Sunday, 28 February 2016

Gillingham 1 Chesterfield 2

Match 72/15/1277 - Saturday, 27th February 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Osadebe 80
Chesterfield (2) 2 Ebanks-Blake 36, Novak 45+2
Attendance: 6,012

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 56/5,416

Match Report

When Dominic Samuel was sent clear after 45 seconds only to loft his shot high and wide the die was set and when Rory Donnelly placed an unchallenged header over the bar after 85 minutes it was cast. Missed chances inevitably cost points and despite a spirited second half performance, Gillingham's lack of a cutting edge cost them dear.

I related, right at the beginning of the season, in my banner heading that it is not disappointment that hurts, it is the hope. I'm not one for unbridled optimism, but coming into a five-game run against teams all positioned in the lower half of the table, my thoughts were that a good haul of points (15 was always going to be over-cooked) would virtually cement Gillingham's place in the play-offs and, perhaps, touching distance of the automatics. The loss at Oldham followed by this defeat leaves that optimism feeling very misguided.

Many posts ago, when Gillingham were maintaining their position in the top three, I felt that when injuries and suspensions started to bite, the squad might be lacking in depth. Unfortunately, that is now beginning to happen. Added to the long-term injury to John Egan and the loss of Doug Loft, the sight of Bradley Dack limping away after half-an-hour of this contest struck fear in every Gillingham heart. Dack has been the heartbeat of this team and having fought off suitors in the January window, it is sods law that he will be lost to injury for a length of time.

Following Samuel's early miss, chances also fell for Rory Donnelly, who brought a save from Tommy Lee and Max Ehmer, whose shot was turned onto a post.

As Chesterfield slowly found a foothold in the game, Ehmer and Ryan Jackson found their way into the referee's book for fouls before they surprisingly took the lead after 36 minutes. Gboly Ariyibi, who had been posing problems for Adam Chicksen, crossed from the right to Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who bundled the ball over the line.

When it was hoped that the home side would get into the dressing room with just a goal deficit, Lee Novak produced a well placed shot into the top corner from 25 yards.

The second half was one of frustration as Gillingham sought to repair the damage but foundered on a strong defensive display that would have been admirable if it wasn't for the shameless time-wasting that Chesterfield had perpectuated from the first whistle. In fairness, if I had been one those 199 Spireites sitting, open to the elements, I would have been applauding every second that passed.

Bradley Garmston was introduced for the second half replacing Chicksen and Justin Edinburgh changed his formation with the full backs pushing much further forward, Jackson having an early second half header saved.

George Williams, Gillingham's loanee from Fulham, who had a awkward 15 minutes in the first half after coming on as substitute for Dack, had an eye-catching second half which earned him the man of the match award.

Samuel and Luke Norris (on for Samuel) brought comfortable saves from Lee as Gillingham dominated possession but it took until 10 minutes from time to reduce the deficit. A left sided cross from Norris was headed in at close range by Emmanuel Osadebe to set up a grandstand finish.

That should have brought a point with five minutes remaining when Donnelly headed over from a inch perfect cross from Jackson.

Josh Wright: "Proud and privileged to have captained Gillingham today, devastated with the result"

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tonbridge 1 Bognor Regis Town 3

Match 71/15/1276 - Tuesday, 23rd February 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 1 Blewden 61
Bognor Regis Town (2) 3 Prior 26,29, Rutherford 53
Attendance: 377

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 36/5,360

Match Report

After the euphoria of Saturday's performance at Kingstonian, we all fell to earth with a bit of a bump. But, there are occasions when you just have to hold up your hands and accept that the other team were just too good and Bognor Regis Town were as good as any team I've seen in the Ryman Premier this season. This Saturday they entertain Torquay United in the quarter-final of the FA Trophy and, on the evidence of this game, they will give the ex-Football League side a real run for their money.

On a very rare occurrence this season, Tonbridge were out-fought, out-thought and, at least in the first half, out-played.

The evening started badly with the absence of the talismanic midfielder, Tom Parkinson, who was unavailable through illness.

On a bitterly cold evening, the teams took to the field for a fixture that neither club particularly wanted. The Isthmian League had insisted that the game be brought forward one week to comply with their "postponed games to be played as soon as possible" mandate. From Tonbridge's point of view it was likely to cost them revenue with difficulties in publicising the late change of date and a clash with Arsenal v Barcelona on satellite television, whilst I would imagine Bognor were not over-pleased about having to fulfil the fixture in the week before their Trophy quarter-final.

