupo who slipped it past the advancing Mitchell for a good finish.

The home side might have equalised in quick time, but after a fine run from midfield, Bray dragged his shot narrowly wide.

The Angels levelled after 35 minutes following some good work on the right-hand byeline from Ziyad Ghali, who pulled back a short pass to Jack Cussen to strike home from close range at the near post.

Cussen rounded the goalkeeper in first-half added time but his shot didn’t carry enough weight and was cleared from the line.

Frimpong saw a similar effort cleared in the opening moments of the second half as the traffic became mostly one-way.

The breakthrough finally came after 72 minutes when a free kick move straight off the training ground worked to perfection. Liam Smith laid a straight pass to Bray, and whilst the Corinthian defence waited for a cross into the box, he fired home from 12 yards.

The game was wrapped up eight minutes from time when Jardell Conteh played a ball through for Cussen to run onto; as the goalkeeper dithered, the striker latched onto it and shot into the far corner.

Jay Stubberfield felt that his side had made harder work of the game than it possibly should have been, but this was a good win to round off the year.

The U18s now have a Christmas break until January 9th when they visit Maidstone for a long-awaited top-of-the-table clash and a repeat of their classic FA Youth Cup encounter of earlier in the season.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Gillingham 1 MK Dons 0

Match 66/16/1373 - Saturday, 17th December 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 McDonald 72
MK Dons (0) 0
Attendance: 5,681

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/4,924

Match Report

There has been nothing spectacular going on at Gillingham, but slowly but surely they are recovering from a dreadful November, an embarrassing cup exit and calls for Justin Edinburgh's head. True enough that they came into this game on the back of another televised nightmare and a 4-0 hammering at Bolton Wanderers, but Gillingham will not be the only side that comes away from the Macron licking their wounds.

In a game of very few chances, MK Dons had a single shot on goal, from the penalty spot, which Stuart Nelson saved whereas Gillingham fared a little better with Cody McDonald managing to get in between two big central defenders and direct a header into the corner for the winner.

The first half was pretty much a stalemate with a Bradley Dack header cleared from the line by Dean Lewington and referee Brett Huxtable unnecessarily taking centre stage with a series of bookings before, quite rightly, awarding a penalty when Paul Konchesky clipped the ankle of Kieron Agard. Dean Bowditch's penalty was well struck but straight down the middle and the trailing leg of Nelson was enough to divert the ball to safety.

Gillingham took the lead after 71 minutes through McDonald's header. Frank Nouble won a corner after travelling half the pitch with the ball; Dack played a quick one-two with Konchesky and swung in a great cross, which McDonald nodded home from five yards.

Josh Wright intercepted a poor clearance and beared down on goal but his shot was weak and saved easily by David Martin.

Gillingham moved into the top half of the table, it might not be exciting but the ship has been steadied and who knows as to where it might be sailing.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Tonbridge 3 Canvey Island 0

Match 65/16/1372 - Tuesday, 13th December 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 3 Blewden 62, Akrofi 87, Scannell 90+1
Canvey Island (0) 0
Attendance: 235

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,866

This evening's game marked my debut as first team scribbler, so if the post looks like a cut and paste from the official site, it is, but it is my scribbling!

Tonbridge Angels bounced back to winning ways following Saturday’s disappointment and in so doing edged to within a point of the play-off places in sixth position.

Their visitors, Canvey Island, lent them a helping hand with the sending-off of Tambeson Eyong in the first minute of the second half.

Manager Steve McKimm made three changes to his starting eleven from the Staines game; two were enforced through injury with Nathan Elder and Nick Wheeler nursing strains being replaced by Damian Scannell and Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson. Ugo Udoji was preferred at full back to James Folkes.

The first half was one of very few chances, the best of which fell to Canvey’s leading goalscorer, George Sykes, who rounded Anthony Di Bernardo and slid his shot goalwards but Jack Parter got back to clear from the line.

Without the target of Elder and the wing trickery of Wheeler, Tonbridge played a more compact game to feed the livewire Alex Akrofi who saw several first half attempts on goal blocked by resolute defending,

Eyong received his marching orders for a trip having collected his first yellow two minutes before the break.

Four minutes into the half, Scannell and Tom Parkinson fashioned an opening for Akrofi but with his back to goal he hooked his shot marginally wide.

McKimm made a 57th minute substitution, Tommy Whitnell on for Fortnam-Tomlinson and the change brought an immediate impact. Whitnell’s superb pass opened up a chance for Parkinson that was blocked, but within a minute, Tom Phipp sent Whitnell down the right for him to deliver an inch-perfect cross for Luke Blewden to sweep the ball in from close range at the near post.

A goal and a man to the good, Tonbridge managed the game very well, stringing passes and working their depleted opponents hard.

Luke Allen came off the bench for Mitchell Nelson, who suffered a dead-leg and, as he did on Saturday, brought fresh energy to the side.

In fairness, Canvey defended resolutely and that led to a certain nervousness with just a single goal lead, but Di Bernardo was rarely occupied.

The game was finally put to bed three minutes from time when Akrofi rode a foul challenge, for which John Mbamarah was subsequently booked, to fire into the net from the edge of the six yard box.

The game still held enough time to produce its magic moment. Canvey’s goalkeeper Luke Moore strayed a long way from home but his clearance only fell at the feet of Scannell, wide on the left touchline, 30 yards from goal. As he shot he lost his footing and was on the ground watching as the ball sailed towards to the goal and dipped below the bar.

Steve McKimm revealed after the match that Mitchell Nelson had signed for the Angels for the rest of the season on a permanent basis.

