Saturday, 25 February 2017

Gillingham 2 Southend United 1

Match 98/16/1405 - Saturday, 25th February 2017 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Wright 41 (pen),45
Southend United (0) 1 Ranger 83
Attendance: 6,542

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/6,874

Match Report

A little bit of faith was restored with this spirited performance against a Southend United side that began and ended the afternoon in the play-off places. Despite going into the break two goals up with the visitors reduced to 10 men following the sending-off of ex-Gillingham loanee Ryan Inniss, the lack of confidence that was borne out of a winless run of 11 games allowed Southend to mount a concerted effort to salvage the game.

Under Ade Pennock, Gillingham have saved their better performances for those against the higher placed teams in the league but a first win has proved elusive for eight games.

The task appeared uphill from the naming of the starting eleven that lacked Bradley Dack, who picked up an injury in training, Deji Oshilaja, Chris Herd, Bradley Garmston and Mark Byrne. Into the side came new signing Zesh Rehman and Joe Quigley. Rehman had a sound debut at centre back doing nothing flashy but honest defending, getting his head on the ball and clearing to safety whilst Quigley did what was required of a tall target man occupying defenders.

Jermaine McGlashan, who departed Gillingham in the summer, initially received a warm welcome but a shameful dive in the opening minutes turned the cheers to jeers in an instant.

Inniss picked up his first yellow following a heavy challenge on Rory Donnelly that ended the Irish striker's afternoon being replaced by Josh Parker.

Gillingham opened the scoring with five minutes of the half remaining when they were awarded a penalty following a foul on Cody McDonald. Josh Wright send the Southend goalkeeper, Ted Smith the wrong way to convert the spot kick.

With five minutes of added time to play, Gillingham doubled their advantage in the 48th minute of the half when McDonald surged into the box and crossed from the left hand bye-line to give Wright a tap-in for his second goal.

In the 50th minute of the half, Inniss brought down Parker and after a long consultation with his linesman the referee showed the towering central defender a second yellow and the directions to the dressing room. Time was finally called on the first half after 54 minutes.

Southend's manager Phil Brown introduced Nile Ranger as a second half substitution and his direct running gave the Gillingham defence a constant problem.

Gillingham's defensive line fell deeper and deeper, as is their habit, and at times it was quite desperate but they were hanging on with Stuart Nelson not being called upon to make a serious save. Sadly the elusive clean sheet proved just that once more when a cross from the right by Theo Robinson found the head of Ranger who scored from close range.

It was a nervous finale and the cheers at the finish were as much relief as joyous but Pennock's reign finally has a victory under its belt, hallelujah to that.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Merstham U18 4 Tonbridge Angels U18 2

Match 97/16/1404 - Thursday, 23rd February 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Merstham U18 (3) 4 Transwest 15, Pateman o.g. 23, Omlore 32, Obazee (pen) 76
Tonbridge Angels U18 (1) 2 Sollis 35,46
Attendance: 53

Entrance: £3 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 90/6,816

Tonbridge Angels Under-18s fell to their first defeat of the season on a contentious evening at the Moatside, home to Merstham Football Club.

If eyes were being cast towards the 10th April meeting with Maidstone as a title decider, Merstham are very much in what will be a very interesting end to the season with all fourof the leading clubs (Ashford being the fourth) having to play each other.

This was a night when poor officiating evened itself out as both sides fell victim to some bad decisions.

Jay Stubberfield was forced to reshuffle his pack with Henry Ikeije, Liam Smith and Will Jump all unavailable, Louis Pateman and Lewis Mitchell turning out just 24 hours after playing for the reserves.

Both sides set out their attacking intention within the first five minutes. Merstham’s impressive left back, Rhys Davies set up Ross Obazee who scooped the ball over the bar from close range after two minutes whilst Sid Sollis struck a post from a free kick after five minutes.

Merstham’s goalkeeper Lachlan Greenwood made a fine save from Sollis following a Tommy Chapman free kick before the hosts opened the scoring after 15 minutes. Jack Fenton conceded a foul on the edge of the box from which Anwar Transwest cracked a well placed shot past the despairing Lewis Mitchell.

Another free kick given away by the Angels led to Merstham’s second goal after 23 minutes. A well flighted free kick from Sam Johnson glanced off the head of Pateman into his own net.

Merstham’s tails were up and they went three ahead just past the half-hour mark following a dreadful decision by the referee. Nat Lofthouse would have been proud to seen Emmanuel Omlore bundle Mitchell into the goal as the keeper looked to collect a corner but the referee somehow saw it as a fair challenge.

Tonbridge immediately found a lifeline when Sollis struck a 20 yard free kick powerfully past the Merstham keeper and might have been right back in the game three minutes later when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Ziyad Ghali. Sollis’s spot kick was too close to the keeper, who got down well to save low to his left.

