Monday, 30 January 2017

Tunbridge Wells U21 5 Corinthian Reserves 3

Match 83/16/1390 - Monday, 30th January 2017 - Suburban Shield

Tunbridge Wells U21 (4) 5 Bartlett 3,80 Smith 11, OG 41, Lawrence 44
Corinthian Reserves (1) 3 Pearce 16, Tanner 75,79
Headcount: 40

Entrance: £3
Programme: None
Mileage: 58/5,857

If ever there was a competition that was devised to fill up a few empty days then surely it must be the Suburban Shield. Information is sparse; I had managed to work out that a group stage was involved by virtue of Tunbridge Wells playing both Corinthian and Tonbridge, little did I know that Cray Valley and Crowborough were also involved. In the case of Tonbridge, how they are going to manage to fulfil the fixtures, especially the home ties, goodness only knows.

Tunbridge Wells managed to maintain the air of mystery by not providing any information on the line-ups, in fact on the FA Full time website they still have only nine starting players listed. I do despair, and the Wells are far from the only guilty party, when clubs cannot manage to list the players from both sides anywhere.

Corinthian play their Suburban League football in the top division, whilst Tunbridge Wells are positioned in the southern section of the division below, this was not apparent as the home side took complete control of the game in the first half.

Tunbridge Wells were ahead in three minutes when a cross from the right was turned in from close range by Rhys Bartlett and they were two in front after 11 minutes when a shot from Callum Smith, a new signing from Westfield, went through the Corinthian goalkeeper, Harry Earls.

Corinthian fought back to reduce the deficit five minutes later when Louis Pearce turned in a cross from about a couple of yards.

Tommy Lawrence saw a lob go just over with Earls helpless before Jake Hampson, in the Wells goal, made a good save low to his left to deny Corinthian's number eight.

Four minutes before the break a Corinthian defender turned a shot-cum-cross into his own goal at the near post and the tally was increased to four in the last minute of the half when Lawrence scored at the far post.

Two goals in four minutes from Luke Tanner reduced the deficit to a single goal but Bartlett put the game to bed with ten minutes remaining turning in a cross from Bes Sadiku.

With both Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells involved in the competition, I'll be following it as closely as internet searches allow!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Gillingham 1 Shrewsbury Town 1

Match 82/16/1389 - Saturday, 28th January 2017 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Oshilaja 45
Shrewsbury Town (0) 1 Rodman 61
Attendance: 5,316

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/5,819

Match Report

This week, football-wise has been a complete write-off (or even white-off). Three evenings, a choice of five matches, none of which went ahead due to the big freeze. So, as the weather warmed over the last 24 hours, at last there was a game to go to. By half-time I was actually left wondering if I had missed anything, despite Gillingham going into the break a goal up. From an entertainment point of view the game improved considerably in the second half but Gillingham were unable to hold on to their lead.

This was Adrian Pennock's first home game since his appointment following the sacking of Justin Edinburgh. Two away games have yielded a poor performance and a defeat at Oldham and a battling display and a point at league leaders Sheffield United. Pennock was a popular player in his time at Priestfield and was, of course, the captain at Wembley in 1999 when promotion to the Championship was won. So the man comes with a wealth of goodwill even if there is a question mark as to whether a more experienced manager, for example Kenny Jackett or Steve Cotterill, should have been chosen.

It is going to take time for Pennock to instil into his side his own ethos and one prays that there is enough time left for that to happen, on this showing the same old failings of the Edinburgh regime surfaced as soon as Shrewsbury went in search of something out of the game in the second half. The defence dropped deeper and deeper and the ball was continually given away cheaply. On the positive side, the Bradley Dack we saw was more reminiscent of last season's version; Bradley Garmston came off the bench for his first league appearance of the season to good effect whilst the resurgent form of Stuart Nelson ensured that Gillingham came away with something from the afternoon.

The first 20 minutes were as dull as anything we had seen before. A Dack free kick whistled over; Freddie Lapado made a hash of an opportunity for the visitors and a minute later Cody McDonald was sent clear but his shot was saved by Jayson Luitwiler. With both sides under new management, neither looked absolutely sure what was expected of them.

The half dragged its way laboriously towards the break with a shot apiece that the goalkeeper fielded rather than saved before a good, old-fashioned lump upfield from Nelson found its way to Deji Oshilaja, who had been upfield for a corner, to calmly slip the ball past Luitwiler.

The second period started better with McDonald bringing a save with his legs from Luitwiler. The visitors had also been brought to life by the half-time break and Nelson saved from Abu Agogo and needed the help of Ryan Nelson to clear after saving from Alex Rodman.

