Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Merstham 5 Tonbridge 3

Match 32/16/1340 - Tuesday, 28th September 2016 - Ryman Premier

Merstham (2) 5 Henriques 30, Penny 32,63, Bennett 49, Folkes 88
Tonbridge (1) 3 Scannell 11, Allen 52, Fortnam-Tomlinson 90+2
Attendance: 223

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 96/2,963
New Ground: 295

Match Report

Occasionally something so unexpected happens, you have to say: "Whoa, didn't see that coming". No, I didn't expect Sam Allardyce to be sacked after 67 days either.

In the space of eight days, Tonbridge have gone from a defence that was tighter than the proverbial duck's backside to that of a leaky, old sieve. A week ago, at Longmead, Leiston's second half comeback from 2-0 down was brushed aside with the great credit given to the visitors who showed their credentials as title chasers. On Saturday at Bognor Regis, the reports that I have received were that, in the second half in particular, Tonbridge were pretty poor, going down 2-0. But there still was no suggestion of the capitulation that was to follow at Merstham.

Loss of certain playing personnel, George Beaven and Tommy Parkinson, have contributed to the defensive fragility in many of the supporter's eyes but this cut little ice with manager Steve McKimm who considered his squad strong enough to cope with the losses.

If Tonbridge were to bounce straight back from the defeat at Bognor, they certainly signalled their intent with a bright start in Surrey that culminated with a goal after 10 minutes. A strong run from Craig Dundas ended with a pass, inside the box, to set up a shooting opportunity for Nathan Elder. The big striker didn't shoot first time but manoeuvred himself into a better position but saw his shot parried away by the Merstham goalkeeper, Phil Wilson. The rebound fell kindly for Damian Scannell, who finished calmly into a largely open goal.

Merstham replied in a fashion but a cross-cum-shot was palmed away by Anthony Di Bernardo and from a corner a free header sailed harmlessly over.

Tonbridge went close to doubling their advantage after 26 minutes when a 25 yard shot from Tom Phipp was narrowly wide.

After 29 minutes, Tonbridge needlessly conceded a corner when Jack Parter allowed the ball to cross the line thinking that a goal kick would result. From the resultant corner, delivered to the near post, Tutu Henriques turned the ball in.

Within two minutes, the home side were in front. A free kick for a foul, cheaply given away on the left hand side of the box, was floated in towards the near post and it was the diminutive Charlie Penny that met Xavier Vidal's delivery to glance it into the net. Within a minute, Tonbridge were extremely lucky not to fall further behind as the same move this time ended with Penny directing his header against the upright.

Tonbridge's sought to rectify matters in the remaining time of the half. A long ball over the top was headed clear by the goalkeeper but straight to Scannell whose lob towards the empty net was too high.

In the opening minute of the second half, Dundas broke free, but his goal-bound shot was cleared from the line and following a corner, Elder's header was also cleared to safety.

Tonbridge paid for their wastefulness almost immediately. A through ball saw Dan Hector running into the box and brought down by Ugo Udoji leaving the referee no alternative but to point to the spot.

As Vidal prepared for his spot kick, it was clearly audible that the Tonbridge bench were imploring their side to follow the ball in after the spot kick. Vidal's shot to Di Bernardo's right was brilliant saved but Dan Bennett was the man alive to the rebound and shot home. The bench did their bit, the goalkeeper did his, the rest stood and watched.

A real end-to-end encounter was no ensuing. Three minutes later Tonbridge were back in it at 3-2 when Luke Allen fired a free kick low into the bottom corner and in the space of five minutes, half-chances for Allen, Dundas and Nick Wheeler might have brought the scores level.

The next goal, however, fell to Merstham courtesy of a surging run through midfield from Bennett, who skipped a couple of challenges to play in Penny for the in-form striker to secure Merstham's 4-2 lead.

With 15 minutes remaining, Tonbridge might well have set up a big finish but for a linesman's flag. Luke Blewden, on as a substitute for Scannell, followed in what appeared to be a goalbound shot, but his touch rendered him offside and the goal was disallowed. Did he need to touch it? Opinions differed from where you were watching, to me it looked as if it was going in, others from behind the goal said is was not. It is a striker's instinct and Blewden was desperate for a goal.