Picture: Wes Flitness

Monday, 12 December 2016

Tonbridge 1 Staines Town 2

Match 64/16/1371 - Saturday, 10th December 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 1 Allen 75
Staines Town (1) 2 Worsfold 22,64
Attendance: 461

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,828

It has certainly been a strange week at Longmead. A week ago Bognor Regis Town, the league leaders came calling and were sent on their way with a comprehensive 4-1 beating. On to Tuesday evening, albeit with a side that wasn’t at full strength, Tonbridge struggled to get past a Romford side that sat towards to the lower reaches of Ryman North and only managed that by virtue of a first-ever penalty shoot-out victory. Returning to league action, Staines Town arrive on the back of four straight defeats and bar a spirited last 20 minutes, Tonbridge have not turned up and ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat.

It is a lack of consistency that must drive Steve McKimm mad; it certainly does the humble supporters.

Both sides had an early opportunity, Tonbridge’s a long throw from Luke Blewden was headed on by Nathan Elder to his strike partner Alex Akrofi who steered his header into the goalkeeper’s arms before, albeit after just 15 minutes of the game, there was probably a major turning point when Elder was forced out of the match with a hamstring strain.

Elder is the focal point of Tonbridge’s attack and, whilst he has his detractors, he becomes a better player with every minute that he doesn’t play.

Staines took the lead after 22 minutes of an evenly contested game. A punt forward found the head of James Folkes as George Beavan was set to clear. Folkes’ header was badly judged and the ball skimmed off his head into the path of Max Worsfold who ran clear to side-foot past Anthony Di Bernardo.

Within four minutes, Tom Parkinson saw his header cleared from the line by Wadar Ahmidi, but the visitors tails were up and Di Bernardo made comfortable saves from Ahmidi and Adrian Clifton and a last ditch challenge from Beavan denied Mohamed Bettamer.

Parkinson once more had a goalbound header cleared from the line by Ahmidi and Mitchell Nelson also went close following a cross from Folkes.

Seventeen minutes into the second period saw the visitors double their advantage when a long cross from Sam Barratt was misjudged at the right hand side of the box by Folkes and Worsfold ghosted in behind to bury his header.

A double substitution for the Angels saw Damian Scannell and Luke Allen replace Folkes and Akrofi and Allen’s energy brought an instant impact. A long throw from Blewden was headed clear by Afolabi Coker back to Blewden whose cushioned cross found Allen who scored from six yards.

The home side had the lifeline and seemed intent on grasping it. Allen blasted over and following a poor goal kick from Staines’ Jack Turner direct to Blewden but his cross to Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson saw the goalkeeper smother at his feet.

Blewden’s throws were causing confusion and with seven minutes remaining another one into the box eventually ended with Allen being bundled over and the referee awarding a penalty. In the aftermath, Staines’ captain Tommy Brewer was shown the red card, probably for something he said. Allen stepped up to take the spot kick, but his shot low to Turner’s left was saved.

Turner was to become the Swans’ hero when, in added time, he spectacularly clawed Nick Wheeler’s shot out of the top corner to preserve the points.

Picture: Wes Flitness

Friday, 9 December 2016

Greenwich Borough U18 2 Tonbridge Angels U18 3

Match 63/16/1370 - Thursday, 8th December 2016 - Ryman Youth League

Greenwich Borough (1) 2 Mochine 40, Spurling 75
Tonbridge Angels (2) 3 Sollis 12,35,70
Played at Meridian VP
New ground: 299
Attendance: 43

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: Free
Mileage: 86/4,790

Tonbridge Under-18s were made to fight hard to retain the three points won in a good first half performance as the exploits of Monday night’s extra-time victory over Lordswood took their toll.

Manager Jay Stubberfield was able to welcome back Tommy Chapman and Sid Sollis, who marked his return with an energetic performance, a hat-trick and a yellow card that rules him out of the next fixture. All in a day’s work for the irrepressible Sid!

Greenwich Borough who play their Under-18 games at Meridian Sports and Social, Charlton on an immaculate pitch began the evening just a single place behind Tonbridge on goal difference, so an evenly contested game was expected.

Tonbridge started much the brighter and in the first eight minutes carved out chances for Jardell Conteh, two efforts from Sollis, who was taking a shoot on sight approach and a cross that just eluded Guy Taylor. So it came as no surprise when the visitors went ahead after 12 minutes when Sollis’ shot from the edge of the box sailed past the rooted Greenwich goalkeeper.

Tonbridge were in absolute control of the game and chances came and went before they increased their advantage on 35 minutes when a shot from Sollis from all of 30 yards skimmed across the turf and under the diving body of the goalkeeper.

It took until five minutes before the break for the home side to make a meaningful attack on the Tonbridge goal. Richard Frempong needlessly gave away a free kick on the edge of the box and the resultant kick was curled into the top corner by Chris Mochine with Lewis Mitchell getting a hand to the ball but unable to push it to safety.

As the second half wore on it was noticeable that Tonbridge were physically beginning to wilt as their opponents were able to play higher up the field than they had during the first period. Nevertheless, it continued to be the Angels that created the chances.

Chapman’s return lasted an hour before being replaced by Harvey Killick in a double substitution that also saw Alex Bishop coming on for Taylor.

Adam Riley, who had shown up well for the Borough from left back, brought a smart save out of Mitchell at his near post before Tonbridge re-established their two goal lead after 70 minutes. A free kick from Liam Smith into the danger area saw Sollis get the final touch to complete his hat trick.

Jack Fenton took a heavy knock 15 minutes from time and needed to be replaced by James Tansil.

Tonbridge fell foul of being undone by a set piece a second time when a free kick into the box was hooked on by Greenwich’s Jack Spurling to reduce the deficit but they saw out the final 10 minutes with relative comfort to seal the points.

