Monday, 30 October 2017

Welling United U18 3 Margate U18 1

Match 51/17/1501 - Monday, 30th October 2017 - FA Youth Cup 1R

Welling United U18 (1) 3 Raines 41 Milton 47 Grant 49
Margate U18 (0) 1 Warden 90+2
Attendance: 113

Entrance: £3 Senior
Teamsheet: £0.20
Mileage: 72/3,375

Match Report

This might be the last time that I watch this group of lads with whom I have a great deal of affection from their time at Tonbridge at Under-18 level. By the time the next FA Youth Cup begins the majority of these boys will no longer be eligible and they will be young men playing in senior football. Indeed, that transition is well underway with Jack Bray, Henry Ikeije breaking into the first team at Margate; Lewis Mitchell and Sid Warden are in Erith Town’s first team squad; Jack Fenton is at Corinthian whilst Harvey Killick has recently turned out and scored for Hollands and Blair.

Margate enjoyed the best of the first half but went into the break a goal behind with their attacking intentions founding on the massive central defensive trio of Kieron Hughes, Alfie Fullbrook and Dan Edwards. Towards the end of the game, the Welling manager urged Hughes forward for a corner, telling him: “You’re 6’9” for christ’s sake, get yourself into the box”. I had to remind myself, that these are 18-year-olds.

Margate started the game brightly with Ikeije setting up Killick for a shot that was only marginally wide.

The height advantage came into play after 10 minutes when Fullbrook rose to meet a corner only to put his header narrowly over.

After 26 minutes, Margate’s Kunle Bakare was sent clear by Ikeije but the home goalkeeper, Olumannis Gossemna, saved well at his feet.

Killick, who was proving a constant threat, shot narrowly wide having been played in by Warden.

The game really opened up in the closing minutes of the first half. Warden fired over and Welling went straight to the other end and Mitchell saved well from Ethan Grant, quickly followed by Warden forcing a double save out of Gossemna.

At the end of the five minute hiatus, Welling took the lead when Jack Raines bent a free kick around the right of the wall and into the unguarded half of Mitchell’s goal.

Welling quickly put the tie to bed in the opening minutes of the second half. A turn of pace from Ollie Milton took him past the otherwise impressive Bray and from a tight angle he fired a fierce shot past Mitchell and into the far corner.

Two minutes later it was as good as all over when Grant fired in low from close range to put the home side three up after 49 minutes.

To their credit, Margate rolled up their sleeves and made a game of it with Ikeije hitting a cross-cum-shot onto the top of the crossbar within a minute and they continued to throw everything they had at Welling but the giant threesome mopped up pretty much all they had to offer.

Substitute Tom Webster’s lob was not enough to beat Gossemna but in the time added Ikeije wriggled his way along the line to cross to Warden who tapped in at the far post. A consolation was the least Margate deserved.

Welling face the long trip to AFC Totten or Cheltenham Town in the second round.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tonbridge Angels 3 Heybridge Swifts 3

Match 50/17/1500 - Saturday, 28th October 2017 - FA Trophy 1R

Tonbridge Angels (3) 3 Thompson 11 Turner 18 Vidal 20
Heybridge Swifts (2) 3 Luque 9 Bantick 15 Callender 81
Attendance: 405

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,303

Seventeen days ago, at the unlikely surrounds of Rochester United, I witnessed five goals in 13 minutes and found myself in a position to use the Football is stupid quote. I jumped the gun as Tonbridge Angels and Heybridge Swifts indulged in their own version of the Wacky Races and surpassed that feat by two minutes. Football is, indeed, stupid.

Just as they had against Leiston on Tuesday, Tonbridge fell foul of a corner driven to the near post from where Juan Luque perfectly executed a glancing header to give the Essex-based visitors a ninth minute lead.

Tonbridge bounced straight back and were level in three minutes when Dan Thompson turned a struck a low shot across the face of the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

The madness continued unabated with the referee finding time in between goals to book Craig Stone for a cynical tug-back as the dangerous Luque threatened to go clear once more.

It was Luque that opened up the home back line again when he set up an unmarked Sam Bantick for a tap-in. Whether the Angels back line were absent making ready for Halloween, it was certainly a horror show!

Once more though, Heybridge showed that poor defending was not just a one team show as a Xavier Vidal cross found Joe Turner on the edge of the box and his shot found the bottom corner to level up the scores.

Two more minutes and the home side were in front for the first time with the fifth goal in 11 minutes. After a fine run from Andre McCollin that was partially stopped the ball fell to Turner, whose first time shot struck the foot of a post with the rebound falling to Xavier Vidal who made no mistake.

After such a flurry of goals and nightmare defending it seemed unthinkable that the game would eventually go 70 minutes before it saw another one.

Tonbridge continued to live on their nerves at the back, particularly when facing the long throws of Kreshnic Krasniqi into the box.

Into the second period and Chris Kinnear saw a drive from 25 yards tipped over by Danny Sambridge after some good set-up work from Jack Parter.

There were serious nerves mid-way through the half when the Angels’ ‘keeper, Jonny Henley went on an extended walkabout, but somehow the ball was scrambled to safety.

