Friday, 31 March 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 6 Raynes Park Vale U18 0

Match 114/16/1421 - Thursday, 30th March 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge Angels U18 (3) 6 Sollis 1,63,71 Bray 4 Cussen 23,74 (pen)
Raynes Park Vale U18 (0) 0
Attendance: 25

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/7,780

Despite being reduced to 10 men after 16 minutes when goalkeeper Lewis Mitchell was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity by handling outside of his area, Tonbridge Angels U18’s goal rush continued with a comfortable 6-0 win over a young Raynes Park Vale side.

It took just 15 seconds for the irrepressible Sid Sollis to open the scoring when he rifled a shot from 25 yards past a startled Vale goalkeeper.

The game looked to be potentially even more one-sided than the 8-0 scoreline a fortnight ago when Jack Bray forced George Wiltshire into a save low to his left after three minutes and Sollis saw his lob bounce over the bar after six minutes. A month ago, on softer ground, the ball would have bounced underneath the bar.

Raynes Park’s Luke Faran was proving to carry a threat and the Tonbridge defence had to hack the ball to safety when he had a chance in front of goal.

After 14 minutes, Jack Bray picked out the top corner with a 25 yard shot that once more whistled past Wiltshire.

Two minutes later Mitchell was, perhaps, harshly dealt with whilst accepting that the referee exacted the letter of the law. The goalkeeper rushed from his line as Dan Clatworthy was put through on goal; as the two players came within a yard of each other the Vale man got a touch to the ball that hit the hands of the keeper. Whether the ball hit Mitchell or whether he moved his hands to the ball is the judgement the referee had to make and the red card was his decision.

Never one to shy away from the action it was Sollis that donned the green jersey and his first sight of the ball was the resultant free kick that crashed against his crossbar.

After 23 minutes, a surging run from Bray ended with a cross to Jack Cussen who touched in at close range to make it 3-0.

Manager John Gibbons reshuffled his pack during the break. Liam McCreadie replaced Ziyad Ghali and also replaced Sollis in goal whilst Rhys Faram, who had a muscle strain, was substituted by Jack Fenton.

After 63 minutes, Sollis robbed Curver George on the right hand side and cut in to fire home a shot into the far corner of the net from around 12 yards to make it 4-0.

Sollis completed his hat-trick after 71 minutes when put through by Fenton finishing with a firm shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance.

Three minutes later, who else but Sollis would be brought down after robbing a dithering defender to earn a penalty. He stepped aside for the hard working Jack Cussen to send Wiltshire the wrong way to complete the scoring.

Tonbridge Angels Under-18s are next in action at Longmead on Monday, 3rd April when they entertain Kingstonian.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Tunbridge Wells U21 2 Tonbridge Angels Res 1

Match 113/16/1420 - Tuesday, 28th March 2017 - Suburban Shield

Tunbridge Wells U21 (1) 2 Biddlecombe 33, Adams 49
Tonbridge Angels Reserves (1) 1 Morrison 30
Attendance: 107

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: None
Mileage: 36/7,742

Who would be a goalkeeper? Lewis Mitchell single-handedly kept Tonbridge Angels in this game, but an inexplicable handling error four minutes into the second half ultimately decided the game and sent Tunbridge Wells through to the Semi-Finals of the Suburban Shield.

Tunbridge Wells deserved to make progress in the competition; in Josh Biddlecombe they had the only genuine first-teamer in either side and he had a quality that was above anybody else. Biddlecombe is suspended from the Wells first team game on Saturday, hence his inclusion in the Under-21 side for this game.

The closest either side came in the opening 20 minutes was a shot from the left from Tunbridge Wells' Joe Adams that crashed against the crossbar.

But it was the visitors that took the lead when a pass over the top sent Dameli Morrison clear to cleverly lob Callum Hampson in the Wells' goal.

The lead was only to last three minutes when the ball was slid through the centre for Biddlecombe to draw Mitchell from his line before slotting it past the goalkeeper.

Tunbridge Wells enjoyed a period of dominance before the break with Ollie Vidler having a shot blocked and Tom Lawrence sending the rebound over the bar.

Mitchell's nightmare moment came in the 49th minute when a cross from the right from Adams should have been an easy collect for the goalkeeper, but under pressure from Biddlecombe, he dropped the ball over his line with the referee quite rightly deciding that the striker had not impeded the goalkeeper.

Tonbridge had the odd half-chance through the second period but it was the Wells that made the clearer chances and the reason they didn't run out much clearer winners was due to Mitchell's brilliance.

The young Tonbridge stopper dived low to his left to deny Biddlecombe after an hour and his double save ten minutes later from close range was out of the top drawer.

If any criticism could be made of Biddlecombe's performance it would be that he was wasteful in front of goal and another couple of chances went begging just prior to the final whistle.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 8 Ramsgate U18 0

Match 112/16/1419 - Monday, 27th March 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge Angels U18 (5) 8 Chapman 6, Sollis 10 (pen),20,48,88 Fenton 18,28,52
Ramsgate (0) 0
Attendance: 41

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/7,706

Tonbridge Angels U18s cruised to an 8-0 win for the second time in three games, this time against a threadbare Ramsgate side that were unable to name a single substitute.

Sid Sollis returned to the starting line-up scoring four times and could easily have doubled that number with a masterclass in clinical finishing. Jack Fenton weighed in with a hat-trick with Tommy Chapman opening the scoring.

