Sunday, 30 October 2016

Tunbridge Wells U18 1 Tonbridge U18 3

Match 46/16/1354 - Sunday, 30th October 2016 - Kent Youth League

Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 O'Neil 64
Tonbridge Angels (2) 3 McCreadie 26,28,83
Headcount: 30

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/3,669

Tonbridge eased to victory in their Kent Youth Premier League local derby against Tunbridge Wells at a foggy Culverden Stadium despite a spirited second half performance from their hosts.

Jay Stubberfield fielded four of his Ryman League players whilst Tunbridge Wells included Reece Bartlett, who has first team experience and Sammy McLeod, who played for Maidstone in the recent FA Youth Cup game.

The manager, speaking after the game, felt his side had dominated the game and controlled possession. He added: “Our diamond midfield with Jack Bray on the left and Liam Smith on the right gave us the perfect balance. I was very happy with the display but we should have scored more. Good to see Liam McCreadie scoring a hat-trick. This gives me a lot to think about for the next few Ryman squads.”

Tonbridge started on the front foot and within the first seven minutes the Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper, who was actually an outfield player because they had no available keeper, made saves from Tydest Augustus, Bray and Alex Bishop but were shocked when the home side rattled the bar after nine minutes.

On 23 minutes, James Nurden needed to be substituted by McCreadie and within three minutes his name was on the score sheet, his shot from outside the box going underneath the makeshift goalkeeper.

Four minutes later the advantage was doubled when a cross from the left was met by McCreadie, whose shot carried too much power for the keeper, who got his hands to the ball but could not prevent it from going in.

Realising the goalkeeper’s limitations, Tonbridge piled on the pressure but it was their own keeper, Sam Wolvey who needed to make a good save to preserve the score line.

Tunbridge Wells gave as good as they got for a period early in the second half and after 64 minutes pulled a goal back when Dan O'Neil's shot from 20 yards found its way under the diving body of Wolvey.

Tonbridge turned up the heat on their hosts following the goal. Smith crashed a shot against the underside of the bar, Will Jupp headed over from a corner and McCreadie shot wide.

Wolvey atoned for his error with a good save before McCreadie completed his hat-trick with a low shot past the outstretched feet of the goalkeeper.

Tonbridge 3 Ashford Town (Middlesex) 3

Match 45/16/1353 - Saturday, 29th October 2016 - FA Trophy 1QR

Tonbridge (0) 3 Wheeler 58,67 Elder 82
Ashford Town (Middlesex) (2) 2 Fleming 15 Bitmead 27, 53 (pen)
Attendance: 381

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,631

Crazy game. Time to recycle the famous phrase: "it's a funny old game, Saint".

This FA Trophy First Qualifying Round match was both bizarre and thrilling in equal measure. It all started with a delayed kick-off of 25 minutes because the visitors were held up on the M25. Normally, you would expect, that getting straight out of their cars/coach with little time to stretch the legs would lead to a slow start, but this was nothing like that. Mind you, if you hand two chances on a silver salver then you get what you deserve.

After four minutes a Tom Phipp free kick found Nathan Elder's head but the striker steered it wide and this was the pretext to the big man's afternoon.

Ashford Town (Middlesex) sounded a warning when Anthony Di Bernardo needed to be alert to smother the ball at the feet of Mark Bitmead.

After 15 minutes the visitors went ahead following a dreadful mix-up between Di Bernardo and Jerrome Sobers. A hopeful punt through the middle was chased by Dan Fleming, as the goalkeeper and central defender left it for each other, a panicky kick from Di Bernardo struck Fleming who was able to tuck the rebound into an open goal.

Worse was to follow after 26 minutes when a back pass from Sobers to his goalkeeper, whose clearance only made 10 yards to the feet of Fleming, who crossed for Bitmead to head into a, once more, open goal.

Tonbridge continued to create chances with the ball seemingly a magnet to Elder's head and the goal having the polar effect. After 34 minutes a cross from Luke Blewden saw Elder's header hit the bar.

Tonbridge needed a goal early second half to revive their Trophy hopes but these seemed all but dashed when a rash challenge from Ugo Udoji offered Ashford their chance to seemingly put the game to bed. Bitmead duly converted and only those that believed in the miracle of Wingate and Finchley were left with any optimism.

Those optimists were quickly inspired as a long throw from Blewden evaded all before falling at the feet of Nicky Wheeler, who rifled the ball into the bottom corner.

Nine minutes later and it was game on. Another long throw from Blewden was headed on in the box to Sonny Miles whose shot was blocked but the rebound fell again to Wheeler who scored in a similar fashion to his first.

It was now one-way traffic, the ball continuing to find the head of Elder, who continued to be thwarted by all means possible until eight minutes from time when a Wheeler free kick found the striker's head and this time the ball nestled in the bottom corner.

There was still time for the Wingate miracle to be repeated but it wasn't to be and from 3-0 anything other than a replay at Shorts Lane would be plain greedy.

