Saturday, 30 December 2017

Brightlingsea Regent 0 Tonbridge Angels 3

Match 76/17/1526 - Saturday, 30th December 2017 - Bostik Premier

Brightlingsea Regent (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (1) 3 Turner 35 Bennett 63 Bantick 67
Attendance: 261
New Ground: 321

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 190/5,076

I sense there is a general acceptance among Tonbridge supporters that we are where we are and, unless there is an unexpected reversal of the first half of season form, come the end of April we will find ourselves mired in the middle of the table. Inconsistency has been the watchword since August, seemingly unable to string together two performances of similar quality, good or bad.

Since we had endured a low point with the second half display at Folkestone perhaps the long trip to Brightlingsea would bear some fruit, but a first look at the team sheet didn’t really put hope into the heart.

As expected, both strikers, Nathan Elder and Alex Akrofi continued to nurse their hamstrings with Chris Kinnear’s name also being added to the long list of walking wounded.

Liam Smith returned to the starting line-up with Tom Jelley moving into the holding midfield spot vacated by Kinnear.

The visitors started on the front foot with Dan Bennett having an effort deflected over and Craig Stone seeing his header from a Joe Turner corner cleared from the line whilst Brightlingsea offered very little of note.

After 35 minutes the Angels finally got reward for their endeavour when a long cross from Smith on the right found the head of Turner who only needed to steer it back to the far post for the opener.

Tonbridge continued to dominate the half that ended with the home goalkeeper, Harry Palmer, saving low to his left to deny Xavier Vidal.

Fears of another second period following Folkestone were completely unfounded as Tonbridge produced a half of one-way traffic with Sam Bantick and Turner causing the home defence continuous problems from both flanks.

Just past the hour, the dividend was paid when Vidal fed Turner whose low cross was swept home from close range by Bennett.

Seven minutes later, another cross from Turner was almost comically dealt with by the Regent defence with the ball looping into the air for Bantick to volley it home.

Bantick hit a post as Tonbridge sought to add a little cream to their day at the Essex seaside.

This was a first visit to the Taydal Stadium, a ground that is going to find future development restricted to it being back onto by residential properties on all sides.

There was a nice clubhouse with a warm welcome and covered standing in three different positions. The main stand was rather oddly placed towards a corner flag and its scaffolding construction suggested temporary but probably wasn’t.

In the scheme of consistency, the New Year’s Day arrival of the Billericay Circus doesn’t herald well, but as it would have been considered a “free hit”, who knows.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Folkestone Invicta 3 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 75/17/1525 - Tuesday, 26th December 2017 - Bostik Premier

Folkestone Invicta (0) 3 Hasler 58 Yusuff 65 Draycott 67
Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 Thompson 11
Attendance: 532

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 75/4,886

Tonbridge Angels failed to serve up any festive cheer for their travelling support as they slipped to defeat at Folkestone Invicta after going into the break a goal to the good.

Tonbridge’s wretched luck with injuries continued with Alex Akrofi failing a late fitness test and his strike partner Nathan Elder picking up a hamstring injury and needing to be substituted after just 15 minutes.

With Akrofi missing, into the side came Dan Thompson and Sam Bantick took his place in starting 11 with Dan Bennett dropping to the bench.

After a quiet opening ten minutes, it was the visitors who took the lead a minute later. Joe Turner won a challenge on the right of midfield and fed the ball forward to Bantick whose through ball  sent Thompson clear on goal to slot the ball past Tim Roberts in the Invicta goal.

Elder’s substitution proved pivotal to the game. Following his departure, the ball failed to stick in the final third resulting in continuous pressure from the home side.

Jonny Henly made saves from Ian Draycott and the impressive Ade Yusuff before making a desperate stop in first half time-added with Sonny Miles completing the clearance.

Early in the half, Yusuff was allowed to run from midfield before firing in a shot that Henly dealt with comfortably.

But it was the writing on the wall and after 58 minutes the hosts were level when, once again, Scott Heard was allowed to cut in, unchallenged, from the right before shooting past Henly and into the bottom corner.

