Thursday, 28 September 2017

Rusthall 2 AFC Croydon Athletic 2

Match 35/17/1485 - Wednesday, 27th September 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Rusthall (0) 2 Sinclair 57, Harper 63
AFC Croydon Athletic (1) 2Rayner 10, Oloyede 68
Attendance: 134

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 37/1,962

I’ve become a Premier League cynic. Footballers, full of their own importance, who cheat; clubs with no respect for their supporters and call them customers and pander to the television companies that finance the ridiculous money that swashes around the major clubs. For years I’ve said that the bubble has to burst, but the bubble continues to grow.

On Tuesday, at Jockey Farm, the Premier League Show was in evidence to film a piece, to be shown on 7 October, that shows that some of that money does, indeed, filter down to grassroots and clubs like Rusthall can be the beneficiaries.

This was my first visit to the club since the ground improvements have taken place. The stadium is now floodlit, the cow patch on a slope that used to resemble a football pitch is now a level, beautiful surface and on a night in which rain lashed down, the new 100-seat Atcost stand is a very welcome addition. Without the grants from the Premier League through the Football Stadium Improvement Fund, much of this would not have been possible.

Rusthall have made a steady start to life in the SCEFL Premier League and in this game against AFC Croydon, who for the second midweek running, went top of the table by virtue of the result, they came from a goal down at the break to lead 2-1 but were pegged back to share the points.

On a dreadful night, an attendance of 134 was admirable.

AFC Croydon went ahead on 10 minutes when a disputed free kick was superbly bent around the wall and into the net by Ben Rayner.

Both sides gave as good as they got in a competitive first half that saw, a couple of minutes before the break, a header from Rusthall’s Dan Mitchell come back off a post.

Rusthall continued to take the game to their visitors and were deservedly level when a volley from John Sinclair found the net after a header from Joe Fuller had been partially cleared by the goalkeeper.

After 63 minutes, the Rustics took the lead with a fine, curling shot from Steph Harper into the top corner.

The lead was only to last five minutes as a through ball found Emmanuel Oloyede who finished well past Steve Lawrence.

Both sides had a great chance to win the game in the dying minutes with Lawrence saving well at his near post and Andy Constable probably hasn’t missed an easier chance in his long career.

The game ended with a spate of yellow cards which was a bit disappointing after a good game played in quite difficult conditions.

No doubt I’ll return to my cynicism in the very near future, but at least for now, I have witnessed the good side of the Premier League.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Tonbridge Angels 2 Dorking Wanderers 0

Match 34/17/1484 - Tuesday, 26th September 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Turner 60, McCollin 90
Dorking Wanderers (0) 0
Attendance: 332

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/1,925

For the first time this season, the Angels recorded back-to-back League wins coupled with clean sheets with a satisfying, hard fought victory over Dorking Wanderers at Longmead.

Steve McKimm named an unchanged side from Saturday’s single goal victory at Burgess Hill.

Dorking came with a decent pass and move game and edged the first half. Jonny Henly made good saves to deny Tom Tolfrey and Rob Sheridan with the Angels also indebted to George Beavan for a superb goal line clearance after Luke Moore had rounded Henly.

Tonbridge opened the game brightly with Alex Akrofi firing over after three minutes and a nice interplay of passes between Joe Turner and Tom Beere saw the ball to the feet of Nathan Elder but the visiting goalkeeper, Josh Pelling, smothered at the striker’s feet.

Tonbridge responded to the half-time team talk and with Turner and Beere seeing much more of the ball, chances began to be created with Dorking carrying far less of a threat going forward.

A good move down the left between Jack Parter and Elder opened up a shooting chance for Beere but he dragged his shot wide and a couple of minutes later, spotting the keeper off his line, Beere tried an audacious lob from 40 yards that was wide but you can’t win a raffle without buying a ticket!

With the Angels midfield now dominating the opposition, Parter was able to get forward and his crosses into the box were ratcheting up the pressure on the visiting defence.

After 58 minutes, Dan Thompson was introduced for Nathan Elder and a couple of minutes later the Angels were in front. A slick interchange between Parter and Turner opened up space for the latter to curl a low shot into the bottom corner.