As it was Omar Folkes, a Merstham substitute drilled a powerful shot into the bottom corner to make it 5-2 with three minutes remaining.

There was still time for Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson to curl in an absolute beauty of the edge of the box into the top corner for a goal that deserved better than consolation status.

Merstham are a team that for six games from the start couldn't buy a win and, aside from three goals scored in a 4-3 defeat to Hendon, could barely buy a goal. A FA Cup win at home to Southern Combination side East Preston seemingly unlocked the gates and since then goals have flooded in at the Moatside. They put six past Grays Athletic, before Charlie Penny arrived, and following, five past Harrow Borough and now five past Tonbridge. Penny, 20 goals last season, has returned after an unsuccessful early season with National League Woking has scored four in two games. Vidal and Bennett proved dominant in midfield against Tonbridge, but the eye-catching performance came from Alex Addai who gave Jack Parter as difficult a game as I've seen in two years.

This was my first visit to the Moatside where we were afforded a warm welcome, although some of the antics in front of the boardroom in the second half left a little to be desired.

It is a nice tidy ground with a decent sized main stand that seats about 150 and another behind one goal that is very small, seating about 30. One thing worthy of mention, harking back to the good old days of Tunbridge Wells Football Club, the tea bar served up your cuppa in a china mug.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Gillingham 2 Coventry City 1

Match 31/16/1339 - Saturday, 24th September 2016 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Ehmer 25, Knott 71
Coventry City (1) 1 Reid 20
Attendance: 7,664

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/2,867

Match Report

On Sunday morning I posed a simple question on a Gillingham Facebook Forum: Do you ENJOY watching Gillingham at this present time? My question was posed almost to justify my own feeling which is No. The responses amounted to a bit of tub thumping: Gillingham are my team, win, lose or draw, which is very admirable to others who answered No, but justified their reasons or those whose simply answered No. There were a few that said Yes, but almost all of these added the caveat, that the day wasn't necessarily about the result or how the team had performed, but more about a day out with their mates, once again completely understandable.

Justin Edinburgh sent his assistant manager, David Kerslake, down to do the media interviews following the game and he admitted that due to a lack of confidence following two home games that had yielded just a single point; games that had been lost from a winning position and last week at Port Vale plus the thumping at Tottenham. Because of this, he admitted lacked style but this would come as results improved and confidence grew.

Personally, I think it goes back a lot further than the last four games. Even in the early season period when Gillingham headed the table, I'm convinced that not even the most die hard of supporters would have claimed they were stylish.

At the end of the season, it comes down to what you want from your club. Do you want them to win matches, no matter how or would you prefer to see them go down fighting with a bit of pizzazz. I'm sitting on the fence and claiming you can have a bit of both, pragmatism coupled with a little devilment going forward. I should also add the perspective that, at this present time, it could hardly be labelled a crisis with the club sitting just outside of the play-off places.

Such a preamble would probably lead you to the conclusion that this game wasn't a great deal to write home about and you would be correct. I'm certainly pragmatic enough to realise the importance of any victory to banish the memory of Wednesday night and ultimately it was gained, although there seemed to be more than the odd person leaving Priestfield asking the question as to whether it was deserved.

Coventry City, didn't look and are probably not, a bottom of the table side. They lacked a cutting edge in the final third and conceded two goals that will give manager Tony Mowbray, a hard-bitten defender in his time, nightmares.

Billy Knott, recalled to the side, tested the Coventry goalkeeper, Reice Charles-Cook in the opening minute whilst, after five minutes, Marvin Sordell was sent through for the visitors, only to be blocked at his feet by the advancing Stuart Nelson, who took a knock for his trouble and was the recipient of attention for a couple of minutes.

After 12 minutes, Gillingham should have been in front. A Bradley Dack corner from the right was met with an unchallenged header from Deji Oshilaja, but the central defender steered it well wide.

