Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Summertime Blues 2016

This post will be used to keep abreast of the comings and going of Gillingham, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells during the close season.

Friday, 24th June: Rejecting overtures from Southend United, Stuart Nelson has signed a new two year contract to stay at Gillingham. Meanwhile, Jermaine McGlashen has made the move to the Essex club.

Friday, 17th June: Gillingham utility player, Aaron Morris has committed to the club after accepting a two year contract.

Thursday, 16th June: Justin Edinburgh further strengthens his midfield in the wake of the expected departure of Bradley Dack with the signing of Billy Knott from Bradford City.

Wednesday, 15th June: Gillingham make their first signing of the season with the much anticipated arrival of Mark Byrne from Newport County. The 27-year-old Irish midfielder joins up with Justin Edinburgh for a third time having been with him at Rushden and Diamonds as well as Newport.

Monday, 6th June: With time reportedly running out for the likes of Stuart Nelson, Josh Wright and Aaron Morris to sign on the dotted line, it is the youngsters that have committed themselves to Gillingham. Emmanuel Osadebe, Darren Oldaker and Tom Hadler putting pen to paper.

Friday, 27th May: Tonbridge have pulled of a major coup with the signing of Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson. Steve McKimm missed out on signing the player during the regular season when he opted to join Bishops Stortford from Grays, but has finally got his man when the player's work commitments changed.

Thursday, 26th May: Jack Brivio and Charlie Slocombe, fringe players in Tonbridge's first team squad have decided to seek pastures new in search of regular senior football. Brivio, a good prospect, is a loss whilst Slocombe, for several years in and around the first team deserves an opportunity elsewhere. Tuesday, 31 May: Brivio has signed for Burgess Hill.

Wednesday, 25th May: Glenn Morris, Gillingham's goalkeeping departee has found a new club and a new job at Crawley Town as player-goalkeeping coach. Charlie Webster, not retained by Tonbridge has signed for Hythe Town.

Tuesday, 17th May: McKimm is certainly a man with a clear objective in mind and in a hurry to complete it. Central defender George Beavon has arrived from Billericay. The 26-year-old was player of the year for the Essex club last season.

Monday, 16th May 2016: Tonbridge unveil their second signing of the summer, that of the experienced striker Andre McCollin, who spent last season at Kingstonian. As with last post-season, Steve McKimm looks to be getting his squad together early and with this the second 31-year-old, is adding experience to last season's team.

Friday, 13th May 2016: Assistant Manager Steve Lovell is to leave Gillingham. Tonbridge make their first signing of the summer, announcing the arrival of the vastly experienced Damian Scannell who had been released from Dulwich Hamlet.

Tuesday, 10th May 2016: Gillingham announce their retained list and the players leaving the club are Brennan Dickenson, Doug Loft, Jermaine McGlashen and Glenn Morris.

Monday, 9th May 2016: Tunbridge Wells pull off a major coup with the signing, on contract, of Ryan Crandley. The striker was released by Gillingham and would surely have attracted interest from Ryman clubs, but the youngster has decided to sign for the club he enjoyed a long loan spell last season.

Wednesday, 4th May 2016: Steve McKimm has quickly put the play-off disappointment behind him and has started re-shaping the Tonbridge squad for a tilt at the Ryman Premier title next season. His retained list names only four departures, Bradley Woods-Garness, Anthony Riviere, Laurence Ball and Charlie Webster. The same evening, Luke Allen accepted the terms offered for next season.

Lifetime match total: 2,559 (including England v Wales)
Number of grounds: 286

Friday, 27 May 2016

Grimsby Town 0 FC Halifax Town 1

Match 102/15/1307 - Sunday, 22nd May 2016 - FA Trophy Final

Grimsby Town (0) 0
FC Halifax Town (0) 1 McManus 48
Combined Attendance: 46,781

Entrance: £10 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 100/7,115

Match Report

I suppose you could not blame the massed ranks of disappointed Hereford supporters for turning their backs on the second Final of the day, but whilst they would not have witnessed quite the exhilarating game of the Vase, this slow burner produced a very watchable game and a second upset of the day.

The opposing team's seasons had been poles apart. Grimsby Town, after five long years away, had gained promotion to the Football League via a play-off victory at Wembley against Forest Green Rovers a week earlier whilst Halifax had suffered relegation from non-league's top tier and into National League North.