Rodman was guilty of an unbelievable miss after 50 minutes when he struck a post with the goal gaping following a cross from Lapado.

However, the reprieve was relatively short-lived as a cross fell to Tyler Roberts courtesy of a deflection. Roberts shot was saved by Nelson but only back into the path of Rodman, who this time wasn't going to miss.

Gillingham responded with a spirited effort to find a winner. Dack clipped the bar with a free kick and Max Ehmer hit a post from a tight angle.

As I walked away, my first thoughts were new start, same old dross but on reflection that is more than a little harsh. But realistically that is six games without a win for Gillingham and they are seriously looking over their shoulders.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Harlow Town 1 Tonbridge 0

Match 81/16/1388 - Saturday, 21st January 2017 - Ryman Premier

Harlow Town (1) 1 Dadson 32
Tonbridge (0) 0
Attendance: 286

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 132/5,761
New Ground: 302

A desperately poor performance from Tonbridge did nothing to warm the frozen extremities as the January cold snap continued to bite hard. Fixtures in the south-east tumbled throughout the morning, but the 3G surface at the Harlow Arena ensured that the match would go ahead as planned.

This was my first visit to Harlow Town and found it a well appointed facility with a modern 500-seat main stand and a covered terrace on the opposite side. Of the 3G surfaces I have seen this season, this one had the most unnatural bounce, far too high in my opinion. But that said, it cannot be excused for visitors poor showing.

It took until the 79th minute for Tonbridge to ask the Harlow goalkeeper, David Hughes, to lay a serious glove on the ball. Not that the hosts were that much more of an attacking force, thereby contributing to the lack of entertainment.

The opening 20 minutes set the template for the rest of the match. Harlow attacked but without any great quality whilst their visitors were struggling to string a couple of decent passes together. Mario Noto forced Anthony Di Bernardo into a save at his near post after five minutes and at the other end, a shot from Mitchell Nelson and headers from Tom Parkinson and Nathan Elder all cleared the crossbar.

A long throw from Luke Blewden was headed wide of the post from Elder and Harlow swept upfield to opening the scoring. From the goal kick, the ball was partially returned into the midfield area from where Noto intercepted and suddenly the ball was in between the Tonbridge central defenders for Junior Dadson to run onto and score with a shot that went in off the left hand post.

Tonbridge saw a Nelson header from a Nick Wheeler corner cleared from in front of the goal line after 36 minutes and a identical occurrence brought the same outcome just on the break. Between the two Tonbridge efforts Jared Small brought a save from Di Bernardo low to his left.

At the start of the second period the sun had dipped below the stand and the temperature fell away very quickly. Sadly the game disappeared with it.

Mid-way through the half, Noto, head and shoulders the best player on the pitch, played in Small but Di Bernardo was quick to smother his effort and then, with 11 minutes remaining, substitute Ugo Udoji planted a header from a corner that actually asked Hughes to make a save.

A ridiculous incident in the final minute of regular time just about summed up the frustrating nature of the game. Tom Phipp, on as a 62nd minute substitute for Wheeler, was caught late as he delivered a long punt into the box. As the ball ran loose, the referee opted to bring the play back thus denying the visitors a scoring opportunity. While Jack Parter waited to take the free kick, water was childishly squirted from the Harlow dug-out, this was noticed by the Tonbridge dug-out and a protracted fracas was the result. It took a full five minutes for the referee to decide what action to take, a yellow card for a player from each side. If only the referee had allowed the play to continue, none of the nonsense would have happened and Tonbridge might even have scored.

The games in hand that Tonbridge had on those above are beginning to ebb away and Steve McKimm's side desperately need a run of results or this season of much promise could well just slip away.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 1 Merstham U18 1

Match 80/16/1387 - Thursday, 19th January 2017 - Lucas Fettes League Cup QF

Tonbridge Angels U18 (1) 1 Chapman 39
Merstham (1) 1 Transwest 20
Match abandoned at half-time, frozen pitch
Headcount: 46

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: Team Sheet provided
Mileage: 38/5,629

Tonbridge and Merstham Under-18s will have to try again to decide their Lucas Fettes Youth League Cup Quarter Final after the referee called a halt to the game during the half-time break after deciding that the frozen pitch was becoming too dangerous. Whether Mr Friar could have made this decision before a ball was kicked is another argument but when he decided that the game could go ahead it should have been with the viewpoint that it would get to its conclusion.

Jay Stubberfield was able to name a strong side including Sid Sollis, Liam Smith and Tommy Chapman who have all been involved with the senior team this season.

Jack Bray, full of surging runs from the middle of the frost covered field, had two early attempts on goal, a shot and a header, that both cleared the crossbar.