Jay Stubberfield commented after the match that his side had started to feel the effects of Monday’s encounter after 20 minutes but was pleased overall. He felt that the two goals conceded, from set pieces, were poor but he didn’t think that anyone could say that they didn’t deserve the win. He added that his job was to develop players and supply them to the first team and if they can win games along the way that is a bonus. “At the moment we’re doing both so I have to be pleased.” Replying to my comment that as a supporter, I would love to see them chase down Maidstone at the top, he said that after developing players, chasing down Maidstone was a close second!

I have a personal accolade for Liam Smith, who performed admirably for the first team on Tuesday evening and turned out on Thursday for the 18s with the same enthusiasm, a smashing attitude.

Tonbridge moved into fourth position, six points adrift of leaders Maidstone but with two games in hand.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Tonbridge 2 Romford 2

Match 62/16/1369 - Tuesday, 6th December 2016 - Ryman League Cup 3R

Tonbridge (2) 2 Fortnam-Tomlinson 44, Nelson 76
Romford (2) 2 Reynolds 10, Akpele 27
Tonbridge won 4-2 on penalties
Attendance: 133

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 38/4,704

Nobody in the meagre crowd could have foreseen that after a woefully poor first half they would later be witness to a little bit of history, Tonbridge have at last won a penalty shoot-out. The attendance of just 133, the lowest since 2010 when Ramsgate were the visitors in the same competition won the satisfaction of being able to say “I was there …”

Steve McKimm shuffled is pack giving Nathan Elder the night off; resting Nick Wheeler, Tom Phipp and Jack Parter to the bench. Into the side came two Under-18s, Callum Adonis-Taylor and Liam Smith, both of whom performed admirably; Tommy Whitnall and Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson were given value game time following injury alongside Ugo Udoji and Luke Allen who have recently spent time on the bench. Despite it being a much changed line-up there should have been enough quality to beat a Romford side that were languishing in the lower reaches of Ryman North.

The small crowd were unable to raise much of an atmosphere and the Tonbridge players appeared to respond accordingly in a lacklustre performance that reeked of a side that didn’t really want to be out there in a minor competition.

Mitchell Nelson stretched the Romford goalkeeper, Callum Chafer, to turn over a header following a long throw from Udogi. But it was the visitors who opened the scoring after 10 minutes when Allen was robbed in a dangerous area, 30 yards from goal, by Chinedu McKenzie who slipped a pass inside to Nick Reynolds to side foot home from close range.

Even the setback failed to ignite the Angels, Alex Akrofi was brought down in the box but strong claims for a penalty were turned away after 23 minutes.

Romford could hardly believe the ease in which they doubled their advantage after 27 minutes when Will Green laid the ball off for Greg Akpele to cleanly strike from the right hand side of the box.

Liam Smith showed what a fine prospect he is with a surging run to the edge of the box only to be brought down and the free kick was wasted.

One minute remained in the half when Fortnam-Tomlinson fired in a shot from the right of the box that travelled through a ruck of players before nestling in the far corner to give the home side a lifeline.

Tonbridge improved greatly in the second period, frankly there was no way they were going to be any worse, and the overriding impression was that a goal would come sooner rather than later and then the tie would be put to bed. But this perception did Romford poor service as they defended well and Chafer did well on several occasions saving from Akrofi, Nelson and Fortnam-Tomlinson. They might well have wrapped the game up in the 71st minute when they hit a post.

Wheeler was brought on with 15 minutes remaining to try and salvage the game and within a minute he had done just that. His cross from the right was met with a towering header from Nelson; two in two games for the Welling loanee.

Romford refused to give up the cause and Di Bernardo was forced to make a save at his near post before, with three minutes remaining, there was possibly the most unbelievable sequence of near misses I have ever seen. In the space of no more than 20 seconds following a cross into the box that Di Bernardo came but got nowhere near, Romford managed to hit the bar twice and have two more attempts cleared from the line. At that point, you felt that not only was our name on this game, it might also be on the cup.

Thankfully, after extra-time last night, the game when straight to penalties and we all know what happens when Tonbridge are involved. Except, this time was different.

After Parkinson and Akrofi had put their penalties away, Romford’s Chris Taylor had his effort saved low left by Di Bernardo. Luke Allen, a regular penalty taker for the Angels missed the third and James Ishmail levelled things up at 2-2. Nelson sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and Di Bernardo once again plunged to his left to deny Kwarsi Marfo leaving Udoji to calmly slot home his spot kick and become the unlikely hero.

It was a strange evening, when the final penalty was taken and the game won, the usual scenario is that the scorer is engulfed by his team mates. There was none of this, it was almost as if they didn’t realise that they had won the game. 133 people did though, they had witnessed history in the making.

Pictures courtesy of Wesley Flitness

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Tonbridge U18 4 Lordswood U18 2

Match 61/16/1368 - Monday, 5th December 2016 - Kent Invitational Cup

Tonbridge (1) 4 Bray 17,104 Taylor 90, Fenton 119
Lordswood (1) 2 Gravenell 37, Everett 89
After extra-time, score at 90 minutes: 2-2
Headcount: 48

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/4,666

With just a minute remaining, Lordswood must have thought they had won this Kent Invitational Cup tie following a spectacular 25 yard strike from Jake Everett that rocketed over the head of the Angels’ Under-16s goalkeeper, Hugh Jones. In a very evenly contested game, the Lordwood supporters would probably have felt that the potential winner was no more than they deserved.

But Tonbridge roared straight back and within 60 seconds were back level when Guy Taylor was sent clear by a sublime through ball from Connor Watson. Taylor kept his composure and slid the ball past the advancing Lords’ goalkeeper to level the score and send the tie into, a largely unwanted, extra time.

On a cold evening, the spectator’s extremities had reached the point of numbness and with another game at Greenwich Borough set for Thursday, it was the last thing that manager Jay Stubberfield wanted.

The visitors opened the game well and dominated the opening 15 minutes, so it was somewhat against the run of play when the Angels went ahead after 17 minutes. Sid Sollis was fouled on the right hand angle of the box and from the resultant free kick, directed towards the far post, Jack Bray volleyed into the net from around six yards.