Pelling saved low to left a free kick from Turner; fielded a shot from Parter and picked up a yellow card for hand ball outside of his area in a five minute spell in which he took centre stage.

The game was now very much one-way traffic in the Angels favour with the pace of Andre McCollin brought on to further stretch a tiring Dorking back line.

McCollin did, however, need to take a yellow card for the team as the visitors threatened a breakaway and in a rare foray, substitute Tom Summerfield had a good opportunity but blasted over.

As Dorking threw bodies forward in search of a late equaliser an attack broke down with a long punt out of defence that found McCollin one-on-one with a defender who was left in his wake for the striker to round the goalkeeper and score. As Barry Moore reflected later, it was the type of goal that McCollin has been scoring 20 times a season for the last ten years.

The win lifts the Angels to ninth place, just three points off the play-off spots as they go in search of three successive wins at Leatherhead on Saturday where they will meet groundsharers Kingstonian.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Lordswood 3 Hollands & Blair 1

Match 33/17/1483 - Wednesday, 20th September 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Lordswood (1) 3 Orome 19, Wells 55 (pen), Mahon 84
Hollands and Blair (1) 1 McDonald 43
Attendance: 101

Entrance: £3.50 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 35/1,897

I will make a couple of observations that Lordswood's pitch looked as resplendent as I have ever seen it and ask the question are to what was actually going through the mind of Hollands and Blair's goalkeeper, Ronan Forde, when he launched a kick at the rear end of a Lordwood striker. The rest of this post is an unashamed cut and paste from Richard Day's report for Hollands website. Time restrictions being my excuse.

The predatory James McDonald bagged his sixth goal of the season but it couldn't prevent Blair slipping to their first ever defeat against neighbours Lordswood in seven attempts, including friendlies.

The 3-1 victory at Martyn Grove took Lords top of the SCEFL table as individual errors again cost Blair, who had keeper Ronan Forde dismissed, any chance of at least a share of the points.

After a quiet opening it was the home side that broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when Jack Mahon harrassed Lewis Taylor into a mistake and Helge Orome was able to stroke the ball home.

It seemed that a majority of the 102 crowd were cheering when Blair deservedly equalised just before the break, McDonald nipping in between the Lordswood rearguard and keeper Ryan Chandler to roll the ball home.

Early in the second-half McDonald saw a superb curling effort that looked destined for the top corner until Chandler made a fine flying save.

At the other end Forde made a good block to deny Jordan Wells but then fumbled a Tom Carter corner but Blair managed to eventually clear after a goalmouth scramble.

I'm not sure whether that was still on the Irishman's mind but moments later he retaliated to a Wells challenge which was spotted by assistant referee Dan Friar who brought the incident to referee Valentine Anekwe. He not only brandished a red card but awarded a penalty.

After a short delay boss Bryan Greenfield, playing his first game of the season, took over the gloves but was beaten by Wells resultant spot-kick.

Even then Blair looked to keep playing football and the home outfit were unable to really get a grip on the game until they added a third with six minutes remaining. Offside appeals were ignored as Mahon touched the ball home from close range after Liam Newton had fired a shot across the face of goal.

There was still time for McDonald to test Chandler once again but the keeper made another great tip over to keep out the striker's header from Michael Jenner's free-kick.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

AFC Croydon Athletic 3 Tunbridge Wells 2

Match 32/17/1482 - Tuesday, 19th September 2017 - SCEFL Premier

AFC Croydon Athletic (0) 3 Kaffo 51, Wallen 55, Jenden 88 (pen)
Tunbridge Wells (0) 2 Nwoko 52, Beecroft 54
Attendance: 79
New Ground: 316

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 90/1,862

The track leading to AFC Croydon Athletic was ruinous for the car's suspension and its tyres. For Jason Bourne, the Tunbridge Wells manager, the road ahead continues to look a bumpy one.

He has assembled a squad that looks, on paper, more than capable of being competitive but wastefulness in front of goal coupled with defensive errors made for a frustrating evening at Mayfield Road.