Tonbridge took the lead after six minutes and the floodgates were pretty much opened from that point. A splendid cross from Connor Watson to the far post was headed back across the face of goal for Chapman to sweep the ball home from six yards.

Sollis’ pace was shredding the Rams defence and after 10 minutes his run into the penalty area was brought to an abrupt end as he was brought down. Sollis smashed the penalty straight down the middle to put the Angels two up.

Ramsgate brought a decent save out of Lewis Mitchell when a shot from Corey Halton required the Tonbridge goalkeeper to palm the ball away to safety.

Two goals in three minutes confirmed that this night would be another goalfest when, after 18 minutes, a fine interchange of passes between Sollis and McCreadie set up Jack Fenton to slot home and two minutes later Sollis latched onto a inch perfect pass from Jack Bray to drive past a couple of hapless defenders and fire in a shot that gave the Rams keeper no chance.

Tonbridge did receive a setback after 25 minutes when their captain, Callum Adonis-Taylor was injured and substituted by Louis Pateman.

After 28 minutes, accepting a pass from Ryan Gallifant, Fenton produced a sublime chip over the goalkeeper for the fifth of the evening.

Credit must go to a beleaguered Ramsgate side that responded to force Mitchell into action with two saves from Ollie Harris and Bentley Torrander.

The Ramsgate goalkeeper, Kieron Palmer who, perversely grew in confidence as the goals rained in, made a brilliant save before the break to deny Fenton a first half hat-trick.

The Angels made a half-time substitution, Jack Cussen replacing Ollie Baker with Bray taking over the central defensive position.

Three minutes into the second half, Sollis’ pace once more carved open the Rams defence to finish clinically after being put through by a delightful flick from Liam McCreadie.

After 52 minutes the score became 7-0 when Cussen was denied by a good save from Palmer but Fenton was on hand to complete his hat-trick.

Tonbridge went through a wasteful half-hour and in some ways you felt a little relieved for the visitors that they did.

Of course, it had to be Sollis who had the last word when, with two minutes remaining, he cut in from the right to bury a shot into the bottom corner.

Tonbridge Angels Under-18s are next in action on Thursday evening when they entertain Raynes Park Vale, against whom they scored eight goals last Thursday.

Pictures: Graham Fenton

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Gillingham 0 Peterborough United 1

Match 111/16/1418 - Saturday, 25th March 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Peterborough United (0) 1 Morais 90
Attendance: 7,561

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/7,668

Match Report

In the week that Paul Scally, the Chairman of Gillingham Football Club produced a document that told the tale of a football club that, inside a new stadium, could see a path to Premier League football, his employees went on to the pitch and produced the worst performance of the season in an absolutely shocking advert for League One football.

I understand Scally's long-term ambition for the club that will endure long after he, and I, have departed the scene. I appreciate the need for alternative revenue streams and a facility that will serve the local community seven days a week, but at very nearly 66 years of age, I doubt that I will ever see the scheme through to fruition and, rather selfishly, I would prefer to see the here and now dealt with. What we have now is a crap team that are staring League Two football in the face and I don't particularly want to watch it next season, and as a season ticket holder, I will not.

Mr Scally offers up Brighton & Hove Albion as the template for success via a new stadium and he is right to highlight that particular club as they stand on the threshold of the Premier League, but they had the benefit of a benefactor with bottomless pockets and building the stadium and assembling a winning squad was able to be done hand-in-hand. Mr Scally's pockets, by his own admission, are not bottomless.

If the land required to build the stadium at Mill Hill is allocated to Gillingham in the near future, and I hope for the future of the club is does, unless an investor with wads of cash to throw at the project comes on board, the high percentage of each season's budget is going to be directed towards Mill Hill and where will that leave the playing budget?

The game with Peterborough had to be earmarked as one of the remaining games to put three points on the table, they were on a poor run with nothing much left to play for, and to be honest, they looked it. Sadly, Gillingham were worse.

One hour elapsed before Cody McDonald directed a header goalwards that was comfortably collected by Luke McGee.

Gillingham gave a debut to Czech goalkeeper Tomas Holy. Some of his handling was a bit nervy but his kicking was solid and he made one very good save to deny Chris Forrester whose shot from 35 yards was destined for the top corner.

If one could suffer the boredom of the game being served up, then the biting wind that blew under the sun-starved Gordon Road Stand made life really uncomfortable. It was bizarre to look across at the Medway Stand soaked in sunshine and people in shirt sleeves whilst we literally froze.

Out of nowhere came a goal that deserved to win a thriller, not this tedium. On the stroke of the 90th minute, Junior Morais, derided for his body shape and lack of height, let fly from 30 yards into the top corner giving Holy no chance.

I look forward to the outcome of Medway Council's deliberations on the future of Mill Hill, but I fear that by the time they make their decision they will be looking to re-house a League Two club.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Rusthall 1 Glebe 1

Match 110/16/1417 - Wednesday, 22nd March 2017 - SCEFL1

Rusthall (1) 1 Mitchell 45
Glebe (1) 1 Tobon 16
Attendance: 268

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 46/7,610

Match Report

It appears that a fascinating contest for the SCEFL1 title is destined for Glebe as they came and went home happy with a point from this top-of-the-table encounter at Jockey Farm.