But Merstham were far from at Longmead to make up the numbers and their front three were giving the Angels’ back line plenty to think about. A poor clearance from Tonbridge’s keeper, Lewis Mitchell offered a shooting chance for Sam Johnson, but he tamely lobbed it back to the welcoming arms of Mitchell.

From left back, Rhys Norrington-Davies was also proving an potent attacking outlet for the Surrey side.

After 13 minutes, the Wheeler-esque left foot of Tommy Chapman found Sollis whose shot came back off the right hand post.

The visitors took the lead after 20 minutes when Tonbridge failed to clear their lines and a deft lob from Anwar Transwest left Mitchell helpless.

By this point it was obvious that the frost was taking hold of the pitch; as the players moved in either direction it sounded like a stampede of horses and Merstham’s Johnson trying to get on the end of a cross was only able to stop when he, himself rather than the ball, was in the back of the net.

Just before the half-hour mark, Levy Soulam hit the Tonbridge woodwork and without the sureness of footing another almighty scramble came in the home penalty area before the ball was hacked to safety.

Chapman delivered a perfect corner to the far post from where Smith directed a header wide before Tonbridge equalised with a very good goal. A brilliantly executed crossfield pass from Dominic Welsh found Chapman, who steadied, took it across the face of goal and drove the ball home.

In his comments after the game, Jay Stubberfield said of the goal: “Dom has great vision and is a clever little player; Tommy also took it well. I’ve challenged him to score more goals and after Sunday he now has two in two. Chapman’s delivery from the left was superb tonight.”

This has been, shall we say, a difficult week for the football spectator. I’ve frozen watching a poor game at Chatham; saw a disappointing result for Tonbridge in a match that, in my opinion, should not have started; got turned around en-route by the postponement of Hollands & Blair’s game against Tunbridge Wells and now the abandonment of this match. But what else should you expect of January?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Hollands & Blair P Tunbridge Wells P

Wednesday, 18th January 2017 - SCEFL

Hollands & Blair P
Tunbridge Wells P

Wasted mileage: 28/5,581

First wastage mileage of the season. Pretty poor to call the game off after 7 p.m., when it had obviously been in doubt all day.

Tonbridge 0 Burgess Hill Town 0

Match 79/16/1386 - Tuesday, 17th January 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 0
Burgess Hill Town (0) 1
Attendance: 256

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/5,553

Match Report

Tonbridge Angels' hopes of breaking into the Ryman Premier play-off places were put on ice on a pitch that, in my opinion, was barely playable. Temperatures throughout the day had risen only a couple of degrees above freezing and first view of the pitch showed a good deal of frost and by the end of the game the mercury had dropped to -4degC.

Of course, the old adage of the pitch is the same for both sides is very true but if you only set out your stall to avoid losing the game, then a difficult pitch plays to your advantage and in their perilous position at the wrong end of the table, nobody can really blame Burgess Hill for their tactics.

Whether this game should have started, or not, Tonbridge created more than enough chances to win the game but a combination of good goalkeeping from Max Huxter and poor finishing denied them.

The Angels created seven good chances during the first half. Alex Akrofi dragged a shot wide of the far post barely a minute after the start and Luke Blewden shot past the same post after six minutes. Huxter made his first fine save when he saved low to his left following a Nick Wheeler free kick that was headed goalwards by Akrofi.

Huxter was next in action on 15 minutes this time tipping a Nathan Elder header onto the crossbar.

The ex-Tonbridge striker Billy Medlock brought the only first half save out of Anthony Di Bernardo when his low, angled drive was turned around the post. From the resultant corner, Anthony Richmond rose to head wide.

Tonbridge created two early second half chances when, from outside of the box, Luke Allen shot straight at Huxter, but perhaps the chance of the match came after 52 minutes when Blewden crossed from the right to the head of Tommy Parkinson who steered his header wide of the far post. It was the type of chance we have seen Parky bury many, many times.

As the pitch became whiter by the minute, the game fairly died on its feet, whilst all of the 256 people watching were struggling to feel theirs.

Sid Sollis came on with 16 minutes remaining and injected a bit of life and might have done better than steer his 83rd minute header straight at Huxter.

Having managed to avoid my third goalless draw of the season on Monday night with a 90th minute goal, this time there was to be no reprieve. The only consolation of the evening was the car heater easing those blocks of ice on the bottom of the legs back to life.