Tonbridge gained confidence from their lead with Ziyad Ghali, Bray and a rampaging run and shot from Alex Bishop testing the Lords’ defence, but, all the time, the visitors had a threat of their own with their captain Bradley Taylor to the forefront.

Lordswood got an equaliser that their first half effort had richly deserved when Joe Gravenell struck a well-placed shot into the net from the edge of the box.

Tonbridge picked up the pace in the second half with the majority of the efforts on goal coming from them. A rasping shot from Bray, who got through a mountain of work during the 120 minutes, was just over and Ghali shot marginally wide. But in general, a lack of quality in the final third was the reason the game wasn’t won in normal time.

After Everett and Taylor’s goals had sent the game into extra-time, Tonbridge’s quality became to shine through as tiredness took its toll. A pin-point cross from the right by Bishop was met with a firm header from Bray to give the Angels the lead after 104 minutes and the game was wrapped up with a minute remaining when a good move completely opened up the Lords’ defence allowing Jack Fenton to strike from the edge of the box.

Jay Stubberfield agreed after the match that Lordswood had been very good opponents and contributed to a good game. He paid tribute to his Under-16s, Hugh Jones, Nic Weedon and Harvey Robinson who had shown real potential. He was also high on praise for Ryan Gallifant who had an exceptional evening and Jack Bray, responding to the comment he had got through a mountain of work, quipped he is a man mountain.

Jay is hopeful that some of his walking wounded will be fit to return at Greenwich Borough.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Tonbridge 4 Bognor Regis Town 1

Match 60/16/1367 - Saturday, 3rd December 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (3) 4 Elder 13,79 Akrofi 33, Nelson 39
Bognor Regis Town (0) 1 Fraser 69
Attendance: 447

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,628

In my younger playing days, I wasn’t particularly good and the teams that I played for reflected my ability, therefore I never experienced the buzz that a performance when everything has gone to plan must bring. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the Tonbridge Angels' dressing room at half-time as Steve McKimm set about the task of scraping his side off the ceiling. He had to send them out for a second half against the division’s leaders with their feet firmly grounded.

For 45 minutes, Tonbridge were truly magnificent. I am not willing to denigrate the display by questioning whether Bognor Regis Town had an off day, as far as I’m concerned they were made to look ordinary.

This was the Tonbridge of early season. Wheeler crosses, Elder scores; Parkinson tidying up behind Phipp, a cavalier in midfield; Parter rampaging from left back; Beavan solid as a rock alongside a new partner, Mitchell Nelson.

It would be grossly unjust to single out a player but I’m convinced that the return of Tom Parkinson was the catalyst for this result.

Tonbridge roared out of the traps stretching the league leaders from the outset. The Nick Wheeler, Nathan Elder combination carved out an opening within the first minute with Elder heading over and after 11 minutes a cross from Luke Blewden found Elder, but his shot, falling backwards, also cleared the bar.

Wheeler was having the time of his life, turning his full back inside out, time and again and after 13 minutes he delivered the perfect cross and Elder’s bullet header did the rest.

Bognor Regis threatened just once in the first half hour, a shot wide right that didn’t threaten Anthony Di Bernardo’s goal.

After 33 minutes, Wheeler’s magic opened up the Rocks defence once more, this time supplying the pass for Alex Akrofi
to ride a couple of challenges before finishing into the bottom corner.

A mazy dribble and shot from Wheeler might have iced the winger’s cake, but his third assist was soon to arrive when his cross, this time from the right, found the head of debutant Nelson who rose to bury his header between Dan Lincoln and his near post.

With, surely, a rocket up their backsides, Bognor made a better fist of the second period without unduly threatening Di Bernardo’s goal for the opening 25 minutes of the half.

A Tom Phipp shot inadvertently fell at the feet of Elder a minute into the second half, but the striker could not get the ball out from under his feet. Akrofi and Phipp had shots that were comfortably dealt with by Lincoln.

Parkinson’s return ended after nearly 70 minutes to be replaced by Luke Allen, but it is mere coincidence that a superb strike from James Fraser from 25 yards gave the Rocks some hope of recovery a minute later.

The goal set up a few nervous moments but these were put to bed with 11 minutes remaining when the old one-two, Wheeler cross, Elder header added a fourth goal.

James Crane hit a post for the visitors and Jimmy Wild brought a save out of Di Bernardo at this near post whilst Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson might have made it a nap hand for the Angels.

This was the Tonbridge we love; even the moaning minnies of recent weeks must have gone home happy.

Pictures courtesy of Wesley Filtness

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Gillingham U18 2 Oxford City U18 0

Match 59/16/1366 - Wednesday, 30th November 2016 - FA Youth Cup 3R

Gillingham (1) 2 Conway 39, Stevenson 88
Oxford City (0) 0
Attendance: 251

Entrance: £5
Programme: Free
Mileage: 58/4,590

Gillingham progressed with relative comfort into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup and now harbour dreams of drawing a major club in Friday's draw.

The home side won the game with goals towards the end of each half through Jack Conway and Bradley Stevenson. If they had been a bit sharper in front of goal, the game would have been sewn up long before Stevenson's 88th minute clincher.

Conway opened the scoring six minutes before the break, in a move that started with a long kick from the goalkeeper. Leroy Hlabi controlled then flicked the ball over his man, and after his shot was blocked, Conway fired home the rebound from 10 yards.

With Gillingham's wastefulness always came the threat that Oxford City might pinch a goal and, after 64 minutes they had the ball in the net only to see a linesman's flag rule it out for offside, much to the disappointment of their contingent of supporters.

Noel Mbo, who has been attracting the attention of Gillingham's supporters during his successful loan spell at East Grinstead, came off the bench and immediately added a different dimension with his direct running and powerful shooting.