Tonbridge made a half-time substitution with Guy Taylor replacing Harvey Killick and it paid dividends after just 24 seconds of the second half when Sollis picked up a rebound after Taylor’s initial shot was saved. The fact that Taylor was clearly offside showed the referee had no bias.

Tonbridge were pressing hard for the equaliser, Pateman fired in a shot from 25 yards and after 56 minutes had a goal chalked off as Taylor touched in from an offside position after Ghali’s shot was saved.

Mitchell saved well from Davies and Sollis had two efforts blocked in quick succession as the game swung from end to end.

Merstham restored their two goal advantage after 76 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty for handball against Ryan Gallifant, when the defender could hardly get out of the way of a ball driven at him. Obazee converted from the spot.

In the 82nd minute, the hosts were reduced to 10 men when they had Johnson sent off following a second yellow card.

Tonbridge continued to search for something out of the game and when a almighty scramble in the Merstham box was finally cleared, Obazee was laid injured on the goal-line. He was unable to continue leaving the hosts with nine men to see out the remaining seconds. Sollis sportingly helped the stricken Merstham man away. Two goals, a missed penalty, a booking and ending the night as a stretcher bearer, all in an evening’s work for the irrepressible Sid Sollis.

The Under-18s are next in action on Monday evening when they entertain Raynes Park Vale.

Pictures: Lisa Fenton

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Tonbridge Reserves 4 Cray Valley PM Reserves 2

Match 96/16/1403 - Wednesday, 22nd February 2017 - Suburban Shield

Tonbridge Angels Res (3) 4 Whitnell 34, Thompson 36, Watson 51,89
Cray Valley PM Res (0) 2 Mulkerinns 57, Saggers 67
Headcount: 45

Entrance: £2 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/6,726

Tonbridge used this Suburban Shield game to give game time to four of their first team squad. Tommy Whitnall played for an hour; Andre McCollin for 70 minutes whilst Ugo Udogi and Dan Thompson completed the full 90 minutes.

What little quality emerged from the first half was found at Whitnall’s feet and after a laborious 30 minutes when the ball broke on the edge of the penalty area it was Whitnall that buried it into the bottom corner.

Perhaps inspired by Whitnall’s injection off quality, Dan Thompson produced his own two minutes later when he took a pass from Taylor Sahzari and skipped a challenge before despatching a shot into the far corner to put the Angels two up.

At this point, Cray Valley were barely in the contest and a sharper Thompson and McCollin probably would have put the game far out of reach of their visitors.

Six minutes into the second period following a corner the ball fell for Connor Watson to volley into the bottom corner for a well taken goal putting the Angels seemingly out of sight at 3-0.

But, if Whitnall supplied the eye-catching performance of the first 45 minutes, Cray Valley’s substitute, Kieron Mulkerinns was to steal the show in the second. His appearance immediately raised eyebrows. On a relatively mild evening, he came off the bench in black tights more appropriate for an freezing evening of a fortnight ago. But the lad had something about him.

After 57 minutes, Mulkerinns spotted the Angels’ keeper Lewis Mitchell off his line and perfectly executed a lob to bring the game back to 3-1.

Ten minutes later, Cray Valley were right back in the game when a cross from the left found another substitute, Luke Saggers with time to pick his spot and reduce the deficit to a single goal.

When the visitors rattled the underside of the bar after 76 minutes, it was fair to say that Tonbridge themselves were fully rattled.

But the game was finally put to bed a minute from time when Watson struck a free kick past the wall for the Angels’ fourth goal of the evening.

There remained time for the man in tights to accumulate a second yellow card for comments made to the referee.

The match served its purpose for the first teamers for whom, manager for the night, Jay Stubberfield commented that he thought their attitudes had been superb.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Gillingham 2 AFC Wimbledon 2

Match 95/16/1402 - Tuesday, 21st February 2017 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Dack 20, Wright 36
AFC Wimbledon (1) 2 Taylor 17, Barcham 70
Attendance: 4,956

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/6,688

Match Report

If this Gillingham team are not doing Ade Pennock's head in, they are certainly doing mine!

There are definite signs of improvement; Bradley Dack is returning to his best form and the fitness and work ethic appear to have improved under the new regime but, sadly, it is the old failings that have denied Gillingham the three points once more.

Poor marking allowed Lyle Taylor a free hit at goal for AFC Wimbledon's opener before Gillingham hit back within three minutes with a piece of individual brilliance from Dack, weaving his way to the edge of the box and shooting low into the bottom corner.

Gillingham went into the break 2-1 up when Josh Wright turned in a cross from Ryan Jackson.

But that old failing of attempting to protect what they had let them down once more. They allowed the south London side to come onto them throughout a frustrating second half. Rory Donnelly might well have put the Gills 3-1 up but one-on-one with the keeper his shot was smothered and from there the visitors went straight up the other end and equalised through the ex-Gillingham favourite Andy Barcham who had the good grace not to celebrate his goal.