Behind each goal the clubs were more evenly matched than the Vase Final with around 10,000 supporting each club.

The first half was a cagey affair, an anti-climax following the captivating Vase game, with very few chances. Halifax's goalkeeper was stretched just the once by a Andy Monkhouse header whilst the league's leading goalscorer, Grimsby's Padraig Amond was kept largely quiet.

The game desperately needed an early second half goal, and what a goal it was when it came just three minutes into the half.

Grimsby, and Craig Disley in particular, failed to clear their lines and Scott McManus, who robbed Disley, curled a beauty into the top corner from 25 yards. It was to be the sweet moment in a bitter-sweet afternoon for McMannus who, 25 minutes later, had to be helped from the Wembley pitch having sustained an knee injury.

Grimsby threw Omar Bogle and Nathan Arnold into the fray in search of an equaliser that wasn't to come. Halifax captain, Nicky Wroe, a stand-out performer, controlled the midfield and blunted any threat the Lincolnshire side had to offer.

Referee Lee Mason blew the final whistle to the joy of the men from Yorkshire and brought my personal curtain down on season 2015-16.

As stated in the posting for the National South play-off Final, this was the first season that I have exceeded 100 games. For a change, my blog heading almost proved correct. Gillingham and Tonbridge were, indeed, competitive but both fell just a little short at the end. Tunbridge Wells had such a turbulent start to the season, that their final resting place in the division could almost be considered a success. Hopefully stability will now reign at Culverden, giving themselves a greater chance for next season.

Highlights were Gillingham's win at Millwall prior to Christmas. Any win at the Den is to be savoured but to thrash them in the manner the Gills did was very sweet. Sadly, the Lions roared last and their win at Priestfield ended any hope of a play-off place.

A very low was the pre-season passing of Junior Dian, something that I hope I will never have to bear witness to again on a football pitch. Out of the despair, Tonbridge Angels Football Club have been magnificent with their Football Fightback Campaign far surpassing their target figure of £26,000 for heart screenings of young footballers.

Champagne moment came with the fantastic winning goal in the Southern Counties East League Cup Final from Glebe's Ryan Golding, an overhead kick in the final moments of extra time. A goal worthy of winning any trophy.

So that's it for That'll Be The Day's season nine and onto the Euros where we will be in Lens for England's group game against Wales, potentially a quarter final and, dare I say it, the Final in Paris.

Have a great summer and I will be ready to go again, pre-season starting 2nd July 2016 at Glebe.

Hereford 1 Morpeth Town 4

Match 101/15/1306 - Sunday, 22nd May 2016 - FA Vase Final

Hereford (1) 1 Purdie 2
Morpeth Town (1) 4 Swailes 34, Carr 46, Taylor 59, Bell 90+1
Combined Attendance: 46,781

Combined Entrance: £10 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 100/7,115

Match Report

The Football Association came up with an innovative idea for the Finals of Vase and Trophy, make it a Non-League Finals Day. There were some minor flaws in their plan, but I hope they decide that it was successful enough to follow it up with another next season. Two Finals, for the senior citizen price of £10, what was there not to like?

I set this day out as an All About Me day. Early train to alight at Stonebridge Park for a short walk down to the Ace Cafe at Hanger Lane to share a big breakfast with a cafe-full of bikers. Great start, lesson to be learnt though, earlier train needed so the breakfast can be consumed leisurely.

I bought a ticket for the neutral area when they first came on sale and these turned out to be Club Wembley seats. The seats are comfortable, the view was perfect, not too far behind the Royal Box and adjacent to the FA's greater and good. But, as I found out when we had tickets there for Gillingham's 2009 Play-Off Final against Shrewsbury, the atmosphere can be a bit sterile.

Speaking to the fellow neutrals around me, and a heavily debated issue on social media, everybody was disappointed, if not annoyed, that the FA had reneged on their pledge that people would be free to exit and re-enter the stadium in between the two games. Many felt they were being held hostage to Wembley's expensive food and drink prices.

Of greater concern to me personally, was the lack of a programme. As I was a little short of time, I walked past the programme sellers on the way into the stadium with the thought that between the games I would purchase one, but this was a bad decision as they had sold out by that time. It became apparent later that this was an issue in all areas of the ground and the Halifax and Grimsby supporters arriving later had no chance. Lesson to the FA, non-league fans love a programme, print enough.