Bognor opened the game in the manner in which they were to continue, dominating possession, but strangely it was the home side that carved out the early chances. After just two minutes, Luke Allen fastened onto a poor clearance and struck a powerful shot that the Rocks' keeper, Grant Smith held as it headed for the top corner.

After 14 minutes, Bradley Woods-Garness was sent clear and tucked the ball past the advancing Smith but also narrowly past the post and, a couple of minutes later, Nick Wheeler fired a shot straight at Smith.

Jerrome Sobers planted a header wide of the post following a corner before Bognor had their first dangerous moment on goal after 25 minutes. Anthony Di Barnardo made a double save before a shot from Doug Tuck was cleared from the line by Sobers.

Tonbridge's reprieve lasted barely two minutes. Following a corner, the ball was headed forward by Jason Prior, at first into the clutches of Di Barnardo who allowed the ball to slip from his grasp to afford Prior the claim of his 22nd goal of the season.

Two minutes later, Bognor doubled their advantage. Anthony Riviere lost possession outside of his own penalty area, the ball was fed to the right from where Stuart Green delivered the perfect cross to the head of an unmarked Prior, who cannot be afforded an inch, let alone an acre.

The visitors, high on confidence, poured all over their hosts and after 36 minutes the game should have been all over as a contest. Another cross from the right, this time found Alfie Rutherford, who with time and space and the goal at his mercy, inexplicably placed it wide of the right hand post.

Wheeler was substituted during the break by Luke Blewden and after 52 minutes, Sonny Miles went down injured to be replaced by Laurence Ball.

If Steve McKimm's half time message had been about comebacks, it was reduced to playing for pride after 53 minutes. A solo run down the left from Rutherford was finished with a delightful chip over Di Barnardo, who had barely advanced to the six yard box.

Tommy Whitnell entered the fray on the hour and immediately had a hand in Tonbridge's, ultimately consolation, goal. His free kick from the left hand side of the box was played back across the face of goal by Ball for Blewden to tuck home from close range. Three substitutes, each with a touch.

Time could have been Tonbridge's friend but, in truth, Bognor saw the game out with very little trouble.

Bad days at the office happen, it is how teams react that is important and with another championship chasing club, Hampton & Richmond, the visitors on Saturday it is time to dust themselves down and bounce back.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Kingstonian 1 Tonbridge 3

Match 70/15/1275 - Saturday, 20th February 2016 - Ryman Premier

Kingstonian (1) 1 McCollin 5
Tonbridge (0) 3 Elder 69, Whitnall 75, Wheeler 90+2
Attendance: 411

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 118/5,324

Match Report

Sadly you cannot bottle a performance and bring it out of the jar when you need it most, but you can embed it in the memory bank to remember and enjoy when, perhaps, the going gets tough. Tonbridge's second half performance was one to savour forever and a day.

It is felt that this was the first in a series of big games that would shape the destiny of Tonbridge's season. Visiting Kingsmeadow always gives the impression of a bigger club than perhaps Kingstonian are, but at the start of play they sat just five points behind the Angels with a game in hand so the importance was obvious and not lost on a Tonbridge contingent, huge in terms of numbers and volume.

As a slight sidetrack, it could be (with promotion for either club) that this is the last time we visit Kingsmeadow. Kingstonian's landlords, AFC Wimbledon, have sold the stadium to Chelsea to finance their return to the borough of Merton and the Kings will have to find a new home for the beginning of season 2017-18. Without disrespecting Ladies' football it seems such a shame that from that season this will be the venue for women's football and Chelsea's youth teams.

Steve McKimm rested Luke Blewden and Anthony Riviere to the bench following on from the heavy pitch at Aveley and here, where it quickly cut up and became heavy going. Into the side came Luke Allen and Bradley Woods-Garness.

The tricky Woods-Garness posed early problems for the home side, but after just five minutes they were in front. A free kick to Tonbridge was poorly delivered from the half-way line and a first time clearance sent Andre McCollin clear to shoot past the Angels' goalkeeper, Anthony Di Barnardo from around the edge of the box.

The visitors responded to the set back and territorially dominated but created largely half-chances, although a 14th minute header from Nathan Elder should have brought more than a comfortable save out of Rob Tolfrey.