It was the start of a disastrous nine minutes for the Angels. After 65 minutes, Yusuff cut in from the right hand side and fired in a low shot between Henly and his near post from an acute angle to put Folkestone in front.

Two minutes later it became an uphill task for Tonbridge as a clearance from Henly struck Draycott with the rebound rolling into the unguarded net. It might be said that the scoreline was no more than Folkestone deserved but it was a cruel blow.

With Tonbridge barely threatening in the final third they were desperately holding on to save a heavier defeat. Henly saved from Yusuff and Hasler before Thompson steered a header wide from Turner for the Angels’ only effort of the second half, this coming in the first minute of added time.

Barry Moore said after the game: "I'm extremely disappointed. I thought we looked solid first half. We said (at half time) don't drop off but we didn't keep the ball well enough going forward."

Steve McKimm will be crossing fingers and toes that his front two are available for Saturday’s trip to Brightlingsea Regent.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Tonbridge Angels 2 Harrow Borough 1

Match 74/17/1524 - Saturday, 23rd December 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Akrofi 51 Elder 75
Harrow Borough (0) 1 Cumberbatch 72 (pen)
Attendance: 377

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,811

To get back into the play-off mix, it is felt that this Christmas period needs to yield a substantial haul of available points albeit that the Billericay circus comes to town on New Year’s Day.

So, following a first half as dull as any I’ve seen this season, the three points hard-earned in the second period were a welcome start to the festive season.

It took 28 minutes for me to make the first entry into my notebook, a tame header from Ryan Moss comfortably saved by Jonny Henly, an effort that I wouldn’t normally bother to record. Six minutes later following a Dan Bennett corner, Nathan Elder’s header was also comfortably dealt with by Melvin Minter and that was it for the first half “entertainment”.

The second period started brighter and Tonbridge went ahead six minutes into the half. Alex Akrofi was sent clear by Xavier Vidal, as he rounded the goalkeeper, he stumbled to the ground but bounced back up to roll the ball into the empty net.

The home side with their tails up created further chances with Tom Jelley flashing a cross across the face of goal; Akrofi brought a low save out of Minter before they were awarded a penalty after 63 minutes when substitute Sam Bantick was felled in the area. Joe Turner’s spot kick was well struck but too close to Minter who pushed the ball up onto the underside of the bar completing the save as the ball rebounded into his hands.

Ten minutes later the price was paid for the miss as Harrow were awarded a penalty of their own when Sahr Kabba was brought down. Kurtis Cumberbatch despatched his spot kick sending Henly the wrong way.

The visitor’s parity lasted just three minutes when Akrofi latched onto a woeful back pass and although forced wide rounding the keeper he had the presence of mind to stand up a cross for Elder to head home.

Lady Luck smiled on the Angels with five minutes remaining when a Harrow corner was headed against the right hand post with the rebound dropping into Henly’s welcoming hands.

Dan Thompson brought a low save out of Minter as Tonbridge saw out an extended period of time added to send their supporters home to their Christmas preparations in good spirits.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Thamesmead Town 1 Corinthian Casuals 1

Match 73/17/1523 - Tuesday, 19th December 2017 - Isthmian League Cup Round 3

Thamesmead Town (0) 1 Vines 51
Corinthian Casuals (0) 1 Ottaway 78
Corinthian Casuals won 5-3 on penalties
At Dartford FC
|Attendance: 56

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 62/4,773

Kent’s last team standing in the Isthmian League cup fell by the wayside after a penalty shoot-out in a somewhat unfortunate manner.

A draw at the end of 90 minutes was probably about right and the meagre crowd of 56 on a night a bit milder than recently were not asked to endure extra-time.

It looked like traffic congestion was going to mean that I would miss the kick-off but Doris the Direction lady steered me down a couple of alternative routes to arrive in the car park with five minutes to spare, only to find that the start had been delayed by a quarter-hour!

Ex-Angels boss Tommy Warrilow does not appear to have aged a single day since his departure from Tonbridge four years ago and his skipper, Scott Kinch, for the most part was influential in midfield.