This match was originally scheduled for a couple of weeks ago but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. One wonders how many people might have attended that night as this fixture perhaps had the edge taken off it with successive defeats for Rusthall and the competition of Germany v England one terrestrial television. As it was, a record 268 people were willing to turn their back on a meaningless international friendly to watch a game that was always competitive with Rusthall probably feeling the more aggrieved not to collect the full three points.

A cagey opening was a foretaste of the game to unfold as neither side really created anything of note in the opening 15 minutes, but a long punt through the middle from Glebe’s James Day sent Andreas Tobon clear and one-on-one with the Rusthall goalkeeper, Callum Christie. The Glebe man showed great composure to round the keeper and finish into the empty goal.

Playing up the sizeable slope, Rusthall worked their way back into the game but were struggling to create any clear chances. Glebe, however, did create a couple that might have wrapped up the game before the break. Day capitalised on a poor clearance from Christie but shot wide and after 38 minutes, Rusthall’s Luke Stratford saw yellow when he thwarted a Glebe breakaway with a professional foul.

Rusthall, though, deserved their equaliser that came on the stroke of half-time. Dan Mitchell, who won headers all evening, finally got a cross of quality to work with from John Phillips and buried his header past Adam Molloy, who seemed to go down to save in stages.

Certainly knowing that a point would not be much use to them, Rusthall made a concerted effort to win the game in the second period. Within two minutes of the restart Mitchell mis-kicked in front of goal with Phillips blasting the second attempt over the bar.

All the chances fell Rusthall’s way until the 71st minute when Glebe were awarded a penalty when Ryan Golding was brought down by John Lord. The resultant spot kick was crashed against the bar by Aaron Jeffrey. The penalty award appeared harsh so perhaps justice was served.

Rusthall staged a late rally but never really threatened which made it all the more perplexing when Molloy got so vexed over the awarding of a corner that he earned himself a yellow and then talked his way to a red following the final whistle.

With talk that both K Sports and Kent Football United will be denied promotion through differing reasons of ground grading, it is quite probable that both of these sides will eventually find their way into the Southern Counties East Premier.

As a senior citizen, I only paid £2 plus a quid for a very decent programme and another quid for a cuppa. Blooming good value for a night's entertainment.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Tunbridge Wells 2 Fisher 0

Match 109/16/1416 - Tuesday, 21st March 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Tunbridge Wells (0) 2 Shea 72,84
Fisher (0) 0
Attendance: 161

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/7,564

Tunbridge Wells fans have suffered long and hard this season, but finally I think they can rest easy. Two goals from John Shea was enough to leave Fisher fearing for their SCEFL Premier future and coupled with last week’s surprise win at Hollands & Blair and the judgement of the Croydon situation, the points are now in the bag to stave of relegation.

For long periods, the Tunbridge Wells defence restricted a Fisher side that knew that only a win would really be good enough, but upfront there was a lack of a cutting edge.

Fisher were obviously sent out with the instruction to get at the Wells from the outset and made most of the early running. Luke Haidarovic fired a shot at Steve Lawrence in the opening minute and a free kick was blocked by the Wells wall a minute later.

Tunbridge Wells started to settle into the game and Jon Pilbeam forced ex-Wells goalkeeper, Nic Taylor into a good save, low to his left.

Fisher continued to create the best of the chances in the first period and in the closing minutes of the half, Tunbridge Wells survived a sustained period of pressure. Lawrence saved from Haidarovic with the follow-up blasted over the crossbar. Alvaro Casado Munoz’s shot hit one of his own players in front of goal with the follow-up, once more clearing the bar.

The Wells carved out their best chance so far, two minutes into the second period when a cross from Josh Biddlecombe found James Pinnock sliding in at the near post but from close range he managed to lift the ball over the bar.

After 70 minutes Haidarovic turned defender when he cleared after Taylor had made a fine save from Keiron Tarbie’s free kick. But it was a short reprieve for the Fish as two minutes later, Biddlecombe crossed from the right to the left side of the six yard box to John Shea who shot across the face of Taylor and into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

Lawrence had to be alert to save at his near post before, six minutes from time, a cross from Pilbeam on the right was headed back across the six yard box by Biddlecombe for Shea to volley in his second.

An attendance of 161 is thoroughly decent in the SCEFL, but it is around 70 or 80 people down on where Tunbridge Wells can be with even a remotely successful team. The club cannot afford another season like this one and now they are reasonably assured of safety, the planning for next season needs to start right now. It’s going to be very interesting.

Pictures: Victor Bethell

Tonbridge Angels U18 2 Ashford United U18 1

Match 108/16/1415 - Monday, 20th March 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge (0) 2 Cussen 47,73
Ashford United (1) 1 Woodcock 19
Attendance: 38

Entrance: £1 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/7,526

Two second half goals from Jack Cussen, both headers from Tommy Chapman corners, turned a half-time 1-0 deficit into three valuable points.

Ashford United came into the game on the back of five straight wins including eye-catching wins against fellow title challengers Merstham and Maidstone and are vastly improved from the side that the Angels beat 4-2 at Homelands back in October.

Tonbridge fell behind after 19 minutes in which they had created no less than seven attempts on goal. But with Ashford’s first counter attack that caught Jardell Conteh stranded in the opposition half, Harry Lacey sprinted into the space vacated and produced a cross that Clark Woodcock was able to convert from close range.