Despite the fact that Heybridge Swifts was a good tick to get in the ground hopping book, nobody really wanted a Tuesday night ride of a couple of hours, give or take with the Dartford Tunnel eccentricities, but with nine minutes remaining a goal from Luke Callander, profiting from a slip by Callum Adonis-Taylor, consigned us to the trip.

We might just have been spared that fate when, in time added, Parter set-up McCollin with a heading opportunity that he steered wide of the post.

Message to Dartford Tunnel: behave yourself on Tuesday!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Crowborough Athletic 3 Bearsted 0

Match 49/17/1499 - Thursday, 26th October 2017 - SCEFL

Crowborough Athletic (1) 3 Barton 7 Treleaven 80 Crabb 82
Bearsted (0) 0
Attendance: 172

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 19/3,265

Crowborough signed off their time at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium with an ultimately comfortable 3-0 win over Bearsted enabling the stadium announcer to proudly proclaim their departure as league leaders.

They have spent three months on the plastic at Maidstone whilst their own pitch also became a 3G surface but unresolved planning issues see them return to play on the green, green grass of home.

Bearsted took a lot of credit with some attractive football in the opening 20 minutes despite going behind after just eight minutes when Jason Barton powered in a header from a Henry Muggeridge corner. They opened up the Crows on a couple of occasions with shots at the ex-Tonbridge goalkeeper, Anthony Di Bernardo and Matt Garner saw a header clear the bar.

But as Crowborough gained control it was the Bears’ goalkeeper, Scott Andrews that took centre stage with a series of saves that particularly frustrated Zak Attwood.

The second half was similarly one-way traffic and somewhat surprising that it took until nine minutes from time before a turn and shot from the edge of the box by Ross Treleaven gave them breathing space.

Within two minutes the game was wrapped up when a shot from Sam Carrington was only parried into the path of Sam Crabb to tuck in from close range.

Rumours of how much this soirée in Maidstone has cost Crowborough are varied, what it has not cost them is any ground in the race for the title.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Rusthall 1 Beckenham 3

Match 48/17/1498 - Wednesday, 25th October 2017 - SCEFL

Rusthall (1) 1 Waterman 5
Beckenham (1) 3 Johnson 9,57 Wadmore 60
Attendance: 128

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 38/3,246

Cliche alert! A league season is a marathon not a sprint but, using marathon parlance, Rusthall appeared to have hit the wall. The previous two games that I have seen them this season I can away impressed and feeling they were a little unlucky with the scoreline in both games, but, on this occasion, they were well beaten by a decent Beckenham side.

Rusthall owed their band of supporters a performance following a harrowing weekend FA Vase defeat at the hands of Epsom and Ewell with the soul destroying margin of 7-2 and they looked to have set themselves on course to achieve this when they took the lead after just five minutes when Ryan Waterman shot in, off the inside of a post, after some great work from Stephen Harper.

The game was very open, I would imagine to both benches despair, and the visitors were level four minutes later when a poorly cleared corner was met with a looping header from full back Archie Johnson that was helped into the goal by the Rusthall goalkeeper, Joe Cullip.

The Rustics might have bounced back immediately when Beckenham’s goalkeeper, Santiago Tuilan, spilt an effort from Stephen Smith but Calum Gallie lashed the follow-up over the crossbar from six-yards.

Enjoying the benefit of the slope, Rusthall just about edged the first period but there was little between the teams.

Second half was a different story as Beckenham stormed out of the traps, wasted a good early chance before taking the lead after 58 minutes with a 30 yard effort into the top corner from Johnson.

After 65 minutes the visitors were well in control as a clever free kick routine that saw a dummy leave Adam Wadmore to score from close range.

Rusthall’s bad night was completed when the influential Dan Mitchell collected a second yellow for a foul.

For Rusthall, this is a rough patch, but many marathon runners make it through the wall to complete the course.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Tunbridge Wells 1 Glebe 2

Match 47/17/1497 - Tuesday, 24th October 2017 - SCEFL

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Ita 41
Glebe (0) 2 Fitzgerald 51, Zeppo 72
Attendance: 169

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/3,208

Here’s a bit of nostalgic thinking, back in the day (everything wasn’t so much better in those days) of the W formation (younger readers might have to google) before Sir Alf Ramsey invented the wingless wonders that won the World Cup for England and changed the way football teams were set-up, players knew what their jobs were. Right backs defended against left wingers; inside lefts were considered to be the most skilful and creative players on the pitch and the old fashioned centre forward took out everything in his path, goalkeeper’s included in his quest to find the back of the net. There were no false number nines or holding midfielders and if you were a right back that’s where you played every week. Jimmy Armfield wasn’t asked to supply the crosses, he had a right winger in front of him to do that; he had enough to do concentrating on keeping the likes of Tom Finney quiet.

It was not a perfect formation, that is why there are records of 6-5 and 7-6 matches that we don’t see today, but spectators knew where players would be on the pitch before they even entered the stadium.

At Culverden Stadium last night, Tunbridge Wells looked muddled, almost as if they didn’t know where they were meant to be and as the game progressed, as a spectator, the less I understood what was going on.

Glebe were no great shakes, they have had a change of managership recently and they could have the excuse that they need time for Anwar Uddin’s tactics to bed in. Uddin’s assistant, Peter Sweeney was on the pitch and his experience shone through.