The best of the first half chances fell one per side. After 27 minutes, a punt forward saw Thamesmead’s goalkeeper, Max Ovenden, head clear from the edge of his penalty area to the feet of Josh Uzun whose lob towards the empty net drifted wide.

Thamesmead’s best chance of the half came a couple of minutes before the break when Paul Vines headed into the path of Bode Anidugbe who also pulled his shot wide.

In first half time added, the host's Tom O’Connor had a shooting opportunity but fired over.

Thamesmead went in front after 51 minutes when O’Connor found Vines at the left hand angle of the box and an audacious lob over the slightly advanced Danny Bracken found the far corner.

Ovenden made a fine save to make-up for some hesitancy that allowed Gabriel Odunaike a lobbed attempt after 73 minutes, but he had no chance five minutes later when a corner from the right was met with a powerful header from Harry Ottaway.

Casuals thought they had won the game when Odunaike had the ball in the net with two minutes remaining but it was ruled out by a linesman’s flag for offside.

The destiny of the penalty shoot-out was set with the very first kick. Ottaway’s effort was saved by Ovenden but the ball squirmed out of his hands to cross the line. Thamesmead’s opening penalty from Raphael Duyile was wide leaving Corinthian Casuals to safely dispatch each one of their remaining kicks to make their way into the Quarter-Finals.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Tonbridge Angels 1 Dulwich Hamlet 1

Match 72/17/1522 - Saturday, 16th December 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Turner 65
Dulwich Hamlet (0) 1 Clunis 48
|Attendance: 539

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,711

The visit of Dulwich Hamlet is one to look forward to. Despite the light-hearted piss-take about hipster fans, craft beers and high-end burgers, they are almost always good value. They usually arrive in numbers, although the proximity of Christmas probably reduced their support this year and, with the exception a forum rant that was unnecessary and shouted down from fellow users, they are a friendly bunch. On the field, they are pleasing on the eye and play with a style that can bring out the best in the opposition and that was the certainly the case with Tonbridge.

Tonbridge paraded their new signings, Dan Bennett from Merstham and, on the bench, Sam Bantick from Heybridge Swifts. There was a reorganisation at the back with George Beaven missing through illness.

Steve McKimm deployed a system that allowed Dulwich a lot of space for their back four to play the ball out but found it a lot more restricted as they moved into the next two-thirds of the pitch. This gave the impression that the visitors were enjoying a lot of possession, which they were, but not in a manner that was hurtful to the hosts.

That said, they made a couple of chances and Tonbridge were indebted to Jonny Henly to retain parity at the end of the first period.

Henly was first pressed into action after seven minutes when Sanchez Ming sent Nana Boakye-Yiadom clear but the Tonbridge goalkeeper was alert and off his line to plunge at the feet of the Hamlet striker.

A dreadful clearance from Preston Edwards in the Dulwich goal fell at the feet of Joe Turner and it took a stupendous block from Ricky Hayles to deny the Angels the opener.

After 18 minutes, the visitors had an appeal for a penalty turned down as the ball struck the arm of Craig Stone and it took a fine save, low to his left, from Henly to thwart Boakye-Yiadom a second time.

Henly once more earned his corn with another fine save, this time to deny Nyren Clunis after 33 minutes.

After an entertaining, but goalless, first half, the second period was only three minutes old when the visitors went ahead. Clunis received a ball over the top, but still some way from goal, cut in from the left and fired a shot into the top corner that gave Henly no chance.

Dulwich had a period when they looked as if they had their hosts measure with the impressive Kenny Beaney at the heart of everything.

But Tonbridge were far from a spent force and, after 68 minutes, a 40-yard crossfield pass from Stone, right to left, saw Edwards racing from his goal but beaten to the ball at the angle of the 18 yard box from where a deft touch from Turner lifted the ball over his head and into the unguarded goal.

The game was an end-to-end affair in the last 20 minutes as both sides searched for a winner. Turner crossed for Alex Akrofi to head over whilst Boakye-Yiadom stretched Henly; substitute Bantick asked questions of Edwards before, into the final breathless minute, Henly brilliantly saved from Yiadom and Dulwich substitute Omar Korona steered a header wide when it seemed easier to score.