Pictures courtesy of Ian Clear

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Tonbridge 2 Sittingbourne 0

Match 44/16/1352 - Tuesday, 25th October 2016 - Ryman League Cup

Tonbridge (0) 2 Phipp 50 Allen (pen) 90+2
Sittingbourne (0) 0
Attendance: 260

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 38/3,593

The highlight of the evening came long after the final whistle. Whilst waiting to give the Press Officer a lift home, the players filed past to enjoy their post-match food. A young lad wandered round slowly to be greeted by his Mum with a hug and a kiss that probably embarrassed him a little. It was a touching moment, one that Liam Smith's Mum deserved as much as her son, who had just completed an impressive 45 minutes as a second half substitute on his first team debut.

Given a different set of circumstances, an indifferent run of form and a heavy defeat on Saturday, I'm sure Steve McKimm would have liked to have given playing time, possibly even starts, to the other youngsters, Tommy Chapman and Callum Adonis-Smith that were named and remained on the bench. But a resolute Sittingbourne refused to give up their place in the Ryman League Cup without a fight until the dying minutes of the game.

In among those players walking/hobbling into the bar was a very glum looking Nathan Elder, whose night it just hadn't been. The big striker got into all the right areas time and again but when it came to the final finish, it just wasn't going to happen for him. Early chances from crosses by Luke Blewden and Tom Phipp were a foretaste of what was to come.

Sittingbourne's Steven Ita was proving a handful, although an early shot that was comfortably saved and one on the half-hour mark was about as much as the visitors could muster.

After 25 minutes, Damian Scannell needed to be replaced by Luke Allen.

Tommy Whitnell's header was narrowly wide after 40 minutes and just on the half-time whistle, Elder directed another wide.

James Folkes' injured groin gave the Smith the opportunity from the start of the second half. The 16-year-old made an early error, but quickly recovered his composure and from that point was not only defensively competent but raided down the right hand side at the every opportunity.

Luke Blewden was presenting cross-after-cross not just to the head of Elder. Jerrome Sobers directing another chance wide of the post.

The opening goal finally came after 50 minutes. I long throw from Blewden was only partially cleared to Whitnell, whose shot was deflected into the path of Phipp, whose close range effort was brilliant saved by Simon Overland but the return fell back at Phipp's feet who blasted a shot from six yards past the despairing goalkeeper.

Tonbridge were now well on top, but it was a night when chances went begging with careless abandon.

Phipp's hamstring strain led to the introduction of Nicky Wheeler.

Smith's raiding very nearly led to a champagne moment with five minutes remaining when his shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Overland but in time added he had a creditable assist when he was brought down in the box allowing Allen to secure the tie from the penalty spot.

In the coming weeks, the Kent Senior Cup gets underway and now there is another round of this competition to look foward to. Hopefully, the senior side's form will allow McKimm the opportunity to have a look at a couple more of the youth team lads.

Pictures courtesy of Dave Couldridge

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ramsgate U18 0 Tonbridge Angels U18 0

Match 43/16/1351 - Monday, 24th October 2016 - Ryman Youth League

Ramsgate U18 (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Headcount: 55

Entrance: £2
Programme: None
Mileage: 110/3,555

Tonbridge Under-18s came away from Ramsgate’s Southwood Road with a point from a disappointing encounter. Tonbridge were missing several regulars but manager Jay Stubberfield refused to use this as an excuse when he spoke after the game. He said the team that he put out there should have played better than they did. They took Ramsgate lightly and expected to stroll through the game. Ramsgate were more aggressive, won more first and second balls and out-competed us. We were the better team in possession but we didn’t create enough – we have to learn to do the ugly things better.

The start of the game was delayed by 15 minutes as at kick-off time, the home side only had nine players at the ground; they were, however, able to field a full complement with substitutes by 8 o’clock.

It was a frustrating evening for the visitors who were unable to impose themselves on the game.

Ramsgate started much the better and pulled a shot just wide after eight minutes and then, following a cross from the right, they hit a post as Tonbridge struggled to get going.

Tonbridge’s first chance of the night came after 20 minutes when Richard Frimpong latched onto a ball over the top, he chipped it over the advancing goalkeeper, but the ball was cleared from the line by a retreating defender. It was the beginning of a frustrating evening for Frimpong who was Tonbridge’s most likely source of a goal.

Just past the half-hour, the goalkeeper was once more rounded, this time by Kunle Bakare, but once again a defender got back, this time to put in a saving tackle.

Into the second half, Frimpong was once again sent clear but this time was stopped in his tracks by the Ramsgate centre half, Jacob Mensah, who alongside his partnering central defender were outstanding.

It would have been interesting to have seen Sid Solllis up against Mensah, it would have been a titantic tussle.

Lewis Mitchell made good saves to deny Ramsgate in the last 10 minutes and with three minutes remaining Frimpong was once more out of luck when the goalkeeper saved at his feet when sent through.

Tonbridge U18’s next game is at Longmead next Monday when Raynes Park Vale are the visitors.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gillingham 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Match 42/16/1350 - Saturday, 22nd October 2016 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Dack 41
Charlton Athletic (0) 1 Ajose 90
Attendance: 8,670

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/3,445

Match Report

Referee are either your 12th man or the 12th man against you, they are as important to the result as your star striker or your top drawer goalkeeper. I remain, for better or worse, of the opinion that no man in black (or any other colour they wear these days) steps out onto that pitch at kick-off time with any intention to influence the game towards one side or another. But then there are times when your conviction that all things are fair and equal become seriously tested. There was little indication that Mr Mark Haywood would become the villain of the piece in the first half of this game, but come the end, he was the man taking the abuse of the crowd.