On a dank, wet night when the rain was in the air rather than going to soak you, a decent attendance of 169 continued to show their support for a club that is not producing the results that such loyalty deserves.

I’m unable to locate the Glebe team so reference to their players will be a bit sketchy, which was a shame because I would have liked to have known whether Arlie Desanges, who scored for fun at Sutton Athletic last season and the ex-Tonbridge favourite, Harry Harding were even playing.

A drab opening 15 minutes saw a single chance for the visitors headed wide from a corner before Stephen Ita tested the goalkeeper at his near post.

For the next 20 minutes it was mostly Glebe that were forcing the issue with the number 10 seeing his header cleared from the line by Keiron Tarbie and the centre forward planting another header straight at the Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper, Muhammed Otuyo.

Tunbridge Wells came to life after 35 minute when Jon Pilbeam firstly flashed a shot across the face of goal and when the ball was recycled back to him his header came back off the inside of a post and run along the line before it was cleared.

Five minutes later they were awarded a free kick following a foul on Jack Harris from which Stephen Ita perfectly executed getting it over the wall and dipping into the goal.

Otuyo was called on to make a double save just before the break to preserve the Wells’ half-time lead.

The lead was not to last long into the second period though when a cross from the left was met with an unchallenged header from Max Fitzgerald.

Glebe poured forward, confidence restored, and the Wells defence were at sixes and sevens as Otuyo went missing and the ball was scrambled clear.

After 72 minutes a mix-up between Scott Whibley and the goalkeeper, who should have claimed the ball, allowed Bryan Zeppo to nip in between and touch past the hesitant goalkeeper.

The Wells were unable to respond with a couple of free kicks that were relatively easy dealt with being their only threats.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Gillingham 1 Northampton Town 2

Match 46/17/1496 - Saturday, 21st October 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Martin 62
Northampton Town (1) 2 Powell 45 Grimes 73
Attendance: 4,640

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/3,170

Two very decent results gave rise to optimism that Gillingham's search for their next manager might end with an internal appointment, that of Steve Lovell. Sadly, Storm Brian blew in, two poor sides failed to cope with the prevailing conditions and with the visitors, Northampton Town, touching wood for good fortune, the probability now is that the new man will be an outside appointment.

Is it of any consequence as to who is appointed? The new manager will have the same players to work with until the January transfer window, by which time it might well be too late. And, if at that time, Gillingham are cut adrift, can anybody see Mr Scally sanctioning any sort of outlay in a futile attempt to save their League One status, I think not.

There was a marginal improvement on the game against Portsmouth, and I'm told that the midweek draw against high-flying Wigan Athletic was good, but the cutting edge in front of goal is severely lacking.

Gillingham were the better side in the first half in terms of possession but a 17th minute effort from Lee Martin that was turned aside by Cobblers’ goalkeeper Matt Ingram was all they could muster on target.

The price was paid on 44 minutes when a shot from 30 yards by Danny Powell found its way between Tomas Holy and his right hand post, cannoning in off the inside of the woodwork.

The early chances of the second half fell to the visitors with Holy equal to an effort from Aaron Pierre but, just past the hour, the hosts equalised following a good move that left Martin to slip the ball past the advancing Ingram and into the bottom corner.

A free kick conceded by ex-Northampton Gabriel Zakuani on 72 minutes gave Matt Grimes the opportunity to curl his shot around the wall to, once more, ricochet off the inside of a post and past a statuesque Holy.

Lovell responded with the rather strange substitution of his leading goalscorer Tom Eaves with that of a full back, Bradley Garmston.

The home side pushed hard for another equaliser but Ingram was never tested in the final 20 minutes.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Charlton Athletic 22 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 45/17/1495 - Wednesday, 18th October 2017 - Women's Isthmian League Cup

Charlton Athletic (14) 22 Lee 2,13,21,32 Gurr 7,19,30,36 Graham 15,24,45 Nash 18 Jackson 27 Weller 41 Griffin 56,63,79,82,84 Ashcroft 90+1 Pepper 90+2
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 93
Played at Sporting Club Thamesmead

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 78/3,112

This was a case of for whom the bell tolls, and for a 13 minute period midway through the first half the bell was tolling more often than St Paul's on the day of a royal wedding.

As everybody suspected, indeed feared, the task in front of our ladies’ team against Charlton Athletic, of the Women’s Premier League, proved far too great. The gulf in quality from Step 3 to Step 8 was evident from the outset and a heavy defeat ensued. For those of a nervous disposition, look away now as the goal tally reached 22 for the Addicks. Charlton paid the Angels the great compliment in fielding a strong starting eleven, every one of which has made a first team appearance and eight that had started seven out of their 11 Premier League games.

Despite this, the Tonbridge girls can be rightly proud of the way they conducted themselves on the night. They displayed the perfect ethos of grassroots football; playing with great team spirit, good humour and battling their way to the finish. A perfect scenario would have seen them scoring a goal, but it was not to be.

The story with the bell was with a Charlton supporter that rang it loudly with every goal that they scored, apparently he does it every game. He was ringing the damn thing after just 70 seconds and, one can only assume, that his arm was very tired come the 92nd minute.