A hugely entertaining game with a result that probably satisfied neither manager, but was a fair reflection of the action.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Glebe 0 Tunbridge Wells 0

Match 71/17/1521 - Saturday, 9th December 2017 - SCEFL

Glebe (0) 0
Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Attendance: 63

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Included
Mileage: 62/4,673

Tunbridge Wells came away from Glebe’s Foxbury Avenue with a hard-earned point following a spirited rearguard action against a team featuring ex-Football League players in the shape of Jason Goodchild and Peter Sweeney. Indeed the visitors might have grabbed all three points when a shot from John Shea crashed against a post with the goalkeeper well beaten.

But it was in defence where the Wells earned their reward. Perry Spackman was commanding and, when he was called upon, goalkeeper Jack Bradshaw produced several good saves to preserve his clean sheet.

Jason Bourne made two changes from the side that lost on Tuesday evening to Beckenham. Keiron Tarbie returned to the side and Drew Crush was promoted from the bench with Tommy Lawrence named among the substitutes as was new signing from Herne Bay (a Carlos Valderama lookalike!) Jarrod Trespaderne.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, it took a while for the game to warm up with Bradshaw saving comfortably and Spackman putting in the first of several well-timed blocks.

The first moment of real note came after 32 minutes when Bradshaw saved well, low to his left, from Laurent Hamici.

Tunbridge Wells responded with a shot from Tom Davey that was deflected wide for a corner and another from Steven Ita that was narrowly wide.

Bradshaw was brought into action again making a fine save from Hamici five minutes before the break.

Into the second half and, after nine minutes, the Wells defence got themselves into a mighty tangle but, once more, Bradshaw came to their rescue pushing away another effort from Hamici.

The Wells’ best chance of the afternoon came after 64 minutes when a free kick was only half-cleared to the feet of John Shea whose first time shot crashed against the post with the follow-up from Ita being blocked and finally cleared.

Glebe put in a final effort and a header from a corner was narrowly wide but the Wells defended strongly to thoroughly deserve their point. New signing Trespaderne had an energetic 10 minutes from the bench and Alex Kendall, pushed further forward, also impressed.

Tunbridge Wells now go into a difficult run of games starting with an away fixture at Bearsted next Saturday.

Picture: Alan Coomes

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Tonbridge Angels U21 2 Cray Valley PM Res 1

Match 70/17/1520 - Wednesday, 6th December 2017 - Suburban League Premier

Tonbridge Angels U21 (1) 2 Oladejo 40, Fenton 90+1
Cray Valley Reserves (0) 1 Tumkaya 61
Headcount: 15

Entrance: £3 Senior
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/4,611

Jack Fenton’s curled shot into the top corner in the first minute of added time extended Tonbridge’s Under-21 Development side’s run to three successive wins, duly lifting them into 10th place in the Suburban League.

The match was unfortunately dominated by a referee that took exception to any dissent, not necessarily a bad thing, but done without using any common sense. He limited physical contact leaving the game stopping and starting every other minute which irritated players and their benches even more which ultimately led to a scrappy match.

The man in the middle made his first decision after just 25 seconds when he decided that Andrew Sesay had been brought down on the right side of the box thus awarding Tonbridge a penalty. Luciano Osbourne’s spot kick was well saved, low to his left, by Cray Valley’s goalkeeper, Chris Cowdrey.

A mix-up between Angels’ goalkeeper coach Stewart Copeland and central defender Emenuele Offin-Ankemah presented a lob towards an open goal for Jordan Sandiford but his effort came back off the crossbar.

Cray Valley had the ball in the net after 23 minutes but this was disallowed, after much confusion, for offside.

Tonbridge opened the scoring, five minutes before the break, when a free kick from 20 yards was beautifully bent around the wall and past Cowdrey by Temi Oladejo.

In first half time added, Oladejo attempted to repeat the trick but his free kick struck with venom was too high.

Just past the hour mark an electric run from Sesay ended with a pulled back pass from the bye-line but Osbourne was just short of contact.

