Sunday, 30 December 2018

Carshalton Athletic 3 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 77/18/1670 - Saturday, 29th December 2018 - Bostik Premier

Carshalton Athletic (1) 3 Bradford 20 Pattisson 50 Lee (o.g.) 59
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 410

Admission: £6 Senior
E-Programme: Free to download
Mileage: 100/4,576

Before I labour to write this, a 3-0 defeat is not a heart-rending last minute winner or a dodgy decision by an official that has robbed you of at least some reward. But, and once more retracing my own steps and knowing that you make your own luck, when you are in a trough the rub of the green rarely goes your way. In fact, more often than not, it needs that lucky break to climb out of the trough.

Whether it was by taking note of the clamour from supporters to play two up front or a tactical change of heart from the management team, the choice to play loanee Tom Murphy alongside Alex Read was well received by the travelling support at Colston Avenue.

Carshalton came into the game in a similar run of form having lost four on the spin and had Tonbridge taken one of two early chances that came their way, the home side’s confidence might have proved a little fragile but Joe Turner steered a header at the far post narrowly wide from a Michael West cross after three minutes and Murphy had an effort deflected wide for a corner.

But, despite the visitors having made the early running, it was Carshalton that opened the scoring after 20 minutes. Christie Pattisson showed blistering pace down the right before crossing into the path of Ola Sogbanmu whose close range shot was brilliantly parried by Jonny Henly but the rebound fell invitingly for Tommy Bradford to score.

The goal took the wind out of the Angels sails for a period but as they regrouped then the chances began to fall their way again. D’Sean Theobalds, who gave an eye-catching performance, saw his effort deflected wide and Murphy brought a decent save out of ex-Angels’ goalkeeper Billy Bishop, low to his left.

But, just prior to the break, Tonbridge might have gone two down had it not been for a fine save from Henly to deny Michael Dixon.

Five minutes into the second half, the visitors had that sinking feeling that this is not to be their day when, following a corner, the ball was laid back to Pattisson to fire a shot into the top corner from around 20 yards. If he is to score a better goal this season, I hope the Match of the Day cameras are around to see it.

It was game over on the hour mark when, once again, it appears that the world and his dog are against you. A cross from the left was met by Dixon but brilliantly pushed out by Henly only for the ball to ricochet off Arthur Lee and into his own net.

With the game effectively lost, Tonbridge continued to push forward looking for a consolation goal that might possibly turn the tide of fortune. Theobalds tested Bishop; Liam Smith steered a header wide from a corner and from a free kick, Lee put a header agonisingly wide but all to no avail and it was left to Henly to save further indignity with saves from Pattisson and Courtney Swaby.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Tonbridge Angels 1 Folkestone Invicta 3

Match 76/18/1669 - Wednesday, 26th December 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 Murphy 45+3
Folkestone Invicta (1) 3 Draycott 8 Heard 79 Paxman 90
Attendance: 606

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,476

Tonbridge Angels failed brighten a slate-grey Boxing Day afternoon as they slumped to a third consecutive home defeat.

After equalising in first half injury time, Tonbridge commanded the majority of second half possession but were undone by two breakaway goals in the final 11 minutes.

Steve McKimm named his Christmas Eve signings, Tom Murphy and D’Sean Theobalds, in the starting 11 for the festive clash against fellow Kent side, Folkestone Invicta with Alex Read and Tom Beere dropping to the bench.

The Angels started brightly with Joe Turner forcing Invicta goalkeeper, Tim Roberts, into a save low to his right after just two minutes and when a Tom Parkinson cross from the right only just evaded Murphy the opening signs were positive.

But after eight minutes it was the visitors that opened the scoring. A fine pass from Kieron McCann set Adam Yusuff away down the left hand side from where he pulled a cross back from the bye-line for Ian Draycott to score from close range. In the act of attempting to deny the goalscorer, Angels’ goalkeeper was left prostrate and it was nearly four minutes before he was able to resume his position between the sticks.