The Gills doubled their lead when Mbo laid the ball off to attacking midfielder Stevenson and his low, left-footed strike from 20 yards found the bottom corner.

Hlabi almost got a goal to reward a good performance, but his long-range effort hit the bar in stoppage time, but the Gills had done enough by then to progress.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Chipstead U18 0 Tonbridge Angels U18 2

Match 58/16/1365 - Monday, 28th November 2016 - Ryman U18 League Cup Third Round

Chipstead (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Bakare 48, Smith 90+2
Attendance: 42
New Ground: 298

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 100/4,532

Official attendances are not always given at Youth team games, so for the sake of this blog I do a headcount as, usually, the crowd are assembled in one area. On a freezing night, at half-time it appeared that everybody made their way to the bar that was serving tea and coffee, so I decided to do the headcount in there, I counted 41. On this occasion, Chipstead did actually announce an attendance figure of 42, perhaps I failed to include myself!

Tonbridge progressed to the Fourth Round of the Lucas Fettes Cup (Ryman League Cup) on a bitterly cold night at Chipstead’s High Road Football Ground.

Jay Stubberfield, the Tonbridge manager, was able to field a strong team, but one that was still missing Sid Sollis, Tommy Chapman and Ollie Baker.

Tonbridge were, for the best part, in control of the game but failed to break down a stubborn Chipstead back line who boasted three defenders whose height and build defied their 18 years!

An early chance fell Kunle Bakare’s way but he dragged his shot wide and after seven minutes there was a strong Tonbridge claim for a penalty when Liam Smith was brought down, clearly in the box, but the referee gave a free kick for the first pull on the shoulder by the Chipstead winger, who was booked for the offence.

It was fully 30 minutes before Chipstead brought a save out of Lewis Mitchell, who comfortably held a shot from outside of the box.

Smith crossed for Henry Ikejie to steer his shot wide and Jack Bray shot over before the entire crowd descended on the bar for a half-time warm.

The visitors quickly got off the mark in the second half when Bakare capitalised on some indecisive defending to put the Angels into the lead with a shot into the bottom corner.

Chipstead responded well and had a goal disallowed, clearly offside and forced a succession of corners, one of which was scrambled to safety from the line. But a strong defensive display from Callum Adonis-Taylor and Ryan Gallifant meant Mitchell was rarely called into action.

Tonbridge finally wrapped the game up, to the relief of the frozen spectators who were fearing extra time, with a spectacular curling shot into the top corner from Smith.

Stubberfield was pleased with his team’s efforts commenting: “this was our first Ryman game since playing away at Ramsgate - so we had no momentum going into the game. A lot of the lads will play on Sunday away to Margate and then away at Greenwich on Thursday. We are looking to build momentum from tonight. Apart from the one cleared off the line I felt we were comfortable despite not being at our free flowing best. The amount of corners they had second half was worrying me but in the end it was a solid but well deserved win.”

Tonbridge await the draw for their opponents in the next round.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Gillingham 3 Rochdale 0

Match 57/16/1364 - Saturday, 26th November 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Nouble 53, Emmanuel-Thomas 89, Byrne 90
Rochdale (0) 0
Attendance: 5,409

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/4,432

Match Report

This is a cut-and-paste from Kent Online, the blog is now up-to-date and hopefully I'll keep in that state:

Gillingham have their first clean sheet in 27 League 1 games after beating Rochdale 3-0 at Priestfield on Saturday.

Frank Nouble’s deflected strike gave Gills the lead, with late goals from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Mark Byrne making sure of victory.

Rochdale were the better side in a goalless first half, without looking like scoring.

They looked dangerous out wide and in Callum Camps they had the brightest midfielder on show.

Gills were hit by the loss of Billy Knott to injury after only 14 minutes - maybe he’d have been the one to really get about Dale in the middle of the park - but it wasn’t to be.

It took Gills 25 minutes to muster a shot, Emmanuel-Thomas starting the move by intercepting a pass in midfield and combining with Cody McDonald before dragging the ball wide.

Justin Edinburgh’s side had the ball in the net on 37 minutes but Baily Cargill’s header from Bradley Dack’s free-kick was ruled out for offside.

For Dale, Joe Thompson’s control let him down in front of the Rainham End when found by Mendez-Laing, who then fired tamely at Stuart Nelson after space opened up on the edge of the box.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Tonbridge 2 Merstham 2

Match 56/16/1363 - Tuesday, 22nd November 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 2 Akrofi 21, Phipp 38
Merstham (0) 2 Hector 54, Azeez 90
Attendance: 303

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,374

In an effort to get this blog up-to-date, the following is a cut-and-paste from the Tonbridge Angels official site:

This was the classic 'game of two halves'. Tonbridge dominated the first period but Merstham fought back valiantly to obtain a share of the points in what must have seemed almost like a defeat to the home side given the lateness of the equalising goal.

Angels boss Steve McKimm went with the same starting eleven that took to the field at Needham Market and came back with a 2-0 win. That meant no place for Luke Allen or new loan signing Nelson Mitchell who both had to be content with a seat on the bench.

His selection seemed completely justified as right from the start Tonbridge took the game to their visitors with a brand of pressing play that saw them dominate proceedings throughout the first half. Chances fell to Nathan Elder, Nick Wheeler and Tom Phipp but it was Alex Akrofi making his home debut who struck first for the Angels in the 21st minute. Phipp's free kick was directed wide to Wheeler whose perfect cross was met by Akrofi at the near post.

On 34 minutes Elder was through on goal after a misjudgement of the flight of the ball by a Merstham defender, but his volley was wide of Phil Wilson's right hand post. Tonbridge however did go further ahead four minutes later when Tom Phipp's header was directed into his own goal by Mersham's skipper Tom Kavanagh.