The rout began with a tap-in at the far post and the Angels' goalkeeper, Elaina Williams had already excelled by the time a second was added on seven minutes. Three goals in three minutes left the Angels five adrift as the south Londoners slick passing game left them chasing shadows.

Four more goals between the 20th and 27th minute took the tally to nine with seven goals having been scored in 13 minutes and that bloody bell was becoming highly irritating.

Charlotte's Gurr and Lee contributed their fourth goals of the evening as the score mounted but with it also the stature of Williams who had made many decent saves. A fine shot into the top corner from Kit Graham to complete her hat-trick rounded off the first half.

Tonbridge's manager, Dan Couldridge, introduced Beth Kemp into the centre of the back line and her constant communication led to an improved second half performance.

After a couple of early goals, Charlton found themselves with a drought of 20 minutes before finding the goal back in their sights with five goals in the final 10 minutes with substitute Georgia Griffin scoring five times.

After the game, Dan Couldridge commented that, despite the scoreline, the girls had enjoyed the experience and the smiles on their faces after the final whistle confirmed that aasertion. With the attitude shown, and the development already made, maybe in a few years time, the Angels will meet Charlton again on a far more level playing field.

Tonbridge Angels 2 Leiston 1

Match 44/17/1494 - Tuesday, 17th October 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Akrofi 25, Elder 52
Leiston (1) 1 Ainsley 3
Attendance: 279

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,034

If the football purist needs a fixture then Tonbridge v Leiston appears to be safe bet. Last year’s best game of the season has been duplicated with another high quality encounter with, on this occasion, Tonbridge bouncing back from an early setback to inflict on the Suffolk side their first defeat of the season.

The disappointment of Hendon was put to bed with a performance of high energy and no shortage of quality to move Tonbridge to the edge of the play-off spots in the Bostik Premier.

It started so badly as Patrick Brothers forced an early corner from which Joe Marsden’s excellent delivery was met at the near post by a glancing header from Joe Ainsley to open the scoring after just three minutes.

For a few minutes, Leiston showed precisely why they headed the league on arrival with some neat football all played on Longmead’s carpet of a pitch.

Tonbridge started to get a foothold in the game with a shot from Alex Akrofi that was deflected wide and a speculative effort from Craig Stone that cleared the bar.

But, after 25 minutes, the Angels were level. Joe Turner sent a free kick to the far post towards the head of Nathan Elder whose well directed effort beat the goalkeeper but was denied by a post only for the rebound to be met by the ever-sharp Akrofi to head home.

Tonbridge largely dominated the first half with Turner seeing a couple of efforts miss the target and Sonny Miles directing a header straight at Marcus Garnham, although Jonny Henly also needed to be at his best to deny Matt Blake.

A great turn from Akrofi deserved better than a shot over but, seven minutes into the second half, sublime link play between Turner and Jack Parter led to the full back standing up a perfect cross for Elder to bullet a header into the bottom corner.

Liam Smith, 17-years-old and growing with confidence with every game, fired in a shot from 20 yards that Garnham saved low to his left whilst Leiston responded with Stone making a desperate clearance and the normally sure-shot Blake firing wide.

The game was captivating with Miles crashing a header against the bar while, at the other end, Blake misfired on two more occasions.

As the game entered into a generous six minutes of added time, Tonbridge might have benefitted from their visitor's desperation to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser with Andre McCollin failing to make the most of counter attacks when the Suffolk side found themselves very short at the back.

After the game, a conversation with a couple of Leiston supporters who commented that was the worst they had played this season. If that is the case then Billericay may well have a challenger but I also think it does Tonbridge a disservice.

Pictures courtesy of David Couldridge

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hendon 2 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 43/17/1493 - Saturday, 14th October 2017 - Bostik Premier

Hendon (0) 2 Corcoran 50, Muir 90 (pen)
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Kinnear
Attendance: 265

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 173/2,996

Match Report

There are times when, with the senses of injustice heightened, that the road home, be it 200 miles or two miles around the corner seems a very long one.

Hendon is not exactly falling off the side of the earth in terms of distance but it is an awkward journey with the vagaries of the Tunnel, the M25 and the north London traffic to take into account and I needed to vent my spleen at just about the most imcompetent official that I am likely to come across this season to clear the head before heading home.

As Steve McKimm said in his post-match interview, this won’t be the last time that a last minute goal will decide a game this season and, perhaps next time, the good fortune might fall at our feet but that doesn’t compensate the here and now.

Let’s get the perspective. Neither side created many chances in what was a pretty ordinary game, so a share of the points would have been a fair result. But the referee, who had seen fit to penalise on several occasions as Ashley Nathaniel-George went down, under the whisper of a challenge, more often than a U-boat was fooled one last time as substitute Daniel Uchechi wriggled along the bye-line and eventually went down under the slightest of touches from Sonny Miles to earn the winning penalty despatched by Nico Muir.

Hendon’s 3G pitch at Silver Jubilee Park appears to have deteriorated quite considerably since our last visit in April. The “grass” element seems to have flattened giving the impression that it is overladen with the rubber pellet base.

Tonbridge needed to defend against the slope in the first half and, consequently, found themselves under pressure for large periods but Hendon failed to fully test Jonny Henly who made a save after 24 minutes to deny Josh Walker and then pulled off a penalty save a minute before the break as Nathaniel-George placed a weak shot to his left.