Taking the positives, Tunbridge Wells were far the better side in the first half and should have been out of sight of a side that ended the evening at the top of the SCEFL Premier with the forward partnership of Joe Nwoko and Jack Harris looking to be a real handful for any defence.

Harris has returned to the club from time spent in higher levels and is no longer the gangly, raw striker that departed. He is stronger both in mind and body and will eventually score and create goals for the Wells, hopefully in abundance.

The Wells held sway in the opening period with Steven Ita dragging a shot wide after just two minutes and the powerful Stephen Ikpeme shooting wide right before the game settled into a competitive contest.

Scott Whibley needed to be substituted before the half-hour mark when he suffered a head injury following what appeared an innocuous header. Scott later revealed that he had a drill fall on his head a couple of weeks ago and when he headed the ball he suffered something called secondary impact syndrome. The injury necessitated an ambulance being called to the ground and the Wells skipper being taken to hospital for scans following which he was thankfully given the all clear.

The Wells continued to create chances, the best of which came after 36 minutes when a free kick taken by Tom Davey found the head of Perry Spackman who put it across the face of goal where Nwoko failed to make a touch.

The game took off early in the second half when, after 51 minutes, Croydon went in front with an unchallenged Junior Kaffo glancing header nestling into the bottom corner.

The lead lasted less than a minute when a strong run from Harris looked to have brought the Wells a penalty but Nwoko ran the ball into the net with Croydon seemingly appealing for the penalty to be given! The referee managed to confuse the issue by needing to consult the linesman before giving the goal.

A third goal in three minutes saw Tunbridge Wells in front when Ita was brought down inside the left hand angle of the box. Jake Beecroft successfully converted from the spot.

A surging run from Ikpeme almost gave the visitors some breathing space but two minutes later, Croydon were allowed to get in a cross from the right bye-line to Marlon Wallen who had the simplest of tap-ins.

Both sides searched hard for a winner, Chris Oladogba needed to be at his best to turn over an effort from Morgan Jenden whilst Tommy Lawrence saw his shot well saved low to his left by the Croydon goalkeeper. Substitute Jon Pilbeam set up Harris, but the ball got stuck under the feet of the striker.

Perhaps Tunbridge Wells paid for their ambition to go for all three points when, with just three minutes remaining, an attack was broken down with a long punt forward which found Davey exposed one-on-one with the referee, who had a strange evening, deciding that he brought down the Croydon attacker. I was too far from the incident to say whether the tussle was a foul or not, but I do feel that there was another Tunbridge Wells defender arriving on the scene, so the sending off for being the last man was very harsh.

Jenden dispatched the penalty to seal the points for the Rams despite a last gasp effort from Spackman ending the game with ball in the goalkeeper's hands.

The Tunbridge Wells support among the sparse attendance will surely believe that Jason Bourne now has the tools at his disposal, they just have to be utilised in the correct manner. A little bit of game management in the final minutes would surely have yielded a point from this game.

As a new ground, once the rough track had been negotiated (no mean feat), a surprisingly large grandstand came into view. This seats just over 300 people, and is a relic of their Isthmian League days and the Pakistani spot-fixing chairman. It is in need of a little loving care but it is still a fine structure for this level of football. On the dug-outs side there are two covered standing enclosures, to which nobody on the night ventured to. There is also covered standing behind one of the goals.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Gillingham 1 Charlton Athletic 0

Match 31/17/1481 - Saturday, 16th September 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Eaves 54
Charlton Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 7,216

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/1,772

Match Report

Life is strange as a Gillingham supporter these days, in fact it's plain weird.

In the wonderfully mad world of the internet there seems to be a new story, fake or otherwise, surfacing daily if not by the hour.

Since the last Gillingham game I saw, we have seen the vice-chairman resign in the wake of a multi-million fraud case in the States; the player of the year tear up his contract; the club fall to the bottom of the table and on the eve of this game against high-flying Charlton Athletic, a rumour that the Peruvian assistant manager was to take over from Adrian Pennock, win, lose or draw.