The overall attendance of 46,781 was impressive, and I would think pleased the FA no end, but that figure was inflated with the huge Hereford following of around 20,000. It was a magnificent turnout dwarfing that of the other three competing clubs, but I have an issue with re-formed clubs that re-enter the pyramid at Step Six being allowed into the Vase at the first opportunity. In my opinion clubs that are liquidated and entering at Step Six should not be allowed to enter the Vase for two seasons in which time they will find their true level. If they haven't made it into Step Five and Trophy football by that time, then the Vase is the right competition for them.

The game itself was a credit to Step Six with a wonderful performance from Morpeth Town, who put a nightmare opening 20 minutes behind them to thoroughly outplay their more illustrious opponents.

Hereford roared out of the traps on the back of the wall of noise produced by their supporters and it it took just 75 seconds for them to be rejoicing. Rob Purdie strode forward, unchallenged, and from 30 yards struck a sweet shot into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Karl Dryden. In the next 20 minutes, it looked for all to see, that this could be the most one-sided Vase Final of all time. Morpeth were being torn apart and chances for Hereford to increase their lead were plentiful. Dryden made good saves to deny Sirdic Grant and Pablo Haysham before Grant cracked a shot from the edge of the penalty area against the bar. When Haysham completely miscued from literally inches from a pull backed cross, the mind began to wonder whether Hereford might rue these lost chances.

Slowly but surely, encouraged that they had survived the opening assault just a goal behind, Morpeth got a toe-hold in the game. Those toes became a solid foot when, after 34 minutes, Morpeth's grand old man, Chris Swailes, bundled the ball into the net after the Bulls' goalkeeper, Martin Horsell had failed to deal with a corner. Swailes wrote his own piece of history becoming the oldest man, at 45 years old, to score in a Wembley final.

With that goal it was as if somebody had pulled out the plug and the confidence drained away from Hereford.

Just as the first half had an explosive beginning, so did the second. A thoughtfully worked move ended with Sean Taylor putting the ball into the box for Luke Carr to steer his shot into the far corner after just 42 seconds.

Just before the hour mark, Morpeth opened clear daylight as a superb through ball from Michael Chilton sent Sean Taylor clear who completed a composed finish past Horsell.

From a position of complete dominance in the opening 20 minutes, Hereford were now in danger of capitulating without so much of a whimper as Morpeth picked them off on the break with ease.

Morpeth completed another Vase success for the North-East, seven in the last eight years, when in time added, Shaun Bell benefitted from a heavy deflection to complete the emphatic scoreline.

An hugely entertaining Final, and this was only supposed to be the hors d'oeuvres.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ebbsfleet 2 Maidstone United 2

Match 100/15/1305 - Saturday, 14th May 2016 - National League South
Play-off Final

Ebbsfleet United (1) 2 Kedwell 20,109 (2 pens)
Maidstone United (0) 2 Taylor 47, Dumaka 120+1
After Extra Time (Maidstone United won 4-3 on penalties)
Attendance: 3,800

Entrance: £9 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/7,015

Match Report

Maidstone United's rise to just one step from a return to the Football League continues with a thrilling climax to extra time and a penalty shoot-out victory.

Ebbsfleet the long-time leaders, at one stage 12 points ahead of the field, were left ruing their patchy form in the final third of the season which led to them being overhauled at the top by Sutton Unitd, leaving themselves open to the perils of play-off football.

Once the semi-finals had been won, a ticket for the final between these Kent neighbours became the hottest in town. Stonebridge Road's capacity was reduced to 3,800 due to the rebuilding work that has started. Maidstone United were allocated 750 tickets for the Swanscombe End of the ground. With attendances in excess of 2,000 on a regular basis this was clearly not enough for the county town club. But, in fairness, the total was 150 more than League regulations entitled them and three times the number they had allocated Ebbsfleet for the regular season fixture at the Gallagher.

After the Ebbsfleet season ticket holders had been satisfied, the general sale was handled in a novel, some would say bizarre way.