Folkestone took confidence from the goal and Tonbridge’s drained away as the visitors took control of the first period. After 34 minutes, a free kick from Draycott to the far post was turned wide by Josh Vincent and Henly showed he had recovered from the knock to his head, diving bravely at the feet of Yussuf followed by another save from Draycott.

The visitors thought they had doubled their advantage two minutes before the break when McCann fired in a shot that was parried by Henly with the rebound somehow being prevented from crossing the line.

Against the run of play, Tonbridge found an equaliser in the third minute of first half added time. A corner from the right was headed on by Sonny Miles to Murphy who hooked the ball into the net from the left side of the six yard box.

The goal lifted the Tonbridge spirits going into the dressing room and from the outset of the second period they were the dominant side. A Miles head was saved by Roberts; a good break from substitute Adem Ramadan set up Turner to shoot into the side netting and from a Turner cross it was difficult to see how Craig Stone managed to lift the ball over the bar.

After 66 minutes, a long punt forward by Roberts saw the ball allowed to travel to McCann who was brought down in the box by Parkinson to concede a penalty. Yussuf’s spot kick was saved low to his right by Henly.

Tonbridge continued to hold the momentum with Tom Beere firing over at the far post before, after 79 minutes, Folkestone regained the lead. Scott Heard was allowed to travel from deep midfield without a significant challenge before unleashing a shot past Henly.

The home side pressed on to find an equaliser but were caught on the break once more in the second minute of added time when, once again, this time Alfie Paxman was allowed to dribble across the face of goal before despatching a shot in the bottom corner from 18 yards.

A frustrated Steve McKimm said afterwards: “We were dreadful in the first half, just not brave enough. In the second half, we have been camped in their half and missed two open goals. You’ve got to score from those chances, goals change games.”

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Lordswood 3 Tunbridge Wells 4

Match 75/18/1668 - Saturday, 22nd December 2018 - SCEFL Premier

Lordswood (1) 3 Wells 17 Hooper 55 Hollick 75
Tunbridge Wells (1) 4 Biddlecombe 4 Williams 67 Thompson 68 Harper 90
Attendance: TBC

Admission: £3.50 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 36/4,438

Lordswood and Tunbridge Wells served up a Christmas feast with a seven goal thriller that was decided by a 90th minute goal along with two sendings-off as the visitors continued their recent revival.

With their ever-enthusiastic following in fine voice, Tunbridge Wells got off to a flyer with the opening goal after just four minutes. An initial shot was only parried back into the path of Josh Biddlecombe whose effort came off the inside of the near post to rebound to just inside the far post.

Following the opening goal, Tunbridge Wells dominated for 20 minutes with Jason Thompson instrumental in much of the forward momentum. Thompson saw his well shot saved by Dan Smith after eight minutes and Smith excelled again within a minute to touch over the bar an effort from Dane Moore and producing another fine save to deny Thompson, pushing the ball away for a corner, from which Ola Williams headed wide when he should have hit the target.

The play had been so one-way it came as a surprise when Lordswood equalised on 18 minutes. Jordan Wells rode a challenge from which the referee played a good advantage to fire into the bottom corner.

A coming together with little Christmas goodwill between Lordswood’s George Blake and Biddlecombe that saw the Tunbridge Wells player pushed to the ground. From the melee that ensued, red cards were shown to Blake and Moore. At 10-a-side, it was the home side that regrouped the better as Tunbridge Wells lost their early momentum.

Wells, who was a handful, set-up Euan Samadow who forced Callum Hampson into a save at his near post and saw a shot deflected away for a corner. A minute from the break, Williams cleared from the line an effort from Wells as the visitors clung on to their parity.

Despite, being pushed onto the back foot, Tunbridge Wells might well have gone into the break with a lead had it not been for a great save from Smith who turned a shot from Jamie Humphris onto a post.

