Monday, 31 July 2017

Tonbridge Angels 2 Whyteleafe 1

Match 11/17/1461 - Saturday, 29th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (1) 2 Thompson 10 Elder 85
Whyteleafe (1) 1 Azeez 8
Headcount: 245

Entrance: £5 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/727

Match Report

This turned out to be a much better game than would have been initially expected. If Whyteleafe acquit themselves in Bostik South as they did at Longmead they should be challenging towards the top of the table.

The visitors started well and went ahead after eight minutes when an intended cross from Lawre Azeez took an unfortunate deflection off Steven Panayi to loop over Anthony Di Bernardo.

Their lead was to last only two minutes when Dan Thompson headed home a Andre McCollin cross.

Both sides had good chances to go into the break with a lead with Di Bernardo saving well from Daniel Akinwse and Whyteleafe's Matt Pearson doing similarly to deny Thompson. But it was Whyteleafe's number 11 that went closest when he struck a post with two minutes remaining.

Pre-season is much about fitness, so injuries are the situations that you most wish to avoid, so the sight of Thompson being stretchered from the field was a worry.

Tonbridge were asserting themselves on the game but it was the Whyteleafe number eight who struck a post 20 minutes into the second period.

The Angels finally got their noses in front five minutes from the end when a slide-rule pass from Dominic Welsh, named later as man of the match, sent Nathan Elder clear to shoot under the body of Pearson.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Hollands & Blair 0 Margate U21 0

Match 10/17/1460 - Wednesday, 26th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Hollands & Blair (0) 0
Margate U21 (0) 0
Headcount: 55

Entrance: £3
Programme: None
Mileage: 58/689

It is July, it was cold and it was wet and it finished 0-0, what is there not to love about a preseason friendly.

The point of visiting Hollands & Blair for this particular friendly was to see how the ex-Tonbridge Under 18s are settling in to their new environment. As it transpired there were less on view than I expected with Louis Lawlor and Lewis Mitchell sharing the goalkeeping; Jack Fenton and Jack Bray in midfield with Ziyad Ghali on the left wing.

Unfortunately it was a proper 0-0 draw with very few scoring opportunities, the best of the first half falling to Margate's centre forward who squandered a real sitter.

Sadly, the game actually got worse and the final whistle was one of relief to all concerned.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Snodland Town 1 Chatham Town 2

Match 9/17/1459 - Tuesday, 25th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Snodland Town (0) 1
Chatham Town (1) 2 Spice 20 Bearman-Dyce 79
Headcount: 62
New Ground: 313

Entrance: £3
Programme: None
Mileage: 35/631

A dismal 0-0 draw at Cray Valley was my nemesis for neutral games and I made the vow at the end of that season that I wouldn't do any more, well almost. As, at the time, Tuesday evenings were my only night off from work I kept that night sacrosanct for football especially if a new ground was involved. Pre-season is a time for busting the rules anyway, so with a reasonable interest in Chatham, a first visit to Snodland Town was a welcome addition to my fixture list.

A mistaken entry into Google Maps sent me on a short tour of the delights of Snodland, of which there are few and left me with one of the lucky last couple of parking spaces at Potyns Sports Ground. The Community Centre acts as the changing rooms and this leaves a walk of over the width of a football pitch to the ground, which I would guess cannot be ideal for any future ground grading. But, once inside the gate, there is a tidy little ground with a main stand that would squeeze in 40 people at a pinch. There is hard standing all the way round and the pitch is enclosed by what appears to be a job lot of downpipes and u-bends that nonetheless does the job.

Chatham, following their relegation from Ryman South, will be looking to bounce straight back with a new look team that, without the aid of a team sheet, was unrecognisable bar a couple of players, from last season.

For Snodland, there was the archetypical older guy upfront, carrying a little bit of weight but showing the touches that told you he was a good player in his day. Alongside him was a young whippersnapper who certainly had something that said that his day would actually come.

Despite their ultimate victory, Chatham will have to present a whole lot more if their stay in the SCEFL is to be a short one.

Snodland had a couple of good chances before Chatham took the lead after 20 minutes when a free kick into the box was poorly dealt with allowing Bradley Spice to supply the finishing touch.

Chatham took reasonable control of the remainder of the first half.

Snodland equalised after nine minutes of the second period when the old and young heads combined for the former to supply a pin-point cross for the home side's number seven to convert with an easy header.

The game developed into a good one and certainly competitive for a preseason friendly.