One more opportunity fell Gillingham's way when a cross from Dack found Mark Byrne at the far post but his header was inches wide when it seemed easier to score.

If we, if I, can stay patient that win is coming, Ade Pennock says so!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Woking U18 0 Tonbridge Angels U18 5

Match 94/16/1401 - Monday, 20th February 2017 - Lucas Fettes Ryman League Cup SF

Woking U18 (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels U18 (2) 5 Fenton 6,85 Ikeije 10 Sollis 54,63
Attendance: 53
Played at Knaphill Football Club
New Ground: 304

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 143/6,630

Tonbridge Angels’ Under-18 side made it through to the Final of the Lucas Fettes Ryman League Cup after demolishing the long-time leaders of the Central section, Woking, at Knaphill Football Club.

The Angels blew their opposition away with an early salvo of two goals in the opening 10 minutes and never allowed their opponents to get a foothold in the game at any point.

Olle Baker and Will Jump returned to the starting line-up after a long while on the sidelines through injury and manager Jay Stubberfield sprang a surprise by playing Liam Smith as a right winger. He explained after the game: “We knew they played a narrow diamond in midfield so our plan was to expose their full backs as much as possible. Every time we got in behind we looked a threat.”

The plan worked well with Tommy Chapman and Smith enjoying acres of space in the wide areas.

Tonbridge were ahead in the sixth minute when a beautifully flighted free kick from Chapman was met with a glancing header from Jack Fenton.

Four minutes later the lead was doubled when Henry Ikeije finished a surging run into the box with a shot that nestled in the far corner.

Woking recovered from their dreadful start but were doing little more than stemming the blue tide that was flowing in their direction.

After 30 minutes Ikeije pulled a pass across the face of goal that begged a touch but evaded everyone.

Three minutes before the break, Smith skipped along the bye-line but once more there was no touch to the final pass.

Four minutes into the second period, a Chapman free kick was brilliantly saved by the Woking goalkeeper with the rebound cleared from the line before Fenton’s shot was tipped over the bar by the keeper.

Such was the one-way traffic of the game, a third goal would surely put the game beyond doubt and that duly arrived after 54 minutes when a free kick was poorly cleared to the feet of Sid Sollis who duly despatched the ball into the bottom corner.

The Angels were served a wake-up call on the hour when the Woking number 11, who is unfortunately name-less without a team sheet but was their best player, shot against a post.

Three minutes later it was 4-0 as the Woking goalkeeper strayed from this line to collect but was beaten in the air by Jack Bray which allowed Sollis a tap-in.

Woking needed to defend stoutly to avoided being completely routed as Harvey Killick, on as a substitute, brought a save and a surging run from Smith ended with his shot being deflected wide.

The fifth goal finally arrived with five minutes remaining when Fenton hooked in from around the penalty spot as the ball ran loose following a Chapman corner.

A joyous Angels side, still very much in a title challenge, now have a Cup Final against Sussex side Whitehawk to look forward to with a date and venue to be announced.

Jay Stubberfield added: “Congratulations to the players, they deserve to be in the final and will do the club proud regardless.”

Of that we can be sure.

Pictures by Lisa Fenton

This was a first visit to Redding Way, home of Combined Counties League side Knaphill. I found it a pleasant, little ground with two covered seating enclosures seating around 55 people in each. There was hardstanding on all four sides and a very small, bus stop style, covered standing enclosure. With this not being a Knaphill fixture, the catering facilities were on the sparse side with only hot drinks on offer but the clubhouse looked capable of holding a fair few on matchday. My own trip was not helped by a hold-up on the M25 which delayed my arrival until the ground at a timely 19:45, only to find out that is wasn't timely at all as the game had kicked off at 19:30. Despite my reporting above, I had missed the opening two goals.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Kingstonian 0 Tonbridge 3

Match 93/16/1400 - Saturday, 18th February 2017 - Ryman Premier

Kingstonian (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 3 Allen 46, Parter 60, Elder 90+2
Attendance: 401

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 112/6,487

Match Report

We bid a fond farewell to Kingsmeadow, a place that has been kind to us over the years. The last two seasons have seen memorable victories and the win against AFC Wimbledon in 2006 will live long in the memory.

Most football stadiums lost these days are due to residential building, so it seems strange that Kingsmeadow will continue as a football ground but the hosts will become Chelsea's ladies and youth teams. Such is the power and wealth of the Premier League, but I guess, that those teams are going to attract at least as many as the 401 in attendance today.

This was the fourth time this season that Kingstonian and Tonbridge have met and each game has been a tight encounter with the Surrey side coming out on top twice and the other game drawn. The first half of this match was similarly a cagey affair with very few clear cut chances.