The visitors went ahead after 21 minutes when the impressive Kyel Reid found space 20 yards from goal on the left and fired an accurate shot into the bottom right hand corner.

The 380-strong travelling support were quickly silenced when Coventry succumbed to Gillingham's long throw tactic. Ryan Jackson threw to the near post where it was met by the head of Max Ehmer who glanced it past the goalkeeper. I cannot believe that League One sides continue to fail to defend this straightforward action.

McDonald for the Gills and Sordell for City tested each other's goalkeeper before the break without troubling them too much.

Josh Wright, who had a particularly poor first half, was replaced for the second half by Mark Byrne.

The second half was one of deadlock before Gillingham took the lead after 71 minutes. McDonald dispossessed a defender before sending Knott away down the left in acres of space. The midfielder strode unchallenged to the edge of the box before producing a composed finish into the bottom right hand corner.

With nothing to lose, Coventry piled forward in search of an equaliser. Reid and Ben Stevenson had shots on target before, in time added, Nelson made a great stop at his near post to deny Sordell and preserve the points.

A win is a win. Gillingham gave away 2,000 tickets to schoolchildren for this match, boosting the attendance to over 7,000. But I do wonder if many of the Mums and Dads were entertained sufficiently to pay full-price for admittance at a later date.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Tottenham Hotspur 5 Gillingham 0

Match 30/16/1338 - Wednesday, 21st September 2016 - Football League Cup 3R

Tottenham Hotspur (1) 5 Eriksen 31,48 Janssen 51 (pen) Onomah 65 Lamela 68
Gillingham (0) 0
Attendance: 26,244

Entrance: £15 Senior
Programme: £3.50
Mileage: 120/2,811

Match Report

These opportunities come along far too infrequently for clubs in the lower two tiers of the Football League for them not to be enjoyed, unfortunately on this occasion, whilst the supporters might have enjoyed their night at White Hart Lane, the players themselves failed to do themselves justice and would, I am sure, walked away feeling disappointed.

In past years FA Cup ties against the London giants have also seen Gillingham concede five goals, but each time I left the stadium feeling comfortable that they had done the best they could under the circumstances. In 2000 Chelsea put five past the Gills without reply in the sixth round of the FA Cup, but two goals in the last seven minutes gave a scoreline that didn't reflect the performance. Also, the Gillingham supporters were wallowing in the glory of a sixth round place for the first time. Two years later, and it was Arsenal at Highbury. Once again, five goals were conceded but nobody from Kent will ever forget the moment that Gillingham went 2-1 up and Arsene Wenger was forced to summon Thierry Henry and Robert Pires from the bench to rescue the situation.

I'm certainly not going down the road of some social media accusations of a lack of effort and I don't think any of the players should feel embarrassed at the performance but, even a Tottenham side with only five regular starters, exposed a gulf in class. In recent years, I haven't heard the probably outdated term "they ran rings round us" used but that is exactly what happened. A quick, accurate, short passing game from the middle of the park left me dizzy in the stands whilst our midfield just chased shadows.

In the first half, move after move in this fashion had only one ending, the ball at the feet of either Vincent Janssen, an £18 million pound signing from AZ Alkmaar, who couldn't hit a barn door from three yards or Lamela, who was similarly misfiring.

The chances continued to mount without troubling the scoreboard operator, by the time it got to double figures we gave up counting.

The principle criticism that can be levelled at Gillingham on the night was not that they allowed Tottenham to weave patterns of 15, 20 or more passes around them, but when the move foundered, they just gave the ball straight back to them and almost said have another go.

Gillingham suffered a bad start to the evening when goalkeeper Jonathan Bond, who made a great second minute to save to deny Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela after ten minutes, went down injured and was unable to continue. The reception that substitute goalkeeper Stuart Nelson received from the travelling support bristled the hairs on the back of your neck.

Just as we started to dream of an unlikely journey to half-time without conceding, Eriksen cracked in a shot from 25 yards of which the movement of the ball appeared to beat Nelson as much as the pace.