The award of the penalty was undeniable as Callum Adonis-Taylor misjudged a tackle and brought down George, who went to ground for not the first time of umpteen. But moments earlier Liam Smith had literally been wiped out by a challenge that the referee chose to ignore. Smith had a long spell of treatment and although he was able to carry on, his substitution was needed early in the second half.

Tonbridge’s chances were limited to a Nathan Elder header that was steered wide and another that sailed over the crossbar whilst Joe Turner threatened on a couple of occasions.

Now going down the hill, Tonbridge started the second half better with Luke Blewden firing over before Chris Kinnear gave them the lead on 52 minutes with a rasping shot from 20 yards after Elder had won a header for Alex Akrofi to lay the ball back to the midfielder.

The lead was to last barely two minutes when following a clearance from a free kick, a cross from Sam Murphy found the head of Michael Corcoran at the far post to equalise.

The sides swapped chances as the game opened up in search of a winner. Henly saved well from Muir and Elder shot narrowly wide from around the penalty spot.

Everything set fair for a point apiece until the hapless referee intervened to send the Greens’ fans home happy and leaving the Blues fans with a long, painful ride with that burning sense of injustice.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Rochester United 3 Corinthian 4

Match 42/17/1492 - Wednesday, 11th October 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Rochester United (1) 3 Rogers 37,56,66
Corinthian (0) 4 Johnson 61,63 Billings 69 Sawyer 83
Attendance: 70

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 45/2,823

My good friend, Jim Case, from his groundhopping travels, recently passed on to me a brilliant quote that appeared in a Kingstonian programme, it read: Football is stupid, and brilliant and really, really stupid but unquestionably brilliant. I've held on to those words in the knowledge that there would come a time when those words would ring loud and clear and, in driving rain at an unlikely venue such as Rochester, for a 13 minute period that time arrived.

For 38 minutes, a mundane encounter that had all the hallmarks of a 0-0, played out before us and we kept ourselves occupied with tales of daring-do on our groundhops and, as a trio of Gillingham supporters, opinion and woe at the plight of our League One club. Then, completely out of context to the game, Jon Rogers curled a shot into the top corner from 20 yards to the left of the box to awaken our interest.

The second half began with the rain starting to tumble and after six minutes the home side had a goal chalked off for a foul on the goalkeeper and then it started to rain hard and the football became stupid but unquestionably brilliant.

It was only stupid because, in the next 13 minutes, there were some cracking strikes that had no place in the SCEFL.

After 56 minutes, Rogers scored his, and Rochester's second, with a shot into the top corner, and as Corinthian had offered very little, it was easy to conclude that the goal signalled game over. But football is stupid ...

After 61 minutes, Corinthian pulled themselves back into the game after a clever dummy allowed Conor Johnson to drive a shot home and within two minutes, the visitors were level when a shot from the attacking full back, Jack Billings was parried into the path of Johnson to score from close range.

By now the rain was at monsoon level and the game was moving into unquestionably brilliant territory. Three minutes after the leveller a clearance fell to the feet of Rogers, who from 25 yards rifled his hat trick goal past a bewildered keeper. It was a hat-trick that deserved the match ball, a bottle of champagne, but probably more important, three points.

But the stupid 13 minutes was yet to be completed and Billings took advantage of a fortunate deflection to fire home another equaliser. Five goals in 13 minutes in torrential rain, unquestionably stupid!

The game didn't exactly lull back to where it was in the first 38 minutes; there was a sending-off from the Corinthian bench and the visitors took up the momentum and looked the most likely to find a winner which duly came with six minutes remaining when the excellent Billings tee'd up a cross to the far post for Ryan Sawyer to head home.

Time remained for a Rochester substitute to say something stupid to the referee and see a red card.

On another day this would have been Game 42 and slip quietly into the annals of time but football is stupid, and brilliant and really, really stupid but unquestionably brilliant.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Sevenoaks Town 6 Tunbridge Wells 2

Match 41/17/1491 - Tuesday, 10th October 2017 - SCEFL

Sevenoaks Town (4) 6 Hill 2 Bennett 8,20 Walker 36,60 Ripley 78
Tunbridge Wells (2) 2 Pilbeam 35,40
Attendance: 203

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 46/2,778

Match Report

Sevenoaks Town have quickly adapted to their brand new 3G surface with an unbeaten record at Greatness Park, playing to their strength of two out-and-out wingers in Rory Hill and Harrison Carnegie that, on this particular occasion, ripped a reshuffled Tunbridge Wells back four to shreds.

Tunbridge Wells are leaking goals at an alarming rate, the inability to put a settled defence on the field is a contributory factor but the crazy mistakes that left them seemingly out of the game after just 20 minutes had nothing to do with the make-up or formation of the back four.

After a start in which Jack Harris tested the Sevenoaks goalkeeper, Craig Holloway, after just 30 seconds, the Wells found themselves a goal down less than a minute later in the most bizarre of circumstances. Awarded a free kick close to the corner flag, Jon Shea elected to roll the ball back to his goalkeeper, Chris Oladogba, who inexplicably rolled it back allowing Byron Walker to intercept. Walker put the ball across the face of an unguarded goal, despite being taken out by Oladogba, for Rory Hill to tap into the open net. It was pure farce.