Into the second half, it was Lordswood that got their noses in front when a cross from the right, pulled back to the edge of the box found substitute Adam Hooper whose cleanly struck shot whistled past Hampson.

Tunbridge Wells turned the game on its head with two goals in a minute. On 67 minutes, a corner from Humphris found the head of Williams to level the score. Within a minute, Thompson was allowed to travel, right to left across the 18-yard box before burying a shot into the bottom corner.

Smith saved at the feet of Humphris to keep the Lords in the game and this was rewarded after 76 minutes when Hampson failed to collect a corner allowing Jason Hollick to head into the unguarded net.

Both sides had chances to win the game before the clock ticked to the 90th minute when Humphris stood up a cross from the left for Stephen Harper to bundle the ball over the line for the winner.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Ravensbourne 1 Hugh Christie 3

Match 74/18/1667 - Wednesday, 19th December 2018 - Kent SFA Academies League

Ravensbourne (1) 1 #10 15
Hugh Christie (1) 3 Hudson 27,82 Musengyi 78
Headcount: 20

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 70/4,402

The Christmas break has arrived for the Academy teams and they can reflect on their first four months as being highly encouraging. The Elite squad, whose game at Burgesss Hill had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, have finished the period unbeaten in the league and sitting in fourth place in the table with games in hand on those above and also can take pride from being the only team to have taken a point from leaders Dover Athletic. Meanwhile, the Development team who endured a uncomfortable start to the season with a couple of seven goal defeats, have following this victory at Bromley’s Hayes Lane against Ravensbourne, back-to-back wins and are now breathing down the necks of a couple of schools that are just a point above them at the foot of the table.

The Burgess Hill postponement allowed a few Elite members to strengthen the Development team. A right wing cross from Saul Musengeyi set up a seventh minute opportunity for Leo Deere with the Ravensbourne goalkeeper saving at his feet and five minutes later Ned Snowden-Lewis set up a chance for Musengeyi but he shot wide. However, it was the Bromley side that opened the scoring after a quarter-of-an-hour when, Dylan Manning, who proceeded to take just about every dead ball kick, floated an inch-perfect free kick into the box to find the head of one of his strikers who made no mistake from six yards.

Tonbridge had to work hard to get themselves back into the game but did so, after 27 minutes, when a corner from Sam Slipper was only parried back into the danger area from where Harry Hudson got the final touch with a close range header.

Bromley reasserted themselves and saw a header come back off the crossbar and further chances brought the Angels’ goalkeeper, Joe Roberts into action.

Bromley’s Manning and the Angels’ Slipper were like a couple of quarter-backs with their dead ball accuracy causing each defence concern.

Tonbridge opened the second period strongly with Deere and Brad Needham going close whilst Roberts needed to be at his best saving low to his right and, after nearly an hour, he dived bravely at the feet of a Bromley striker who stayed down after the challenge. A five-minute stoppage followed as the stricken player was returned to the dressing room on a stretcher.

The game had an ebb and flow with neither side dominating but it was the visitors who got their noses in front with 12 minutes remaining when a fine through ball from Adam Barden, thankfully free from his role as the smallest ever stand-in goalkeeper in previous games, sent Musengeyi clear to powerfully shoot past the helpless Bromley keeper.

Tonbridge effectively put the game to bed with eight minutes remaining when a Slipper corner was met with a powerful header from Hudson, who despite his disadvantage in height, invariably wins headers in those situations.

Now in control of the game, Tonbridge might well have increased their lead with Needham firing wide and Snowden-Lewis denied by a good save, low to his left, from the Bromley goalkeeper.

Three Academy players recently graced the Tonbridge first team friendly against Dartford and several more have trained with the first team and have also appeared for the Under-21 Suburban League side. With that, everyone is rightly proud of the progress being made.