In fairness to Janssen he was doing everything else but score. After 38 minutes he rounded Nelson only to see Deji Oshilaja clear from the line. Gillingham actually got a sight of the Tottenham goalposts just before the break but Jay Emmanuel Thomas' effort was in greater danger of clearing the stand than the goal. Never mind, considering the one-way traffic, it had been a monumental effort to get to the break just a goal in arrears. Having lulled our Premiership hosts into a false sense of security, we could take the game to them in the second period (half-time toilet humour).

Slightly more than five minutes into the second half the game was over as a contest as a superb passing move sent Eriksen through one-on-one to slot past Nelson and when Oshilaja brought down Kieron Trippier in the box, Eriksen passed up his hat-trick opportunity to offer Janssen the chance to do better from 12 yards with only the keeper to beat. This is duly did for his first Tottenham goal.

Two goals in two minutes from the 65th minute left me wondering whether the penultimate day of the cricket season might yield a cricket score. Joshua Onomah curled a shot past Nelson and Lamela also proved that he had a rough idea where the goal was when he shot into the bottom corner.

The chances were now arriving with such abandon there were far too many to list.

Those of you who know White Hart Lane would also know that it is a pig of a ground to get away from, so with 13 minutes remaining and Emmanuel Osadebe sending a shot into the night sky, we shamefully took our chance to depart the scene. I plead mercy for the crime by reason of the fact that I managed to catch a train home an hour earlier than I expected.

This is Tottenham's last season at White Hart Lane before it is demolished, with this phase underway with part of the North Stand already bulldozed. There is no doubt that it is long overdue. The stadium is outdated and tired with the stairways very close, in my opinion, to being a health and safety risk. The toilets at Priestfield (which are very good) are like the penthouse in the Savoy in comparison to those at Tottenham, which really can be classified as the bogs.

Outclassed on the field they might have been, but the near 3,000 Gillingham supporters who sang their hearts out throughout, were different class.

Tonbridge 2 Leiston 2

Match 29/16/1337 - Tuesday, 20th September 2016 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 2 Folkes 25, Allen 38
Leiston (0) 2 Heath 48, Blake 68
Attendance: 497

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/2,691

Match Report

A great game to watch, a wonderful advert for the Ryman League Premier. The old cliche of a game of two halves can be recycled without it being any but the truth. Throw in for good measure a contender for goal of the season, even at this early stage, and you have an evening that was well worth the admission fee.

At the end of the evening, both teams that had begun the game with unbeaten records emerged with that particular statistic remaining in place. It is easy to get carried away with the top-of-the-table clash scenario and first versus second doesn't tell a lie, but with only seven games played the importance of this match will not be known for several months and by that time, they would have met again. The other billing was to be the most prolific attack in the division against the meanest defence.

Tonbridge started marginally the brighter of the two teams and twice in the opening 10 minutes the Leiston goalkeeper, Leon Ottley-Gooch spilt the ball from crosses to offer some further encouragement. After 15 minutes Tommy Parkinson produced one of his trademark headers from a corner at the far post but this was blocked on the line and cleared. At the other end, Matt Blake served notice as to why he has scored six goals already this season with two efforts in the space of a minute that were narrowly wide.

However, it was the home side that took the lead after 25 minutes from the unlikely source of James Folkes, whose cross-cum-shot towards the far post sailed straight in. Did he mean it? Of course he did!

Anthony Di Bernardo was called into action after 36 minutes when the ball fell kindly in the box for Gareth Heath whose shot was saved at the close range.

Two minutes later and Luke Allen produced his contender for goal of the season. Folkes passed the ball inside to Allen who started his run from inside the centre circle in his own half. He surged into the space in front of him; as two defenders sought to close him down he rounded them to unleash a shot from 20 yards that sailed past Ottley-Gooch.

Cliche alert and we all know the importance of the third goal in any football match. Whether Leiston had a flea in their ear from their manager, but whatever had been said, the visitors flew out of the traps and halved the deficit within two minutes of the restart with a good strike from the edge of the box from Heath.

Leiston's tails were now up and they pushed on in search of an equaliser. A free kick into the box led to a scramble and Blake pounced to poke the ball home. Offside claims led to the referee consulting the linesman but the goal was allowed to stand.