The Ashford goalkeeper, Aaron Warton, had earlier produced saves from Liam Smith, Jack Bray and Cussen to deny the hosts.

The goal set back Tonbridge and for the rest of the half they struggled to reproduce the creativity of the first 20 minutes. Lewis Mitchell saved well from Matt Kirby and produced an ever better save to thwart Woodcock.

Billy Thornton made a half-time change replacing an injured Conteh with Alex Bishop, whose pace stretched the visitors during the second period.

Tonbridge were on equal terms within two minutes of the restart when a Chapman corner was met with a powerful header from Cussen from the centre of the six yard box.

Ashford continued to carry a threat and Mitchell produced a superb save, high to his right and from the resultant corner Dominic Welsh cleared from the line whilst covering the far post.

Chapman had a productive seven minutes in which he sent in a cross that begged a touch but none was found; then a shot from outside of the box that was well saved by Warton and, in the 73rd minute, a deep corner was headed home from the tightest of angles from beyond the far post by Cussen.

A high up and under from Smith resulted in Bishop being clattered by Warton to concede a penalty after 76 minutes. The goalkeeper redeemed himself with a fine save, low to his left, from Ziyad Ghali’s spot kick.

The last ten minutes saw chances for both sides, Warton saving from Harvey Killick and Ghali whilst Mitchell saved from Kirby.

Billy Thornton said afterwards: “I never thought we were going to lose the game. First half they had two chances, one of them they scored and the other Mitch pulled off a stunning save. Apart from that we had the ball for long periods of the game. We sat down at half-time and told the lads that we will make more chances. We believed that Ashford were looking tired and once we got one, we would get a few more. Two outstanding deliveries from Tommy Chapman and two fantastic headers, especially the second goal from a tight angle.”

All Tonbridge can do is win their games and hope that Merstham slip up somewhere along the line. This was a game that Ashford made them work hard for the points, but was well deserved by the finish.

Pictures: Lisa Fenton

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Tonbridge 0 Dulwich Hamlet 0

Match 107/16/1414 - Saturday, 18th March 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 0
Dulwich Hamlet (0) 0
Attendance: 656

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/7,488

There is a line that I've used more than once in the time of this blog but it bears using again: "If you are prepared to take a point on the way in, be thankful for it on the way out."

When games are given tags towards the end of the season, "six-pointer" or "must win", I looked upon this one as "must not lose" rather than the aforementioned options. Throw in a stiff wind and a dry pitch, both sides were probably satisfied with the outcome.

Following Tuesday's Ryman League Cup Semi-Final between the clubs, Tonbridge made four changes whilst Dulwich made seven, so a very different game was only to be expected and duly materialised.

Dulwich enjoyed the advantage of the wind in the first period and duly dominated proceedings. After 11 minutes an effort from ex-Angel Nathan Green was deflected over his own crossbar by Jack Parter and Jonny Henly made the first of several ventures from his penalty area to clear. Henly is a sweeper-keeper in the modern way of goalkeeping and is proving to be very adept in the art.

After 27 minutes following a cross from Green, Dipo Akinyemi planted a header onto the top of the crossbar but overall Dulwich were restricted to very few actual shots on goal, whilst the home side failed to ask a single save out of Preston Edwards.

Taking their turn with the wind advantage, Tonbridge produced an opportunity in the opening minute of the second half but Alex Akrofi hooked the ball over the bar.

Although Tonbridge held sway in the second period they, like Dulwich in the first, found it difficult to create clear opportunities. Mitchell Nelson headed a Nick Wheeler free kick wide; and it was late in the game when Luke Blewden and Nathan Elder had headers that were easily gathered by Edwards.

For the neutral it was a game that was hardly a thrill a minute, nonetheless, it was absorbing with both defences and the elements emerging the winners.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Raynes Park Vale U18 0 Tonbridge Angels U18 8

Match 106/16/1413 - Thursday, 16th March 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Raynes Park Vale U18 (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels U18 (3) 8 Bray 2,43,90 Watson 5, Ikejie 52,62, Adonis-Taylor 54, McCreadie 55
Attendance: 20

Entrance: £3
Programme: None
Mileage: 132/7,450
New Ground: 305

Tonbridge Angels U18s had a unique opportunity to impress with their gaffers, Steve McKimm and Barry Moore taking the team alongside Billy Thornton, who has agreed to manage the side through to the end of the season. And, working on the principle that you can only beat what is put in front of you, impress they did.

For Steve and Barry, this was a return to where it all began as eight-year-olds, many moons ago, when the club was known as Malden Vale.

Two goals in the first five minutes completely knocked the heart out of the hosts, Raynes Park Vale who were woeful and that’s being kind. Tonbridge opened the scoring after two minutes when a poorly cleared corner found Jack Bray on the edge of the box from where a firmly driven shot found the centre of the goal. After five minutes, Connor Watson tried his luck from 20 yards with a shot that cannoned off the inside of the post onto the prostrate goalkeeper who valiantly tried to retrieve the ball but only ended up helping it into the net.

Billy Thornton said after the game that it had been difficult to keep the players focused when the game is of such a one-sided nature adding also that the pitch was also pretty poor.