Tolfrey, often a thorn in Tonbridge's side in the past, was at his agile best in an unbelievable 15 seconds on 27 minutes. Following a Nick Wheeler corner, twice he made plunging saves and a third effort was cleared from the line by a defender with the Tonbridge faithful behind the goal holding their heads in disbelief.

Tonbridge continued to enjoy the best of the possession through to the end of the half, but without carrying any significant threat. A good move involving Woods-Garness and Wheeler ended with Allen firing over and just before the break Woods-Garness had a snap shot on the turn comfortably saved by Tolfrey.

Ten minutes into the second half came one of the game's defining moments. A rush of blood from Di Barnardo saw him sprinting from his goal in a foot race with McCollin to clear the ball to safety. McCollin won, and as he rounded the goalkeeper, he was hauled to the ground by a rugby tackle around the waist. Personally, at the time, I thought the goalkeeper was about to walk, but the referee, presumably taking into account the position on the field of play of the incident, deemed it was worthy of just a booking. The Kingstonian supporters around us were incensed by the decision. On reflection, I now think the referee got it right, it was very wide and there were Tonbridge defenders getting back at the centre of the goal. They were further frustrated when in quick succession two yellow were shown to Dan Bennett and George Wells.

A double substitution on 68 minutes was also pivotal in the Tonbridge recovery with Blewden and Tommy Whitnall coming on for Woods-Garness and Charlie Webster. Neither was particularly involved a minute later when a cross from the right from Wheeler found the head of Elder who scored from close range.

With their tails up, it was just five minutes later when Blewden surged through the middle of the park to unleash a shot from the edge of the box which Tolfrey only parried into the path of Whitnall. Rather than taking a first time shot, the substitute composed himself, rounded the keeper and placed the ball into an empty net.

Kingstonian pressed forward in search of a match saving goal and produced a couple of heart-stopping moments but, in time added on, Whitnell picked the pocket of a Kings defender on the right touchline and passed inside to Wheeler, who like his teammate earlier, composed himself and tucked the ball into the far corner.
joyous celebration amongst the travelling support and a mini pitch invasion that was unnecessary and might bring an unwanted fine from the Football Association.

But nothing will detract from the memory of this day. Tonbridge undoubtedly are a talented team, but one with a spine and resolve. McCollin and Harold Odametey are a handful, but man-of-the-match Jerrome Sobers and his central defensive partner, Sonny Miles, largely restricted them to long range efforts. This was a good day, a very good day, but there needs to be several of these days, home and away, over the coming four weeks.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Grays Athletic 1 Tonbridge 1

Match 69/15/1274 - Wednesday, 17th February 2016 - Ryman Premier

Grays Athletic (0) 1 Hutchings 61
Tonbridge (0) 1 Parkinson 56
Attendance: 221

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 70/5,206

Match Report

It says everything about the progress made by Steve McKimm's Tonbridge side that a year ago we were walking away from Aveley's Mill Field, angry at a woeful performance and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Grays Athletic, but tonight we walked away, once again disappointed, but this time that an opportunity of all three points had been left begging.

It was a cold, wet and miserable evening at Mill Field, on what, barring an unlikely visit in the play-offs, will be Tonbridge's last ever visit as Aveley will move to a new stadium nearby next season. Where Grays Athletic are going to play next season is unknown, although their own plans to move back to Grays appears to be gathering pace with Thurrock Council.

The pitch that on first inspection looked fine, became a glue-pot as the evening wore on and was hardly conducive to the passing game that Steve McKimm prefers.

Grays are certainly not the side of last season, but despite a couple of notable departures, they can still field Dumebi Dumaka, who has trialled at Ipswich Town, Fleetwood Town and Cambridge United this season and has 23 goals to his credit, alongside Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson and Joao Carlos in a potent attack.

Between the sticks for the home side was Tom Hadler, a previous loanee from Gillingham for the Angels who was also custodian for VCD when Tonbridge visited on Boxing Day. The young keeper was quickly into the action saving at the feet of Luke Blewden who had been sent clear of the home defence.

Chances were very much at a premium in the opening half. A nice move from the home side saw Fortnam-Tomlinson bring a save out of Anthony Di Barnardo whilst there were opportunities for both of the Tonbridge central defenders from corners.

The visitors stepped up a gear in the second period and largely dominated the half. An Anthony Riviere shot was saved by Hadler and there were two efforts from Sonny Miles that cleared the bar.