Pictures courtesy of David Couldridge

Monday, 16 January 2017

Chatham Town 0 Faversham Town 1

Match 78/16/1385 - Monday, 16th January 2017 - Ryman South

Chatham Town (0) 0
Faversham Town (0) 1 King 90
Attendance: 179

Entrance: Ticket from abandoned match
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/5,515

Match Report

In terms of entertainment value, the 27 minutes played in a monsoon in mid-November easily outstripped the 90 of the re-arranged fixture. But just as I was settling for only my third goal-less draw of the season, Faversham's substitute David Blaikie with his first touches of the ball fed a sublime pass through to Liam King who slid the ball past Alex Hyde and into the bottom right hand corner for the visitor's 90th minute winner.

For many seasons, Chatham had a great deal of sympathy within Kent football for being the club that was continually placed in Ryman North and subsequently missing out on the lucrative derby matches enjoyed in the South. Sadly, if the club doesn't start to put together a winning run in the near future, they will have an awful lot of derbies in the Southern Counties East.

Chatham's salvation, they are five points from safety having played two more games than those immediately above them, might come in a fixture list that will bring three of the bottom five to Maidstone Road with visits to three more of the relegation-threatened teams.

Faversham have also had an indifferent season and it is unusual to see Ray Turner's team languishing below mid-table, but they have games in hand and a winning run could see them among the play-off contenders in April.

You would not bet on either scenario ending positively with the quality on display for the most part as both sides set about digging out a much-needed result.

Chatham started reasonably well with Kyron Lightfoot catching the eye but it was all pretty toothless in front of goal where the goals of departed Luke Medley are going to be hard to replace.

Faversham's first sniff at goal came from a Josh Stanford corner that found the head of Jamie Maxted but he steered it wide.

Chatham had a similar chance, with identical result after 28 minutes when a corner from Ryan Flack was headed over by Freeman Rogers.

Reaching the break goal-less was, sadly, a true reflection of the game.

Within a minute of the restart, Chatham's George Benner headed a free kick towards his own goal but was bailed out by a goal-line clearance.

Faversham had the better of the second period. Josh Stanford directed a shot at the goalkeeper and George Monger also brought saves from Alex Hyde.

As the feet slowly turned to ice the goal-less draw looked ever more likely until the timely introduction of Blaikie.

Faversham walked away with the points but there is plenty to play for both clubs between now and the end of April.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tonbridge 3 Hendon 1

Match 77/16/1384 - Saturday, 14th January 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 3 Nelson 14, Akrofi 38 (pen), Beavan 49
Hendon (1) 1 Oliyide 9
Attendance: 428

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/5,483

The awarding of the man of the match to Tonbridge's goalkeeper, Anthony Di Bernardo, tells you everything about this match. But, if the result was flattering, then Tonbridge have been on the wrong end of several instances this season when they have deserved more than they got out of a match. A case of what goes around, comes around.

Hendon belied their league position, perilously in the bottom four, with a performance in which they were dangerous going forward but perhaps their fragility defending is reflected in that league position.

As early as the fourth minute Laste Dombaxe outpaced Mitchell Nelson to fire in a shot that brought a good save from Di Bernardo who was also equal the forward's shot from the rebound.

The early threat continued and an eighth minute lead was no more than the visitors deserved. A rare mistake from Jack Parter allowed a shot on goal that was brilliantly saved by Di Bernardo but this time the rebound fell nicely for Karl Oliyide to strike his shot into an unguarded goal.

The goal served to wake the Angels from their slumbers with Alex Akrofi bringing a low save out of Tom Lovelock after nine minutes and two minutes later the Hendon keeper did well to smother at Akrofi's feet.

Tonbridge were level after 14 minutes when a corner from Damian Scannell was met with a towering header from Nelson into the top right hand corner.

But Hendon refused to lie down and had chances to re-establish their lead with a header from Marcel Barrington that cleared the crossbar; a shot from the impressive Sam Murphy and Di Bernado needed to be alert to smother at the feet of Kezie Ibe.

Tonbridge were forced into a change after 20 minutes when Nelson tweaked a groin being substituted by Luke Blewden with Tommy Parkinson dropping back into the central defensive position vacated by Nelson.

After 34 minutes, Tom Phipp was brought down on the right-hand side of the box by a clumsy challenge. Akrofi's spot kick was accurate into the corner and needed to be as Lovelock got a hand to the ball.

Di Bernardo emphasised his man of the match credentials with a fine low save to deny Dave Diedhiou five minutes before the break.

The hosts gave themselves some breathing space three minutes into the second half when a corner from Scannell was flighted underneath the crossbar. Lovelock punched the ball up into the air under pressure; as the ball came down a header was cleared from the line but only to the head of George Beavan who converted from three yards.

Unfortunately, the rest of the second period sank into mediocrity as Tonbridge failed to capitalise on their lead mainly due to their inability to keep possession of the ball.