The Chats eventually won the game in the 79th minute when Caleb Bearman-Dyce was allowed too much time and space to convert a cross from the right from the left hand angle of the six yard box.

The older head had one last chance to rescue the game for Snodland when he broke through with two minutes but he hit the post denying Snodland the draw their efforts deserved.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Tonbridge Angels 0 Dover Athletic 2

Match 8/17/1458 - Monday, 24th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (0) 0 #10
Dover Athletic (1) 2 Adebowale 2, Sho-Silva 55
Attendance: 166

Entrance: £5
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/596

Tonbridge Angels surrendered their unbeaten preseason following a two goal defeat from their National League visitors, Dover Athletic.

Steve McKimm was short of several first team regulars and Steve Panayi, Dom Welsh, Ryan McPharlane and Tashi Kwayie were given starts.

Dover were physically and technically stronger than their hosts but credit has to be given to the Angels who stubbornly stuck to their task and created three good opportunities, all headed, but sadly two from Nathan Elder and one from the diminutive Dom Welsh failed to find the target.

Dover started the game on the front foot and were ahead after just 84 seconds when a free kick was pushed away low to his left by Anthony Di Bernardo but the ball was turned back into the danger area by one of Dover’s trialists into the path of Manny Adebowale to stab home from close range.

The first 20 minutes were very much one-way traffic in favour of the east coast side with the Angels back line stretched to the very limit on several occasions.

A fine pass from Damian Scannell gave Kwayie the home side’s first opportunity but his effort was deflected wide of the post.

After half an hour a great cross from Craig Stone found the head of the Elder, but his header was wide of the mark.

On the stroke of half-time another fine cross from the right, this time from Luke Blewden came to the unlikely figure of Welsh, but his header was wide of the left hand post.

Ten minutes into the second period, the same trialist that set up the opening goal once more worked his way into a position to cross from the bye-line to the feet of Tobi Sho-Silva, who tapped in from no more than a yard.

The Angels’ third headed opportunity came after 65 minutes when a free kick from the impressive Scannell was headed over by Elder.

Scannell limped out of the action, leaving Tonbridge to see out the final eight minutes a man light having used all their available substitutes.

Steve McKimm reflected in his post-match interview: "It was a good work out for us, especially for the young lads. They were up against a good experienced side but I was very happy with the work ethic and 2-0 is no disgrace."

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Crawley Down Gatwick 1 Tunbridge Wells 7

Match 7/17/1457 - Saturday, 22nd July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Crawley Down Gatwick (1) 1 #10
Tunbridge Wells (4) 7 Nwoko 4,27 Ita 9 Beecroft 45+2 Bartlett 57,66 Biddlecombe 73
Headcount: 47
New Ground: 312

Entrance: £5
Programme: None
Mileage: 70/558

Whisper it quietly but it appears that Tunbridge Wells have a decent team in the making. Missing several players that would be considered among first choices they were far too strong for their hosts, Crawley Down Gatwick. Since the opening day of preseason at Wick, they have improved match on match, with the caveat of a lack of knowledge as to the strength of the home side, this was an impressive performance.

The latest returnee to the Tunbridge Wells ranks was Joe Nwoko and he announced his arrival with a lively performance and a brace, the first of which arrived after just four minutes. A ball over the top, which was Crawley Down’s undoing all afternoon sent Jon Pilbeam into the box from where he was bundled over by the advancing goalkeeper. Before the referee had chance to answer the penalty claims the ball ran loose to Nwoko who tapped it into the unguarded net.

Three minutes later, Nwoko set up Stephen Ita to pick his spot into the bottom corner to double the visitors advantage.

It was against the run of play when Crawley Down pulled a goal back after 17 minutes. A ball through the centre split the defence and a hesitant Steve Lawrence allowed the tall striker to get onto the ball and touch it past him.

For a brief period the home side threatened to get back into the game but a fantastic pass from Jake Beecroft sent Nwoko clear to round the goalkeeper for the Wells third goal.

Beecroft is quality and should be playing at a higher level but work commitments have meant that he cannot commit to that level and with Tunbridge Wells training ground just 10 minutes from home, he and the club are a perfect fit. I am convinced, and it doesn't take a footballing Einstein to come to the conclusion, that he will prove to be one of the best players in the SCEFL this season.

Into first half added time and a delight interchange of passes between Beecroft, Pilbeam and Nwoko ended with the former having a tap-in for half-time 4-1 lead.