I allowed the initial rush to subside on Monday and joined a small queue on Tuesday morning. With other people's requests I was looking for six tickets but I soon realised with the chatter in the line that this was going to be a non-starter. When the lady in front of me, buying a ticket for her husband and living a mere five miles away in Meopham, was turned away, I began to fear my journey was going to be wasted. And so it was. I told the truth and paid the price. Was I an Ebbsfleet fan? Well, not really, but I do come on occasions. Do you have a Gravesend postcode? Err, no. He didn't exactly tell me to clear off, but I was on my way empty-handed.

On Thursday afternoon, when it was reported there were still 200 tickets for sale, I thought I give it another go on my way to work. This time I was better prepared. A Gravesend postcode courtesy of a work colleague and a ready answer for the question. Am I an Ebbsfleet fan? Of course. Do you come often? I come when I can. Name a game you been to? Bishops Stortford, won 2-1. Fine you can have a ticket. Postcode, good, you can have two. Truth is I got the question wrong! Do I feel guilty about my deception? Well no. There were still 80 tickets remaining on Friday morning and I feel that every Ebbsfleet fan that wanted one had one and at the end of the day, for reasons more of my dislike for Maidstone, I really wanted Ebbsfleet to win.

Ebbsfleet entered the game as the narrowest of favourites but really only because they held home advantage; all the end of season momentum was with Maidstone and this was reflected in the early period of the game when they took the game to their hosts who looked rabbits frozen in the headlights. Ebbsfleet goalkeeper, Nathan Ashmore, had some nervous moments as he flapped at several crosses but also made a point blank save to deny a Jay May header.

Very much against the run of the play, Ebbsfleet took the lead after 20 minutes. Manny Parry needlessly stuck out an arm when Stuart Lewis headed across the goal and the referee pointed to the spot. Danny Kedwell firmly struck his spot kick into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

Ebbsfleet grew in confidence and went into the break just about deserving their lead.

The visiting supporters didn't have to wait long into the second half before their side levelled the scoreline with a wonderful individual goal from Bobby-Joe Taylor. The youngster cut inside Tom Bonner, skipped another couple of challenges before placing his shot into the far corner.

Ebbsfleet responded well to the setback and Lee Worgan needed to be at his best to deny first, Jordan Parkes and then Matt Godden.

It was thrilling, end-to-end stuff with both sides having half chances to win the game before it moved into extra time.

Parry's hands were proving a potential match winner for Ebbsfleet when nine minutes into extra time he was once again penalised for hand ball and Kedwell converted with a blast straight down the middle.

Naturally, as time ebbed away, Maidstone threw everything they had left in the tank but looked to be coming up short as the home side contained them relatively comfortably. Ebbsfleet supporters were getting confident and started their "We are going up" chant, always a dangerous tempting of fate. And so it proved.

A hopeful ball slung into the penalty area failed to be cleared and when the ball dropped to Dumebi Dumaka he fired into the bottom corner to delight the Swanscombe End.

Nine months work came down to 10 spot kicks. Tom Bonner failed with Ebbsfleet's third, but this was levelled when Dumaka failed with his attempt. At 4-3, up stepped Kedwell for this third spot kick of the match and this time Worgan gambled, stood up and as the striker went for power down the centre once more, the Maidstone captain saved.

Yesterday, albeit without the desired result, was my 100th game of the season, the first time that I've managed that "achievement". My good friends, Jim Case and Eddie Allcorn, have far exceeded that number, but its feels good to be amongst the groundhopping glitterati! Having come tantilisingly close last season with 96, when I approached the century this time I was determined to make it. Next season, should I get anywhere near, it will be by accident rather than design. No more neutral games like the boring Erith Town v Cray Valley 0-0 draw that I endured just to tick a number. I bumped into Jim so many times along the way and despite the game in front of us not always being the most exciting, the catch-ups were always worth the time.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Gillingham 1 Millwall 2

Match 99/15/1304 - Sunday, 8th May 2016 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Egan 90+1
Millwall (0) 2 O'Brien 55, Gregory (pen) 90+7
Attendance: 9,375

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 56/6,959

Match Report

It needed a miracle of five fishes proportions but when they turned up with the loaves, Gillingham couldn't muster so much as a box of fish fingers.

For a side that goes into the play-offs with a quite decent chance of winning them, Millwall were not that good. Truth is, they didn't need to be.