Oladogba partially atoned with a decent save to deny Jason Thompson but the home side doubled their advantage after nine minutes. After a poor clearance, Hill skinned Ian Parsons down the left, to pull the ball back from the bye-line for Bennett to fire into the bottom corner from the angle of the six-yard box.

The floodgate were well and truly open, Oladogba saved from Walker; Hill crashed a shot from 25 yards against the bar as Sevenoaks sought to put their neighbours to the sword.

It was only a matter of time for a third goal to arrive and that came on 20 minutes when a shot from 20 yards from Billy Bennett went underneath Oladogba.

At this point, you really feared for the Wells that the final score could reach horrific numbers, but some credit should be given that they lifted their heads and sought some respectability.

After 34 minutes a ball over the top, saw Jon Pilbeam, playing as a central striker, lifting the ball over Holloway and into the net. Initially we thought the goal had been disallowed but the referee showed a yellow card for Holloway.

If a comeback was on the cards, this was extinguished within two minutes when Carnegie set up an unmarked Walker to sweep the ball home from close range.

Harris steered a header wide before he was brought down, five minutes before the break to earn a penalty which was converted by Pilbeam as the first half goals continued to rain in.

Tunbridge Wells came out and made a much better fist of the second period but their defensive frailties continued to be in evidence. Just past the hour, a corner from Carnegie on the right was met with an unchallenged header from Walker. It is easy to argue that without Perry Spackman and Scott Whibley’s physical presence they are light at the back, but surely a challenge is not too much to ask.

A failure to clear a corner ended with the ball at Tom Ripley’s feet who responded to the defence that kept on giving with a finish from around the edge of the six yard box.

It was a strange game, for a 6-2 Tunbridge Wells had more than their fair share of the game, but that said, it could have been 10-2.

In moments when the Wells had the momentum, visiting supporters have the right to ask why Rhys Bartlett remained on the bench when a little quality of delivery into the box could easily have brought reward. In fact, the question remains, when you are losing a game by four clear goals, why was no substitution made at all?

Monday, 9 October 2017

Gillingham 0 Portsmouth 1

Match 40/17/1490 - Sunday, 8th October 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Portsmouth (0) 1 Kennedy 46
Attendance: 8,163

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/2,732

Match Report

Just don’t call me fickle …

For 41 years I’ve taken the rough with the smooth, the downs with the all too few ups. I’ve wildly celebrated a last day victory that ensured that Gillingham remained in the Football League; I’ve lamented FA Cup defeats at Burscough, Brackley, Welling and, worst of all, Maidstone. I’ve watched some shocking teams with some rubbish managers; I’ve watched on as scandal surrounded the club, we've had more days in court than Judge Rinder. Life has never been easy as Gillingham supporter, but I knew the ride would never be.

But enough is enough.

Mr Scally has my season ticket money, it is not for him to worry, at least in the present, whether I take my seat or otherwise. But, I’m not going to be beholden to the club anymore. I will choose the games I watch because I can no longer tolerate the basket case that is Gillingham Football Club.

To lose to Portsmouth is no disgrace, let’s face it at present there are 22 better sides in the division than Gillingham, but how do you go through an entire game without managing a shot on goal?

The players are just not good enough, but don’t blame them. They were put on the pitch by the previous manager that was hung out to dry by a chairman that has withdrawn any investment into the club whilst drawing a substantial salary regardless of the bottom line on the profit and loss sheet.

Whilst I cannot condone the supporter who accosted Mr Scally at the end of the game and was met with a retaliatory punch from the chairman, I can fully understand his frustration.

I cannot be bothered to go into the game in any detail, suffice to say that Portsmouth won the game with a goal, 30 seconds into the second half, when a shot came back of the post for Kennedy to react the quickest and convert the rebound.

The rose-tinted followers can point to a penalty appeal that could have been given for a foul on Shaun Clare and a goal that was ruled out after 65 minutes.

But let’s no kid ourselves this was dismal stuff.

This will not change, whoever the incoming manager might be, until Mr Scally has gone and I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Tonbridge Angels 1 Wingate & Finchley 0

Match 39/17/1489 - Saturday, 7th October 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Akrofi 60
Wingate & Finchley (0) 0
Attendance: 635

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/2,684

Non-League Day, played on the weekend of the international break, is an innovation that with the encouragement of reduced prices might enlighten a few Premier League supporters that they have no need to shell out £50 for their seat at a Premier League stadium but could spend an equally enjoyable afternoon for 20% of the price.

Clubs up and down the land have differing ways of attracting people who are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the England game to start (and then find themselves bored witless within 15 minutes of the national anthems). Several take the line of a season ticket with a league club offers entry; Billericay, surely not requiring a cash injection, offered half price for fancy dress; Redhill were among those who offered free admission whilst many did a pay what you like initiative. My personal favourite was North West Counties club, West Didsbury & Chorlton, who offered a concession for anyone turning up with their dog, who was rewarded with a treat!

Tonbridge offered half-price admission for adults and this attracted a bumper crowd of 635. Hopefully the entertainment was sufficient to entice a few back, we can but hope, perhaps a few disenchanted Crystal Palace supporters might be tempted.