Chances came and went for both sides in the remaining minutes before the referee brought the game to a close with both sides deserving of something out of the game.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Tonbridge U18 4 Phoenix Sports U18 0

Match 28/16/1336 - Monday, 19th September 2016 - FA Youth Cup 1QR

Tonbridge U18 (0) 4 Sollis 41,50,83 Chapman 90+1
Phoenix Sports U18 (0) 0
Attendance: 172

Entrance: £2
Programme: With entrance
Mileage: 38/2,653

So far, retirement hasn't brought me much satisfaction. True, I don't miss the driving to London every night and it's pretty good getting my body clock back into the normal day-night mode but, more than anything else, I miss the daily banter of my ex-workmates. One great positive is that after over 20 years of being restricted to Tuesday night football during the week, I can now go any evening I like and with that I have discovered Tonbridge's Under-18 side and they are an absolute pleasure to watch.

I'm not saying it was all my own doing but I put out a plea on the Tonbridge forum that this side were worth watching and hoped a few extra would turn out for this FA Youth Cup tie. The response was brilliant, 172 paid on the night and putting that into context that is five more people than attended the senior side's FA Cup tie at Wingate and Finchley on Saturday.

After a lively start from Phoenix Sports with a first minute effort that Lewis Mitchell did well to tip over the bar, Tonbridge gained the upper hand and produced some eye-catching football that produced chance after chance. Henry Ikeije was the first to test the visiting goalkeeper before the night's eventual star man, Sid Sollis, shot narrowly wide. After 17 minutes, the goalkeeper palmed away a well taken free kick from Tommy Chapman, who's deliveries throughout the game left me thinking that perhaps there is another Wheeler in making.

The opportunities continued to mount through what began to look like an unlikely goal-less first period but four minutes before the break, Sollis drove a shot low into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to break the deadlock. Sollis might have doubled his account two minutes later after a splendid pass from Chapman but the goalkeeper saved well.

Five minutes into the second half, following a corner, Sollis hooked in from close range. At this point, a little mellee ensued and this is something I have noticed in the game at this level, whether it is youthful, testosterone-charged, but there does seem a bit of needle. I mentioned this to a refereeing friend, who told me this age group is probably the worst to officiate.

Sollis completed his hat-trick with seven minutes remaining finishing a pass from Richard Frempong into the bottom corner and celebrated in front of his enthusiastic fan club in the main stand.

In time-added a shot from Chapman was deflected past the goalkeeper, but the lad deserved a goal for a fine performance that on another night when Sollis wasn't scoring a hat-trick, would have been recognised.

I didn't expect them to, but Tonbridge Under-18s have become part of my retirement plan!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Wingate & Finchley 0 Tonbridge 3

Match 27/16/1335 - Saturday, 17th September 2016 - FA Cup 2QR

Wingate & Finchley (0) 0
Tonbridge (1) 3 Dundas 15,55 Elder 77
Attendance: 167

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 147/2,615

Tonbridge progressed comfortably through to the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, and the fans begin to wonder (with the Angels FA Cup record there is no level of expectancy) if the 44-year wait for a First Round Proper place is about to end.

Those supporters, who made up a good half of the meagre 167 attendance, have good reason to float that dream around their head as a tricky tie on paper in north London was navigated with relative ease.

Our own traffic problems began at the Tunnel (where else?) and although we made reasonably good time for the rest of the journey, we were still left to hot-foot it to the turnstiles with only five minutes to spare. Unfortunately, the programmes had sold out (167 and they run-out, how many did they print, 50?).

The conditions were bright, but very breezy with the pitch looking in very good condition.

Tonbridge started strongly and had their first opportunity after just four minutes when Craig Dundas' effort was cleared at the far post and a follow-up shot from Nick Wheeler was also blocked. It was the first sign that Dundas would be a thorn in Wingate's side all afternoon.

After a couple more half-chances, Tonbridge took the lead after 15 minutes. A corner from the right was met with a towering header from Tommy Parkinson which was initially parried by Wingate's goalkeeper, Shane Gore, but the rebound was headed over the line by Dundas.