As a Gillingham supporter, I'm not going to hide behind the referee. The reason Gillingham failed to acquire all three points and failed once more to collect a clean sheet was mainly of their own failings, but it might have been different with another referee.

Hayward had four penalty claims to adjudicate. There is no doubt that both of the penalties he awarded to Charlton were the correct decisions, but the claims that he denied for fouls on Cody McDonald were controversial to say the least and, from my seat, the second one was clearly wrong. If it had been given and if (if is a huge word) it had been converted, then Charlton's last minute spot kick would have been mere consolation.

After watching Cody McDonald perform the thankless task of lone striker against Walsall, Justin Edinburgh made the surprising, but welcome, change by adding both Frank Nouble and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas to his front line. With Bradley Dack at the front of the midfield diamond, nobody on this occasion, could complain about the potential firepower.

The opening quarter was dominated by the home side but without creating any clear cut chances. Pot shots from distance by Ryan Jackson and Chris Herd was about as good as it got. After 26 minutes Emmanuel-Thomas sent Dack clear but the Charlton goalkeeper, Declan Rudd, smothered his attempt to lift the ball over him.

On the half-hour mark, Jonathan Bond, suffering a groin problem, needed to be replaced between the sticks for Gillingham by Stuart Nelson.

Four minutes before the break Gillingham took the lead. Emmanuel-Thomas switched the ball to Paul Konchesky, and the left-back cut in and hit a right-footed cross, where Dack popped up with a top-class header to make it 1-0.

Nelson made a great save to deny Josh Magennis, clawing the striker's header away from the top corner.

The respite was not to last. From the resulting corner, the referee pointed to the spot after adjuding that Ryan Jackson had held his man as the ball was in the air. Nelson confirmed his hero status, pushing Ricky Holmes' spot kick to safety.

After the hour mark, and in the space of five minutes, came the two contentious Gillingham appeals. For the second claim, McDonald, through on goal, was brought down from behind but the appeals were waved away.

Charlton threw everything at Gillingham, who were guilty of their season-long failing of dropping further and further back to protect their slender lead, in the closing 20 minutes but were up against a top notch display from Nelson.

In time-added, one last punt into the box, saw Herd needlessly handball and from the resultant penalty, Nicky Ajose sent Nelson the wrong way to delight the massed ranks of away support that had filled the Brian Moore Stand.

Tonbridge Angels U18 5 Maidstone United U18 5

Match 41/16/1349 - Wednesday, 19th October 2016 - FA Youth Cup 3QR

Tonbridge (3) 5 Sollis 6,31,45+2 Frimpong 62 L Smith 88
Maidstone United (2) 5 D Smith 2,55 Dorling 45+1, Richards 70 Burtonshaw 75
After extra time. Maidstone won 6-5 on penalties.
Attendance: 256

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 38/3,387

Tonbridge bowed out of the FA Youth Cup at the final qualifying stage in a dramatic evening that culminated with a penalty shoot-out after Maidstone United and themselves a fought goal for goal through 120 minutes that had ended with the unlikely scoreline of 5-5.

How different to the previous evening when two League One sides set each other the task of sending their paying public to sleep.

An attendance of 256 would have been the envy of most in Ryman League South and quite a few of the senior side’s Premier League counterparts.

Jay Stubberfield, the Tonbridge manager, said before the game that it would be a close encounter as the two sides knew each so well; in fact several actually go to school together. There was also a familiar face in the Maidstone dug-out, Tonbridge’s very own Tom Parkinson!

The game was of interest also to the club’s senior staff with Steve McKimm and Maidstone’s manager, Jay Saunders both in attendance.

The game set out as it meant to go on with Maidstone taking an early lead after just two minutes. Jack Richards, a thorn in Tonbridge’s side all evening, took advantage of a lapse from Liam Smith to shoot across the face of goal. Lewis Mitchell parried the ball only into the path of Dave Smith who had the easiest of tap-ins.

Tonbridge were only momentarily rocked back on their heels though and after six minutes, a bad back pass from Joe Ford saw Sid Sollis capitalise with a fine finish past the advancing Tommy Taylor in the Stone’s goal.

The game ebbed and flowed at a rare old pace with Richards at the sharp end of every Maidstone attack and letting go a shot whether he was four or 40 yards from goal.

Just past the half-hour mark Tonbridge took the lead when Tommy Chapman stood up the perfect cross for Sollis to head home from close range.

Tonbridge had their tails up now and Richard Frimpong was next to try his luck but his effort went narrowly wide and when Sollis was brought down there were loud appeals for a penalty that were turned away by the referee, Daniel Proctor, who had a very good evening.

In the first minute of first half added time, Maidstone equalised when Mitchell flapped at a cross and paid the price when Josh Dorling fired in the loose ball.

Nonetheless, first half goals were not finished, as Tonbridge retook the lead at 45+2 minutes. A pass over the top from Connor Watson was misjudged by Ford and Sollis strode on to shoot past Taylor for his first half hat-trick.

After 55 minutes a magnificent, dipping shot over the diving body of Mitchell from Richards brought the Stones back level at 3-3.