Despite the charitable nature of the Angels, Hendon also failed to find the threat they had posed in the first period. Di Bernardo saved well, low to his left, but otherwise Tonbridge saw the game out with relative ease.

The best news of the day was saved for the after match interview when it was revealed that Steve McKimm had extended his contract to manage the club into the 2017-18 season.

Pictures courtesy of Wesley Filtness

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Bearsted 0 Cray Valley PM 4

Match 76/16/1383 - Tuesday, 10th January 2017 - Macron Challenge Cup

Bearsted (0) 0
Cray Valley PM (3) 4 Youngs 33, Smith 35, McDonagh 45, Thompson 56
Attendance: 46

Entrance: £3.50 Senior
Programme: Free with entry
Mileage: 15/5,445
New Ground: 301

Unable to make Needham Market for Tonbridge's Ryman League Cup Quarter Final, to keep my Tuesday football night sacrosanct, a groundhop was in order. It came as something of a surprise that Bearsted actually play at Otham, a mere 7.5 miles from home, making them easily my nearest senior club.

Once you have ignored the satnav's assertion that you have reached your destination and negotiated the pot-hole strewn lane to the ground there is a decent sized car park. My concession priced entrance fee of £3.50 included the programme and, evidently, the parking spot, so it was indeed a bargain.

Inside there is the almost obligatory 125-seater Atcost stand that some seasoned hoppers can get quite sniffy about. Personally, for a club of Bearsted's size that mostly struggle to attract a hundred people they are perfectly adequate. The side from where you enter the ground is the only side populated with any facilities and I didn't walk around to observe whether the hardstanding featured on the other side. Although I didn't partake, I'm reliably informed that the refreshments on offer were good.

The match was a curious one in which the visitors, Cray Valley, failed to register a shot in anger for the first half-hour but managed to go into the break with a 3-0 advantage. Bearsted stretched the Cray keeper, Jordan Carey, on four occasions before, after 32 minutes, in only their second attack, Tom Youngs was allowed to run across the face of goal and strike from 15 yards into the roof of the net.

Two minutes later, a heavy deflection left the Bears' keeper, Greg Owen, flat-footed, leaving Peter Smith to argue with his team-mates later as to whether he can claim the goal.

Bearsted's heads quickly dropped and by now their visitors were creating chances almost at will. The third goal came in highly controversial circumstances when the evergreen Leigh Bremner ran clear with the home side appealing for offside, which certainly appeared to be the case. Bremner's shot sailed over the bar, but much to the Bearsted's disgust, the referee doubled his error by awarding a corner, from which Taylor McDonagh rose, unchallenged to head home.

Whilst the Bearsted support harangued the officials leaving the pitch for the break, one wise man offered the comment that no matter how many bad decisions go against you, the ball is still there to be defended. So true.

After 10 minutes of the second period, another poor decision went against the hosts, with Cray substitute Tom Fitzgerald racing clear before crossing for Youngs to bring a save from Owen only for Jason Thompson to score from the rebound.

The arguments went on for a long period without the referee brandishing a card, but after 71 minutes he showed a red to Bearsted's Rob Lyall for a professional foul.

The game was becoming farcical as minute by minute the hosts were more aggrieved by the hapless official who proceeded to book two players for sarcastically clapping the linesman when he raised a flag in their favour.

My evening was a groundhopper's tick, along the line was a referee's assessor. His notes would make far more interesting reading.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Maidstone United U18 2 Tonbridge Angels U18 2

Match 75/16/1382 - Monday, 9th January 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Maidstone United (0) 2 Warden 52, Barton 70
Tonbridge (0) 2 Pateman 50, Watson 84
Attendance: 131

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 19/5,419

The two best teams in the Ryman Youth League emerged from this captivating encounter with their unbeaten records intact following a 2-2 draw at The Gallagher.

Jay Stubberfield has always maintained that his principle role at Tonbridge is to generate players for the senior side and with Liam Smith, Callum Taylor and Sid Sollis unavailable for the game as they are required by the first team at Needham Market on Tuesday, he can rightly feel he is fulfilling his mandate.

It is disappointing that a club of Maidstone United’s National League status cannot run to a team sheet, so largely, I can only refer to the Maidstone players by their position. Perhaps it is a credit to Tonbridge that there is always a team sheet available.

Two sides of similar quality largely cancelled each other out in a first half of very few clear cut chances. Maidstone’s centre forward was sent through after two minutes but horribly scuffed his shot wide. A minute later a great cross from Tommy Chapman was headed against a post.

Tonbridge marginally had the better of the opening 20 minutes that culminated with a long range effort from Chapman giving the Maidstone goalkeeper a nervous moment.