The week also had a bizarre interview with Pennock in which he made the claim that some players were at the club earning just £400 a week with some making the bench £200. It was a strange way to lift the spirits, admitting that they lacked quality but made up for it with endeavour.

I'm no betting man but if anyone had offered 10-1 in this two horse race I wouldn't have risked a single penny.

Gillingham started brightly with an effort from Sean Clare, who I liked on this first viewing, before Charlton got into their stride and with the impressive Ricky Holmes pulling the strings they began to create chance which were either wasted or denied by Tomas Holy.

Hands-up, I've been a critic of Holy, but he has slowly won me over and I'm ready to accept Pennock's assessment that the lad can go a long way in the game. His judgement is not always good, but that is something that takes time and good coaching for a young keeper.

Whilst the south Londoners had plenty of the ball, their efforts were mainly from distance and fairly routine for Holy.

Gillingham thought they had gone ahead after 42 minutes when a shot from Clare came back off the crossbar for Gabriel Zakuani to head in from close range but celebrations were curtailed by a linesman's flag for offside.

The second half began with Holy making a save with his legs to keep out a Josh Magennis shot.

It's no unkind to say that when Gillingham nudged their noses on front after 54 minutes it was somewhat against the run of play.

Max Ehmer, who was used in the unusual role of holding midfielder, made a strong run to the left bye line from where he pulled the ball back for Tom Eaves to score from close range.

Charlton tried to restore parity immediately with Holy saving from Fosu and Byrne heading from the line.

Holy made further saves before Charlton fans' frustration boiled over and a number of flares hurled onto the pitch brought the game to a halt. How they got through the so-called heightened security check is a question that Gillingham need to be asking themselves.

The delay caused nine long minutes of added time in which the visitors threw the proverbial kitchen sink leaving fears that the fans' misdemeanours would bring a reward. But the hero of the moment, Holy, made two massive saves to deny Ezri Konta and the points were saved and a first victory over Charlton in 92 years was sealed.

Every Gillingham player earned his £400 on the day, except of course, those that only made £200. The spirit is obviously not motivated by money and the support fully appreciated the great effort with not a dissenting voice against Pennock, or even Scally, to be heard. Whether spirit alone can carry the Gills to safety is for another day, for now we can bask on the sunshine of 20th position.

Friday, 15 September 2017

AS Roma 0 Atletico Madrid 0

Match 30/17/1480 - Tuesday, 12th September 2017 - Champions League

AS Roma (0) 0
Atletico Madrid (0) 0
Attendance: 36,064
New Ground: 315
Grounds Abroad: 39

Entrance: 63 Euros Senior
Programme: None
Mileage from hotel: 10/1,714

Match Report

When something bad happens, all the good memories that have been created on a trip are banished into the trash bin.

The good memory of a first trip to the Olympic Stadium in Rome was that of watching an excellent Atletico Madrid side swamp Roma in the second period with only a mixture of misfortune and wasteful finishing denying them three points in Champions League Group C.

As goalless draws go, this was not one of the Cray Valley variety. It was exciting, surprisingly open with the Roma support initially raising the hairs on the back of your neck with their club song but an hour later were voicing their derision as Atletico held the upper hand.

The transportation to the Olympic Stadium must be one of the worst in any of the major European cities, certainly the worst that I've experienced and I've done a few. The metro falls a 35 minute walk short of the ground and when the connecting bus fails to turn up on any of its four previous scheduled times while the waiting queue grew far beyond its capacity especially as it turned up full anyway.

Once we had managed to squeeze ourselves into the second bus that followed, a really uncomfortable ride ensued with the football traffic now at snail's pace. Unfortunately the time lost cost us a decent look around the outside of the stadium which was a real shame as a view of the Olympic statues looked worth a few minutes of my time.

The entrances and outside facade looked more from the 1960 Olympics than the 1990 World Cup and as is the necessary way of these times the access was stringent with identification needed twice plus a bag search and pat down.

Once in, the view from our Tribuna Tevere seats, bought for 63 Euros as a senior direct from Roma, was very good. A given official attendance of only 36,064 really surprised me, I thought there were considerably more in the stadium.