It was certainly raining goals as just past the hour, Sollis set up Frimpong for a strike from around the penalty spot to make it 4-3 and ten minutes later, a speculative shot from Richards went under the body of Mitchell to make it 4-4.

The focal point of each attack, Sollis and Richards, both had strikes on goal before, after 75 minutes, another thunderbolt from 25 yards by Jon Burtenshaw put the Stones in front at 5-4.

With just two minutes remaining on the clock, a free kick on the right was sent into the box by Chapman to the head of Smith who steered it into the net for 5-5. In the act of challenging for the cross, Jack Fenton took a knock to the head and after a long delay had to be helped from the field. Having used all their substitutes, Tonbridge now had the prospect of 30 minutes extra time with 10 men.

Despite the goalscoring fiesta of the regular 90 minutes and Tonbridge’s personnel disadvantage, through extra time the score line remained the same. Liam Smith managed to clear a bundled shot from the line, a Sollis run was ended with a foul on the edge of the box from which the free kick was fired over before the game was brought to an end with a penalty shoot-out to decide who went through and, sadly, we all know what happens when any Tonbridge side are involved in these tie breakers. Each side missed one during the regulation five and at 6-5 it was the beautiful left foot of Tommy Chapman that stroked his spot kick against the bar to allow Maidstone the celebrations.

This was a wonderful evening’s entertainment. You won’t hear this very often from me, hopefully never again, but good luck to Maidstone, they hugely contributed to a great game played in the right manner.

Pictures courtesy of Dave Couldridge

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gillingham 1 Walsall 1

Match 40/16/1348 - Tuesday, 18th October 2016 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 McDonald 24
Walsall (0) 1 Moussa 58
Attendance: 5,391

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/3,349

Match Report

Ninety-four minutes of my life that are not going to be given back; 94 minutes of frustration and boredom. I think I clock-watched each one of those minutes, watching Gillingham is just not a entertaining experience right now and there was nothing in this performance that suggested it is going to change any time soon. I've wasted too much time on this game, please excuse me on this occasion if the post is short and to the point, I don't want to waste anymore time on this game.

Some of the decisions Justin Edinburgh made from team selection to substitutions defied logic and at the final whistle when faced with, what was probably inappropriate, abuse he then stupidly engaged the perpetrator. It all suggests a man under severe pressure.

Walsall arrived, on a night when the autumn chill was just beginning to bite, without a win on the road, having scored just twice in six games. Despite that less than impressive record, Edinburgh opted to go with a lone striker, Cody McDonald, who ran his nuts off for 94 minutes, leaving three further strikers on the bench and that is where they stayed.

McDonald was the one shining light on a dark evening. How he was overlooked for the man-of-the-match award was about as mystifying as Edinburgh's decisions and Gillingham's failings.

A wonderful bit of wing play from Scott Wagstaff culminated with him standing up the perfect cross for McDonald to head in from close range after 24 minutes. This presented the perfect opportunity for Gillingham to impose themselves on the game and lift a quiet Priestfield. But no, they retreated, offered Walsall a way back into the game which they would ultimately take.

A half-time substitution through injury led to the attack-minded Wagstaff being replaced by the defensive-minded Mark Byrne and the 30 yards of wasteland between McDonald and his nearest team mate seemed to grow bigger with the passing of every mind-numbing minute.

With so many blue shirts parked in their own half it is still a mystery as to why Erhun Oztumer, a player I much admired in his non-league days at Dulwich Hamlet, was allowed the time and space to unload a 25 yard shot that Jonathan Bond couldn't hold with the quickest to react to the rebound being Franck Moussa who had an easy touch-in.

I spoke to an older guy in the last couple of days, who on being informed that I was a Gillingham supporter, he told me that he had been a regular at Priestfield since 1957. These days he doesn't go so much and after his last visit, the home defeat by Oldham, he said he probably would not go again.

This coming Saturday offers the visit of Charlton Athletic. Hopefully, a large travelling contingent will lift the atmosphere that has been almost funereal. I'm not necessarily advocating that Edinburgh should lose his position, but something needs to change and quickly, otherwise I, despite my season ticket, might be among those turning their backs on the club. It's not about a winning team, it's about enjoying an afternoon at football and at this moment in time, that is not what I am doing.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Tonbridge 0 Dartford 3

Match 39/16/1347 - Saturday, 15th October 2016 - FA Cup 4QR

Tonbridge (0) 0
Dartford (1) 3 Brown 36, Pugh 49, Bradbrook 51
Attendance: 1,391

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,291

Match Report

Oh well, there is always next year. There have been 44 next years. Nobody was under the illusion that this was anything other than a difficult draw and Tonbridge would have to be at their very best, and perhaps Dartford slightly below par, to see the Angels progress to the promised land of the First Round Proper. As it was for 30 minutes, Tonbridge were at their best and Dartford were certainly struggling to contain them, but the width of a post, a goalkeeper's save and the loss of a key player and the opportunity was gone.

Tonbridge are left to take the positives, this was only the fifth time and the first for nine years that they have progressed to the final qualifying round since their last appearance in the First Round in 1972 and, whilst they were well beaten come the final whistle, there was plenty in those first 30 minutes to suggest that they could hold their own in National League South should promotion be gained at the end of the season. A decent amount of cash, £15,000, has been made during the run and this can only help that campaign.