If the first half had belonged to Tonbridge then the second half saw a significant improvement in the visitors play. They managed to keep possession in more advanced areas and were starting to put some pressure on the Tonbridge defence. That said the visitors first goal did come as something of a surprise. There seemed to be relatively little danger to the Tonbridge goal when Dan Hector took up possession 25 yds out. His shot however was fierce and accurate and Anthony Di Bernardo was never going to get anywhere near it.

The goal encouraged Merstham who now had belief that they could get something out of the game. There were some chances for the hosts namely Elder on 71 minutes James Folkes four minutes later and Luke Blewden a further four minutes after that. However, around the 75 minute mark the Moatsiders started to impose themselves on the game and there was a sense that the Angels were going to have to work very hard to maintain their lead.

It seemed they might just about get over the finishing line but in the 90th minute Merstham grabbed their deserved equaliser. It was hardly goal of the season but after keeping their possession alive in the Tonbridge area and pulling the home defence in different directions substitute Lanre Azeez managed to get the final say as his scuffed shot skidded across the wet turf and into the net with Di Bernardo possibly unsighted.

In stoppage time the Angels had three successive corners but Merstham were in no mood to concede having fought so valiantly to get something out of the game.

Afterwards, Mckimm said: "We lost some impetus when Alex went off, but with three central midfield players our ball retention should have been better. That said we've had chances and if one of those had gone in its probably game over. But they didn't and credit Merstham they've come back and got something from the game. Supporters will be disappointed but we haven't lost and players are all the time coming back into contention for a place with some big games coming up."

Pictures courtesy of Wes Filtness

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chatham Town 1 Faversham Town 1

Match 55/16/1362 - Monday, 21st November 2016 - Ryman South

Chatham Town (1) 1 Rogers 8
Faversham Town (1) 1 Harvey 6
Match abandoned, waterlogged pitch, after 27 minutes
Attendance: 128

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 40/4,336

Match Report

This was a Kent derby that may have only lasted 27 minutes but nobody could say it was a damp squib!

After 20 minutes of heavy rain the puddles around the centre circle were becoming very apparent although the ball continued to travel reasonably well across the surface. As the rain became harder, referee Stephen Brown approached both benches and allowed play to continue but within seconds the rain became the proverbial stair rods and a couple of minutes later he had little alternative but to call a halt. A few minutes wait ended with the announcement that the evening's entertainment had been brought to a close.

Chatham began the evening with Steve Binks caretaking after the dismissal of Darren Anslow following a humiliating 7-0 reverse at home to Hastings United on Saturday. This was a sense of deja vu for the Maidstone Road club who also lost the services of Tony Beckingham, who resigned following a 7-1 rout by this evening's opponents Faversham Town. It was speculated that the man that the Chats have struggled to replace, Kevin Watson, would be asked to once more take the helm, but by the end of the evening it was apparent that the next incumbent would be the ex-Hollands and Blair manager, Paul Piggott.

The rain was falling steadily as Mr Brown got the game underway and within six minutes, we were left wondering whether another mauling by Faversham was coming the Chats way.

Luke Harvey was sent through the centre of midfield, powering past some ineffectual challenges before shooting past Alex Hyde to open the scoring.

But, due credit to the home side who were on level terms within a couple of minutes. Having won a corner when Thomas Benham turned an effort around the post, the resultant place kick was powerfully headed home from six yards by Freeman Rogers.

A couple of half chances came Faversham's way before the referee called a halt. As my feet plunged into a puddle above my ankles on the way out, I knew the referee had made the right decision.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Needham Market 0 Tonbridge 2

Match 54/16/1361 - Saturday, 19th November 2016 - Ryman Premier

Needham Market (0) 0
Tonbridge (2) 2 Blewden 2, Elder 23
Attendance: 258

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 225/4,296

We can argue until we are blue in the face about the rights or wrongs of Steve McKimm's post-match interview following the FA Trophy defeat to Kingstonian, but we cannot deny that it engendered the response he was looking for.

A great run up to Suffolk had us arriving in plenty of time to make acquaintance with the friendly folk of Needham Market, although we were slightly disappointed that the most enthusiastic tea lady on the Ryman League circuit was not, this year, wearing her yellow Doctor Martens! She was as bubbly as ever though and is a great asset to the club.

Standing with us in the burger queue, if Steve McKimm is reading this, they were drinking tea, was Luke Allen who was suspended and Tommy Whitnall who had taken a knock to the knee. This left a strange looking starting line-up with Damian Scannell in the midfield holding role and Luke Blewden playing wide right with new signing, Alex Akrofi, alongside Nathan Elder.

Since last year's visit to Bloomfields there has been a new covered terrace behind one of the goals erected. The pitch looked better than last season, although it was heavily leaf-strewn.

Tonbridge could not have got off to a better start. After two minutes, a short corner routine, straight off the training ground, saw Tom Phipp deliver an inch-perfect cross the the far post where Blewden met it with a firm header to open the scoring.

Scannell and Phipp quickly found a good understanding in the middle of the field and the visitors created chances with Elder heading wide; a speculative shot from Phipp going over and Sonny Miles directing a header wide from a Wheeler corner. We had reached the 18th minute before Needham's Luke Ingram shot straight at Anthony Di Bernardo.

After the 22 minutes, the referee took a substantially hit cross field pass from Phipp on the side of the head, knocking him out. Sadly, and I'm guilty as charged, when the referee takes a hit, the natural inclincation is to laugh, but it quickly became evident that the poor guy was in trouble. A 15 minute delay ensued before he was stretchered away and taken to hospital.

As with the opening of the game, Tonbridge roared into action on the restart. A Wheeler free kick was sent into the box where it was met by the head of George Beaven, who nodded it down for Elder to shoot into the bottom corner to double their advantage.