The home side responded well with a couple of shots that brought comfortable saves from Anthony Di Bernardo and a free kick from Tommy Tejan-Sie that begged a touch but eluded everyone.

The second half opened with the visitors once more on the front foot. A long, mazy run across the face of the 18 yard box ended with a shot high, wide and not too handsome from Wheeler.

Ten minutes into the half, Tonbridge doubled their advantage with Dundas' second goal. A woeful clearance was intercepted by the Sutton loanee and although his first effort was blocked by Gore, he followed up to tuck in the rebound.

As followed the first half goal, the hosts responded and Di Bernardo was forced to punch clear under pressure and on the hour a shot from 25 yards by Tejan-Sie rattled the crossbar and immediately a Luke Ifill cross should have been converted at the far post but Tanasheh Abrahams headed wide.

A third goal was needed to put the tie to bed and Tonbridge thought they had it when Wheeler cut in from the left the fire a shot into the far corner but a linesman's flag ruled it out.

Thirteen minutes from the end, Tonbridge's name was put into the hat for the next round when Jack Parter, overlapping down the left, sent in an inch perfect for cross for Nathan Elder to power a header home from close range.

The home side's shoulder sank and Tonbridge could easily have added to the scoreline before the finish with further chances for Parkinson and Scannell.

44 years of hurt, never stopped us dreaming ...

Looking out on the football ...
... and looking out on the rugby

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Hollands & Blair 4 Lordswood 0

Match 26/16/1334 - Wednesday, 14th September 2016 - Southern Counties East

Hollands & Blair (2) 4 Lockyer 8, McDonald 40, Simon 47, Staff 80
Lordswood (0) 0
Attendance: 126

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 45/2,468

The ball dropped 20 yards from goal and with a wave of the magic wand that was the right foot of the wizard it sailed into the top corner past a spellbound Harry Potter. No, it wasn't quite Hogwarts, but Star Meadow and the wizard was Jack Simon, but when you've a goalkeeper called Harry Potter on the field, it was too good a tale not to embellish.

Since my first visit to Star Meadow on a freezing cold night in January, there have been some changes other than a much warmer evening. The entrance to the ground has been moved to the opposite corner and entry brings you directly to a new covered seating enclosure that holds not too many but probably satisfies the ground grading people for Step Six.

On the management side, the long-serving Paul Piggot has left to be replaced as manager by Bryan Greenfield and the free-scoring Rob Denness has joined Greenwich. The club have done well though to retain the services of the Southern Counties East leading goalscorer from last season, James McDonald.

Lordswood started the season well and topped the table but recently have taken a couple of heavy defeats and found themselves quickly on the back foot against Hollands. Justin Ascheri clipped the top of the bar in the opening minute and McDonald pulled an opportunity narrowly wide of the post a minute later. Lordswood's luck was not to hold though and Gary Lockyer hooked a shot over his shoulder to give the hosts a seventh minute lead.

A fine through ball sent McDonald clear, leaving Potter helpless as the clinical striker doubled Hollands advantage in the 39th minute.

Just two minutes had elapsed in the second period when Simon performed his piece of magic. Although the half remained one-sided it took the hosts until ten minutes from time to add a fourth when Tom Staff climbed at the far post to head home a corner.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Folkestone Invicta 0 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 25/16/1333 - Tuesday, 13th September 2016 - Ryman League Cup

Folkestone Invicta (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 1 Blewden 83
Attendance: 224

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 75/2,423

Match Report

In the season of Arsenal's "Invincibles", 2003-04, the club's supporters took great delight proclaiming "1-0 to the Arsenal" with reference to their great ability to grind-out the single goal victory. Whether it was fact or jealousy, opposition supporters just labelled them Boring, Boring Arsenal. I'm hoping that Ryman club supporters are not going to see Steve McKimm's Tonbridge side in that light, but they have developed that same ability to protect a clean sheet.