One thing, thankfully, you always get with a Dartford visit is a good following that is also good natured. The police were in attendance, but I guess that was mandatory with the expected size of the crowd. Apart from one piece of stupidity with a smoke bomb from the Tonbridge contingent, the bobbies had a pleasant afternoon being paid to watch football.

Dartford arrived in a good vein of form, unbeaten in seven with a five goal mauling of Truro their last trip out. So, it was vital that Tonbridge rattled them from the outset before they got into their confident stride, and the Angels certainly did that forcing five corners in the first five minutes. From one such, delivered by Nicky Wheeler, to the back post, Tom Parkinson rose the highest and planted a header against the outside of the post. Within seconds, Parkinson forced Darts' goalkeeper, Deren Ibrahim (who found fame in the week having been beaten in eight seconds playing for Gibraltar against Belgium in a World Cup Qualifier) into a fine save, clawing the ball away from the top corner.

Tonbridge continued to press forward, Damian Scannell, very influential in the opening half-hour, blasted high over after 15 minutes and a minute later fired a shot straight at Ibrahim.

Nathan Elder, who ultimately was to have a fruitless afternoon shackled by Tom Bonner and Tom Gardiner, directed a header wide as Tonbridge's corner count mounted.

Perhaps, in my opinion it was, the turning point in the game came after 22 minutes when Parkinson went down injured and was unable to continue. Tom Phipp was his substitute, but with no disrespect to him, the momentum started to turn from that very moment as Darts' midfielders Alex Brown and Elliot Bradbrook started to win some of the battles. Tonbridge were not under seige, but it was no longer the one-way traffic of the first half-hour.

After 34 minutes, it was Dartford that opened the scoring. A shot from the right hand side of the box by Danny Harris was parried low to his left by Anthony Di Bernardo with Brown reacting the quickest to tuck home the rebound.

It would unfair to say that the confidence drained away from Tonbridge, but the goal certainly infused their visitors with a heavy dose of the stuff.

Two horrible moments within six minutes of the restart ended the game as a contest and Tonbridge's hopes that their 44 year wait might be over.

Never let a ball bounce in your own penalty area is one of those phrases in big bold letters in the coaching manual, Tonbridge did and paid the price. While defenders dithered, Andy Pugh poked the ball home from close range to double the advantage just two minutes into the half.

Four minutes later it was all over as a header at the far post was turned in by Bradbrook.

Dartford were now in cruise control and professionally game managed the final half-hour. A surging run from [my] man-of-the-match Jack Parter brought a substantial appeal for a penalty as the ball struck a hand but this was turned away by the referee, Paul Howard, who, I thought, had a good game.

To use another well-worn cliche, Tonbridge are left to concentrate on their primary objective of promotion, although another run, this time in the Trophy, would be welcome.

We've waited 44 years, I've said that too many times already, what's another 12 months.

Pictures courtesy of Ian Clear

Friday, 14 October 2016

Ashford United U18 2 Tonbridge Angels U18 4

Match 38/16/1346 - Thursday, 13th October 2016 - Ryman Youth League

Ashford United (1) 2 Williams 23 Howland 63
Tonbridge Angels (2) 4 Fenton 2 Ikeije 45+2,59 Bakare 55
Attendance: 42

Entrance: £3
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/3,253

Manager Jay Stubberfield made six changes to his side to give game time to his squad ahead of next week’s FA Youth Cup tie against Maidstone United and was very satisfied with the outcome beating Ashford United 4-2.

Henry Ikeije delighted on the Homeland’s 3G surface with his quick feet that proved too much for his opponents who constantly brought him down for free kicks.

Ikeije might have given the Angels the lead after just 12 seconds when sent through on goal but was denied by the Ashford goalkeeper, Wharton, saving bravely at his feet, injuring himself in the process. It was the first of a series of fine saves from the home keeper.

Tonbridge did go ahead though after just two minutes when Jack Fenton shot low into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

The visitors were forced to make an early substitution when Louis Pateman was injured. Before they could get James Tansil on the pitch and reorganise the back line the home side equalised with a shot from their left back Williams.

Richard Frempong produced a mazy run that ended with him being unceremoniously brought down on the edge of the box for a free kick that came to nothing followed by a shot from 20 yards brought an acrobatic save from Wharton.

In first half added time, Tonbridge regained the lead when Ikeije latched onto a loose clearance to fire in from around the penalty spot.

Tonbridge made a half-time substitution with Frempong being replaced by Jack Cussen.

After 55 minutes a solo run and shot from Kunle Bakare increased Tonbridge’s lead to 3-1.

Four minutes later the game was over as a contest when, following a corner that was returned to the taker, the second cross found the head of Ikeije who steered it into the net.

Ashford pulled one back just after the hour when Lewis Mitchell spilt a shot and the rebound was tucked home from close range by Howland and a couple of minutes later they also hit a post.

Tonbridge’s disciplinary problems of last week’s cup tie against Dover were put into context when a late booking for Connor Watson was the only blot on the copybook. This was for an accumulation of fouls, a punishment that could have been easily have been dealt for the treatment of Ikeije.