James Folkes, on as a second half substitute for Jack Parter, and at the scene of a personal nightmare 45 minutes last season, laid on a perfect cross for Nathan Elder, whose soft header allowed a comfortable save.

After 56 minutes Tonbridge deservedly took the lead. A long throw from Blewden was headed on by Elder to be met with a tumbling header from Tommy Parkinson that was fumbled over the line by Hadler.

The lead only lasted five minutes. A brilliant piece of work from Dumaka down the right hand side ended with his cross being only partially cleared to the edge of the box where Jake Hutchings had time to pick his spot into the bottom corner.

Tonbridge searched hard for a winner but it wasn't to be their night. Elder had a series of chances, a golden one in front of goal in the final five minutes that skewed wide of the post when it seemed easier to score.

Was it a point earned, or two points lost? Personally, against a bogey side, it was a point I would have taken prior to kick-off, but ultimately most agree it was the latter.

Apologies for the terrible picture, must emphasise not one by Dave Couldridge!

This is how you take a picture! Courtesy of Dave Couldridge

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Ebbsfleet United 2 St Albans City 1

Match 68/15/1273 - Tuesday, 16th February 2016 - National League South

Ebbsfleet United (1) 1 McLean 45
St Albans City (0) 0
Attendance: 1,089

Entrance: £9 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/5,136

Match Report

Having reached my 68th game of the season, it was somewhat surprising that this would be my first visit to Stonebridge Road this term. Ebbsfleet United are a club, well-backed by Kuwaiti owners who are it seems, despite home form that could best be described as wobbly, well on their way to a return to National League football in August. Off-the-field, the redevelopment of a lovable, old ground has begun with the diggers now on-site as the Liam Daish stand prepares to meet its end.

The evening was numbingly cold and the opening 20 minutes or so did little to warm the extremities. St Albans, seven points adrift of safety and under the new management of Ian Allinson, were put under early pressure with the best opportunity an effort from Danny Kedwell that was turned away from the goal line.

Joe Welch, in the St Albans goal, did well to repel a Kedwell header and ultimately was the difference between them and a good hiding.

Kedwell had a good claim for a penalty when pushed in the back and Matt Godden had a chance cleared from the line before St Albans mustered their first effort on goal, high, wide and not too handsome on 38 minutes.

As the half reached its final minute, a snap shot from Aaron McLean that didn't appear to be that cleanly struck bounced in front of the diving Welch and into the net. It was unfortunate for the ex-Ebbsfleet keeper that his mistake has ultimately decided the game.

The second half began with five mad minutes in which St Albans picked up three bookings for rash challenges.

The half progressed much the same way as the first. Ebbsfleet having chances and either wasting them or Welch coming to the Saints salvation.

On 74 minutes McLean did well to cross across the face of goal to Godden, who with the goal gaping took a bad touch allowing Welch to smother at his feet. It was one of those nights for the home strikeforce.

Ex-Gillingham midfielder Stuart Lewis was an obvious choice as man-of-the-match which was duly awarded, whilst the Belgian full back Van der Bogaert also caught the eye.

On a night when Champions League football was only obtainable on BT Sport, I'm not convinced that, for a club that moved 12 points clear at the top of the table, 1,089 represented a good attendance.

Hopefully, I can get to Stonebridge Road again this season before bulldozers do their work. I'm sure something lovely will rise from the rubble, but I've always kind of liked it as it was.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Gillingham 2 Barnsley 1

Match 67/15/1272 - Saturday, 13th February 2016 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Samuel 25, Dack 63
Barnsley (0) 1 Hourihane 62
Attendance: 5,887

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/5,080

Match Report

I've friends who like a flutter on a Saturday and when they ask how I think Gillingham might fare in their weekend fixture, I invariably beg them not to involve them in their bet. This Saturday, I had statistical reasons why they should take heed of my words. The visitors, Barnsley, were on a run of seven straight wins and the previous six games between the clubs had all ended with victories for the Tykes. One of thoses punters was going to include the Gills as he explained: "the law of averages says those runs have to end sometime."

In the end, it was nothing to do with fate or good fortune. A good performance was needed to beat an obviously very decent team and the home side delivered in a game that was hard fought to the final whistle.