Rhys Bartlett was introduced as a 55th minute substitute and had an immediate impact on the game. He went on a mazy dribble that with each opponent rounded begged a pass inside to an unmarked Nwoko, but when he went past the last man he deserved his shot for a memorable goal.

The game progressed at this point in a torrential downpour but this didn’t dampen the Wells attacking intentions as a ball over the top from Josh Biddlecombe saw Bartlett lob the advancing goalkeeper for a sixth goal.

After 73 minutes Bartlett returned the compliment when his defence splitting pass found Biddlecombe, whose lob over the keeper went in off the underside of the bar.

This was an emphatic performance without the likes of Scott Whibley, Brad Potter, Tom Davy and Alfie Hall. When he has a full squad available, manager Jason Bourne has, probably for the first time in his tenure, some difficult choices to make. Barely anybody, Beecroft excepted, can expect to see their name automatically pencilled into the team sheet.

All this comes, of course, with the word of warning. This is only preseason.

Crawley Down's Haven Sportsfield is a lovely little football ground with the length of the side opposite the main stand tree-lined. There is a nice seated stand, that proved a blessing in the downpour and a covered standing enclosure behind one of the goals. The pitch was immaculate and there was a large, well appointed, clubhouse.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tonbridge Angels 2 Concord Rangers 2

Match 6/17/1454 - Tuesday, 18th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Elder 84 Thompson 86
Concord Rangers (1) 2 Williams 15 Farrell 72
Attendance: 188

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/488

Match Report

Two pinpoint crosses met by powerful headers in the space of three minutes preserved Tonbridge's unbeaten start to preseason against a physically strong Concord Rangers.

Early honours certainly went to the side from Canvey Island who created a first minute chance for Steve Cawley to fire over the crossbar and when Jason Williams got the better of a rusty Sonny Miles he should have done better than drag his shot wide.

A minute later came a controversial moment when the Concord goalkeeper Brown left his penalty area to clatter into Andre McCollin who had been sent clear by a ball over the top. In a competitive game it would almost certainly have resulted in a red card, in a preseason friendly it was worth nothing more than a quiet word. From the free kick Jay Siva brought a save from Brown low to his left.

Concord continued to dominate and it was no surprise that they finally took the lead after 15 minutes when Williams curled in a shot towards the far post that took a wicked deflection off Craig Stone to give James Behan, in the Tonbridge goal, no chance.

Steve McKimm chose to start with a diminutive strike force whose pace certainly gave the Rangers back line problems, the best chance coming on the half-hour when Brown spilt a shot from McCollin but Alex Akrofi spooned the rebound over the bar.

Concord continued to dominate proceedings in the early part of the second period with Stone doing especially well to head away a dangerous cross from the right.

After 72 minutes the visitors doubled their advantage when a cross from the right fell at the feet of substitute Farrell who drilled in his shot from around the penalty spot.

Tonbridge were offered a lifeline when Nathan Elder, on as a substitute just past the hour, was dragged to the ground. Fellow substitute Dan Thompson stepped up to take the penalty kick, but blazed high over the bar.

Six minutes remained when 17-year-old Liam Smith produced a wonderful cross from the right for Elder to bury a powerful header to reduce the deficit.

Two minutes later the Angels were level when trialist Jerome Walker produced a cross to match Smith’s but from the left for Thompson to make amends for his spot kick miss with a diving header.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Abbey Rangers 1 Tunbridge Wells 3

Match 5/17/1453 - Saturday, 15th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Abbey Rangers (0) 1
Tunbridge Wells (0) 3 Biddlecombe 47,50 Spackman 60
Headcount: 19

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 122/450
New Ground: 311

When Josh Biddlecombe steered a shot wide of a gaping goal late in the first half following some good work down the left from Steven Ita, it wasn’t hard to come to the same conclusion as in the previous pre-season games for Tunbridge Wells that failings in front of goal was undoing the good work going on behind.

Then, on a wander back from the clubhouse and a comfort break and caught out by a 10 minute half-time break, I watched from a distance as Biddlecombe swept a cross from a trialist full back into the top corner from the edge of the box. Within five minutes, the previously errant striker steered a header from a Beecroft cross into the net for 2-0, you couldn’t make it up.