Jay Stubberfield said after the game that he was probably more pleased with this performance, given the changes, than he was with the 5-0 routing of the same opponents earlier in the season and singled out Ikeije for his performance.

Tonbridge’s FA Youth Cup tie against Maidstone is at Longmead next Wednesday.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Chatham Town 5 Ramsgate 2

Match 37/16/1345 - Monday, 10th October 2016 - Ryman League South

Chatham Town (2) 5 Jackson 24,76 Medley 31,63 Youngs 81
Ramsgate (0) 2 Penney 46 McKenzie 53
Attendance: 149

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 40/3,215

Match Report

Six weeks ago I watched a very poor Chatham side outplayed by Walton Casuals and dumped out of the FA Cup. Their start to the season under the management of Tony Beckingham had brought just two wins in their opening 14 games in all competitions culminating with an humiliating 7-1 defeat at Faversham Town that brought Beckingham's resignation.

Darren Anslow was brought in to steady the ship and this victory was his first after four games in charge, two of which have been equally bad defeats in cup competitions.

What made this five goal romp against a Ramsgate side that has gone off the rails since an unbeaten August saw them riding high in the Ryman South table was the change in personnel at Chatham since that game against Walton Casuals. Only Liam Hickey and Luke Medley were in the starting line-up in August and in this one. What I didn't know at the time was this was largely because of traffic problems on the A2 that left several of Anslow's players stranded.

Chatham played some good football and Medley was a constant source of danger to the Ramsgate defence. The home side took the lead after 24 minutes when Josh Jackson finished from just inside the box having been put through with a lovely pass from Ross Morley.

The home side doubled their advantage on the half-hour with another defence splitting pass, this time from Josh Bray sent the much travelled Medley through for a cool finish having shrugged off the attentions of a couple of challenges.

Whatever the Ward brothers said at half-time had immediate effect as the Rams pulled a goal back after just 26 seconds. Luke Girt played in raiding full back Jack Penny who finished with shot into the bottom corner.

Eight minutes later and the other Ramsgate full back, Jake McKenzie, profited from a pass from Alfie Paxman to finish brilliantly.

But Anslow's side were not to be denied. Medley scored his second goal, converting a cross from Harvey Brand at the near post.

Chatham rounded off the scoring in the 76th and 81st minutes courtesy of free kicks in which Ramsgate goalkeeper Luke Watkins didn't cover himself in glory. The first, a powerful shot from Jackson went through his hands and the second, a Tom Youngs effort that he could only help in at his right hand upright.

A good night for Darren Anslow, a good night for Chatham, hopefully a corner turned.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Gillingham 1 Oldham Athletic 2

Match 36/16/1344 - Saturday, 8th October 2016 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 McDonald 10
Oldham Athletic (0) 2 Ladapo 65 Flynn 89
Attendance: 6,435

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/3,175

Match Report

Two rows in front, a man held his season ticket book aloft and bellowed: "Season ticket for sale". There were no takers, and in truth, I doubt that he could have given it away. It was a token gesture from the bloke; he has sat in that same seat since the Gordon Road Stand was opened and I've never failed to see him wherever I have ventured for an away game. He'll be back for the next game, but I'm not even guessing when I say there is a fair few that will not.

The guy, who we have called Barry Ashby's Dad for many a year, and myself have witnessed deeper troughs than the one that Gillingham are in right now, but it is a long time since I heard people so frustrated. I'm not sure why as there was no tangible reason why supporter's expectations should have been raised beyond the position they are actually occupying right now in mid-table.

Early season success saw them climb to the top of the table, but that is what it was early season success with no justifiable reason why it should continue and then a 5-0 reverse at Scunthorpe brought everyone crashing to earth with a bump.

Even before those heady days of August, Gillingham have suffered some appalling luck with injuries that left the squad looking thin and exposed. It has been continuous, no sooner player X returns to first team contention, player Y takes his place in the queue at the physio's door. Some of those that have returned are now looking a modest percentage of the player they were a few months ago, Bradley Dack the stand-out example. Is the lad properly fit? He certainly doesn't look it.

And then there is the ongoing matter of keeping a clean sheet, after this result a run that now stretches to 26 games. If there was ever a chance to break this sequence, this game was the one with Oldham arriving sitting bottom of the table and having scored just five goals in their opening 11 games.

Manager Justin Edinburgh was able to name new signings Chris Herd and Frank Nouble in the starting line-up.

Gillingham made the brighter start and were ahead with 10 minutes on the clock. A corner, delivered by Dack, was met with a powerful, and unchallenged, header at the far post from Cody McDonald to give the home side the ideal lift.

McDonald brought a save from Connor Ripley in the Latics' goal and Dack saw his shot comfortable saved.

Having survived the one-way onslaught of the opening half-hour, the visitors grew into the game and took a bit of confidence when they forced four corners in quick succession, none of which coming to much.

Gillingham had been far from convincing, but there had been little from Oldham to suggest anything other than a fairly routine win for the home side.

The home side survived two scares early in the second half when first, Lee Erwin shot horribly wide from close range and then Jamie Reckford missed the ball all together in front of goal.

On the hour, Oldham made a double substitution bringing on the ex-Margate striker Freddie Ladapo and the journeyman midfielder Lee Croft. Ladapo's pace was an instant concern for Gillingham's back four.