In a week in which ticketing pricing had taken high profile in the press, sympathy had to be with the Barnsley supporters braving a bitterly cold and damp afternoon on the open Brian Moore Stand. Whatever the price was too much for the near 400 travelling supporters who would have needed every mile of the journey home to thaw.

For Gillingham, Ryan Jackson failed a fitness test and Aaron Morris vacated his midfield anchor role to fill in at right back with Manny Osadebe earning a recall into midfield. Josh Wright who took that anchor role was to have a superb game and there could not of been a person inside the stadium that hadn't recognised him as the man of the match.

Barnsley opened the game with the confidence they hard garnered from their unbeaten run that had seen them progress from looking over their shoulders at the relegation places to eyeing the play-off spot

Leading goalscorer Sam Winnall saw a overhead kick go harmless wide before the home side opened the scoring after 25 minutes. A bad back pass from James Bree was pounced on by Rory Donnelly, who produced a slide rule pass into the path of Dominic Samuel, who slid his shot underneath the advancing Adam Davies.

Apart from a weak attempt to lob Stuart Nelson from Marley Watkins, the Tykes, for all their possession, failed to trouble the home side's defence.

Samuel had an early second half chance as he linked with Bradley Dack, but when the midfielder returned the pass, Samuel couldn't sort out his feet and the chance went begging at the near post.

Gillingham were guilty of some really dozy defending just after the hour mark. A throw-in into the path of Conor Hourihane allowed the visitor's captain the luxury of time to pick his spot from the edge of the penalty and hook his shot into the far corner.

To their credit, Gillingham bounced straight back with a counter attack of great pace. A punt clear was headed on by Samuel to Dack, who sent Donnelly into a shooting position on the right hand side of the box. The Irishman's shot was only parried by Davies into the path of Dack, who tucked it home from close range for his 15th of the season.

As the visitor's pressed for an equaliser, substitute Adam Chicksen made a goal line clearance under pressure and when the board showed the minutes added on, the stadium announcer Doug Hudson, described them as five agonising minutes. Gillingham survived a final effort from Hourihane and a header that drifted wide.

Gillingham moved into second place Wigan and Walsall surprising dropped points against lowly opposition. Is this to be their year? Please don't bet on it!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Erith Town P-P Cray Valley PM

Tuesday, 9th February 2016 - SCEL

Erith Town P
Cray Valley PM P

Wasted Mileage: 80/5,024

Annoyingly called off at 19:00, leaving no time for a detour.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Gillingham 0 Swindon Town 0

Match 66/15/1271 - Saturday, 6th February 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Swindon Town (0) 0
Attendance: 6,398

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/4,944

Match Report

There's an old joke that does the rounds at the end of January, "it's transfer deadline day, otherwise known in Gillingham as Monday". This year was different, Gillingham weren't in the market for money purchases, although the loan deal that secured Dominic Samuel's services through to the end of the season was welcome, but whether they would keep hold of their prized assets. That they did, and in the process turn down a £2 million bid for Bradley Dack, shows a real statement of intent that there is a prospect of promotion and they are going to go for it. In the case of Dack, it was a massive offer, but the player himself hadn't expressed any desire to head west into a relegation battle with Bristol City and at the end of the season he knows that there will be continued interest from clubs further up the food chain. John Egan was an altogether different scenario. Out of contract at the end of the season, nobody could really have blamed the chairman for accepting whatever the offer was from Brentford knowing that in May he can walk away from Priestfield for nothing. But the temptation was resisted and Paul Scally can rightly say to his manager, "I've left you with the tools, now finish the job."

When talking with non-Gillingham people about the club's prospects of promotion, I've described them as the Leicester of League One. No one expected them to be where they are, and everybody is waiting for them to falter, but despite this disappointing result against Swindon Town, they are still in the mix with 30 games gone. The big clubs of the Division are beginning to come good, Wigan Athletic and Millwall are flexing their muscles and Coventry City can hardly be described as a minnow. But swimming with the big fish are leaders Burton Albion, Walsall and Gillingham.

The fact remains that if Gillingham are to be without both Dack and Egan next season they will almost certainly be weaker and, therefore, this season might be their best opportunity.

It was another blustery day at Priestfield, a weather report that I've seemed to purvey each week, wherever I am, for the last three months.