Cray Valley equalised after 69 minutes when a speculative shot from Deren Tumkaya crept in at the left hand post with Copeland motionless.

Tonbridge pressed hard for a winner with substitute Karlan Henry’s header going wide but a draw looked the outcome until Osbourne played the ball inside to Fenton who produced a snap shot that curled exquisitely into the far corner before defenders could close him down for the winner.

On Saturday the Under-21s travel to Corinthian at Gay Dawn Farm for a 15:00 kick off.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Dorking Wanderers 2 Tonbridge Angels 3

Match 69/17/1519 - Tuesday, 5th December 2017 - Bostik Premier

Dorking Wanderers (2) 2 Taylor 5 Sole 9
Tonbridge Angels (2) 3 Elder 23 Akrofi 43,62
Attendance: 205

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 122/4,573

Match Report

At 2-0 down after less than ten minutes it looked like the game of chicken we had played to cross a high speed, busy dual carriageway was the only one we were going to win.

But the evening was to have a happy ending, Dorking Wanderers pushed the self-destruct button giving Tonbridge the opportunity to recover from that disastrous opening.

At the beginning of the season it was unlikely that Tonbridge would ever have had the joy of an Isthmian League match at Westhumble. They are due to relocate to the town centre site of the now defunct Dorking Football Club, but the due dates of August and November have not been met and from the mouths of locals there was not much optimism that the move will made anytime soon.

Westhumble is a different place to visit in the evening than on a nice, sunny afternoon in August when we visited for a pre-season friendly in 2015. I then described the place as: Everything about Westhumble was kind of "pretty". Nestling in the foothills of the North Downs, with its cabin style clubhouse and wooden perimeter fencing at a perfect height and width for leaning on; looking out on the most beautiful, lush pitch that you could wish for in non-league, it was a scene that could have emanated from the Sound of Music!

Sadly, it doesn’t look quite the same on a midweek evening in December. The parking was a nightmare. Arriving just after 19:00, the car park was already full and pulling up onto the verge to discuss where to relocate with the steward with the arse of your car poking out as car sped by with their hooting blasting abuse was not ideal. Down to the next roundabout, back up the carriageway on the other side of the road to find a lay-by that parked the car but left us with the task of crossing the carriageway on foot in pitch black light that meant it was even difficult to see the sanctuary of the central reservation, but we live to tell the tale!

Tonbridge started the game on the front foot with Joe Turner crossing for Nathan Elder to bring a good save out of the home goalkeeper, Slavomir Huk, with the rebound being blasted over by Xavier Vidal.

It was though the home side that opened the scoring after five minutes when James McShane played in ex-Angel Lewis Taylor to drive a low shot from 20 yards past Jonny Henly.

Things went from bad to worse for Tonbridge four minutes later when Taylor turned provider finding Giuseppe Sole who drilled his shot past Henly from the edge of the box.

Tonbridge had to work hard to find a way back into the game as Dorking exercised a fine passing game whilst dominating the middle of the pitch.

But they gained a lifeline in the 23rd minute when a poor clearance fell out the feet of Elder whose, not so clean, contact was enough to find its way into the bottom corner.

Now the momentum had changed with the Dorking back line struggling to contain Elder’s physical presence and Alex Akrofi’s pace and movement.

The major turning point and the most controversial decision of the evening came in the 27th minute when Elder got marginally clear of Isaac Philpott who brought him down. The referee made the decision that he had been the last man and sent him off. It seemed harsh to me, but others thought it was the correct decision.

The Dorking manager made a strange decision making a double substitution following the sending-off that did nothing to shore up his defence.

With the man advantage, Tonbridge turned the screw and Dorking owed a great deal to their goalkeeper for keeping them in front until a minute before the break. He made good saves to deny a Turner free kick; saved low to left from Jack Parter and similarly a Turner shot from 20 yards.

Huk was finally beaten when a pin-point cross from Taylor found the head of Akrofi, whose downward header bounced into the roof of the net.