Steve McKimm substantively changed his back line with George Beaven and Ugo Udoji returning from injury allowing Sonny Miles a night off and James Folkes retiring to the bench. In between the sticks, young Louis Lawlor had a very impressive debut with two fine first half saves, clean handling and very good kicking.

Tommy Whitnell and Luke Blewden gained some valuable game time along with Tashi-Jay Kwayie and a full 90 minutes for Tom Phipp, who showed authority in midfield that we briefly glimpsed before his serious injury.

Tonbridge might have gone in front with less than a minute on the clock when Damian Scannell, who was outstanding on the night, pulled a shot from the right side of the box narrowly wide of the left hand post and when he was brought down in the box after six minutes, he was shown a yellow card for diving. It looked a poor decision (seen through Angels eyes) whilst a very vocal Invicta supporter suddenly saw the referee in a completely different light. Such are opinions.

Lawlor made his only mistake of the night when a poor clearance allowed a return shot on an empty goal that cleared the bar. It was the youngster's only heart-stopping moment.

Tonbridge dominated the first half without finding the net. Blewden, Whitnall, a Jerrome Sobers header and Kwayie was through on goal before a last ditch saving tackle denied his opportunity.

Folkestone were pretty toothless with our old friend, Carl Rook, quite anonymous.

The second half followed much the same pattern although Lawlor was required to make an early save.

Penalties were starting to loom large when with 14 minutes to go Blewden smacked the ball with a shot from the edge of the box and immediately after brought a save from the Folkestone goalkeeper. The striker was not to be denied though, and with seven minutes remaining, he took aim from the edge of the box and the ball flew past the despairing goalkeeper.

The visitors comfortably saw out the tie to earn a second round home game against Sittingbourne.

New York Red Bulls 2 DC United 2

Match 24/16/1332 - Sunday, 11th September 2016 - MLS Eastern Conference

New York Red Bulls (1) 2 Veron 33 B. Wright-Phillips 54
DC United (0) 2 Birnbaum 89 Neagle 90+5
Attendance: 20,086

Entrance: $8.95
Programme: None
Mileage: 41/2,348 (from hotel)

Match Report

Our visit to New York was primarily for the US Open Tennis. Of course, with the wife in tow, there had to be a little (a lot) shopping, a bit of sightseeing but there has to be time made available to see the Red Bulls.

This was our second visit to the Red Bull Arena and, once again, the club are chasing the end-of-season play-offs and the Eastern Conference championship. They are challenged by their city rivals, New York City and the present league leaders, Toronto, who following the weekend results are two points clear with a game in hand. Red Bulls are second by virtue of their superior goal difference to New York City.

Wherever you are in the world, and whatever level you are watching, one thing never changes, it's goals that win matches and if you don't take your chances then, invariably, it will come back to bite you.

Red Bulls should have sewn this game up long before an 89th minute goal gave DC United a little bit of hope. It was almost inevitable that in the last seconds of the five added minutes with the DC goalkeeper in the Red Bulls penalty area for a corner that the ball was bundled into the net to give the Washington side an unlikely point.

Nothing comes cheap in New York, I won't bore you with the tale of an Indian meal that left us feeling mugged at gunpoint, so the tickets for the match at Harrison came as a bonus. The night previous to the match I had tried to book the seats online and, for whatever reason, the site just kept kicking me out until I lost patience and decided I would just buy from the ground knowing that there would not be anything like a full stadium.

On the day of the game, we were due to fly home the next day, I went to the hotel's laptop station to run out my boarding passes and noticed one of the bellboys trying to book tickets for a show. I told him my tale of woe from the previous evening and he asked me if I would like him to try StubHub, a site I have always thought was strictly for over-inflated price tickets. He asked me what I wanted to pay and I said that I had been trying for the $41 tickets in the top tier. You can imagine my delight when he secured those tickets for the princely sum of $8.95 including all the charges!

On my first visit to the Red Bulls, the lack of visiting supporters was very obvious, there was none at all travelling from Chicago. So, albeit the trip from Washington is a good deal shorter, it was good to see the knot of DC supporters there to support their club and credit to them, even at 2-0 down into the dying embers of the game they were still banging the drum.

