Sunday, 10 April 2016

Tonbridge 2 Billericay Town 2

Match 86/15/1291 - Saturday, 9th April 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 2 Elder 62, Parkinson 64
Billericay Town (2) 2 Cox 14,25
Attendance: 512

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 36/6,197

Hampton and Richmond Borough are within touching distance of the Ryman Premier League, but Tonbridge will end the season with a title of their own, perhaps unwanted, the "Comeback Kings". Time and again, they dig a hole for themselves in the opening 45 minutes and go on to produce a second half that rescues a result. At Thursday's Meet the Manager, a member of the audience commented that if games were only played in the second half, Tonbridge would be champions. Steve McKimm retorted: if they were played in just the first, Tonbridge would be relegated!

After a relatively bright start from the home side, Billericay took a 13th minute lead. A free kick from the left was floated towards the six yard box, whilst the Tonbridge defence stood like statues, Jordan Cox literally ran the ball into the net. Whether the defenders were waiting for Anthony Di Bernardo to come and claim the ball only they will know, but it was an awful goal to concede.

Tonbridge responded with a Nathan Elder chance after 19 minutes that was smothered by the goalkeeper followed by a Nick Wheeler run and shot that went wide.

After 24 minutes, a stunning volley from Cox, on loan to Billericay from Braintree Town, brought appreciative applause from even the surprised home fans.

Tonbridge produced a late first half rally when Blewden and Elder combined to bring a save from Billericay's Jack Giddens and a header from Laurence Ball was wide following a corner.

Steve McKimm made no changes at half-time but only waited five minutes before replacing Charlie Webster with Tommy Whitnall. It was an appearance that was to last only seven minutes as Whitnall, tracking back, took the full force of an overhead kick in the face and, after a long delay, was able to walk from the field but sadly, it was later reported that he sustained a broken cheekbone that would finish his season.

Just past the hour, the Angels halved the deficit. Bradley Woods-Garness, who had replaced Whitnall did well to pull a ball back from the bye-line for Elder to hook in from close range.

Two minutes later, the Comeback Kings achieved parity. Tricky work from Nick Wheeler and a pinpoint cross found the head of the onrushing Tommy Parkinson to level the scoreline.

Wheeler and Elder combined to make a couple of further chances, with Billericay themselves not giving up the cause and offering a few tense moments for the home supporters.

The play-off berth for Tonbridge is looking all but certain. A win at home to Merstham next Saturday should seal their place and it is looking increasingly like a trip to Bognor Regis on a Thursday night is going to be their reward. That will be very tough, but any play-off fixture is meant to be.

Picture courtesy of Dave Couldridge.

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