An early mix-up between Swindon's right back, Nathan Thompson, and his goalkeeper, Lawrence Vigouroux allowed Rory Donnelly a free run on goal and as the keeper scrambled to make his ground, the Irishman took aim and planted his shot against the cross bar. It looked the proverbial open goal, and no doubt the wind played it's part, but it was a bad miss that, perhaps, affected his confidence as he went on to have a poor game. It was rumoured that there was a representative from the Northern Ireland management in the stands, I wonder whether that fourth minute miss had him on an early flight back to Belfast, I hope not.

Gillingham needed an early goal to break down a resolute visiting defence and might have got the opportunity from the penalty spot after 10 minutes when Ryan Jackson was brought down in the area. Appeals, on and off the pitch, were turned away by the referee with Justin Edinburgh in animated conversation on the touchline.

The game progressed to the half-hour mark before a sweet strike from Josh Wright was turned over the bar by Vigouroux.

Having had the advantage of the wind in the first half it was particularly disappointing that a large amount of possession hadn't been turned into a goal.

Although they defended well, this was one of the poorest Swindon Town sides that I've seen for many a year. A player, long admired, Yaser Kasim, was as quiet as I've ever seen him and leading goalscorer Nicky Ajose was fed meagre scraps.

The second period was very frustrating. Against the wind, Gillingham struggled to create any clear opportunities and with both strikers having indifferent days, they were a blunt force. So much so, that a fierce shot just wide of the post from defender Egan was about the only effort worthy of mention.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Tonbridge 4 Leatherhead 0

Match 65/15/1270 - Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 4 Woods-Garness 21, Elder 79, Blewden 86,90
Leatherhead (0) 0
Attendance: 335

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,888

Match Report

A damaging run of results for Tonbridge, dating back to late November, was hopefully brought to an end with a dominant second half performance that left the visitors, Leatherhead, ruing their inability to capitalise on a first half in which for long periods they were the better side.

That run hasn’t been terrible, seven draws and a couple of defeats with a single win on Boxing Day at VCD Athletic sandwiched in the middle, but unless you are of a supremely optimistic tendency, then the likelihood of top spot and automatic promotion is probably out of reach. The play-offs are certainly there to be contested and a top three finish guarantees home advantage.

It was a cold evening at Longmead and, perhaps, this affected the attendance, well below average at 335. Those that stayed away missed a highly entertaining game.

The pitch had dried significantly since Saturday and the postponement of the match against Metropolitan Police but was still obviously soft under foot in places.

Early in the first half, Tonbridge struggled down both flanks with Stephen Okoh and Ryan Mahal looking dangerous adding to the well-known threat of ex-Angel Frannie Collin. Okoh drove one effort wide and another was diverted to safety by the head of Sonny Miles. Tonbridge, for their part, brought a couple of comfortable saves out of Louis Wells.

It was somewhat against the run of play when the home side went ahead after 21 minutes. A corner from Nicky Wheeler was poorly dealt with by Wells whose punch sailed high into the night sky falling at the feet of Bradley Woods-Garness, who from the edge of the box half-volleyed his shot into the top corner for a stunning finish.

The game proceeded to ebb and flow with half chances for both sides. Anthony Di Bernardo denied Okoh with a fine save whilst Wells saved from Luke Blewden and when the Leatherhead keeper made a mess of a cross, Sonny Miles headed wide.

Miles, along with Woods-Garness, were replaced at half-time, both having suffered ankle injuries, Charlie Webster and Laurence Ball being introduced.

The second period was a different story. Tonbridge completely dominated and the threat from Leatherhead virtually disappeared. Wheeler saw a lot more of the ball and the visitor’s right back Adam Cash had a torrid time attempting to contain him.

The hard-working Blewden sent a header wide; Webster ended a sweeping move with a weak shot and Nathan Elder will have been disappointed with a poor header after 70 minutes.

The breakthrough finally came ten minutes from time. A Wheeler free-kick from the right was headed back across the face of goal by Tommy Parkinson and Elder forced the ball home from close range.

Four minutes remain when Tonbridge added the gloss to their second half performance. A Webster cross was turned into his own net by Phil Walsh, under pressure from Blewden, who claimed the last touch.

A final goal, in time added on, was a lovely team goal and also brought the evening’s funniest moment. Wheeler played substitute Luke Allen down the line, who pulled back a cross for Blewden to score at the near post. This was obviously greeted with joy from the Tonbridge supporters, including Paul Bayliss, who took a while to realise that the goal had robbed him of the £25 last goal prize.