Akrofi enjoyed a lively debut with three efforts either side of the break only marginally wide but after 68 minutes was guilty of a glaring miss when set up by Elder his shot was badly mishit.

The game sadly ended with an unseemly fracas that began with an flailing arm into the face of a Tonbridge defender and spilt over to the respective benches.

After Tuesday's exit from the FA Trophy this was a return, perhaps not to the early season form, but nevertheless a thoroughly good professional performance against a side well-placed in the division.

Pictures below courtesy of David Couldridge

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Tonbridge 1 Kingstonian 2

Match 53/16/1360 - Tuesday, 15th November 2016 - FA Trophy 2QR Replay

Tonbridge (0) 1 Elder 54
Kingstonian (0) 2 Pico-Gomez 66, Turner 74
Attendance: 286

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,071

Match Report

The groundhopper in me got just a little excited about a trip to Evo-Stick Southern League North Leigh (evidently pronounced Nor'lye by the locals), but apart from a 15 minutes spell, the Oxfordshire club seemed as far away as Wembley itself.

The clubs were meeting for a third time in 10 days and Kingstonian, as was said in conversation following the game, "each time, have done a job on us."

Kingstonian are a decent side without being particularly eye-catching, but they do the basics well. At the back, in the shape of Bruce Hogg and Alan Inns, they have a strong, consistent central defence that just heads or whacks the ball to safety and should that rearguard be breached, there is probably the best goalkeeper in the league, Rob Tolfrey. Spearheading the attack is Ryan Moss, a recognised goalscorer whilst on the flanks, Youssef Bamba and Joe Turner actually do catch the eye. The K's had a poor start to the season but are now hitting the straps and, personally, I would be surprised if they are not in the mix come April.

I have the benefit of writing this knowing the content of Steve McKimm's post-match interview which was as forthright as any in his time at the club. In the past, when he has criticised he has rarely named players, on this occasion he held back very little, some of which I felt might be better left in the dressing room.

The first half had all the hallmarks of a game in which the two sides knew each well as chances were few and far between. Tonbridge started slightly the brighter with Damian Scannell and Luke Blewden having shots blocked before Bamba announced his presence with at shot that was well saved by Anthony Di Bernardo at his near post.

After 27 minutes, Di Bernardo made a fine save from Turner, but still needed a goal-line clearance from James Folkes to retain parity.

Tonbridge's best effort of the half came with five minutes remaining when a Nick Wheeler cross somehow evaded the head of Nathan Elder.

The aforementioned 15 minute spell came at the beginning of the second half. The Luke's, Allen and Blewden, combined well to force a low save from Tolfrey and a corner from the left resulted in Sonny Miles heading wide. After 54 minutes, the Angels got their noses in front when Wheeler crossed from the left for Elder to direct a downward header inside the right hand post.

Further chances came when Allen just failed to get a touch to convert in front of goal and Wheeler curled a shot over the angle of right hand post and bar.

Perhaps it is synonymous with this season that an injury turned the game in favour of the visitors. Where previously it could be said that there was very little, the moment George Beavan left the field, the momentum changed hands, coincidence, maybe, but I don't think so.

Within five minutes Kingstonian were level. McKimm picked out Di Bernardo's short throw out to Scannell was the root of the goal. Yes, but a lot of football was played after. After Scannell lost possession, Di Bernardo actually made a good save low to his left following a shot from Turner. From the resultant corner, Tonbridge had several attempts to clear their lines without achieving it before a long cross into the box was headed on by Moss into the path of Pelayo Pico-Gomez, who hooked it into the net from six yards.

Eight minutes later the visitors were in front. A shot from Luke Blewden from the right side of the box was blocked, the clearance falling to Turner, fully 70 yards from goal. Blewden gave chase, and perhaps as McKimm bemoaned later, should have brought him down and taken a booking, but Turner raced on, ghosted past Jerrome Sobers as if he wasn't there and shot from the edge of the box past Di Bernardo. It was a quality goal, avoidable yes, but some run, some finish.

Tonbridge huffed and puffed for an equaliser without really looking like getting it with a final minute clearance from the line by Sobers and a disallowed Kingstonian goal keeping the game alive to the finish.

So North Leigh will have to wait for another day and so will Wembley.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Gillingham 2 Northampton Town 1

Match 52/16/1359 - Saturday, 12th November 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 2 Ehmer 48, Emmanuel-Thomas 90
Northampton Town (1) 1 O'Toole 36
Attendance: 5,790

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/4,033

Match Report

At 16.48, all the misery, the belly-aching that had gone on for the last hour was brought to an end. One waft of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas's left foot and everything was right in the world.

Prior to 16.48 it had been a typical Gillingham performance of late. Good first half-hour without getting a breakthrough; confidence starts to drain; sloppy goal given away and once more chasing the game.

In all fairness to Justin Edinburgh, the second half was a whole lot better. Gillingham got back on level terms and, principally, dictated the second half but it looked as though it was going to be another day of what might have beens.

The afternoon began with a beautifully presented tribute for Remembrance Day beginning with the laying of wreathes by the respective captains followed by The Last Post and ending with a moment's perfectly observed silence.

When the game got underway it was Gillingham that were fastest out of the traps. Three efforts from Billy Knott, three more from Emmanuel-Thomas and a bizarre moment when the visitors right back, Brendan Maloney, headed past his own advancing goalkeeper, but managing to get back and clear from his line, before Northampton won a corner after nearly 20 minutes. This was quickly followed by Stuart Nelson making a good blocking save to thwart Sam Hoskins.

Does confidence evaporate? After such a positive opening, slowly the visitors were allowed back into the game and although it could be said that Northampton's opening goal was against the run of play, you could sense it coming. A corner on the right hand side to the centre of the six yard box was headed back to the near post by Zander Diamond to John-Joe O'Toole who steered his header past Nelson.