Henry Ikeije went into the referee’s book after 34 minutes and was given a stern talking-too a minute later following a foul.

The home side finished the half the stronger with a bustling run from the centre forward and a long ball into the box found the head of Sid Warden who headed over.

Tonbridge took the lead five minutes into the second period when a cross into the box was headed on by Ollie Baker into the path of Louis Pateman who swept the ball into the net from eight yards.

The lead was short-lived however as the hosts were level within two minutes. A swift counter-attack saw a through ball from the Maidstone right winger into Warden who drove it past the advancing Lewis Mitchell.

Tonbridge conceded a dreadful goal after 70 minutes to go 2-1 down. A goal kick from the goalkeeper travelled the length of the pitch with the Maidstone substitute, Tom Barton, running unchallenged and slipping the ball past a hesitant Mitchell.

Barton may well have wrapped the game up a minute later when he once more ran clear but this time placed his shot narrowly wide of the left hand post.

If any fault lay at Mitchell’s feet for the second goal he redeemed himself with a brilliant save, clawing a shot from the inside left out of the top corner.

All credit though to the Angels who responded well in the last 15 minutes following the double substitution of Kunle Bakare and Guy Taylor for Jack Cussen and Chapman.

A cross-cum-shot from Ryan Gallifant looked overhit but required a tip over from Maidstone goalkeeper.

Tonbridge made their final substitution with six minutes remaining with Connor Watson replacing Jack Bray and the move immediately brought a dividend. Richard Frempong laid the ball back from the edge of the box to Watson who took aim and drove a shot from 25 yards into the top corner with the goalkeeper getting a firm hand to the ball but failing to keep it out.

There was a heart-stopping moment in the final minutes when the home side hit a post but the Angels held out for a well-deserved point.

Jay Stubberfield breathed a sigh of relief and said that it had been a tough night with a whole squad of under-17s, so were much younger than the Maidstone side. His one criticism was that at 1-0 they lost concentration and he would have liked to have seen his side retain possession better in those final five minutes.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Tonbridge 2 Metropolitan Police 1

Match 74/16/1381 - Saturday, 7th January 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 2 Akrofi 51, Blewden 66
Metropolitan Police (1) 1 Macklin 38
Attendance: 420

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/5,400

January will be a pivotal month for Tonbridge Angels. Eight games, six of them at home will either see them firmly established in the play-off places, perhaps even with an eye on the league leaders, or they will be struggling to stay in touch with those above at present.

The month didn’t start well with a Bank Holiday Tuesday defeat at their bogey ground of Billericay with two late, late goals grabbing defeat from the jaws of a first-ever victory at New Lodge Lane.

There is also the three match suspension of Nick Wheeler to be worked around following his sending-off at Worthing. Added to Wheeler’s suspension was the one game ban for Ugo Udogi which meant a recall to the starting line-up against the Metropolitan Police for James Folkes. Tom Phipp and Damian Scannell had places in the starting line-up with Luke Blewden dropping to the bench.

On a grey, murky afternoon the home side opened well with Phipp at the centre of everything, spraying passes left and right. He had an early shot blocked in what became a foretaste of the afternoon to come as the Met bravely put bodies on the line to frustrate their hosts.

A shot from Scannell brought a good, low save from Billy Bishop, who had kept goal for Tonbridge during 2014.

Although they were being forced to defend in numbers, the Met gave a few warnings to the Angels with the wing play of Mekhail McLaughlin and the very lively Roman Michael-Percil.

Tonbridge continued to create shooting chances, almost too many to mention, but the Plod stood firm and suckered the Angels in the 38th minute with a goal from Lloyd Macklin after Tonbridge made a mess of clearing a cross into the box.

The visitors could have doubled their advantage before the break when Macklin was sent clear but he made a complete mess of an attempted lob and Anthony Di Bernardo was allowed a comfortable catch.

Luke Blewden was introduced at the beginning of the second half for George Beavan, who had climbed out of his sickbed to play.

Six minutes into the half the hosts were level when a fine cross from Jack Parter was converted with a header from Alex Akrofi who might be small in stature but has springs in his heels.

Whilst Tonbridge continued to have the better of the game, the Police carved out a couple of good chances, one that brought a save out of Di Bernardo and another that necessitated a goal-line clearance from Phipp.

In the 66th minute, Tonbridge got their noses in front when Akrofi and Parter linked well on the left before the latter’s cross into the box was poorly dealt with; Nathan Elder touching the ball back to Blewden to crash home a shot into the centre of the goal

Tonbridge’s unnerving habit of going into the shells left their supporters with a jittery last 20 minutes as the Police went in search of an equaliser and as the minutes ticked by a sense of deja vu from the reverse fixture when the Police equalised in time added set alarm bells ringing.