Tonbridge were forced into an early substitution when Alex Akrofi was replaced by Nick Wheeler. The erstwhile winger slotted himself into the diamond formation that has been adopted in his absence and impressed. From his corner, Luke Blewden directed a header at K's goalkeeper Rob Tolfrey and Tom Phipp had an effort deflected wide following Wheeler's cross.

After 36 minutes a through ball from Jack Parter almost sent Blewden clear but he was denied by a superb saving tackle from Alan Inns.

A Kingstonian free kick from a dangerous position on the edge of the box by Lewis Taylor was floated harmlessly into the grateful hands of Anthony Di Bernardo summing up the first half effectiveness of both attacks.

An early second half goal was required to open out the game and, thankfully, it went to Tonbridge within the first minute. Tom Phipp crossed from the left towards Nathan Elder; from the resultant challenge the ball broke to the edge of the penalty area to Luke Allen who placed his shot into the bottom corner.

Wheeler brought a fine save, diving to his left, from Tolfrey shooting from 20 yards.

Tonbridge by the hour mark were well on top and doubled their advantage from their newly-found goal machine, Parter. The full back started the move with a suspicion of a foul but ran on as the ball broke to Phipp who played the ball through to Parter who galloped into the space in front of him and let go a shot that took a deflection on its way to the net. This was Parter's third goal in five matches, all similar in execution.

The goal knocked the heart out of the hosts, who are in a poor run of form, and Tonbridge should have increased the lead long before their 92nd minute third from Elder. When it finally came it was our old favourite one-two, Wheeler corner, Elder header, bosh.

A couple of good results elswewhere, Needham Market and Leiston both losing on their travels added to the satisfaction of the afternoon. Play-off position is being cemented, looking upwards continues apace.

Pictures: David Couldridge

Boring pictures by me!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 1 Greenwich Borough U18 0

Match 92/16/1399 - Thursday, 16th February 2017 - Ryman Youth

Tonbridge Angels U18 (1) 1 Chapman 17
Greenwich Borough U18 (0) 0
Attendance: 37

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: Free teamsheet
Mileage: 38/6,375

Tonbridge Under-18s emerged from one of their less than impressive performances with a win that keeps them hot on the heels of league leaders Maidstone United who dropped points at Kingstonian.

In fairness, Tonbridge should have won the game at a canter, they created a multitude of chances throughout the game but, unfortunately, it wasn’t an evening when they were at their sharpest in front of goal.

At the other end of the pitch, they defended very well protecting a 16-year-old goalkeeper, Henry Lovering who wasn’t asked to make a serious save.

Tonbridge exerted considerable pressure on the Greenwich Borough defence and finally broke them down after 17 minutes. A fine run down the right from Henry Ikeije ended with a cross from the bye-line to a waiting Tommy Chapman, who tapped in at the far post.

The first half was almost completely one-way traffic and, to a degree, it became a bit of a stroll as Tonbridge struggled to maintain a high tempo.

Sid Sollis robbed Joe Shehiard and went clear but the Greenwich goalkeeper, McKenzie Foley saved at his feet. Sollis took a booking for his trouble for leaving a foot in.

At half-time a single goal was scant reward for 12 attempts on goal.

Sollis was replaced during the break by Jack Cussen and the substitute quickly had an opportunity which he steered wide of the far post.

The pattern of the first half was replicated in the second and, in a period of 10 minutes around the hour mark, it was difficult to believe that the scoreline had not been added to. Liam Smith brought a save out of Foley; Jack Bray drove a shot wide and Ikeije hit a post.

On 75 minutes, Greenwich served a minor reminder that there were two sides involved when Sam Evbugua finally asked Lovering to lay a glove on the ball.

Jay Stubberfield remarked "that it was a game in which you take the three points and move on. The lack of game time makes this period feel like a pre-season programme and the players were a bit leggy tonight, but that will stand us in great stead for the rest of the season."

The Under-18s next game is their Ryman League Cup semi-final against Woking which will be played on Monday at Knaphill FC, kick off 19:45.

Picture: Lisa Fenton

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Tonbridge Reserves 2 Redhill Reserves 2

Match 91/16/1398 - Wednesday, 15th February 2017 - Suburban Plate

Tonbridge Reserves (1) 2 Thomas (pen) 20,51
Redhill Reserves (0) 2 McArdle 67,80 (pens)
Redhill won 5-3 on penalties
Headcount: 14

Entrance: Free
Programme: Free teamsheet
Mileage: 38/6,337

The Angels’ Reserve team surrendered a two goal lead to end their interest in the Suburban Plate following a penalty shoot-out after the game finished at 90 minutes 2-2.

Tonbridge started the game well and had a goal chalked off for offside after just three minutes. Jerome Thomas brought a save out of Redhill’s goalkeeper, Ashley Davey. The visitors themselves had the ball in the net after 10 minutes only to be denied by a linesman’s flag.