Once again, the weekend marked the anniversary of 9/11 with the unfurling of the giant stars and stripes and a moving rendition of the national anthem, although the moment's silence was literally that, ten seconds tops.

The game looked plain sailing for the Red Bulls, who were buoyed by the previous night's defeat of their City rivals at New England Revolution. They huffed and puffed a little through a first half that lacked a bit of quality until a strong run from Sacha Kljestan took him to the bye-line; his cross was deflected upwards and Gonzalo Veron dived in to head home from close range.

Kljestan nearly doubled the Red Bulls advantage just before the break when he hit a post.

That lead should have been wiped out within three minutes of the second period when ex-Red Bulls Lloyd Sam (also ex of Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday) was through on goal but Louis Roubles came out on top in the one-on-one.

The Red Bulls lead was doubled, however, nine minutes into the half when Bradley Wright-Phillips emphatically finished after being sent clear by Danny Royer.
Almost immediately Wright-Phillips might have put the game beyond DC when his shot was parried to safety by the goalkeeper as the Red Bulls embarked on a create and waste period.

Kljestan, best player on the pitch, hit the inside of a post and Royer had a couple of chances in the space of a minute.

When DC pulled a goal back in the last minute, Birnbaum rifling home from an unmarked position on the right side of the box, and the board was held aloft showing five minutes added time, the sense of inevitability heightened.

Red Bulls lived dangerously, but just had one last corner to defend. The ball wasn't cleared and it fell to Neagle to stab it home from a yard leaving the Red Bulls players flat out on the ground and those DC fans wildly celebrating.

The final whistle was greeted with boos from the home support, more than a little harsh I felt.

This ended up very good entertainment for the small price paid. I'm disappointed the Americans haven't adopted the British passion for a matchday programme, they give away hats and posters and are very family friendly but the programme doesn't feature although at the tennis there was a new issue every day.

We had intended taking in the New York Cosmos on this trip, but an awkward journey for an evening game knocked it on the head, perhaps next time.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Tonbridge Angels U18 5 Ashford Town U18 0

Match 23/16/1331 - Wednesday, 31st August 2016 - Ryman League Under-18

Tonbridge (4) 5 Sollis 4, Frempong 12, Ikeije 29, Fenton 58, Bakare 82
Ashford Town (0) 0
Headcount: 55

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/2,307

With no team sheet and the first time I've seen Tonbridge's Under-18s this season, I bow to Dan Couldridge's superior knowledge of age group football and indulge in a bit of cut and paste from his Tonbridge Angels Forum posting.

A very impressive performance from a Tonbridge Angels side featuring several of last year's successful Under 16 squad with a selection of eye-catching performances from the newcomers.

Pick of the bunch were Sid Sollis, who backed up a four-goal haul at the weekend for the Reserves with a fourth minute header from 15 yards out that crashed in off the bar from Tommy Chapman's corner, and Richard Frempong, who has arrived from Bridon Ropes and is already on the radar of clubs at a higher level. Frempong showed some startling pace in attack, a real knack of staying on his feet under serious pressure despite his stature and wrapped up his performance with a fine goal, somehow keeping possession with three defenders around him and then firing into the top corner from just inside the penalty area.

That goal had arrived in he twelfth minute by which point the result was already in no doubt with Tonbridge asserting a clear superiority throughout the first half. Goal number three arrived with a great ball into the channel from Dom Welsh to Frempong, whose pace took him clear of the right-back and gave him time to unselfishly set up Henry Ikeije for a simple tap in.

Ashford certainly improved in the second half but there was little chance of a comeback. Jack Fenton scored the fourth, volleying in from the edge of the box after the ball had been half-cleared by a defender, before substitute Kunle Bakare wrapped things up with a dazzling run and finish.

The next opportunity to see this impressive Angels side is on Monday 19 September and the team would welcome your support. Dulwich Hamlet or Phoenix Sports will be the visitors in the FA Youth Cup 1st Qualifying Round.

I will add that on leaving the ground with a couple of seasoned spectators at this level, one remarked that this Tonbridge side were the best under-18s he had seen in many a year.