Michael-Percil was creating havoc down the left hand side and it took a fine low save to his left from Di Bernardo to deny him and his side a share of the points with four minutes remaining.

This was a long way short of vintage Tonbridge, but if they can huff and puff their way through the cold, dark days of January with similar results they will be set up nicely for the run-in.

Pictures courtesy of Wes Filtness

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Gillingham 0 Oxford United 1

Match 73/16/1380 - Monday, 2nd January 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Oxford United (0) 1 Dunkley 66
Attendance: 6,414

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/5,362

Match Report

The events of the last couple of days have proved far more significant than the match itself. This was an horrendous performance from Gillingham, one that lacked any sort of game plan that led to a muddled, clueless display. There were players out there whose body language shouted at you that they didn’t give a damn and for that alone, Justin Edinburgh deserved the fate that befell him the following morning, the sack.

If this had been written directly after the game it would have been a rant because leaving Priestfield, I wasn’t disappointed, I was bloody angry with a season ticket that was destined for the bin. Edinburgh’s sacking has, at least for now, preserved my attendance for the rest of this season.

Adrian Pennock will now manage the club without the title but as head coach. Jamie Day, the Welling manager to whom Pennock was a consultant and Steve Lovell will make up his coaching staff. Pennock was a fans’ favourite as a player but his appointment has had a mixed reaction principally because of his managerial background in non-league. Whilst I would have liked to have seen somebody like Kenny Jackett get the job, the change alone has reinvigorated my interest.

Gillingham will not go down, of that I'm convinced. But for me to shell out the cost of a season ticket next season I want to be, at least, entertained for the rest of the season. I can never divorce myself of the club, too much water has passed under the bridge in the last 40 years for that to happen, but as they say about relationships, you can love but not necessarily like.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Worthing 3 Tonbridge 0

Match 72/16/1379 - Saturday, 31st December 2016 - Ryman Premier

Worthing (1) 3 Bugiel 28,71 (2 pens) Newton 81
Tonbridge (0) 0
Attendance: 752

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 116/5,304
New Ground: 300

If, on the way out from Worthing’s Woodside Road stadium, I had bumped into Norris McWhirter, it would not have made this day any less weird. And, yes, I know that the Guinness Book of Records founder has been dead for 12 years.

Mr McWhirter would have sought me out, sadly for all the wrong reasons. How many can claim, indeed would want to, that on successive days the two clubs they support both ended their respective matches with nine men? As a supplementary record it is not often that a match is settled by three penalties, all given to the same team.

The vocal element of the Worthing support had the referee’s number singing “the referee’s a Rebel”.

For Steve McKimm it was an afternoon where most things that could go wrong went wrong, including seeing red himself following a touchline fracas. Nonetheless, he had every reason to proclaim his pride in the nine men in Angels’ shirts that stayed on the pitch.

The game started brightly with both sides having opportunities in the opening 10 minutes. Nick Wheeler and Jack Parter both put in crosses that put the Rebels’ goalkeeper, Jack Fagan under pressure and Anthony Di Bernardo needed to be at his very best to deny Aaron Hopkinson.

Omar Bugiel, possibly playing his last game for Worthing before a rumoured move into the Football League, was proving a bulldozer of the old fashioned centre forward nature and was obviously going to be a significant threat.

The bumper festive crowd of 752 looked set to be treated to an afternoon of high entertainment instead the referee, Danny Austin, took centre stage.

After 25 minutes Bugiel was sent clear but, bearing down on goal, he took a heavy touch and the ball was seemingly heading into the welcoming hands of Di Bernardo. However, the Worthing man went down under pressure from Ugo Udogi and Mr Austin decided that, not only was it a foul challenge deserving of a penalty but that the Tonbridge defender should see red for the crime.

Bugiel stepped up to the spot, he sent the ball right, Di Bernardo went left and Worthing were in front.

Tonbridge responded with a header from Mitchell Nelson but their situation was about to go from bad to worse. After 37 minutes they were reduced to nine men with the dismissal of Wheeler. The Angels’ winger had taken a heavy tackle from Hopkinson and responded by allegedly kicking out at the Worthing man. My view was blocked by the dugouts and I was only able to see the aftermath in which a Worthing substitute, Brannon O’Neill became embroiled in an altercation with McKimm that ended with both seeing red.

Tonbridge did well to get to the break to reorganise with the score remaining at the single goal deficit. They sacrificed Nathan Elder in favour of an extra body in midfield with Damian Scannell. They managed to stifle their hosts and even proved threatening on the break with Alex Akrofi proving a livewire outlet and from a corner George Beaven headed marginally wide.