Tonbridge deserved their 20th minute lead when Ashraf Kizito was brought down to earn a penalty which was confidently despatched low to the left of the Redhill goalkeeper by Jerome Thomas.

Kizito outpaced the Redhill defence in the opening minute of the second half but dragged his shot wide.

It was a short reprieve for Redhill as Tonbridge increased their lead in the 51st minute. Good work down the left from Steve Bouachi was followed with a pass inside to Thomas who skipped inside a challenge, making room to score from 10 yards.

Tonbridge sadly took their foot off the pedal and allowed their visitors back into the game, spurred on by an animated bench. The deficit was reduced to one when a Redhill player was brought down on the left-hand bye-line, the subsequent penalty being converted by Fachara McArdle.

In a game that unfortunately screamed mediocrity Lewis Mitchell produced a phenomenal save from point blank range to deny Redhill’s Louis Chin.

With ten minutes remaining, Redhill were awarded a second penalty when Callum Taylor misjudged a tackle on the edge of the box. This time McArdle struck his shot straight down the middle to level the tie and send his management team into rapture.

The game was seen out without further scoring and the dreaded penalty shoot-out was needed to decide the tie. Thomas blazed Tonbridge’s opening shot over the bar, whilst Redhill struck five perfect penalties giving Mitchell little chance.

Tonbridge 3 Enfield Town 0

Match 90/16/1397 - Tuesday, 14th February 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 3 Elder 17, Allen 51, Parter 75
Enfield Town (0) 0
Attendance: 304

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/6,299

Match Report

Christmas is but a distant memory. One point over the festive period left many of us wondering if our race had been run. The likes of Bognor, Havant and even Needham Market seemed to be disappearing over the horizon. But one defeat in nine since the turn of the year and a few wobbles from the aforementioned has seen Tonbridge inch their way back into the play-off places with the top three no longer out of sight.

Players coming back to fitness, a midfield formation that is looking both strong and creative all adds to the optimism.

Enfield arrived in town with play-off ambitions of their own and for 15 minutes this didn't look like a game that would have its eventual outcome with Harry Ottaway testing Anthony Di Bernardo with a header.

The visitors were caught cold after 17 minutes when they failed to react to a short corner to Tom Phipp whose inch perfect cross was met with a powerful header from Nathan Elder that crashed back from the stanchion causing a bizarre minute in which it was questioned whether the ball had crossed the line. Elder received a cut to the head for his trouble and returned to the action swathed in a bandage.

Enfield continued to be a threat, Ottaway drove a cross across the face of goal when it was probably better to have shot and when Mitchell Nelson misheadsed back towards his own goal, Di Bernardo was bundled into the net after catching the ball by Harold Joseph.

The second period opened with a fine run, what turned out to be a foretaste, from Jack Parter that ended with a pass to Elder whose shot was blocked.

The traffic had now become very much one way, Phipp curled a shot over before Tonbridge created a goal of beauty after 51 minutes. Phipp and Luke Blewden combined before a pass to the left wing to Luke Allen who curled in a wonderful shot (I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't a cross) to the far post where it nestled in the corner.

After 75 minutes, Parter replicated his marauding down the left, after a challenge on Akrofi, the ball rebounded to Parter who slotted home.

Picture: Wesley Filtness

Pictures: David Couldridge

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 4 Merstham U18 4

Match 89/16/1396 - Monday, 13th February 2017 - Lucas Fettes Ryman League Cup QF

Tonbridge Angels U18 (3) 4 Killick 15,35 Ikeije 22 Sollis 69
Merstham (1) 4 Tran-West 33, Wilson 64, Omrore 66, Obazee 77
Tonbridge Angels won 6-5 on penalties
Attendance: 73
Played at Whyteleafe FC

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 86/6,261

The Angels U18s progressed to the semi-finals of the Lucas Fettes Ryman League Cup after a thrilling penalty shoot-out win against a very good Merstham side.

After three postponements and an abandoned game, the decision was made to play the game on the 3G surface at Whyteleafe.

Tonbridge seized the initiative from the outset with Jack Bray heading narrowly over from a Tommy Chapman corner.

It had been pretty much one-way traffic when the Angels opening the scoring after 15 minutes. Sid Sollis surged from the left across the face of the box before playing in Harvey Killick, who picked his spot into the bottom corner from the right side of the six yard box.

The “hosts” doubled their lead after 24 minutes when Henry Ikeije finished from close range after good work from Killick.

Going two goals down stirred Merstham into life and they went close after 32 minutes when a shot that would have needed a save from Lewis Mitchell was inadvertently blocked by a fellow Merstham attacker. However, the reprieve was short-lived. A foul conceded just outside the box brought a delightfully flighted free kick from Anwah Transwest over the wall and beyond the grasp of Mitchell.

Killick scored his second of the evening when a well placed cross from Chapman found the head of Sollis who steered the ball into the path of Killick to finish clinically.