It would be interesting to hear what a few of the non-regulars made of the game with a noisy social media section voicing their disquiet at Steve McKimm’s much-maligned diamond formation. If you had not been blessed to what Nick Wheeler at Longmead in the last two season, I wondered if any would have noticed.

In all honesty, I would not think that this was a game to drag many from their comfy, expensive seats at the Emirates or Stamford Bridge on a regular basis. But in the context of our season at Tonbridge, the three points lifts the club to within three of a play-off spot and extends the clean sheet run to four in five.

In a shot-shy first period the best chance fell to Wingate & Finchley when, following a corner, a header from Shaun Cronin hit a post.

McKimm’s rotation of his strikers continued, this time starting with Nathan Elder and Alex Akrofi, who forced a good save from Wingate’s goalkeeper, Luke Sheldrick.

The stand-out performer of the first period was the visitor’s right winger, Nathan Mavila, who displayed a fierce turn of pace coupled with with odd trick of two. On a couple of occasions he put in crosses low into the box begging for somebody to put a toe on one, but that was not to happen.

The early part of the second half was a cross from Luke Blewden that evaded Elder and a cross from Joe Turner that found the striker’s head but only to direct it into the arms of Sheldrick.

On the hour, the hosts took the lead when they took advantage of schoolboy defending by Wingate. Play to the whistle, was something always told at school, and when Blewden was felled in the area, it seemed that the visiting defence had accepted the penalty appeal. Play continued, the ball at the feet of Akrofi who swept it home.

The Angels took the ascendancy and for the first time dominated the game. Elder made way for Dan Thompson, and on 78 minutes, we thought, in fact prayed, that the barren spell of a league goal had ended when he directed a header from a Jack Parter cross goalwards. The Scheimichael-esque star jump save of Sheldrick, with the ball first hitting his arm and then falling onto his knee, denied the man, whose backside must surely get in the way of a shot going wide, to open his account soon.

Wingate set up a late onslaught with Rob Laney headed over, but in virtually the last touch of the ball, Cronin met a cross, but only to put an unchallenged header wide of the post as Longmead held its breath.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Greenwich Borough U18 0 Margate U18 4

Match 38/17/1488 - Wednesday, 4th October 2017 - FA Youth Cup 2QR

Greenwich Borough (0) 0
Margate (0) 4 Bray 19, Ikeije 40, 90+4, Richards 89
Attendance: 81

Entrance: £5
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 60/2,646

Match Report

A year ago, to the day, the FA Youth Cup Second Qualifying Round featured Tonbridge Angels progressing with a memorable performance that disposed of Dover Athletic. If that was a evening to remember, then the next round’s encounter with Maidstone United, a 5-5 draw after extra-time with the Stones winning the penalty shoot-out, was probably the best match I saw all season at any level.

Sadly, one year on, I’m drawn to Cray Valley to renew acquaintances with the parents of that Tonbridge side that I wholeheartedly embraced and enjoyed for a season, but playing now in the blue of Margate Football Club.

The rhymes and reasons for the mass defection are well known to Tonbridge supporters and is not something that I wish to recycle, but with 10 of the Margate’s starting eleven having been part of that Tonbridge squad, the Angels loss is most certainly Margate’s gain.

On the night, Margate progressed in the end quite comfortably, but it was the ongoing development of some of those players that was most pleasing. Jack Bray was imposing; Henry Ikeije was exciting; Jardell Conteh was impressive and Lewis Mitchell, between the sticks, did everything that was asked of him.

Greenwich Borough put up a decent fight of their own. Their number seven was a livewire and their big number 10 a handful.

An opening 20 minutes, that was evenly contested, ended with a powerful Bray header from a Jack Fenton cross giving the east Kent side the lead.

Ziyad Ghali saw a shot blocked and then another effort cleared from the line before the visitors doubled their advantage five minutes before the break. A short free kick played by Conteh caught out the Greenwich defence as it found Ikeije whose angled shot from 10 yards was only helped into the goal by the goalkeeper.

Margate had enough possession to put the tie to bed long before substitute Josh Richards, who had an explosive turn of pace, intercepted a clearance to run on and touch the ball past the advancing keeper with a minute remaining.

On a evening that had turned distinctly chilly, I decided I could pass on the couple of minutes of added time, so I missed Ikeije’s gloss-adding fourth goal.

It was a good to see familiar faces and pleasing to see the lads progression, even if it made me feel just a little sad.

Tonbridge Angels 0 Margate 0

Match 37/17/1487 - Tuesday, 3rd October 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Margate (0) 0
Attendance: 367

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/2,586

Match Report

I went to bed a little bit bemused by the game that I had watched this evening and the reaction that followed on the Tonbridge Forum. Awful game between two dismal teams … 180 minutes of pretty much yawn football … 2 poor sides and a poor ref made for one of the worst games I’ve seen in a long time … A dreadful game of football … were the opening lines on the first four posts following the game and they all came from forum users that post intelligently and respectfully.

I can only think that I saw this game through rose-tinted glasses because, whilst I accept that it wasn’t a thriller and might have been a bit turgid for the neutral, from a Tonbridge perspective I was more than happy with both the result and the performance.