Into the second period saw Bradley Stevenson replace Vidal just before the hour to stretch the game the full width of the pitch. Stevenson almost immediately had a shooting chance but blasted well over.

Three minutes later the Angels were in front following a cross from Turner that Huk failed to gather but saved well on two occasions from Stevenson before the third rebound fell to the assured feet of Akrofi to score.

At this point it was expected that Tonbridge would make hay and chances came and went but as the game entered its final minutes Dorking threw caution to wind to find an equaliser. Long throws into the box started causing problems and with three minutes remaining Henly made a save that was as match-winning as Akrofi’s goal with a close range stop from Tom Tolfrey.

On the sidelines we lived on our nerves and Elder failed to calm these when a free kick from Ryan Worrall saw his header directed at Huk.

Avery 0 Concord Rangers 5

Match 68/17/1518 - Monday, 4th December 2017 - Essex Senior Cup 4R

Aveley (0) 0
Concord Rangers (0) 5 Cawley 58 Akinwande 63,78 (pen) Da Costa 70 Roast 75
Attendance: 174

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 70/4,451

Aveley’s spanking new Parkside has become the home of Monday night football for those that like their daily fix of the game. It is a shame that geographically it is positioned at the mouth of the Dartford Tunnel with all the traffic congestion problems that it engenders.

Last week was a completely aborted journey as the time to make your way through the bore reached almost an hour and a half. This time, I relatively sailed through the Tunnel only to get snarled in the queue to circumvent the Lakeside roundabout. If one doesn’t get you, the other will. As it was, I made it into Parkside with a couple of minutes to spare, plus the game being played on Isthmian Mean Time which meant a five minute delay to kick-off anyway.

After a closely contested first 45, the National League’s Concord Rangers flexed their muscles in the second period to run away with the game.

Ex-Angel Alex Teniola was leading the line for the hosts and for the opening half I felt he was an improved player from his time at Longmead but, such was the one-way traffic of the second half, he didn’t really get a kick.

Aveley started well but it was the visitors that had the opening opportunity after being awarded a penalty. Steve Cawley’s shot was well struck but too close to goalkeeper Rhys Madden who parried it to safety.

Teniola had a rasping shot that skipped past the far post whilst Louis Wells’ in the Aveley goal, did well to save from Jordan Watson.

Concord went ahead on the hour when Khale Da Costa pulled the ball back from the left for Cawley to amend for his penalty miss.

From that moment to the final whistle Aveley chased shadows as the Canvey Island side shredded their defence.

Five minutes later brought a repeat with different characters, this time Kyron Farrell supplying a cross for Femi Akinwande to bury into the far corner.

Rhys Madden’s goal was leading a charmed life but this was no more than he deserved as he single-handedly was keeping the scoreline respectable.

Da Costa helped himself to a goal that his performance deserved, cutting in from the right, evading some nondescript challenges before shooting between Madden and his near post.

The fourth after 75 minutes was a straightforward header from a Farrell corner by Billy Roast and the game was rounded off with a penalty by Akinwande after the man himself had been felled.

I think, for the rest of this season, I’ll only return to Parkside for a bracketed tick with Grays Athletic. I like the ground but the journey there for a 19:45 kick-off (or probably any other time) is too much of a ball-ache.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Gillingham 1 Carlisle United 1

Match 67/17/1517 - Saturday, 2nd December 2017 - FA Cup Round 2

Gillingham (1) 1 O'Neill 5
Carlisle United (1) 1 Grainger 18 (pen)
Attendance: 3,178

Entrance: £10.75 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 58/4,381

What can you say that is fresh about Gillingham Football Club? I’m at that point that I really don’t like writing up this blog when Gillingham are involved; it is just that same old words slightly recycled that are boring to write and, undoubtedly, boring to read.

I have no doubt that the 300 hardy Carlisle supporters who made the monstrously long journey down to Kent wound their way back to Cumbria more than happy with their afternoon. They will feel that the ball is now in their court and a Third Round tie is there for the taking.

Gillingham could not have asked for much more from the draw; a home tie against League Two opposition ticked all the boxes. But with home form as it is, this was not so much a banana skin rather a three carriageway oil slick.