The Angels could have put some gloss on a dominant half when Sollis shot over and Jack Fenton brought a good low save out of the Merstham keeper.

Merstham made a real fight of the game in the second period inspired by a couple of substitutions that gave them some attacking impetus. After 64 minutes the deficit was reduced to 3-2 when following a free kick into the goalkeeper's corridor of uncertainty, Nick Wilson pounced as a shot rebounded off the left hand post.

Two minutes later, the Surrey side were level when a lightning break down the left hand side had a similar end result as Manny Omrore scored when the ball rebounded off the post.

The game took another twist with a third goal in six minutes when Sollis took aim from 25 yards with a powerful shot that left the goalkeeper no chance as it sailed into the top corner.

Sollis had a shot cleared from the line before, with 77 minutes on the clock, Merstham found another equaliser with a finish from Ross Obazee following a cross from the right.

An audacious lob from the cultured foot of Chapman very nearly found a winner with the goalkeeper falling over as he back-pedalled.

The tie went straight to penalties with the first five from both sides being converted. Tonbridge’s takers being Liam Smith, Ikejie, Ziyad Ghali, Jack Cussens and Sollis. Merstham’s sixth penalty was brilliantly saved to his left by Mitchell and Killick kept his nerve to slot home the winner.

Manager Jay Stubberfield was delighted for his match winner: “Harvey has struggled with injuries and it’s great to have him back fully fit. We were exceptional in the first half, almost perfect barring the set piece. We haven’t had a game for five weeks, it was impossible to keep up that first half intensity, given more game time I think we would have seen it out better.”

Steve McKimm, who was watching from the terraces praised the youngsters first half performance and added that he has been invited to Sutton United for their glamour FA Cup tie against Arsenal and was gutted that he would miss the semi-final due to be played on the same evening.

The Under-18s now meet Woking in the semi-final on Monday at Knaphill FC.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Gillingham 1 Port Vale 1

Match 88/16/1395 - Saturday, 11th February 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Parker 90+5
Port Vale (0) 1 Streete 49
Attendance: 4,942

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/6,175

Match Report

Thankfully Ade Pennock doesn't do bullshit. This was desperately poor and he said so. Somewhat amusingly, in an afternoon which failed dismally to produce a smile out of the gloom, he related that, at the half-time whistle, he joined in with the boos of the crowd!

If reports are to be believed, Pennock has been left the equivalent of Liam Byrne's note as outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, "there is no money". The budget has been used by the previous regime and as the transfer window passed with the incomings being loans or free agents, one has to believe the reports.

The diehards that follow Gillingham away have bore witness to a couple of spirited performances earning draws at promotion seeking Sheffield United and Bradford City, but the home support have seen very little evidence of any improvement.

Whilst Pennock has to make do with what he has at this disposal, he is in my opinion, hamstrung by each team that he puts out is carrying around four players who are not just out of form, they are literally not good enough. They are so devoid of creativity that if they were supplied eggs and had them broken for them, they still couldn't make an omelette.

That said Pennock leaves me head scratching when I see Bradley Dack wasted in that role behind the striker when he is the one player capable of creating something; Cody McDonald's withdrawal leaving Rory Donnelly on the pitch, didn't get that one; and I'm afraid Ryan Jackson should not make the starting eleven.

Port Vale started and finished the afternoon one point adrift of Gillingham. If I had been one of the 120-odd Vale supporters making their way back to Burslem tonight I would have been truly gutted that they were not going home with all three points. If Gillingham have only one "get out of jail card" a season then they have played it.

The referee had indicated that there would be five minutes of time added and my stopwatch hit the 50th minute of the half when new signing Josh Parker met Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' corner with a powerful header to rescue an undeserved point.

After a first half in which the two sides performance was only matched by the greyness of the weather, Port Vale went ahead four minutes into the second period when a corner from Callum Guy was headed home at the far post by Remi Street. Deji Oshilaja may lay claim to being fouled as he attempted to jump with Streete, but it was weak defending.

A Donnelly header after 76 minutes barely stretched Leonardo Fasan in the Vale goal, but it was a rare effort on target.

Hopefully, the loan signings of Bournemouth's Joe Quigley and Harry Cornick will add some quality, first they need to be fit.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sutton Athletic 1 Whitstable Town 4

Match 87/16/1394 - Tuesday, 7th February 2017 - SCEFL Challenge Cup QF

Sutton Athletic (1) 1 Mills 40
Whitstable Town (2) 4 Rowland 25,80 Dawodo 30 Smith 58
Attendance: 68

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 64/6,117
New Ground: 303

A Tuesday evening groundhop to Lower Road, Hextable, home of Sutton Athletic, perhaps with the potential for a cup upset, but visitors, Whitstable Town were having none of that nonsense.