The past week has been a rough one for everybody involved at the club. First came the news that Tom Parkinson needs a further operation to reset a bone in his leg; then there was the defeat at Kingstonian, but the announcement that Damian Scannell has been forced in retire due to injury cast a cloud over the club.

A look at the team sheet also showed the absence of Tom Beere, who had ended in his loan spell and had, in fact, signed for Leatherhead. Against a expensively put together Margate side, only a difficult evening could be envisioned.

In truth, chances were few and far between in the first half. Andre McCollin dragged a shot wide bearing down on Lenny Pidgeley’s goal; Joe Turner, whose left-sided partnership with Jack Parter proved a real headache for Margate’s Chris Sessegnon, brought a comfortable save out of Pidgeley with two more efforts from McCollin before Margate threatened with an effort from Orlando Smith that was cleared from the right hand post.

The second half started with Margate showing a little more intent with Jonny Henly called into action making a parrying save from Jordan Chiedozie and Frannie Collin blazing the rebound over.

Probably the evening’s best moment, if you were a Tonbridge supporter, came a minute later when Margate were awarded a free kick in a dangerous area to the left of the penalty box. In his days in an Angels’ shirt, this was Frannie-time. On this occasion, his kick sailed high into the night sky. Reports suggest that in the early hours of the morning, the ball fell back to earth in Hildenborough!

Perhaps those that were criticising later on the forum could justifiably make the point that if this was the highlight, then it says it all, but it was really amusing.

Alex Akrofi and Nathan Elder came on to breathe new life into the Tonbridge attack and both had chances to win the game for the hosts.

Joe Turner saw an effort cleared from the line by Tom Wynter and with a couple of minutes to go, Elder steered a close range header straight at Pidgeley.

So for the second time this season, these two teams have played out a goalless stalemate.

No, it wasn’t a classic, but in the context of a difficult period, positives that can be drawn are a 17-year-old full back in Liam Smith, who was named man-of-the-match and an 18-year-old central defender, Callum Adonis-Taylor, who barely put a foot wrong against a much-feted Margate attack.

Rose-tinted glasses, well perhaps blue-tinted.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Blackburn Rovers 1 Gillingham 0

Match 36/17/1486 - Saturday, 30th September 2017 - League One

Blackburn Rovers (1) 1 Samuel 30
Gillingham (0) 0
Attendance: 10,844
New Ground: 317

Entrance: £17 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 586/2,548

Match Report

A rare away trip with Gillingham was more about a ground tick than any expectation of any performance of merit from the Gills.

Seventeen years ago I not only missed the previous opportunity of removing Ewood Park from my list of grounds to do, I also missed a stunning win with goals from Andy Hessenthaler and an own goal to beat a Blackburn side that contained such names as Mark Hughes, Brad Friedel, David Dunn and other household names. A repeat of that result would have been as seismic today as it was in 2000.

Gone are the days when I would drive the near-600 mile round trip in a day, these days it is preferable to make it an overnight stay; a little break with my wife and my brother and his wife. Blackburn might not rank too highly on many people’s romantic weekend away but from our Premier Inn hotel room overlooking the cathedral and the statue of Queen Victoria it was pleasant enough.

As it was raining (it is always raining in Blackburn, we were told) we decided to take a taxi to the ground for which we were charged the princely sum of £3.50. How far would you get in Kent for that amount, not even through the door to the back seat would be my guess.

Ewood Park doesn’t look like a League One ground but it also doesn’t look like the home of a club that has won the Premier League until you are reminded with a statue of the architect of that success, Jack Walker.

The programme was adorned with a cover photograph of Bradley Dack. I doubt that it was coincidental, or even a wind-up, just recognition of his former club’s visit, to whom he said in the article, he owed a great deal. He was substituted after an hour, something that appears a regular occurrence, but it was disappointing that he failed to acknowledge the warm applause that he received from the visiting support. Dack looked a little short of the player in his pomp at Priestfield but better and leaner than the one that left during the summer.

To summarise the game, taking anything from it looked unlikely at the break trailing by a single goal and being totally dominated but had Peter Taylor the bottle to replace the useless Connor Wilkinson when he made his first, pointless, substitution on the hour rather than with 15 minutes to go, a point might not have been beyond merit.

It was another ex-Gillingham player, former loanee Dominic Samuel, who hooked home from close range following a header back across the face of goal from Charlie Mulgrew after half-an-hour. At that point of the game the visitors had provided absolutely nothing of a positive note.

When Elliott List and Greg Cundle were introduced, pace was added and a final 15 minute assault might have borne fruit with just a little good fortune (or better finishing) although Derrick Williams smacked a shot against the post for the hosts.

Blackburn’s goalkeeper, David Raya, almost gifted the Gills an equaliser when he misplaced a clearance straight at Josh Parker, but the ball at his feet caught the Gills player by surprise and rebounded straight back to safety.

But Raya made amends late in the game when he made an exceptional save to deny List with Finn O’Mara sending the rebound into the side netting.

The final whistle brought down the curtain on a thumping that didn’t happen but plenty of thoughts that a less conservative manager than Taylor might have speculated and accumulated.

Ground tick done, unfortunately expectations not raised.