Five minutes after coming on, Lapado was the visitor's hero. He robbed Herd and fired a shot into the bottom left corner past Stuart Nelson. Gillingham's protests for a foul on Herd fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Lapado's excessive celebration of a goal on his return to Kent ended with a yellow card.

The second half was a non-event from a Gillingham perspective. Whatever the half-time message was from Edinburgh, it had the effect of a bedtime story as his charges slumbered.

It came as very little surprise when, in the last minute of regular time, Ryan Flynn seized on a loose ball in the penalty area and literally ran the ball into the net with claims of offside ignored.

Gillingham didn't get the rub of the green, a 68th minute appeal for a penalty for hand ball looked stonewall, but was not given. Sometimes you get the luck you deserve and Gillingham deserved very little.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Erith & Belvedere 3 Tunbridge Wells 2

Match 35/16/1343 - Tuesday, 5th October 2016 - Southern Counties East

Erith & Belvedere (2) 3 Oshilaja 35, Adesite 36, Froggatt 76
Tunbridge Wells (0) 2 Crandley (pen) 51, Large 84
Attendance: Est. 50

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 78/3,117

Tunbridge Wells’ unbeaten run of five matches was brought to an end at a blustery Park View Road as the hosts, Erith & Belvedere ran out 3-2 victors. There was further despair for manager Jason Bourne with injuries to key players, Ryan Crandley and Alfie Hall.

Bourne’s squad was already stretched with goalkeeper Steve Lawrence missing with a broken thumb. There were four changes in total from Saturday’s home win against Bearsted, the ageing limbs of Michael Czanner took Lawrence’s place in goal, whilst there was a surprise return for Luke Hackett who had returned to parent club Dorking Wanderers, but has been told he can get game time when he is not required by Dorking; also returning to the club and straight into the side was Brad Potter and Tom Mackelden returned to the starting line-up. Tom Bryant, Kane Penn (injured on Saturday) and Tom Davey were unavailable for selection.

In front of a meagre attendance, probably amounted to no more than 50, the Tunbridge Wells faithful that made up half of that number were not particularly entertained in a first half that saw them enter the break two goals down, having brought just one meaningful save out of E&B’s goalkeeper, Sam I’Anson, Crandley firing a free kick from the edge of the box which the keeper parried to safety, low to his left.

It was a very slow opening period with the home side not creating much of note either, although they were the more direct of the sides. They moved the ball around reasonably well, which was something, on the night, the Wells failed to do.

It took until the 35 minute for E&B to find a way through. The Tunbridge Wells defence stood off Al-Hassan Oshilaja, who fired in a shot that went past a static Czanner and into the centre of the goal.

Just two minutes later, the home side doubled their advantage. Anthony Adesite’s shot from the right took a wicked deflection and although Czanner got down at the post, the ball squirmed from his grasp and into the net.

Tunbridge Wells were offered lifeline after five minutes of the second half when they were awarded a penalty for holding. Crandley stepped up and fired the spot kick low to the goalkeeper’s left to reduce the deficit.

After 55 minutes, the ineffective Josh Biddlecombe, in fairness starved of service, was replaced by Dale Ashman.

Czanner showed there is still life in those old bones when he managed to palm to safety a cross that was dropping underneath his crossbar.

After 70 minutes, Crandley overstretched on the right touchline and had to be replaced with a suspected hamstring strain.

Four minutes later the Wells were once again two behind. A through pass split the defence leaving Josh Froggatt a run on goal to slide the ball past Czanner with a composed finish.

Five minutes from time, Bradley Large hooked the ball in from close range to set up the possibility of a big finish but, apart from an Ollie Bankole effort into the side netting, the home side held out comfortably.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tonbridge U18 3 Dover Athletic U18 0

Match 34/16/1342 - Monday, 4th October 2016 - FA Youth Cup 2QR

Tonbridge (0) 3 Sollis 47, Smith 73, Pateman 83
Dover Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 161

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 38/3,039

Match Report

It was very disappointing that tensions that had been simmering away throughout the match boiled over a the final whistle, overshadowing what had been another very fine performance from Tonbridge Angels Under-18 side. Both managers expressed their disappointment with their lads behaviour both during the match and in the scuffle that followed at the end.

The referee was dismally poor, inasmuch that his decisions always seemed to take an age, but regarding dissent he followed the letter of the law and, subsequently, booked anyone that made any remark of any sort. Once they knew that was the case, it should have been time to keep it zipped.

Dover fielded their academy side which was a first year intake, so supposedly weakened them. Personally, I thought the FA Youth Cup was sufficiently a prestige competition for you to put out a team as strong as possible.

Tonbridge started strongly and could have been in front within the first minute, Sid Sollis shooting narrowly wide of the right hand upright.

After 13 minutes, Tonbridge's goalkeeper, Lewis Mitchell, took a knock at the feet of Dover's Marshall Wratten, who received the game's first yellow card, and required treatment for around five minutes before he was able to continue.

After 20 minutes, Dover's Ollie Roberts found his way into the referee's book after a poor challenge on Sollis. The resultant free kick was headed marginally wide by Sollis.