For those of the groundhopping persuasion that have not yet ticked Sutton Athletic, if you use the postcode in your satnav it leaves you quite a long way short, but carry on down Lower Road and the lights come into view.

On arrival the car park is more than adequate for the average attendance of the club. There are no turnstiles, just three jolly fellows taking your admission fee, selling you a programme and a raffle ticket all in one go. If you are of advancing years, you can purchase the lot and still have change from a fiver! The programme with a multitude of photos was particularly good value.

The ground is a long way short of the standard required for the SCEFL Premier, but as one of the jolly fellows told my friend, they are quite happy where they are. The basics are met, the playing area is fenced and there is hardstanding on three sides at least, I didn't venture to the other side. On that side there is a area of cover that could accommodate the majority of the attendance on a wet day. There is also a clubhouse that had a big screen television.

Whitstable were asked to stretch their legs to ensure their passage to the semi-final, but always had the tie within their reach.

By virtue of the programme, I'm making the assumption that the Sutton goalkeeper, Harry Beardsley, was their third choice, he certainly looked young and had a curate's egg of a performance in the early stages. Two scuffed kicked clearances hardly inspired confidence and when he attempted to kick clear rather than go with his hands, his attempt rebounded off Kane Rowland for the opening goal after 24 minutes. But the lad grew in confidence and made several good saves to deny the visitors a bigger margin of victory.

After 30 minutes, Bola Dowadu outjumped the defence to head home from a corner to double the Oystermen's advantage.

Five minutes before the break Sutton gave themselves hope when Mike Mills powered in a header, also from a corner, to reduce the deficit to a single goal.

After 57 minutes, a shot-cum-cross from Chris Smith curled straight into the net and as the temperature began to drop and the toes were feeling the cold, Rowland put any worries of extra time away with a tap in following good work by Smith.

Two ex-Tunbridge Wells players were in the Whitstable starting eleven, Tom Bryant and Connor Hood, with the latter being the best player on the pitch.

The three jolly fellows on the gate who then became the Sutton choir were rightly proud of their little club. Good luck for the rest of the season chaps.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Chatham Town 2 Sittingbourne 3

Match 86/16/1393 - Monday, 6th February 2017 - Ryman South

Chatham Town (0) 2 Gallacher 85,90+2
Sittingbourne (2) 3 Akhazzan 2, Wright 33, Richardson 60
Attendance: 162

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/6,053

Match Report

Chatham Town now look a team desperately in need of snookers if they are to avoid relegation. Despite an unlikely comeback attempt in the last five minutes, defeat against neighbours Sittingbourne leaves them eight points adrift of Guernsey with perhaps their best hope being that the Channel Islanders decide not to continue in Ryman South next season.

The Chats need of points was a lot greater than that of their visitors but they got off to the worst possible start conceding within two minutes. A long throw was poorly cleared to the feet of the evergreen Hicham Akhazzan who struck low and hard into the centre of the goal.

About the only Chatham player to catch the eye in a dismal first half for the hosts was Ryan Flack who created a chance for Darren Marsden to drag wide and then sent in a rasping drive that narrowly cleared the crossbar.

Sittingbourne doubled their advantage in the 32 minute when a cross from the left was ineffectually slapped away by goalkeeper Alex Hyde to Stefan Wright who drove his shot into the bottom corner.

Chats manager, Paul Piggott made a double substitution at the break bringing on Kyron Lightfoot and Jordan Gallacher and, in fairness, the home side did improve after the break.

The third Sittingbourne goal on the hour probably best exemplifies why Chatham will be relegated this season. A corner from the right by Akhazzan was swung into the centre of the six yard box where Jono Richardson climbed the highest to head home. It was all too easy.

The game appeared to be drifting to its expected conclusion when Flack swung in a corner for Gallacher to steer his header into the far corner for a consolation goal.

Two minutes into time added, that consolation was added to when Chatham's skipper George Benner knocked down a cross for Gallacher to shoot home.

Unfortunately for Chatham, the sands of time quickly ran out and those same sands are winding down their time in Ryman South.

If Chatham have thoughts that they can go down to the Southern Counties East and return to the Ryman a year later stronger for the experience they have to look no further than Whitstable, who are not going to emerge from their first season or, slightly longer term, Erith and Belvedere who show no sign of promotion back after three seasons.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Canvey Island 0 Tonbridge 1

Match 85/16/1392 - Saturday, 4th February 2017 - Ryman Premier

Canvey Island (0) 0
Tonbridge (1) 1 Akrofi 4
Attendance: 325

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 126/6,021

Match Report

A first-ever victory at Park Lane is not to be sniffed at, despite Canvey Island's lowly league position, but Tonbridge gave their travelling support some anxious second half moments after dominating a first period that should have yielded more than a single goal, scored by Alex Akrofi after just four minutes.