The colourful Ultras on the Curva Sud were in full voice and, although my greatest respect goes to Atletico, it would have been good to have seen the reaction to a Roma goal.

As it was, as the game progressed, the small knot of fans from Madrid, I would estimate 250-ish, were able to make themselves heard as Griezmann and company scythed holes in the Italian back line.

Ultimately it was a superb display of goalkeeping from Roma's Alisson Becker that designated that the game would remain goalless.

The momentum of the game was set early when the impressive Felipe Luis set up Koke to bring a save out of Alisson.

Antoine Griezmann's spectacular scissor kick brought derisory jeers as it sailed wide but you couldn't help but think that the Roma support was already envious of the movement and passing of their opponents.

Alisson saved from Luciano Vietto before Roma finally had an effort on goal when Gregoire Defrel narrowly shot wide after 22 minutes.

Roma’s best effort of the first period in which they started to stem the tide in the second quarter came when a free kick set up a 30 yard effort from Radja Nainggolan that was saved low to his left by Jan Oblak.

The second half was one-way traffic with all roads leading to the Roma penalty area. Alisson saved from Luis on 49; from Vietto on 56 and from my outfield man of the match, Saul Niguez on 59 minutes.

Roma fans took solace from news that Juventus were two down in Barcelona as Atletico were literally swarming all over their favourites who were now getting the bird.

Chances continued to be created and wasted by the Spaniards until time added when Niguez brought a great save out of Alisson and from the resultant corner he shot against the post when it would have been easier to score.

So the game finished in stalemate, now came the task of finding our way back to central Rome with the last Metro train due to leave at 23:30 p.m., a ridiculous time given the 20:45 kick off.

If there were only 36,000 in the ground, 20,000 of them must have arrived on Vespas. I have never seen so many bikes in one place since the Mods took to Brighton in 1964. Just to find your scooter in the bike park after the game would be an achievement in itself.

After a laboured and sardine-packed bus ride that finally got us to the Metro with less than 10 minutes to spare, we could reflect that the evening’s entertainment had been a good one.

So, what turned the memory bad. A couple of days later in, of all places, the Vatican City we were victims of a bag snatch that not only robbed us of £150 and credit cards but also my camera with the best part of 500 pictures of the trip including all the pictures of the football. A bitter end that clouds Rome’s obvious fascinations.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Tonbridge Angels U21 1 Maidenhead United 3

Match 29/17/1479 - Saturday, 9th September 2017 - Suburban League Premier

Tonbridge Angels U21 (1) 1 Oblere 10
Maidenhead United (2) 3 Merrick 1,41 Laflin 81
Headcount: 30

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/1,704

The Tonbridge Angels Under-21's manager, Chris Wye reflected:

On Saturday at Longmead, the Under-21s met a good, mature Maidenhead team who played to their strengths and this proved to be effective throughout despite the efforts of our young squad.

Straight from the kick-off the ball was played down the left where a cross was driven in and poked past Ibrahim Attiah by Rory Merrick giving the visitors the lead after just 22 seconds. A goal down within the first minute was obviously the worst start the Angels could have wanted after some good previous defensive displays.

This would now be a test of character and making sure we did not crumble early on and have a heavy defeat on our hands. Maidenhead kept pumping the ball forward at every opportunity but we coped quite well with this as we tried to reduce the amount of chances that the opposition could create around our box.

We also had enough about us going forward although still with a lot to learn. It was to be the Angels that would equalise after 10 minutes, with the ball being half cleared by the Maidenhead defence, Tomi Oblere was there to strike from 25 yards out as his arrowed shot flew into the net past the despairing keeper. The boys were delighted with this and an air of excitement came about them for the next few minutes.

However five minutes before half time another driven cross was headed to the far post by Merrick and tapped home by the centre forward (however, officially the goal has been credited to Merrick) to restore Maidenhead’s lead. We went into the break 2-1 down but had some good phases of play in the final third and created chances of our own which was a positive after previous performances and shows the players are taking on board what we are coaching and confidence is coming along with the players getting more used to each other.