Tonbridge Angels 0 Dartford 2

Match 73/18/1666 - Saturday, 15th December 2018 - Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Dartford (0) 2 Noble 81 Sheringham 90
Attendance: 66

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/4,332

Jim Rowe reported: With a gap in competitive fixtures, Steve McKimm took the opportunity of arranging a friendly fixture with National South Dartford also without a game due to FA Trophy ties.

The Angels boss fielding a slightly changes formation although with largely the same personnel will claim that it was useful learning exercise and with another three training sessions before the Boxing Day fixture there is the opportunity for further refinements.

That said the more discerning Angels supporters who escaped Christmas shopping and braved the appalling weather conditions will still be asking the question “how is our team to score more goals?” McKimm’s plans were hardly helped by the squad’s only recognised striker Alex Read having to pull out just before kick off with hamstring issues sustained during the warm up.

As to the game itself it had the look and feel of so many recent Angels matches with plenty of hard work carried out in defence and through the midfield areas but get anywhere near goal and more often than not any half chance that might have been created was wasted.

Perhaps the best moment for the Angels came on the stroke of half time when Tommy Whitnell’s fierce shot was only held at the second attempt by Darts keeper Bradley Vose.

As for Dartford a penalty award in the 27th minute was wasted as a result of Angels stopper Jonny Henly’s save. It was Henly again who kept the game scoreless at the break by minute pushing Dan Darbyshire’s effort round the post.

The 58th minute saw perhaps Tonbridge’s best moment when Jared Small’s on target shot from the edge of the area appeared to be goalbound with Vose probably beaten only for the ball to be blocked inadvertently by Tom Parkinson. When goals are hard to come by these incidents conspire against you it seems.

On 68 minutes Angels substitute Tom Beere saw his shot scrape the post but unfortunately from his point of view the wrong side.

Eventually on 75 minutes McKimm brought on some of the younger players and whilst they showed some endeavour with their paces and touches, it was Dartford who made the breakthrough basically because of home defensive errors.

Experienced Lee Noble opened the scoring in the 81st minute and Dartford made the game safe in the 90th minute with a late strike.

Afterwards, Steve McKimm said: “I thought the young payers did well but they will also have learnt from their mistakes.”

Friday, 14 December 2018

Tonbridge Angels U21 6 Horsham YMCA Reserves 1

Match 72/18/1665 - Wednesday, 12th December 2018 - Suburban League South

Tonbridge Angels Under-21 (3) 6 Dumas 9 Stirman 28 Panayi 37 Diez 70,76,86
Horsham YMCA Reserves (0) 1 Ryder 66
Headcount: 25

Admission: Season Ticket
Team Sheet: Free
Mileage: 38/4,294

As the frost glistened on the Longmead grass, Tonbridge Angels Under-21s sparkled with a five-star display against Horsham YMCA Reserves.

Manager Chris Wye was delighted both with the result and the response of his team, who pushed on rather than panicking, after conceding through a defensive mix-up 20 minutes from time. Chris fielded a starting eleven that, with the exception of 22-year-old captain Steve Panayi, were all under 19 years of age.

Tonbridge flew out of the traps and with barely a minute on the clock were awarded a penalty after a foul on the left side of the box. Ethan Kaiser stepped up but saw his low shot saved by Elliott Flack. But they did not have to wait long for amends to be made, when after nine minutes, Charlie Dumas headed home following a left-sided corner.

As the Angels took control of the game, Horsham became rattled by a series of decisions from referee Wollie Shin that culminated in a booking for defender Ryan Lem.

Good work down the left hand side from Gideon Donker ended with Josh Stirman shooting wide before, after 28 minutes, the same pair combined for Stirman to finish from close range.

Donker brought another save from Flack but Tonbridge increased their lead after 37 minutes when Stirman sent Panayi through to score.

After dominating the early period of the second half, a mix-up between goalkeeper Tommy Taylor and a defender ended with Horsham’s Jack Ryder having an empty net into which he stroked for a goal that might have proved a lifeline for the visitors.