Arrival at Canvey Island was greeted with warm spring-like sunshine. Since our last visit, the hosts have a new, impressive clubhouse recently officially opened by Peter Taylor. However, the strange little mound directly in front of one of the goals remains.

Tom Phipp sat out the game with the injury sustained on Tuesday evening with the other notable absentee being manager Steve McKimm who was forced to stay at home with a bout of the flu.

The Angels could not have had a better start. Phipp's replacement, Luke Allen, slid a ball into the path of Akrofi who shot past the giant Conor Gough from 12 yards.

The home side responded with a good effort from Jay Curran whose shot was narrowly wide of the right hand post.

Tonbridge were unlucky not to extend their lead after 26 minutes when, following a cross by Jack Parter, Luke Blewden struck a fierce shot against the post. They were further frustrated when Nick Wheeler's goalbound shot was cleared from the line by Canvey's striker, George Sykes.

Gough did well to palm away Mitchell Nelson's header from Wheeler's corner as the teams went into the break both wondering how the game was not well beyond the hosts.

Canvey had a double opportunity to equalise after five minutes of the second half when John Mbamarah miskicked in front of goal and from the resultant cross Sykes directed a header wide.

Tonbridge might have extended their advantage after 70 minutes when a Wheeler corner was headed back to George Beavan whose shot was perfectly hit but only found Ashley Dumas on the line to clear. Two minutes later, another Wheeler corner, gave Nelson a free header inside the box but he directed it over the bar.

By this time, Canvey were huffing and puffing their way to a big finish and dominating pressure for a 10 minute period but, without stretching Di Bernardo to other than a couple of catches.

Nathan Elder had another chance to allow the Tonbridge support the luxury of a nerve-free injury time when his header from a Luke Blewden cross was brilliantly tipped over by Gough.

An injury in added time took the designated four minutes up to seven and, with recent experience, nobody was taking anything for granted. Finally, the whistle was blown and the mini hoodoo, after all we've only ever played there six times (and managed a couple of draws), was put to bed.

Action pictures courtesy of Chris Coolbear

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Tonbridge 4 Leatherhead 4

Match 84/16/1391 - Tuesday, 31st January 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 4 Wheeler 4, Phipp 48, Elder 70, Parter 76
Leatherhead (3) 4 Carr 12, Daniel 34, Smith 44,78
Attendance: 280

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50 (rain ruined)
Mileage: 38/5,895

It would have been an age-old debate that would have gone on in the bar until closing time. A point gained, or two lost?

On an absolutely filthy night, two sides produced a match that was thrilling for the paying spectator but would have left the respective managers tearing their hair out which probably accounts for Steve McKimm’s after-match comment that it was a “disappointing game in which nobody took responsibility especially in the first half. They did in the second half exactly what I asked them to do in the first and, lo and behold, we scored goals. But we got a point from 3-1 down; they gave me a good reaction.”

Jimmy Bullard, the Leatherhead boss was always an entertainer as a player and his side certainly gave their small travelling support value for money in the first period.

Tonbridge were ahead with only four minutes on the clock. Nick Wheeler swung in a wicked cross from the left into the area of uncertainty for any goalkeeper; it begged a touch but as no one managed that, the ball sailed serenely on its path to nestle into the far corner of the net.

The home side was undone after 12 minutes when a long punt through the middle was misjudged allowing Daniel Carr, their on-loan striker from Dulwich Hamlet, to run on and slip the ball past the advancing Anthony Di Bernardo.

The visitors continued to take the game to their hosts and it came as little surprise when they took the lead after 34 minutes, albeit with a fluke cross from Kadell Daniel, who looked as surprised as anybody, as his misplaced effort looped over Di Bernardo.

On the stroke of the break, the Tanners went into the dry of the dressing room with a third goal to their credit as Ty Smith was allowed far too much time and space to curl a low shot into the far corner.

McKimm certainly engendered a reaction from his side with the deficit being reduced to a single goal just four minutes after the restart. Tom Phipp skipped a couple of challenges before producing an exquisite lob from 20 yards that left Louis Wells helpless.

Tonbridge were on level terms after 70 minutes when Tom Parkinson literally nicked the ball from the toes of a couple of defenders before standing up the perfect cross for Nathan Elder to head home.

Six minutes later the comeback was complete when Jack Parter started and finished a move with a toe poke past Wells who had dived at his feet. Bullard took exception to the goal, claiming it was taken from the hands of his goalkeeper and was sent from the dug-out for his protestations.

Unfortunately, the comeback was not quite complete and, within two minutes, Leatherhead were back on terms with a similar goal to the Angels’ opener. Smith swung in a cross-turned-shot from the left that evaded a box full of bodies to find the far corner of the net.

The closing stages saw Di Bernardo saving from Carr to preserve the point.

Wink Tomkinson, rain sodden notebook, Longmead Stadium.

Picture courtesy David Couldridge