The second half was more about backs to the wall as Maidenhead kept pumping the ball forward and after 73 minutes, a long shot was spilt by Attiah, who had a good game, that allowed Harry Laflin to pounce and finish for the visitors third goal.

It was the fact that the Maidenhead players were quicker to second balls and had a little bit more know-how that gave them the edge and to have the chances they did is more evidence to back this up. We spent the last half an hour of the game pushing on and pumping the ball forward in the hope that our guys could learn to anticipate the second balls and gain some valuable experience in trying to keep an opposition pinned in.

A couple of half chances came our way and with just a couple of minutes left a chance fell to Samuel Oyeniran with the goal at his mercy but he scuffed his shot and it slipped past the post. A match fit Samuel would not have missed this as more composure would have been shown and the young striker will definitely learn from this.

The end result may have been a 3-1 defeat but further lessons have been learnt. So far we have played some good sides and it will be interesting to see now how we fare against some of the teams in the bottom half of the league as I know our players have plenty of potential and individual ability, we just need to keep working together to bring a positive result.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Crowborough Athletic 4 Rusthall 2

Match 28/17/1478 - Thursday, 7th September 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Crowborough Athletic (1) 4 Muggeridge 2, Pearson 65, Carrington 72,82
Rusthall (1) 2 Harper 30, Mitchell 85
Attendance: 112
Played at Maidstone United

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 20/1,666

Match Report

This was an old school reunion with no less than 13 of the respective squads having played at Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells and several having played for both Rusthall and Crowborough. It is usually a recipe for a bit of needle but the game was fought out largely on a good spirit and a very good game ensued.

Four years ago, this fixture as a league match was almost unthinkable, add in the East Sussex club playing at Maidstone in Kent, makes it all the more surreal.

Crowborough have made the 4G surface at the Gallagher their temporary home whilst a similar surface is laid at the Alderbrook Recreation Ground.

Rusthall adapted well to the surface to the surface over the 90 minutes but were caught cold going behind after just 90 seconds when Tom Phipp played in Henry Muggeridge to step inside a defender and bury his shot into the bottom corner.

Crowborough threatened to run away with the game in the early stages but the Rustics slowly found their feet with Crows’ goalkeeper Dan Ellis saving from Joe Fuller and also pushing away a 20 yard effort from Danny Powell.

Rusthall’s leveller was fully deserved when it arrived with just past the half-hour mark.

Stewart Gostlow sent a deep free-kick into the penalty area and Dan Mitchell rose at the far post to send a looping header over Ellis with Powell seemingly having the last touch before the ball crossed the line. However, the goal was officially credited to Mitchell.

Powell found his way into the referee’s notebook after steering the ball into the net with his hand and the Crows Connor Pring ended a good first half with a shot from 20 yards that wasn’t too far wide.

The game remained open after the restart with Fuller’s header cleared from the line by James White.

Crowborough finally edged their noses in front after 65 minutes when Pring took a poor clearance from Rusthall keeper Joe Cullip to feed Tom Pearson who fired into the bottom corner.

Rusthall might have fortunately levelled quickly when a miscued cross bounced of the top of the crossbar but they went 3-1 behind when an interchange of passes between Sam’s Crabb and substitute Carrington ended with the latter scoring despite Cullip getting a hand to the ball.

The score took on a flattering look with eight minutes remaining when Carrington doubled his tally with a shot on the turn that Cullip might have done better in saving.

Three minutes later Rusthall gave themselves some hope when Mitchell converted with a header at the far post but Crowborough held on for the points.

Hollands & Blair 1 Canterbury City 1

Match 27/17/1477 - Wednesday, 6th September 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Hollands & Blair (1) 1 McDonald 35
Canterbury City (0) 1 Pulman (pen) 87
Attendance: 101

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 58/1,646

This evening took on the shape of a Brian Moore's Head editorial meeting with its founders and a couple of contributors in attendance (I qualify by virtue of one article published!), so there was plenty of reminiscing and chewing over the latest troubled tales from down the road at Priestfield.