The atmosphere at Priestfield was vibrant. Gillingham remained in with a sniff, but matters elsewhere left it out of their hands, whilst Millwall's place in the play-offs was assured but needed a result to ensure home advantage in the second leg. The police had set a limit on 1,100 tickets for the visiting supporters, far too few and it begged the question, originally levelled against Gillingham, that there was a case for opening up the bottom tier of the Brian Moore Stand leaving a block vacant either side for segregation. But, it later emerged, when Millwall fans had infiltrated all areas of Priestfield that it was Kent Police that insisted on the restriction by virtue of not wanting a larger number of visiting supporters around the town prior to kick-off.

It was, of course, a recipe for trouble, which happened but was largely contained in a manner that didn't sit well with Gillingham supporters, but ultimately served its purpose.

A lot is said about momentum coming into the play-offs and the teams were polar opposites. Gillingham's run of eight games without a win had all but destroyed their hopes whilst Millwall's surge had a five wins in six count.

Gillingham's failing to capitalise on good starts was once again evident and they cut out the early chances but Deji Oshilaja's header that was high and wide was about all they managed from the pressure.

After the initial pressure, Millwall started to dominate from midfield. Aiden O'Brien was sent through on goal but was denied by Stuart Nelson and the Gillingham goalkeeper produced a magnificent save to deny Mark Beevers with the follow-up shot hitting the bar.

In the early stages of the second half, Gillingham were still looking to stretch Lions' keeper Jordan Archer for the first time when the visitors took the lead. Nelson smothered Steve Morison's initial shot but the rebound fell kindly to O'Brien who had time to pick his spot into the bottom corner.

With results elsewhere not going Gillingham's way, in fact Barnsley were blitzing the champions Wigan, there was little else to play for but pride and Bradley Dack in particular showed an energy of wanting to go out in style.

Morison crashed another effort against the bar with 15 minutes remaining before ex-Gllingham youngster, Mahlon Romeo saw red for a rash challenge on Brennan Dickenson.

Into six minutes of added time and it seemed Gillingham had at least the consolation of not losing to their local rivals when at the far post John Egan scored off the underside of the bar to level the score.

But it was not to be. A ridiculous challenge from Dickenson led to the award of a penalty from which Lee Gregory scored.

So a season that, unexpectedly offered so much, petered out with pretty much a whimper. Fact is, at the season's start if the realists within the Gillingham support had been offered ninth, a top half finish, we would have said thanks very much. But then, we get greedy don't we.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Glebe 2 Sutton Athletic 1

Match 98/15/1303 - Saturday, 7th May 2016 - Kent Invicta Trophy Final

Glebe (0) 2 Alderman 83, Golding 114
Sutton Athletic (1) 1 Murray 10
Attendance: 173

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 54/6,903
Played at Sheppey United
New Ground: 286

A game that was a great credit both to the clubs involved and the Kent Invicta League with a winning goal that could grace any Final at any level.

Having crossed the impressive Sheppey bridge to take us onto the island, Holm Park is a welcoming facility. The booming music might not have been to my taste but it sort of purveyed the carnival atmosphere of a Cup Final.

The first thing you notice, with a little bit of wonderment, was the pitch. For this late stage in the season, it was absolutely immaculate. Even inside the six yard boxes there was barely a bald patch of grass. You had to pinch yourself to remember that this was Kent Invicta League level. There was a small, but perfectly formed, grandstand and a covered enclosure behind the Botany Road End, over the top of which, in the distance, you could see a container ship in dock.

As to the game itself, I have to differ from the viewpoint of the respective managers who described the game as a bit scrappy. Once again, taking account of the level, I thought it was of a standard that certainly would not have disgraced the level above, Southern Counties East, it was competitive and on the whole, entertaining.

The game ultimately hinged on one poor clearance from the Sutton Athletic goalkeeper, Dean James, that landed at the feet of Glebe's Danny Gannon. As the striker had a clear shot at an open goal when he was hauled back by Chris Mirrlees the referee had no alternative but to show the red card.

Sutton had taken an early lead when a superb bypass dissected to defenders and Johnny Murray fastened on to it and curled a fine finish past the Glebe goalkeeper, Alfie George.