Having missed last year’s visit, and defeat, in the FA Vase, this was my first visit to Addlestone Moor, home of Abbey Rangers, of the Combined Counties League. The facilities within a large clubhouse are good with a warm welcome, but for spectating are rather sparse. There are two Atcost stands that probably seat around the 100 mark with another small covered enclosure alongside.

The eye-catching feature of the place is the acreage. The area easily houses four pitches, in fact the respective club's under-21 sides played out a game on an adjoining pitch with Tunbridge Wells emerging 3-2 winners. But with the vastness of the area comes a caution. The buildings behind the stands pictured below are a disused school, prime for development and once that happens, unless there is a covenant in place, it is easy to visualise development creep.

Tunbridge Wells welcomed back another of their Vase heroes in Chris Oladogba, who was between the sticks following a midweek injury to Steve Lawrence. “The Dog” was called into action after just six minutes, acrobatically touching over a spectacular overhead kick from a Rangers player, who, without the aid of a team sheet, I’m unable to name.

After an early period in which the home side dominated, the Wells got into the game and should have taken the lead after 18 minutes after the Abbey goalkeeper made a good save from a 20-yard shot from Jake Beecroft and a second from the rebound that fell to Biddlecombe.

After Steven Ita crashed a header against the bar and Biddlecombe missed his sitter, the signs were encouraging if not the scoreline.

Following the Wells early second half salvo, Perry Spackman placed a header into the top corner from a Beecroft corner to make it 3-0 on the hour and the game was all but done and dusted.

A striking trialist made a couple of powerful runs and the Wells might have added a fourth when Biddlecombe headed wide with Jon Pilbeam better placed.

Abbey Rangers pulled a goal back 15 minutes from time when a shot from the edge of the box gave Oladogba no chance and a late revival might have been on the cards had the Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper not made a great save with five minutes remaining.

There were not too many Wells supporters in attendance but those that were would have been very encouraged by this performance especially considering the absence of Keiron Tarbie, Jamie Lawrence who were away for Brad Potter's stag and also James Pinnock, Dane Lutchford and Alex Kendal who, I believe, were injured.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Tonbridge Angels 3 Ebbsfleet United 2

Match 4/17/1452 - Tuesday, 11th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (1) 3 McCollin 29, Trialist 57, Thompson 86
Ebbsfleet United (0) 2 McQueen 61, Kedwell 75
Attendance: 355

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/328

Money is splashing around the newly rebranded Bostik Premier with the well publicised excesses of Billericay and Margate and suspicions that there are big budgets at several other clubs. This alone lowered expectations at Tonbridge Angels and a perceived lack of signings only added to the sense that this coming season could see the club among the also-rans.

So, whilst taking the usual caveat that pre-season results are not to get too upbeat or downcast about, this performance against newly promoted to the National League Ebbsfleet United was highly encouraging.

After the heatwave of the past few weeks, the weather gods decided that the evening of Longmead's first match of the season would be the perfect time to drop a month's worth of rain in a couple of hours.

The rain added slickness to a fresh green baize and a competitive game with a few challenges from both sides belying the title of friendly match.

Tonbridge fielded their three new signings, Jeyasiva Sivapathasundaram (who will be for the rest of his Tonbridge career referred to on this blog as simply Jay Siva), Craig Stone and Chris Kinnear, each brought a wealth of experience to the line-up. Siva looked comfortable on the ball and consistently picked a pass short or long; Stone, playing in the centre of defence which probably is not the position he was brought to the club for, was solid in the face of Danny Kedwell, Darren McQueen and Aaron McLean, strikers with high reputations whilst Kinnear brought a steely edge to midfield that was lacking last season. Also appearing were two unnamed trialists.

As would be expected with the visitors having arrived on the back of a training camp in Portugal, Ebbsfleet opened the stronger and James Behan, standing in between the sticks for the holidaying Anthony Di Bernardo, touched over an effort from Anthony Cook following good work on the left.

An eye-catching move after 20 minutes opened up the Angels but Behan was once again equal to the task touching over Cook's rising shot.

Somewhat against the run of play, Ebbsfleet fell foul of an old Tonbridge ploy of long throw from Luke Blewden, touched on at the near post by Nathan Elder for Andre McCollin to stab home from close range. McCollin looked particularly sharp, and having missed almost all of last season with a serious injury, it is like a having a new signing.

Tonbridge went 2-0 up after 57 minutes when the trialist wearing number 11 cut in from the left and curled a splendid shot into the top corner from 20 yards. It was certainly a way to announce yourself and say sign me now.