On the field a feisty encounter ensued which culminated in Hollands' Ben Brown being dismissed for a reckless challenge 10 minutes from time. In truth, following some meaty challenges and a few handbags, the referee probably did well to keep his red card in his pocket until that stage. The stage was certainly set in the opening stages when Hollands' Anthony Jeffers found his way into the book after just three minutes.

Canterbury went close twice in the early stages both times by virtue of miscued clearances from Kieran Sharp and Lewis Taylor that were inches from embarrassment.

However, it was the home side that went ahead after 35 minutes when Brown sent James McDonald clear and the striker did what he has been doing for years, clinically tucking the ball past Jack Delo.

The game became very spicy into the second half with both sides keeping the referee on his toes. An agricultural challenge from Sharp set the scene for a flurry of yellows that saw two more from Blair and one for Canterbury's Connor Sanders that wasn't far removed from the offence that Brown was to commit five minutes later.

Following Brown's departure, Blair might have sealed the game when James O'Halloran struck a post.

Three minutes from time, Canterbury were awarded a penalty when Taylor brought down Matt Martin. Ian Pulman converted with a spot kick fired straight down the middle.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Blair might have pinched the points when McDonald forced Delo into a fine save at his near post.

Tunbridge Wells 3 Haywards Heath 0

Match 26/17/1476 - Tuesday, 5th September 2017 - FA Cup 1QR Replay

Tunbridge Wells (0) 3 Mooney 93, Colbran 113, Ikpeme 120
Haywards Heath (0) 0
After Extra Time (Score at 90 minutes: 0-0)
Attendance: 254

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/1,588

Match Report

Question for the anoraks, can you support more than one club? Or do you support one and follow another, or two? It’s the type of question that can vex the fine people of the late Tony Kempster’s forum.

Whatever your opinion (there can be no definitive answer in my view) if you do indeed follow more than one club then several times a season you are in the position of having to make choices as to where you get your afternoon/evening’s entertainment. Such was my situation on this night.

In a normal set of circumstances, it would have not so much been Tunbridge Wells being preferred over Tonbridge, more so that the FA Cup trumps the Isthmian League Cup. But following the Angels dismal exit from the FA Cup on Saturday, I felt a sense of guilt in deciding to go to Culverden, almost a shame of turning my back on a friend in need.

But my friend had a severe retribution. At the end of 90 minutes and with a goalless draw taking the game into extra-time at Tunbridge Wells, I had been kept informed of an avalanche of goals at Longmead leaving me scratching my head with thoughts of wrong place, wrong time.

It was a shame that a damp, drizzly night probably saw 50 or more people trimmed off the attendance at Culverden following the Wells’ reportedly season-best performance to bring Haywards Heath back for this replay. Indeed, if you go 2-1 up in the 89th minute you are probably hoping for more than a replay but the West Sussex side found an equaliser in time added.

At the conclusion of this replay, Haywards Heath would have returned to Sussex wondering just how this tie got away from them as they spurned chance after chance.

Haywards Heath fielded a youngster, Marcus Newnham, in goal, but little did we know at the time that the 16-year-old generally played as a centre-back. He was drawn into action in the opening minutes saving well low to his right from Jon Pilbeam.

Alfie Rogers blazed over a chance for the Heath, a sign of things to come. But the Wells attacking intentions were to suffer a big set back after 25 minutes when Joe Nwoko was forced to limp out of the game.

Haywards Heath took charge and between Nwoko’s departure and half time a series of chances came and went. Rogers brought a save out of Chris Oladogba low to his right; Trevor McCreadie skipped a couple of challenges before firing wide and also directed a header straight at Oladogba.

The second half was a stalemate for 20 minutes before Rogers missed an absolute sitter from close range turning the ball wide.

Chances remained thin on the ground before, four minutes from time, Max Miller struck a post for Haywards Heath from just inside the box. The same player then steered a header wide from close range to see the game into extra time.

Having ridden their luck to get to extra-time, Tunbridge Wells made the breakthrough in the 93rd minute. A long ball over the top was seized upon by substitute Bailey Colbran whose effort was blocked by the feet of the rookie keeper but the rebound was to fall at the feet of Keelan Mooney who shot into the unguarded net.