The introduction of Jorge Diez immediately after the goal dispelled any fears of a Horsham revival. Flack saved well, low to his left, from Diez with the follow-up being put wide by Dylan Jones. But, after 70 minutes, a dreadful clearance from goalkeeper Flack left Diez with a lob into a vacant goal to restore the home side’s three goal lead.

A superb move involving Dominic Welsh, Jones and Diez ended with the latter firing home for a 5-1 lead.

With four minutes remaining, Diez wrapped up proceedings with a 16 minute hat-trick when his low drive found the bottom corner.

Chris Wye commented after the game that he felt his team had more to give but were learning and progressing as his team remain in third place in the Suburban League South table.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Tonbridge Angels Academy 6 Whyteleafe Academy 0

Match 71/18/1664 - Wednesday, 12th December 2018 - National Academy

Tonbridge Angels (5) 6 Snowden-Lewis 4,17 Bartlett 33,40 Deere 44 Bowden 50
Whyteleafe (0) 0
Headcount: 7

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 32/4,256

Whyteleafe came to King’s Hill sitting bottom of the table, pointless and conceding on average six goals a game, so complacency could possibly have proved as much an enemy as the opposition. But a first half showing that blew the visitors away with five goals displayed an attitude that wasn’t a party to that mindset.

The first half was, indeed a procession of forward momentum and chances aplenty for the Academy. Three efforts on goal had brought saves from the Whyteleafe goalkeeper, Jimmy Penfold, before the breakthrough in just the fourth minute.

A searching ball from Harry Hudson sent Rhys Bartlett clear and although Penfold saved well the rebound was safely tucked away by Ned Snowden-Lewis.

Tonbridge’s pass and move style was too much for the Whyteleafe defence and they were being carved apart almost at will with Penfold excelling to deny Jacob Lambert and Bartlett before the Angels doubled their lead on 17 minutes. Superb movement between Lambert and Bartlett ended with a cross that gave Snowden-Lewis a tap-in.

And so it continued, Angels versus Penfold with the keeper saving from Snowden-Lewis and Bartlett whilst a 20 yard free kick from Sam Slipper came back off the bar.

Meanwhile, as those of us on the sidelines were beginning to feel the bite of Jack Frost on our toes, sympathies were with Tommy Taylor in the Angels goal who was as much a spectator as we were.

A third goal was added after 33 minutes when Bartlett powered a 20-yarder into the top corner giving Penfold no chance.

Penfold, who had done most to keep the scoreline respectable, sadly was at fault for the fourth goal on 40 minutes when he ventured far from his line but failed to collect the ball allowing Snowden-Lewis to set up Bartlett with an open goal.

The first half was wrapped up when Leo Deere, a new signing from Maidstone, cut in from the right to bury a shot into the bottom corner. A deserved return for an industrious first period.

Manager Tom Parkinson was pleased with his team’s first half display but was a little disappointed that in the second half they created equally as many chances but only added a single goal to their tally.

It certainly appeared that the deluge would continue as four minutes into the half, Lambert crashed a shot against the underside of the bar and, a minute later, Regan Bowden hooked in at the far post to open up a six goal lead.

Whyteleafe showed a far greater resilience in the second period and even managed to employ Taylor on a couple of occasions, but in truth, the one-way nature of the game continued for the most part.

Snowden-Lewis putting a header against a post being the closest of numerous chances that were passed over by the home side.

Parkinson remarked after the game that his side had not moved the ball as quickly in the second half but it was part of the learning curve for the boys. A good player is one that does the right things for 90 minutes, a good team is one that for 90 minutes does the same and does not let teams off the hook. But, overall, he is delighted with the progress made by his team to date.

Corinthian Casuals 2 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 70/18/1663 - Tuesday, 11th December 2018 - Bostik Premier

Corinthian Casuals (1) 1
Tonbridge Angels (1) 1
Attendance: 173

Admission: £6 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 120/4,224

No matter how much football I watch there are times when I drive home without any real understanding of what I had just witnessed. Unfortunately, with Tonbridge Angels of late, this has become an all to regular occurrence and a miserable night at Corinthian Casuals’ King George’s Field was as confusing as any.