Once they had gone down to ten men, it was backs to the wall stuff from Sutton, but they produced a defensive masterclass putting bodies on the line as the Chislehurst team sought to level the game.

At the start of the second half, Sutton might have given themselves some breathing space as Arlie Desangnes placed shot was saved by George's outstretched leg.

Sutton's captain, Sean Heather was the hero as twice he made goal line clearances to preserve their fragile lead. Ismail Ismail, so good they named his twice (couldn't resist it) seeing his mazy run and shot beat James but not the desperate defending of Heather.

There appeared to be no way back for Glebe as Ryan Golding's shot on the turn was brilliant kept out of the top corner by James.

Among the neutrals in the crowd, there had to be just a little sympathy for Sutton when Glebe finally equalised with seven minutes remaining. A long throw into the box was laid back to James Alderman whose shot went in off the far post.

The opening chances of extra time went to Glebe but it was Desanges that went closest hooking the ball agonisingly wide after looping his shot over the advancing keeper.

As penalties approached, what could almost be my champagne moment of the season arrived. A long throw into the penalty area found Golding cushion the ball on his chest and as the ball dropped, with his back to goal, produced a sensational overhead kick into the far corner. It was a winner to grace the Champions League, but it won the Kent Invicta Challenge Trophy.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Tonbridge U16 5 Tunbridge Wells U16 0

Match 97/15/1302 - Wednesday, 4th May 2016 - Ryman Under-16 League

Tonbridge (2) 5 Taylor 7, Cussen 37,86, Fenton (pen) 57, Baker 74
Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Headcount: 100

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/6,849

Despite Tunbridge Wells contributing greatly to an entertaining game, Tonbridge cruised to an easy victory and with it the Ryman Under-16 League title. This completes a hugely successful season for the Angels' year groups with league titles at Under-14, 15 and 16 years.

Unfortunately, with no team sheet, I was initially unable to name the Tunbridge Wells players, but on a later edit, some of the Wells names were able to be added thanks to Graeme Fussell.

The Wells started brightly and Rhys Bartlett shot very narrowly wide after just three minutes and a couple of minutes later Sammie Mcleod hit a post. They were to rue their misses when two minutes later Jack Cussen stood up a cross for Guy Taylor to head home.

The match went into a fairly end-to-end, certainly competitive encounter, until the 36th minute when Cussen buried a shot into the bottom corner after a measured pass from Jack Fenton.

Tunbridge Wells opened the second half brightly as well but wasted a good opportunity when the Luke Davies shot over and once again they were made to pay when after 55 minutes they conceded a penalty through a push on Olly Baker. Fenton converted from the spot.

I then added to my education of youth football when I was informed of the rule of rolling substitutes!

Tonbridge were now in control of the game and it took a blinding save from the Wells goalkeeper to deny them a fourth. This was not long in coming when Laws crossed for Baker to tuck in from close range.

The Wells' keeper excelled again with another fine stop before, with seven minutes to go, Cussen wrapped up the evening with a fine shot from the edge of the box.

I must add an honourable mention to the smallest lad on the pitch, Tunbridge Wells Harrison Hatfull, who had a terrific game at right full back and looked a good prospect.

According to my watch, with three minutes to go, the referee decided that enough was enough and called the game to a premature end, perhaps something else I didn't know about youth football!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Metropolitan Police 4 Tonbridge 0

Match 96/15/1301 - Tuesday, 3rd May 2016 - Suburban Shield Final

Metropolitan Police (1) 4 Unwuachu 43, Alexis 52, Chislett 76,
Brown 88

Tonbridge (0) 0
Headcount: 70
Played at Corinthian

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 70/6,813

A poor performance from Tonbridge Reserves saw them surrender the Suburban Shield to the Metropolitan Police with a rather heavy 4-0 defeat. Lucky to go into the break just a goal behind, they conceded two more of a similar nature to the opener. The Met Police right winger, Rhys King, getting to the bye-line and producing a cross for a tap-in. The fourth goal was a nightmare for substitute goalkeeper, Aaron McGuigan, who missed his kick allowing the Met player to walk the ball in. It was a far cry from last year's stirring comeback from the Angels to secure an extra time win against the same opponents.

The opening 35 minutes were largely uneventful with Ethan Chislett causing the Tonbridge defence significant concern whilst a Jack Brivio shot that narrowly cleared the bar was the best effort from the Kent side.