A long throw-in nearly caught the hapless ‘keeper who almost managed to palm it into his own net before the Angels received a minor setback when Jack Fenton, who sat on the first team bench on Tuesday, was injured needing to be replaced by Tommy Chapman after 15 minutes.

Chances came and went for the visitors with goalkeeper Lewis Mitchell a mere spectator but it took until the 43 minute for the Angels to increase their lead with a cracking shot from all of 30 yards into the top corner from Bray.

If the stuffing hadn’t already been knocked out of Raynes Park, three goals in three minutes early in the second period did the rest.

After 52 minutes a through ball from Bray sent Ikeije clear to tuck it past the keeper; two minutes later Callum Adonis-Taylor rose to meet a Chapman corner and power a header home and a further minute elapsed before Liam McCreadie headed home a Bray cross.

At 6-0, the youngsters had every reason to take their foot off the pedal but there were bosses on the sidelines to impress!

Henry Ikeije made it seven when he was put through to slide a shot past a static keeper.

After 71 minutes, considering he was unemployed for such long periods, Mitchell showed great concentration in saving low to his left to maintain his clean sheet.

In time added, after good work from substitute Ziyad Ghali, the outstanding Bray was on hand to complete his hat-trick from close range.

Sadly, Raynes Park Vale is like a place that time forgot. From the 30-odd years ago that McKimm was a youngster, he thought the only change that had been made was that the dug-outs had changed sides. A rickety old stand, that had a certain charm that is unidentifiable, provided cover and bench seating whilst a element of cover is provided behind one goal.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Hollands & Blair 0 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 105/16/1412 - Wednesday, 15th March 2017 - SCEFL

Hollands & Blair (0) 0
Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Potter 87
Attendance: 94

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Included
Mileage: 58/7,318

This was the first time I've seen the Wells since Christmas and the Crowborough game. In the intervening time, have I been hoodwinked by some fraudsters? How can a team that I watched defend so valiantly at Hollands & Blair have been letting in fives and threes? The back line were absolutely superb, to the point that a top striker at this level in James McDonald doesn't get a sniff and is forced wide on the left as Hollands sent forward their big centre half and captain to try and salvage something out of the game. A block right at the death from Keiron Tarbie epitomised the effort that had been put in and was as match winning as the goal.

The loss of Jamie Lawrence for a second booking failed to unsettle that back line, with goalkeeper Steve Lawrence employed like a long-on at cricket just fielding the odd ball that trundled towards the boundary.

Yes, there are problems in the final third, Josh Biddlecombe put in a shift, but too many runs from him and Pinnock were poorly timed and were ended with a linesman's flag.

Hollands started the game on the front foot as the early stages took the direction everybody expected it to. Bailey Pearce had a shot saved by Lawrence low to his left; McDonald shot straight at the keeper and Brad Webb turned a free kick wide within the first five minutes.

A couple of efforts from Jon Pilbeam interrupted the traffic direction but the Gillingham-based sides efforts were largely untroubling to Lawrence.

Tunbridge Wells' first real chance came before the break when a corner was headed back across the face of goal by Brad Potter to Shea who shot wide but their golden opportunity was to come a minute before the break when they were awarded a penalty after Ben Brown was adjudged to have fouled Josh Biddlecombe. Jamie Lawrence stepped up for the spot kick but blasted high over the crossbar.

The game evened itself out somewhat in the second period with the best chance falling to Blair's substitute Jack Simon whose volley came back of the face of the advancing Steve Lawrence.

Jamie Lawrence who had picked up a booking after 54 minutes, picked up another for another foul after 79 minutes and was summarily dismissed.

Three minutes from time a cross from the right from Pilbeam to the far post found Potter whose header sailed into the opposite corner for the winning goal.

These three points, I would think, banish any thoughts of relegation, unless the Wells implode and the clubs behind them go on an unexpected run of success. For the management, committee and supporters it will soon be time to take stock. Whatever decisions they make, they know that they cannot afford another season like this one, but tonight there were reasons to be cheerful.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tonbridge 3 Dulwich Hamlet 1

Match 104/16/1411 - Tuesday, 14th March 2017 - Ryman League Cup SF

Tonbridge (1) 3 Akrofi 8,74 Elder 50
Dulwich Hamlet (1) 1 Beaney 26
Attendance: 305

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/7,260

Tonbridge Angels have reached a League Cup Final for the first time at this level for 60 years. On Wednesday, 12 April, at Carshalton they will take on the money bags, ever so slightly bonkers Billericay Town in search of their first ever Isthmian/Southern League Cup trophy.

A first look at the team sheet, although very much aware of the problems leading up to the game, left me feeling that this would be too big an ask, despite Dulwich Hamlet also fielding a side that probably won’t bear any resemblance to the one that returns on Saturday for an important Ryman League fixture.

From the starting eleven it was difficult to work out who would be playing where with the left back spot a real dilemma. After Saturday when three left backs were injured at Staines, perhaps nobody wanted to play there! As it was, the newly-found Jack of all Trades, Damian Scannell filled in to great effect.

Tonbridge were a goal to the good after just eight minute when. An electrifying run and cross from Andre McCollin was met with a stooping header from Alex Akrofi from two yards.

Dulwich slowly worked their way back into the game and, despite a Luke Allen free kick that was narrowly over the bar, there wasn’t too much of a surprise when the visitors equalised after 26 minutes. An unnecessary foul by Mitchell Nelson produced a free kick on the edge of the box that was fired in at the near post by Kenny Beaney.