With no substitutions being made by either side at half-time there was a plethora of them on the hour and whilst Tonbridge readjusted, Ebbsfleet pulled a goal back with another super hit, this time from Darren McQueen into the top corner giving Behan no chance.

Ebbsfleet were now firing on all cylinders and it took a monumental saving block from Liam Smith to preserve the Angels' lead.

However, after 75 minutes, the visitors did equalise after opening up Tonbridge down the left with the final cross leaving Kedwell a tap-in.

Just when a wish was for the Angels to hold out for an honourable draw they found a winner. Alex Akrofi wriggled his way into the box but his shot was blocked by Kenny Clark only for the ball to loop up into the air for Dan Thompson to head home.

A very wet evening had seen a wonderfully competitive game and given Angels' supporters much encouragement.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Croydon 12 Tonbridge Angels U21 1

Match 3/17/1451 - Saturday, 8th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Croydon (5) 12
Tonbridge Angels U21 (0) 1 Brown 58
Attendance: 3
Played at Archbishop Lanfranc Academy

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 106/290

Chris Wye’s newly-formed Under-21 side endured a baptism of fire at Croydon’s Archbishop Lanfranc Academy on Saturday. In sweltering heat that left almost every one of the Angels’ lads with blistered feet, they spent a torrid 90 minutes chasing the shadows of a mature, more street-wise Southern Counties East team that boasted a striker in Jeff Duah-Kessie, who scored 40-plus goals last season for The Trams and found the net five times in this game.

The Angels manager was left without a recognised central defender, having to use two midfielders in that area and a 16-year-old full back. Chris said after the game that training would focus on the back four and he was looking for another centre back to come in.

Possession is [they say] nine-tenths of the law, in football it is the whole thing. If you haven’t the ball you cannot hurt the opposition but if you continually give it up, then you will get hurt and when the manager gets his beleaguered troops back on the training field no doubt this will feature high on his list of priorities as well.

Croydon went in front after four minutes when the Angels’ goalkeeper, Charlie McTigue committed to a ball he was not going to get allowing Croydon’s winger to score.

McTigue made a good save and Duah-Kessie struck the bar before the Croydon striker found the bottom corner after 22 minutes.

Solomon Falloju was robbed of the ball as Duah-Kessie made it three after 27 minutes and when the Croydon left winger slotted in from the edge of the six-yard box the writing was very much on the wall.

Duah-Kessie wrapped up his first half hat-trick with a goal seven minutes before the break.

A second half comeback was not on the cards but salvaging some pride from the game was also dispelled within four minutes of the restart when McTigue’s fine save as not enough to deny Duah-Kessie tucking in the rebound and in the 49th minute the centre forward increased the score to 7-0.

Strangely, Tonbridge a brief 10 minutes when they strung together a few passes and scored through Jed Brown who touched it past the goalkeeper after being sent clear. They might have eased themselves further into the game after 58 minutes when they were awarded a penalty but Sam Caldicott’s effort was saved low to his left by the keeper.

What little confidence that had been gained by that spell drained away when Croydon were awarded a penalty which was scored despite a retake being needed.

Further goals in the 70th, 75th, 76th and Duah-Kessie’s fifth in the 78th minute put the Angels to the sword as Croydon got their own season off to a flying start.

In Chris Wye’s honest assessment of the match he said: “The group is not strong enough and I need to bring in replacements. The basic things that they are asked to do should already be in them at this stage. I’ve seen what I’ve been given through the trial process I’ve carried out and it is not good enough.”

Next Saturday the under-21s visit Broadbridge Heath hoping to put this chastening start behind them.

Football inside a school cage is virtually a no-go area for groundhoppers, so perhaps it was no surprise that the attendance amounted to one probable hopper, one girlfriend of a Tonbridge player and yours truly!

Anybody ever seen a set of goalposts quite like these?

Faversham Town 0 Gillingham 1

Match 2/17/1450 - Friday, 7th July 2017 - Pre-Season Friendly

Faversham Town (0) 0
Gillingham (1) 1 Eaves 22
Attendance: 1,214

Entrance: £6
Programme: £2
Mileage: 50/184

Match Report

As with the opening post of this pre-season, there is little reason to get downhearted (or upbeat) about results, good or bad, least of all the very first one. All you can do is assemble a few positives or negatives that need to be addressed over the next five weeks.