How does a team that dominates a game and in so doing restrict their opponents to just four attempts on goal actually lose a match? Well, don’t ask me, I’m just Confused of Tonbridge.

In the first half-hour Tonbridge produced six chances. Michael West fired over; Joe Turner saw a shot saved by Daniel Bracken; Sonny Miles headed over; Bracken saved from Tom Beere and West and Beere saw further opportunities go astray before the Casuals had mustered a single attack of any note.

But, from nothing, on the half-hour, a free kick floated towards the near post by Coskum Ekim was met with a glancing header from Reece Hannigan to put the home side in front.

The goal gave Corinthian Casuals confidence and, four minutes later, Tonbridge goalkeeper Jonny Henly needed to make a smart save at his near post to deny Jordan Clarke.

The goal also took the momentum away from the visitors but the Casuals failed to threaten the Tonbridge goal again before the break.

With most likely a flea in their ear, Tonbridge came out with a renewed sense of purpose and after Tom Parkinson had been denied by Bracken, the visitors were level after four minutes of the second period. Juevan Spencer’s attempted back pass was hopelessly under-hit allowing Turner to intercept, round Bracken before rolling the ball into the empty net.

Back in the ascendancy, the visitors tested Bracken with efforts from West, Beere and Miles before, completely against the run of play, Corinthian Casuals once more got their noses in front. A disputed throw-in saw a fatal loss of concentration and a cross from the right was met by Warren Mfula to shoot home between Henly and his near post.

Tonbridge desperately sought something out of the game with Folkes drawing a save out of Bracken but the home side saw the game out with comparative ease.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Tonbridge Angels 1 Worthing 2

Match 69/18/1662 - Saturday, 8th December 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 Turner 40
Worthing (0) 2 Crane 50 (pen) Kealy 78
Attendance: 440

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,094

An official, or team of officials, can make or break the entertainment value for spectators at a football match; for managers and players for whom results take on far greater importance than entertainment the price can be a whole lot more.

I would hope that the criticism of a referee is something that is not the norm on these posts. I don’t hide the fact that I support Tonbridge Angels, but always attempt to write a balanced account of the game I had watched. But, on this occasion, the referee spoilt what should have been a really good game between two top four sides.

Mr Elliott Kaye set his stall out early in the game when he booked Arthur Lee for a challenge after just six minutes. It was probably a foul, but hardly a reckless challenge and for a first challenge barely warranted a lecture let alone a card.

Tonbridge had opened the game on the front foot and, after 15 minutes brought Worthing goalkeeper, Kleton Perntreou, into action when he turned away a Joe Turner effort at his near post.

After 20 minutes, a very poor foul on Liam Smith by Ricky Anguiar brought a yellow but could easily have suffered a heavier punishment.

Michael West fired wide before, after 25 minutes, Jared Small was brought down in the box to earn Tonbridge a penalty. Alex Read’s spot kick was too close to Perntreou who dived low to his right to save.

Tonbridge, playing their best football in weeks, were far in the ascendancy with Perntreou saving at the feet of Turner and Tom Beere firing over before they finally made the breakthrough five minutes before the break.

Tom Parkinson fired in a long cross from the right to the left hand angle of the six yard box for Turner to meet on the volley and bury his shot into the bottom corner for a half-time lead that was richly deserved.

The game changed three minutes into the second half, and here I have to admit to the benefit of hindsight and a video viewing. Worthing’s Darren Budd fired in a shot from around 16 yards that was blocked by James Folkes, who was turning his body away from the ball as it struck his elbow. Whether it was a penalty was debatable, that Mr Kaye took the ultimate sanction to send off Folkes for deliberate hand ball is unfathomable. James Crane stroked the ball into the bottom corner, sending Jonny Henly the wrong way to give the visitors parity.