Hamlet now entered into a purple patch and four minutes later were awarded a penalty when Liam Smith was adjudged to have pushed and was given a yellow card for his trouble.

Ibra Sekajja struck the spot kick firmly enough but Tonbridge’s goalkeeper, Jonny Henly guessed right and parried the ball with Sonny Miles completing the clearance. Almost without doubt it was a big turning point in the match and Dulwich certainly had the momentum at that time.

Dulwich were certainly the side that created the chances in the latter period of the first half with Dumebi Dumaka wasting a heading opportunity and a speculative overhead kick from Sekajja also clearing the bar.

Tonbridge substituted McCollin for Nathan Elder at half-time and the move brought an almost instant dividend. Akrofi’s run into the box was halted but the diminutive striker won the ball back and stood up the perfect cross to the far post for Elder to deliver a trademark header.

Sekajja delivered a cross from the left that begged a touch but didn’t get one and Smith did exceptionally well to clear from the line as the visitors searched for an equaliser.

The game became open and end to end as the teams traded attacks. For the Angels, Akrofi was literally terrorising the Hamlet back line that was pretty ponderous.

After 74 minutes, Tonbridge gave themselves a bit of breathing space with a third goal. Elder won the ball for Luke Allen to deliver a killer pass into the path of Akrofi who deftly rolled the ball past the advancing Preston Edwards.

Dulwich responded as they had to in order to save the game but found a Henly on top form saving firstly at the feet of Gavin Tomlin and then a fine save at his near post from Dumaka.

Promotion would be the top priority for both of these clubs and either would possibly trade the win for three points on Saturday, but a Cup Final is still something to look forward to.

Pictures: Wesley Filtness

Monday, 13 March 2017

Tonbridge Angels U18 1 Merstham U18 1

Match 103/16/1410 - Monday, 13th March 2017 - Ryman Youth League

Tonbridge Angels U18 (0) 1 Fenton 62
Merstham U18 (1) 1 Lubango 16
Attendance: 42

Entrance: £1 Senior
Teamsheet: Free
Mileage: 38/7,222

A sparkling free kick from 20 yards into the top corner from Jack Fenton ensured that Tonbridge Under-18s secured a point from this vitally important top of the table clash with Merstham.

Two previous encounters between these teams have yielded thrills, spills and goals aplenty. This game took on a different look but was, nonetheless, just as absorbing.

Tonbridge were missing a genuine striker and, despite their best efforts, the makeshift pairing of Ollie Baker and Alex Bishop struggled against a powerful central defensive pairing with Mothibi Penn-Kerana outstanding.

At the other end, Tonbridge have suffered at the hands of Anwar Transwes and Emmnuel Omrodre already this season but an outstanding display from Callum Adonis-Taylor managed to just about keep the shackles on the pair.

The opening quarter hour signalled that this would not be the goalfest of the previous encounters but after 16 minutes it was the visitors that made the breakthrough after Tonbridge had failed to clear the ball following cross into the box. The ball fell at the feet of Alberto Lubango who stabbed it past Henry Lovering from around six yards.

Tonbridge responded well and Baker was thwarted by a last ditch tackle by Penn-Kerana after being put through.

Merstham took the honours in the first half with Doherty planting a couple of chances over the bar and Adonis-Taylor doing exceptionally well to stop Transwes in his tracks when the pacey winger looked to be going clear.

Tonbridge’s best chance of the half fell to Louis Pateman, but his effort following a corner was deflected safely into the goalkeeper’s clutches.

Tonbridge made two substitutions in the early part of the second half with Liam McCreadie replacing Bishop and Jack Bray on for Harvey Killick.

They were rewarded just past the hour mark when Fenton perfectly executed his free kick from the left side of the box.

The game became very open with Merstham’s pace on the break proving dangerous. Transwes tested Lovering at his near post and following a Tonbridge attack, Doherty raced clear and struck the bar before the ball was scrambled to safety.

Both sides produced a couple of chances in the last 15 minutes but the defences held firm for a fair result.

In a four team tussle at the top, Merstham have the title in their own hands but with themselves, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Ashford all having to play each other there is still plenty to play for in the last six weeks of the season.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Gillingham 3 Scunthorpe United 2

Match 102/16/1409 - Saturday, 11th March 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Wright 78,82,86 (3 pens)
Scunthorpe United (1) 2 Madden 4, Toffolo 73
Attendance: 6,859

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/7,184

Match Report

I've come to the conclusion that football is complete and utter nonsense, unexplainable.

For 75 minutes of this game Gillingham were outplayed by a Scunthorpe side that, at the start of play, sat third in the table. It was difficult to quantify how good the Iron were because Gillingham were so bad. Stuart Nelson had single-handedly kept the home side in the game saving four one-on-one's with his feet before in the 73rd minute conceding a second goal through his legs as Harry Toffolo bought a raffle ticket from 25 yards out. What happened next is something that I've never witnessed and, as unlikely comebacks go, ranks alongside Barcelona's stunning comeback on Tuesday evening in the Champions League against Paris St Germain. I have seen many a recovery from two goals down, never have I seen one completed by virtue of three penalties, scored by the same man, in just nine minutes. It was madness.