The trouble is with (and here we go with the same old, same old) a lack of quality is, that no matter how big the carrot, quality that is not there cannot be manufactured like an extra bit of effort, of which nobody denies Gillingham do not lack.

My early fear was that Carlisle would score first and park the box and we would certainly not have the keys to unlock the said vehicle. That fear was put to bed within five minutes when a quality (where did that come from?) free kick from Luke O’Neill found a space between the goalkeeper and his right hand post from 20 yards out to open the scoring.

The lead lasted a quarter-of-an-hour before Mark Byrne brought down Tom Parkes for the awarding of a penalty that was converted by Danny Grainger which in turn allowed the Cumbrians the opportunity to start reversing their bus into position.

The lack of quality (here we go again) meant that Tom Eaves and Connor Wilkinson were starved of any meaningful service as cross after cross was either overhit or failed to beat the first defender.

Carlisle used just about every time-wasting tactic in the book, but in truth they didn’t have to, Gillingham could have been there for another week and they would not have added to the score.

The away form is so much better at present, so all is not lost and hopefully for the doughty 150 or so that will make the trip the Magic of the Cup will still be alive and kicking.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Woking Under-21 2 Tonbridge Angels Under-21 3

Match 66/17/1516 - Thursday, 30th November 2017 - Suburban League Premier

Woking U-21 (1) 2
Tonbridge Angels U-21 (2) 3
Headcount: 21
Played at Knaphill

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 140/4,323

Knaphill holds one of my best memories of last season when an outstanding performance from Tonbridge Under-18s took them through to the final of the Lucas Fettes Cup after taking apart a Woking side to the tune of 5-1. That under-18 side were well established over a number of years and were, almost certainly, the best youth side seen at Tonbridge for a generation. Chris Wye has had no such luxury and it has been an arduous task to assemble a team that is competitive.

Back at Knaphill, a ground of which I’m fond but not the torturous journey, 10 months later it was a pleasure to witness the progress that this development team has made, if even it was brass monkeys.

Woking started the game brightly and it didn’t need the eye of a top scout to recognise that their left winger, Reggie Young, was going to be a source of problems for the right side of the Angels’ backline. He set up a chance for Decan Appuh, a mountain of a lad, after eight minutes that goalkeeper, Ibrahim Attiah, did well to tip over and shot wide after skipping past Ciaran Naddison-Singh.

It was somewhat against the run of play when the visitors took the lead from the penalty spot after 16 minutes. Andrew Sesay is a rough diamond that Wye has unearthed and it was his pace that took him into the box to be brought down. Skipper Ryan McFarlane drove the ball to the left of the goalkeeper to open the scoring.

The lead was not to last long, just three minutes. Appuh was proffered too much time and space to pick his spot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

The game went into a period of Woking dominance with Young and Appuh at the heart of everything.

On the break, good work from Steve Panayi opened up an opportunity for Sesay that was deflected wide and Sesay set up a chance for Luciano Osbourne to fire over the bar.

In the closing stages of the half, Tonbridge gained some real momentum. Woking goalkeeper, Dimi Kyriateis saved low to his left from Sesay; he tipped over an effort from Jordan James and parried one from Osbourne away. From the resultant corner, a knock-on found Kobie Ambrose at the far post to steer the ball home giving the Angels a half-time lead.

Into the second half, the pace of Sesay was troubling the Woking defence and in the 52nd minute he took a pass from Osbourne to rifle a shot into the centre of the goal.

Unfortunately, once again, the breathing space of a two goal lead was not to last and five minutes later, Young’s direct running set up a chance for Ross Murdoch which he buried from the edge of the six yard box.

Woking, with half-an-hour left on the clock, set about repairing the damage but resolute defending and some good goalkeeping kept them at bay whilst the Angels’ always looked dangerous on the counter.

Sesay had run himself into the ground by the time he was substituted with nine minutes remaining to be replaced by Charlie Dumas. Tonbridge game-managed the remaining time with added minutes being added to the added minutes to record consecutive wins that takes them above Woking in the league.