Gillingham looked okay and should have put the game to bed in the first half in which they were the dominant side, but, opening negative, wayward finishing from goalscorer Tom Eaves in particular left the game in doubt until the final whistle. Indeed, it took a fine save from Stuart Nelson at the feet of Faversham's Sam Lawford late in the game to preserve the scoreline.

Drawing on the positives, Eaves did look a handful but, as said, his finishing had all the hallmarks of a striker that has found goals hard to come by at his previous clubs, Yeovil, Shrewsbury and Bolton.

A major plus was the return of Bradley Garmston, who produced a lively second period down the left hand side.

On the minus side, none of the trialists came close to fulfilling the criteria of being better, or at least different, to what you already have; the first half in particular the back four made up of new signing Gabriel Zakuani, Max Ehmer and two trialists looked shaky.

Gillingham won the game in the 22nd minute when a fine move saw Mark Byrne send Scott Wagstaff away down the right and his pin-point cross to the feet of Eaves left the striker with a tap-in.

Eaves had an effort brilliantly saved by Simon Overland, but a free header from a Wagstaff cross was wasteful in the extreme.

With a completely different eleven in the second period, Gillingham started well with Garmston excelling and Josh Parker looking dangerous but as the half wore on and Faversham made their own bundle of substitutions it was the non-league side that finished the stronger despite them looking tender in years.

The downside, personally, was that I saw very little to dispel my feeling that the coming season is going to be a real struggle but from low expectations ...

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wick 2 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 1/17/1449 - Saturday, 1st June 2017 - Dave Knell Cup

Wick (1) 2 Mepham 38, Boughton 55
Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Pinnock 68 (pen)
Headount: 62

Entrance: £3
Programme: Free
Mileage: 134/134
New Ground: 310

Season 2017-18 got underway with a nice trip to the south coast, a new ground and an opportunity to assess whether Tunbridge Wells supporters can approach the coming season with a little more optimism than they finished the last one.

It was a trouble-free ride down to Wick FC’s Crabtree Park, a ground that didn’t have a great deal of redeeming features but was tidy with a decent pitch that didn’t resemble some of the cabbage patches I’ve witnessed in past July’s.

As for the Wells’ fans sense of optimism, I’m sure there is no reason to get downhearted on one pre-season result.

The match was played to honour the memory of Dave Knell, a former committee member at Tunbridge Wells whose son is now programme and website editor at Wick.

As with almost every early-July pre-season friendly I’ve ever watched there was the usual lack of information with regard to team line-ups and I am indebted to Tunbridge Wells’ chairman Scott Bartlett, who was able to name all but a couple of names in two totally different sides that played 45 minutes each.

Tunbridge Wells first half team was the stronger of the two, at least the more recognisable, welcoming back Jake Beecroft, Dane Lutchford and Scott Whibley.

The home side created the early chances but a fine strike from the edge of the box by the industrious Beecroft that rattled the crossbar was the closest either side came to opening the scoring.

A new face, Alex Kendal was impressing at right back whilst Perry Spackman occupied an unusual position in midfield operating behind the front two of Josh Biddlecombe and Lutchford.

Unfortunately the referee decided to take centre stage after 37 minutes ordering the Tunbridge Wells bench to substitute Whibley after a mistimed challenge. In the argument that followed, Biddlecombe was also ordered off, but allowed to be substituted, for abusive language.

From the resultant free kick, Wick’s Ben Mepham’s shot took a deflection off the wall and into the net.

The Wells’ second half side was a mixture of presumably trialists and last year’s under-21’s with Reece Bartlett providing much promise for the coming months.

Ten minutes into the second period, Wick doubled their advantage with a nice move down the left hand side that culminated with a cross to the far post being converted by Bernie Boughton.

With Bartlett causing the Wickers defence problems with his direct running and shooting, the Wells inched their way back into the game when they were awarded a penalty after 68 minutes. A corner from the right had been headed towards the top corner from where a defender on the post kept the ball out with his hands. He escaped any action from the referee, who had evidently already given the penalty for shirt pulling. James Pinnock confidently converted from the spot.

The Wells finished the game strongly and perhaps were a little unlucky not to come away with a draw as Jay Prem brought a good save out of the goalkeeper, low to his left and Bartlett had a well-taken free kick tipped over the bar.

Manager Jason Bourne can certainly take positives from the return of Beecroft, who one can imagine will be a dominant figure playing at a couple of levels down from his capability and, on this performance, this could be a breakthrough season for Bartlett.