Gillingham afforded Scunthorpe the Freedom of Priestfield, such was the space in which they were allowed to work, about the only thing they didn't do was herd sheep. In the fourth minute, the home side were opened up as easily as a can of beans. With nobody tracking runners, Kevin van Veen got inside Deji Oshilaja to cross for Paddy Madden to strike from six yards.

The opening half was to continue in the same vein as the impressive van Veen strolled around the Priestfield wastelands feeding the direct running of Madden. Only Nelson stood between Gillingham and total humiliation.

Chris Herd salvaged a situation he had created for himself with a last gasp tackle to thwart Tom Hopper and it was a miracle that Gillingham got to the break just a goal down.

The momentum continued in favour of the visitors and it was surprising that it took until 17 minutes from time for them to score their second, a personal nightmare for Nelson when Toffolo's shot went through his legs.

Gillingham were handed the opportunity of a consolation when Bradley Dack was brought down in the box with referee Robert Lewis pointing to the spot. Josh Wright stepped up shot right, Luke Daniels guessed correctly diving left but was unable to save to offer Gillingham a lifeline.

Four minutes later, Mr Lewis was once more pointing to the spot as an errant hand was spotted. Once more Wright took the responsibility, this time Daniels once more dived left as the ball went right as Gillingham gained parity.

Unbelievably, a third penalty was awarded in nine minutes when Wright himself was fouled. The time the midfielder went back to the goalkeeper's right, as he went left a third time to send Priestfield into rapture.

Somehow the remaining minutes were seen out as Scunthorpe threw everything to salvage something out of a game they had dominated for so long.

There could never have been a truer quote than the one that says fact is stranger than fiction; only a fantasist would write this nonsense!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Leiston 2 Tonbridge 0

Match 101/16/1408 - Tuesday, 7th March 2017 - Ryman Premier

Leiston (0) 2 Muir-Merchant 63,66
Tonbridge (0) 0
Attendance: 183

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 176/7,126

I take full responsibility, this was an afternoon/evening where everything that could go wrong went wrong from the moment my glasses broke in half while cleaning them, sending me into panic mode to find my spare pair. An accident in Hadlow left me late picking up a friend, but more importantly, also delayed the team coach and then, of course, came the Dartford Tunnel. Best part of an hour to crawl through as a lorry had broken down in one of the bores. We made good time for the rest of the journey, but when a man in a high vis jacket was at the end of Victory Road, with no coach at the ground we feared the worst.

The people at Leiston were very welcoming, there cannot be many places where you are offered a sweet on entry and inside the clubhouse there were no moans about the late arrival of the visitors and the delayed kick-off of 8.30 p.m. Somewhat unusually the tea bar is situated inside the clubhouse which meant that we could sit at a table and refresh ourselves after the horrible journey.

The pitch at Victory Road has suffered several recent postponements and a Leiston supporter described the far side as a quagmire.

The team coach finally arrived at 7.50 p.m. The team sheet showed three players missing, signalling that this was always going to be tough ask despite Leiston's recent poor form. Anthony Di Bernado's injury from Saturday looks to be a lay-off that could end his season and he was replaced by Jonny Henly, on loan from Hemel Hempstead. Luke Allen was suffering from a dead leg which brought Damian Scannell back into the starting eleven as did Ugo Udoji's replacement James Folkes. Alex Akrofi was carrying a knock that relegated him to the bench with Andre McCollin starting.

The delayed start seemed to affect both sides equally in a first half in which chances were very much at a premium. Tonbridge survived an early scare when Jack Parter cleared from the line and it took 15 minutes for the Angels to register a shot, albeit a tame one, from McCollin that was comfortably saved.

A miscued cross from Leiston's right that landed on the top of the bar after 19 minutes proved to be the closest either side got to scoring in the first period.

The second half started with greater urgency, perhaps the players had finally got the delay out of their legs. Joe Francis, a constant menace, cut in from the right and shot wide of the far post and at the other end of the field, McCollin forced a low parrying save to his left out of Jacob Marsden.

The home side were beginning to turn the screw with a couple of efforts before they took the lead just past the hour mark. Niko Muir-Merchant was played in at the right hand edge of the six yard box and finished into the far corner.

Leiston's advantage was doubled within three minutes when Muir-Merchant was allowed to run from the left and plant a shot between Henly and the left hand post.

Steve McKimm responded by bringing Dan Thompson and Tommy Whitnall into the fray replacing McCollin and an injured Parter.

When, with 15 minutes remaining, a long throw from Luke Blewden was only cleared to Tom Phipp, whose shot from 18 yards struck the inside of the far post but came back out to be cleared, it was pretty obvious if it hadn't already been, that this was not to be Tonbridge's night.

Thankfully, the journey home was uneventful, finally pulling on to the drive in Staplehurst at 01:15 a.m., tired and just a little dispirited.

Pictures: Chris Coolbear

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Tonbridge 3 Needham Market 4

Match 100/16/1407 - Saturday, 4th March 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 3 Udoji 18, Elder 37, Nelson 52
Needham Market (0) 4 Sands 49, Ingram 63, Dobson 77, Nunn 85
Attendance: 555

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/6,950

My hundredth game of the season proved to be a truly memorable occasion, sadly for all the wrong reasons.

Tonbridge and Needham Market, sitting third and fourth in the table, separated only by goal difference, had all the makings of a close encounter, but at half-time the difference between the sides could easily have been third and 14th, such was the home side's superiority. But an injury to Anthony Di Bernardo was about to change the game completely.