After Raul Alexis had fired wide, Rory Spence had Tonbridge's best chance of the half. He got a fortunate break of the ball to send him clear, but one-on-one with the goalkeeper he took too long and the 'keeper smothered his shot.

Two minutes before the break the Police took a deserved lead. A cross from King was touched home by Ifeanyi Onwuachu from close range.

Controversy arose literally seconds before the break. A Tonbridge player received attention for an injury received in a challenge that was deemed a foul by the referee. When the free kick was taken, as the ball was in the air, the referee blew his whistle for half-time as it was headed into the net. A touch of the Clive Thomas's from years ago.

Just two minutes of the second half had elapsed when King crossed once more for Alexis to tap-in to double the Police's advantage.

Tonbridge's best outlet was Jermaine Johnson and he created an early chance for himself, but delayed his shot and was closed down.

Tonbridge were pressing early in the half but a poor touch from Spence and a some dithering from the same man when offered opportunities denied them chances.

The Angels had the ball in the net after 69 minutes from a Brivio header but this was chalked off for offside.

Fourteen minutes from time, the same scenario, King into the box and Chislett to touch home the Met's third.

Into the last four minutes, Tonbridge had the opportunity of a consolation goal when they were awarded a penalty for a push on Callum Taylor. Royce Greenidge, who had a poor game, struck his penalty to the goalkeeper's right, but Kosakis was equal to it, pushing it away to safety.

A minute later a nightmare moment for Aaron McGuigan, substitute goalkeeper from half-time, when he missed his kick in attempting a clearance which allowed a Met Police substitute, Brown, the luxury of walking the ball into the net.

Metropolitan Police, a much stronger side than last year, could complete a League and Shield double when they make up their games in hand whilst Tonbridge have finished their season, at present, in fourth position.

Team photographs courtesy of David Couldridge

Monday, 2 May 2016

Erith & Belvedere 0 Hollands & Blair 2

Match 95/15/1300 - Monday, 2nd May 2016 - SCEL Challenge Cup Final

Erith & Belvedere (0) 0
Hollands & Blair (1) 2 Prescott 5,82
Attendance: 326
Played at Welling United

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 70/6,743

Hollands & Blair finshed their debut season in the Southern Counties East League with silverware in the shape of the Challenge Cup. The Gillingham based club have had a fine season chasing the big money club of the league, Greenwich Borough, all the way before falling off the pace in the last month to eventually finish runners-up.

Erith & Belvedere have had a difficult season and finished languishing in 16th position in a 19 team league, not what would be expected of one of the historically grand old clubs of Kent.

Blair were quickly out of the blocks and created a scoring opportunity after just 17 seconds and after two minutes Justin Ascheri saw a well hit volley go narrowly wide.

So it was no surprise when H&B took the lead after five minutes. A corner from the right taken by Ascheri was met with a towering, but unchallenged, header from Sam Prescott to open the scoring.

On the quarter-hour, Erith made their first foray into opposition territory with a header that drifted wide but two minutes later, goalkeeper Rilwan Anibaba looked to have allowed a cross from the left to go over his head, but somehow managed to palm it to safety.

The Kent side continued to dominate with corners from Ascheri and Bryan Greenfield, who had taken the skipper's armband after Steve Dampier was forced to leave the field after 20 minutes, causing all sorts of problems.

The Deres problems multiplied just before half-time when Liam Wright got needlessly involved in an altercation with Hollands' keeper Dan Ellis and appeared to head butt the custodian and received a red card for his trouble.

The league's leading goalscorer, James McDonald, should have added to his season's total of 35 goals with three opportunities in three minutes. Two headers and a shot all narrowly missing the target.

On the hour, Rob Denness, McDonald's strike partner with 18 of his own this term, fired in a powerful shot that was beaten away by Anibaba and then a cheeky backheel from McDonald deserved a reward for its invention.

For all their dominance and personnnel advantage it took until eight minutes from the end for Hollands to seal the trophy. A cross from the right, was hooked into the net from within a crowded penalty area but Prescott.

There were two late efforts and a last gasp strike of the woodwork from McDonald as the star striker had an unusual blank day; not that he would have minded as he collected his winner's medal.