Gillingham did respond with a smart corner routine that opened up a shooting chance for Max Ehmer, but his well struck shot was wide of the right hand post.

On the stroke of half-time, Justin Edinburgh's team talk might have had to be very different had a shot from JJ Hooper gone in rather than strike the post.

That Edinburgh team talk had the desired effect three minutes into the second period when Jake Hessenthaler's corner was nodded back across goal by Emmanuel-Thomas for Ehmer to lash the ball home.

As both sides pressed for a winner, the introduction of Bradley Dack as a 64th minute substitute added impetus. But, as the second period drifted on, the crowd quietened and were becoming increasingly frustrated.

As the clock ticked into time-added, Ryan Jackson took a pass from Josh Wright and, from the bye-line, pulled back a cross into the danger area that was just behind Dack. The ball fell at the feet of Paul Anderson, but his scuffed clearance only found Emmanuel-Thomas who, from 20 yards, struck sweetly into the bottom corner.

No matter that, officially, the win-less, clean sheet-less run had been broken midweek in the tin-pot trophy at The Hawthorns, this was the true end to that sorry sequence.

If hope has been restored at Priestfield, let us pray that it can survive Brackley on Wednesday.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Tonbridge 0 Bromley 1

Match 51/16/1358 - Tuesday, 8th November 2016 - Kent Senior Cup 2R

Tonbridge (0) 0
Bromley (1) 1 Sho-Silva 41
Attendance: 190

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 38/3,975

Match Report

They don't come around very often, but just occasionally there is a game where valid reasons can be made that it is a good one to lose and this was one of them. Nobody was going to shout it from the rooftops, everybody tries to make positive noises, but with injuries, suspensions and a two-game a week schedule until well into the New Year, this competition was expendable.

It was a shame that the opponents, Bromley, came from the National League and, following a blank weekend, turned up with a very strong side. If the visitors had come from Ryman South, for instance, our young side proved on the night that they would be good enough to progress another round.

So, whilst Bromley fielded eight players with National League experience, Tonbridge started with four players from either the Reserves or Youth team and ended with seven such like on the pitch.

The Tonbridge supporters leaving Longmead after the match would, at least should, have been encouraged by the performance of this young team, whilst admitting that if Bromley had been a touch sharper in front of goal then the margin of defeat might have been a lot heavier.

The first chance of the evening fell to the hosts after seven minutes when a cross from Tommy Whitnell found the head of the returning Nathan Elder, but the striker steered his header into the welcoming arms of Alan Julian.

Anthony Di Bernardo was called into action after 13 minutes with an excellent save, low right, from Tobi Sho-Silva.

Damian Scannell brought an equally fine save from Julian after 18 minutes with the keeper pushing the shot, that took a deflection, away from the top corner.

Bromley asserted their control of the game in the second quarter, but shot after shot missed the target, until they finally took the lead with four minutes remaining of the half. The right back, Daniel Johnson, on the overlap fired in a shot from the edge of the box that was parried by Di Bernardo into the path of Sho-Silva who tucked it in from eight yards.

Tonbridge's young striker, Tashi-Jay Kwayie was involved three times in the opening eight minutes of the second half. First, a good run and cross from Jack Parter, begged a touch from Kwayie but he was narrowly short of making it; then a fine run and cross saw Elder's header go wide before a run and shot that narrowly went wide right.

The home side got younger and younger as Callum Adonis-Taylor, Richard Frimpong and Corey Watts were introduced.

Bromley saw the game out on the front foot, but a mixture of decent defending from the hosts and poor finishing left the scoreline unaltered.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Tonbridge 0 Kingstonian 1

Match 50/16/1357 - Saturday, 5th November 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 0
Kingstonian (1) 1 Inns 7
Attendance: 481

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,937

Guy Fawkes Day turned into a damp squib for Tonbridge as an early goal from Alan Inns was enough to consign the Angels' unbeaten home record to the bin.

Tonbridge's injury woes (crisis even) shows little sign of abatting with George Beaven returning to the treatment table and James Folkes on the bench in name only. Nathan Elder's continued absence brought the recall of Tashi-Jay Kwayie from his loan spell at East Grinstead and into the side for his senior debut. It was a difficult ask of the youngster playing as a lone striker against the experienced pairing of Bruce Hogg and Alan Inns, but he stuck to his task and put an audacious overhead kick just wide of the post after 10 minutes.

Tonbridge had an early chance when a shot from Jerrome Sobers was saved at the near post by Rob Tolfrey.

Sobers was brought into action at his own end a minute later when he deflected a cross past his own goal. From the resultant corner, Inns powered in an unchallenged header to put the Ks in front.

Tonbridge huffed and puffed a response but without the strength and hold-up play of Elder it was difficult for them to make an impression on a well-drilled Kingstonian defence. They came closest after 35 minutes when a run and cross from Kwayie was just behind Luke Allen but Luke Blewden arriving from the right hand side struck a shot that hit the outside of a post.

Early in the second period, a shot from outside of the penalty area from Sean Bennett-Johnson was tipped over by Di Bernardo as Tonbridge continued to control possession but failing to create anything of note.

Just past the hour, Kwayie was unlucky when a shot following a cross from Ugo Udoji was deflected wide for a corner, quickly followed by a Nick Wheeler free kick that suffered the same fate.

As the minutes ticked away, Kwayie failed to find the target with a header after some good work from Wheeler, whilst with three minutes to go, a splendid move involving Tommy Whitnell and Jack Parter ended with the latter running on to a pass but Tolfrey was out to smother at his feet.

It is said form is temporary, class is permanent, so I'm optimistic that the early season form will return in the not-too-distant future. I believe I know exactly when that will be, the day Tommy Parkinson is fit and ready to return to action.

Pictures courtesy of David Couldridge