But, after 72 minutes, Luke Blewden brought down Zak Newton and Bugiel repeated his first half spot kick to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. On this occasion, it appeared that Mr Austin had made the correct decision, but Blewden later claimed he had not touched the Worthing man.

Ten minutes later, Austin awarded Worthing another penalty, this time Newton being brought down by Tom Parkinson. Newton had delivered the ball, was not even on the pitch when the referee’s whistle blew. It was a decision that mystified everybody.

Bugiel stepped up to complete a hat-trick on his farewell appearance but this time Di Bernardo guessed right and parried his shot but, in keeping with the Angels’ afternoon the rebound fell to Newton who had reacted the quickest.

On another day, I would be writing that my first visit to Woodside Road was a pleasant experience. It is a nice set-up with a 3G pitch and friendly people, but this visit will not be forgotten for all the wrong reasons.

Millwall 2 Gillingham 1

Match 71/16/1378 - Friday, 30th December 2016 - League One

Millwall (1) 2 Gregory 12 Onyedinma 63
Gillingham (0) 1 Dack 75
Attendance: 10,821

Entrance: £10 Senior (Second hand ticket!)
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 96/5,188

Match Report

I’m not sure what was the most frustrating, Gillingham’s ability to find a forward gear when 2-0 down and a man light or my inability to find my car after the game!

Gillingham’s form of late has been reasonable but as a watch they have been turgid, to use a friend’s word. So did I really want to travel to Bermondsey on a day when a train strike made driving almost compulsory. Any other time of the season, I might have looked around for another game but having been cooped up over the Christmas period, it seemed like a reasonable choice, one that became all the more reasonable when a bloke picked me out of the queue for a ticket and offered me a £17 senior ticket for a tenner!

It was a cold, foggy evening making the dank surroundings of The New Den even less inviting than they usually are. A good knowledge of the area made a parking space quite easy to find leaving just a ten minute walk to the ground.

An uneventful opening ten minutes ended with Millwall opening the scoring after 13 minutes. An effort was cleared from the line but when the ball was recycled by Shaun Cummings, his loft into the box was headed into the path of Lee Gregory who had the relatively easy task of tucking it past Stuart Nelson.

Millwall, for a period, held the ascendancy and had a goal ruled out for offside when Gregory netted after being put through by Ben Thompson.

Gillingham wrestled control of the game back midway through the half, although their efforts on goal were limited to a comfortable save from Jordan Archer and a header from Jay Emanuel-Thomas that narrowly cleared the bar.

The opening quarter-hour of the second period was even before Millwall doubled their advantage after 63 minutes. Fred Onyedinma made a surging run into the penalty area without facing the most demanding of challenges; his initial shot was blocked by Nelson, but he reacted quickest to the rebound to hook the ball into the net.

The evening quickly went from bad to worse for the visitors as Paul Konchesky, booked after 58 minutes, brought down Onyedinma on the edge of the box to receive a second yellow leaving Gillingham a man light.

In adversity, Gillingham came to the party. Bradley Dack, who had been largely anonymous, suddenly looked the player we know he can be, despite picking up a stupid booking for dissent.

After 74 minutes Dack’s well struck shot from the edge of the box found the bottom corner and Gillingham were back in the game.

It made for an exciting finish as the Gills sought an equaliser putting the Lions under a good deal of pressure. However, hopes of retrieving something out of the game ended when Dack was sent off for a poor challenge on Thompson to reduce Gillingham to nine men.

And so to my post-game adventure. To put it into context, I had worked in the area for 20 years; been down most of the avenues and alleyways in search of an alternative route when the Old Kent Road was at a standstill, not an unusual occurrence.

Dack’s dismissal with barely two minutes remaining convinced me that an early exit was in order but this was stymied by the locked gates of the visitor’s end. However, on this occasion, the wait was short and I was quickly on my way. The easy route was along Zampa Road and down Surrey Canal Road, but I decided to follow the same route that I had taken on the way in. I quickly realised that somehow I wasn’t heading in the same direction that had brought me to the Den and the trouble with any visit to Millwall you don’t want to advertise the fact that you support the opposition by asking for directions.

As I reached a main road, I recognised several landmarks and knew exactly where I was but I had become so disorientated that I couldn’t work out how to get to where I wanted to be. Eventually plucking up courage to ask a couple of blokes who had just got off a bus, just to get back to Millwall, they didn’t have a clue.

Suddenly, a light came on and I reached for my mobile phone and google maps, why had it taken 20 minutes for that to dawn on me? Sure enough in less than 10 minutes I was back at the car and then drove into traffic on the Old Kent Road, some things never change!