Having had so much of the game, Haywards Heath’s heads appeared to drop on going behind and for the first time in the match Tunbridge Wells had the ascendancy.

Into the second period and Newnham did well at his near post to deny Rhys Bartlett, turning the ball aside. From the resultant corner, Colbran nipped in front of the goalkeeper to glance a header into the net to virtually seal the Wells place in the next round and a trip to Concord Rangers.

There was still time for Stephen Ikpeme to produce a fine individual goal, weaving his way through the Haywards Heath before slotting home. It was the perfect finish to the evening for a buoyant Wells support.

So, eventually I could take satisfaction from my evening’s entertainment. I’m not sure it trumps the 10-1 scoreline that I might have been watching at Longmead but one can never regret the magic of the FA Cup.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Faversham Town 3 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 25/17/1475 - Saturday, 2nd September 2017 - FA Cup 1QR

Faversham Town (2) 3 Lovell 6,29, Bourne 67
Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 McCollin 36
Attendance: 346

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 60/1,550

Match Report

For the lifetime of this blog I’ve lamented both the performance and, on occasions, rotten luck of Tonbridge Angels in the FA Cup, so I’m not going to labour jinxes and such like this time around. FA Cup, Kent Senior Cup or Suburban League Cup, whatever the competition, performances like this one stretch supporters’ patience to the very limit and, for a few, beyond breaking point.

The defensively poor display against Folkestone set this game up as an accident waiting to happen. Faversham, a league below; on a bad run; and four ex-Angels in their side.

A surprise was sprung when Tom Beere was spotted in the warm-up, whatever the circumstances that have allowed Hampton to let him become cup-tied, his appearance can only be a good thing, perhaps this is going to work out after all.

We reminisce that a year ago we were at Ascot, actually I was in New York, but that turned out alright ... in the end.

The Salters Lane pitch looked perfect, manicured and in even better condition than when I visited pre-season.

A feature, not in a good way, of Tonbridge’s season so far is that they have consistently started games slowly and, once again, this was the case and naturally it would be the ex-Angels who would be the architects.

A corner from the right from Danny Walder was headed downwards by Mark Lovell, hardly a man mountain to defend against, with the bounce lifting the ball past Jonny Henly to give the hosts a sixth minute lead.

Tonbridge worked their way back into the game with plenty of possession, something they “enjoyed” for the entirety of the game. Andre McCollin dragged a shot wide of the post before striking the inside of a post with the ball rebounding across the face of goal before being cleared.

Faversham doubled their advantage on the half-hour when a 70 yard cross-field pass from Walder, inside of Jey Siva, found Lovell clear in enough acreage to graze a substantial flock of sheep. The striker kept his composure and, as Henly advanced, fired into the bottom corner.

The Angels grabbed a route back into the game seven minutes later when an inch perfect through ball into the left channel from Beere sent McCollin clear and into the box from where his well struck shot beat Simon Overland at his near post.

Overland kept his side’s noses in front at the break when he saved well from Joe Turner.

The amount of possession and the chances created in the first half gave Tonbridge supporters firm belief that this year’s FA Cup journey wouldn’t be ending at the first fence.

An early second half effort from Chris Kinnear was pushed away by Overland and the goalkeeper made a similar save to deny Turner two minutes later.

Steve McKimm swapped his strike force introducing Alex Akrofi and Dan Thompson but a headed goal after 67 minutes left the Angels with an uphill battle. Once again it was Walder with the assist as his cross found the head of Matthew Bourne who had remained in the box following a corner.

Turner brought another save out of Overland, but it was the goalkeeper’s save from an Akrofi penalty kick that confirmed his award as man of the match.

Thompson, a striker so desperately in need of a goal, spurned two headed chances late in the game as the seriously good chances reached 14 by my notes.

There were angry exchanges with some frustrated Tonbridge supporters following the game and online the knives were out as the disappointed vented their anger. Steve McKimm doesn’t want to hear about Tonbridge and the FA Cup, but for the older fraternity it is not something to get vexed about, we have been here many, many times before.