The referee's love of his yellow card continued as Dover's Ben Cardwell found his way into the book after 25 minutes.

Just on the half-hour, Tonbridge had a set back as the impressive Oliver Baker was forced from the field following a knock.

In truth, the game was pretty much one-way traffic, Jack Fenton had a shot blocked and Richard Frempong saw his shot saved. In time added Fenton and Sollis had chances saved and the referee completed his first half writing with the booking of Fenton.

Tonbridge got the lead their first half performance deserved after just a minute of the second half. A great run from Frempong set up Sollis to finish from close range.

The barrage of the Dover goal continued but Tonbridge had to wait until the 73 minute for a second goal. A free kick on the left was delivered to the far post by Tommy Chapman to iam Smith whose header looped over the stranded goalkeeper.

The yellow card continued to mount before, with eight minutes remaining, Tonbridge sealed their place in the next round. Once again the delivery of Chapman allowed the substitute Louis Pateman to poke in from close range.

With six yellow a side, it was inevitable that somebody would see red before the final whistle and that fate befell Dover's Cardwell. In the melee that followed the final whistle, red cards were also brandished to Tonbridge's Frempong and Dover's goalkeeper, Stan Waller and Roberts.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tonbridge 4 Hereford 2

Match 33/16/1341 - Saturday, 1st October 2016 - FA Cup 3QR

Tonbridge (2) 4 Allen 2, Wheeler 9, Dundas 62, Blewden 69
Hereford (0) 2 Mills 65, Edge 87
Attendance: 1,112

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,001

The outcome of this FA Cup Third Qualifying Round left me feeling rather silly that a 65-year-old man who has watched football, with some highs and many lows, for over 56 years should be a nervous as a kitten in the build-up to the game. The First Round Proper of the FA Cup cannot be on a bucket list for it is something over which I have no control, but it is one of my fervent wishes.

The greatest problem with the draw that brought Hereford to Longmead was that nobody really knew how good they might be. Since reforming out of the ashes of those FA Cup giant killers of old Hereford United, the Bulls have won successive promotions, had a Wembley visit in the FA Vase and now sit atop the Southern League South and West with an unbeaten record. But that is a step below Tonbridge, and given the home advantage, there were some that thought that Tonbridge would be too strong. My nervousness was testament that I wasn't one of them. There was also the factor that the Angels came into the game on the back of two defeats and their worst performance of the season at Merstham on Tuesday.

The other great unknown was just how many supporters were going to make the 350-mile round trip. Estimates varied between a couple of hundred to a thousand with nobody expecting all 26,000 that followed them to Wembley turning up! As it was, I would estimate their following at around 350.

Steve McKimm was able to call on the services of Tom Parkinson and made the choice to pair him with Sonny Miles at the heart of the defence and Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson was preferred to Damian Scannell.

If there was any nerves on the field, it wasn't with the Angels who roared out of the traps and into a two-goal lead within the first ten minutes.

After just 75 seconds, Jamie Willetts gave away a cheap free kick on the edge of the box for a foul on Nathan Elder. Luke Allen curled a delightful free kick over the wall and past a statuesque goalkeeper, Alex Harris.

In in the ninth minute, Elder and Craig Dundas combined to send Nick Wheeler away down the left hand side with space opening up in front of him. He raced clear of his marker and from just inside the box he sent a low shot into the far corner, just inside the upright. All nerves dispelled (except mine!).

For 20 minutes the gulf in class was quite staggering as the Ryman Premier side carved open their opponents almost at will. Elder put a header over the top and, after 19 minutes, a superb through pass from Tom Phipp saw Fortnam-Tomlinson brought down but appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee.

Phipp powered a shot over his shoulder, but also over the bar and then drove a free kick in the same direction as the visitors failed to gain any foothold in the game. But the half-hour mark brought some encouragement for the Bulls when Tristan Plummer dragged their first shot wide and for a 10 minute period they enjoyed their first spell of sustained pressure.

Peter Beadle, ex of Gillingham, made a change at the beginning of the second half with the introduction of Pablo Haysham, who provided a little more invention from the left hand side.

The third goal was, as in any game, critical and Tonbridge thought they were going to have the opportunity from the penalty spot when Wheeler was brought down after 54 minutes. The referee once again waved away the appeals and booked the winger in the process. It might have been a big decision but, eight minutes later, the home side were indeed three goals ahead. A cross from the left from Jack Parter found a loosely marked Dundas who powered home a header from close range.

Now, even I could relax, but for only a couple minutes when the visitors brought the score back to 3-1. Plummer set up John Mills and the free-scoring striker swept the ball home to offer their support some hope.

Four minutes later, Tonbridge restored their three goal advantage when a poor pass from Jamie Edge was intercepted by Wheeler, who sent Luke Blewden, on as a substitute for Elder, through to smash his shot past Harris.

Blewden had a goal chalked off, somewhat mysteriously, before Edge converted a Haysham cross for a late consolation.

If I shook a little in the build-up to this game, I'm dreading the last qualifying round and praying for a very kind draw on Monday.

The Bulls will go home and lick their wounds but with their support base they will surely make swift progress through the leagues, but they will have to be a whole lot better than they were at Longmead. But that is taking a little away from a superb Tonbridge performance.

The above pictures are courtesy of