The visitors started reasonably well and it took a well-positioned Jack Parter to clear from the line as a glancing header from a corner was goal bound. But it was Tonbridge that opened the scoring after 18 minutes when a well-worked training ground routine from a corner saw Tom Phipp cross to the near post where the head of Ugo Udoji steered the ball home.

Tonbridge took control of the game with Luke Allen supplying a cross for Alex Akrofi to direct his shot at the goalkeeper and then driving over a shot. Hearts did go into mouths when Mitchell Nelson trod on the ball and nearly let in John Sands but recovered to clear to safety.

After 37 minutes, Tonbridge went 2-0 up when an inch perfect cross from Allen found the head of Nathan Elder for the striker's 50th goal for the club.

Just before the break, Di Bernardo went down injured and with his first kick of the ball following treatment it was clear that he would not be able to continue and was replaced by goalkeeping coach Stewart Copeland during the break.

Within three minutes of the restart Needham Market had reduced the deficit when a cross from the right found the head of Sands, who glancing header found the bottom corner.

The home side re-established their two goal advantage just three minutes later when Nelson headed in Nick Wheeler's corner, the goal being awarded after the linesman's flag indicated that the ball had crossed the line despite the efforts of a Needham defender on the line.

The game was to turn back towards the Suffolk side in the 55th minute when a hopeless misjudgement by Copeland led to Udoji committing a professional foul on the edge of the box and seeing red for his misdemeanour.

Down to 10 men, with no confidence in the goalkeeper behind them, Tonbridge descended into disarray. Defenders cleared long and desperately with ball retention further upfield becoming non-existent. It was only a matter of time before the Suffolk side would gain parity and this they did after 77 minutes when Luke Ingram surged inside from the right to finish with a shot into the bottom right hand corner with Copeland flat footed.

Any hopes that Tonbridge would salvage something from the game appeared to end when, five minutes from time, a cross from the right slipped from the grasp of Copeland to the waiting feet of Reece Dobson who gratefully fired into the unguarded net.

And yet Tonbridge might just have rescued a point in time added with two chances that fell, firstly to Luke Blewden who missed narrowly wide right and in the final act of the afternoon a Dan Thompson shot that was deflected away from the line by a defender.

Conceivably, these two sides could meet again in the play-off semi-finals. Tonbridge have won twice this season at Needham and now the Marketmen have taken the points away from Longmead, who's to say home advantage between these clubs is an advantage?

Pictures: Dave Couldridge

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Tonbridge 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1

Match 99/16/1406 - Tuesday, 28th February 2017 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 1 Akrofi 13
Havant & Waterlooville (0) 1 Prior 82
Attendance: 408

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/6,912

Match Report

It is not an unnatural thought of many that the three games in the next week would prove to be a pivotal point in Tonbridge Angels’ season. This game against second placed Havant & Waterlooville is to be followed by third placed (at kick-off time) Needham Market on Saturday and, next Tuesday, a visit to sixth placed Leiston. The schedule provokes a discussion on the definition of a “must win” game, in my opinion, on the last day of February, perhaps not. Nonetheless, this was a game of significance.

At the final whistle we then enter the age-old argument of a point gained or two lost after the visitors had found an equaliser in the 82nd minute courtesy of their goal machine Jason Prior.

The game was a credit to the Ryman League, the officiating was a tad erratic but, thankfully, didn’t have a great deal of bearing on the final result.

Mitchell Nelson remained suspended, so the makeshift pairing of Ugo Udoji and Tommy Parkinson were required to blunt the prolific partnership of Prior and Alfie Rutherford.

A shooting opportunity for both sides arrived in the first five minutes, Tom Phipp for the Angels and Rory Williams for the visitors but the opening period was cat and mouse with both sides largely cancelling each other out.

After 12 minutes Tonbridge could have taken the lead when Nick Wheeler’s cross was met with a goalbound header from Nathan Elder, but his effort was denied by a brilliant diving save from Ryan Young.

Havant’s reprieve was only momentary and a minute later a sublime through ball from Phipp found Alex Akrofi, who had a lot of time to think about where he was about to put the ball but he kept his nerve and slotted past the advancing Young.

The Wheeler-Elder combination might have given the Angels a two goal advantage before the break but the big man steered his header wide.

Tonbridge breathed a sigh of relief in the 39th minute when they managed to shepherd the ball to safety after Anthony Di Bernardo had initially parried a close range shot with a few seconds of pin ball ensuing.

The second half followed the pattern of the first with neither side gaining ascendancy and chances that stretched either goalkeeper were few and far between, but that is not to say that it wasn’t a fascinating encounter.

Di Bernardo made a smart save at his near post after 57 minutes and a minute later Havant struck a post but a linesman’s flag was already raised.

The Tonbridge team, to a man, had put in a shift and into the last ten minutes it was obvious that some were running on empty and finally their defence was breached with eight minutes remaining. A needless free kick given away was floated to the far post reaching Di Bernardo without a touch and when the goalkeeper scooped the ball away it was only to the feet of Prior who had a tap-in.

Overall, this was a fair result. If Tonbridge were to back it up with a win against Needham Market then we can look back and say this was a good point that was enough to see them climb above Saturday’s opponents and into third place.