Worthing took control of the game for a period as Tonbridge reshuffled their formation including the substitution of striker Read for Adem Ramadan.

A heavy challenge from Crane on Beere brought a yellow when a red quite easily could have been shown given the referee’s nature.

After 78 minutes, Worthing took the lead when Crane floated in a cross from the left that was met with a glancing header from substitute Callum Kealy.

Kealy was to make for a personally interesting afternoon when he incurred the ire of Mr Kaye a second time to receive his marching orders five minutes from the end.

The referee offered Tonbridge a full eight minutes of time-added to retrieve a point in a 10 against 10 situation but were unable to fashion a chance of any note.

Pictures: David Couldridge

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

FC Elmstead 2 Tunbridge Wells 3

Match 68/18/1661 - Tuesday, 4th December 2018 - Kent Senior Trophy

FC Elmstead (0) 2 Hart 51 Turytemba 67
Tunbridge Wells (0) 3 Harper 52 Thompson 57 Bryce-Borthwick 66
Attendance: 52
Played at Sutton Athletic

Admission: £4 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 58/4,056

This was the first time I’ve seen Tunbridge Wells since a horrible night at Culverden Stadium at the end of October when they were soundly beaten, indeed thrashed by Erith Town. Since that evening there has been a considerable turnover of players that has brought about an upturn in form that, following this Kent Senior Trophy win at First Division side FC Elmstead, now stands at five successive victories.

A slightly chilly evening with a light drizzle in the air greeted the sides as they took to the pitch 10 minutes after the due kick-off time due to the late arrival of an official.

If I was a rule-maker, I would implement the rule that a white board with the line-ups should be the bare minimum as, naturally enough, clubs at this level rarely have a tannoy system, or at least an audible one. So with this lacking, I have nothing to which I can refer the Elmstead side.

The home side started well and tested the new Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper, Bradley Comins, with a couple of efforts that were comfortably saved.

Tunbridge Wells’ first effort came after 10 minutes when Greg Skinner made a surging run down the left ending with a cross that was steered wide by Jamie Humphris. This began a period of domination that really should have brought a goal for the visitors. The goalkeeper saved from Tom Pearson, who also dragged a shot wide whilst, after 19 minutes, Jamie Thompson’s scuffed effort made the goalkeeper’s job a lot easier than it should have been.

A minute later, Chad Bryce-Borthwick was sent clear but the goalkeeper smothered at his feet and so the chances continued to rack up. Pearson saw his shot well saved before his hamstring appeared to give way following a sharp sprint.

To go into the break goalless was disappointing given the superiority enjoyed by Tunbridge Wells but worse was to follow when they went behind eight minutes into the second period. Comins made a mess of a cross which allowed Joe Hart the opportunity to open the scoring for Elmstead, and no, he wasn’t the goalkeeper!

It proved to be the shock to the system that the Wells required and, within a minute, they were level when Steven Harper curled a shot into the bottom corner from the left side of the box.

Only five minutes further had elapsed when Thompson got on the end of a cross to tap-in from close range and, after 66 minutes, the game appeared over as a contest when Bryce-Borthwick ran the ball into the net after the goalkeeper had firstly made a good save to deny Humphris, did the same with the rebound that fell to Bryce-Borthwick who found the net at his second attempt.

The game was not given up by Elmstead and, after some clumsy handling by Comins, Alvin Turytemba was able to stab the ball home.

Elmstead made a decent effort of the last 20 minutes leaving the Wells to hang on until the final moments when Skinner cracked a shot against the junction of bar and post.

The prize in the next round is a game against Guernsey’s St Peter’s, who sadly are denied giving their opposition a decent weekend away by the rules of their participation in the competition mean that they are not allowed to play on the island. Shame!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Slough Town 0 Gillingham 1

Match 67/18/1660 - Sunday, 2nd December 2018 - FA Cup Second Round

Slough Town (0) 0
Gillingham (0) 1 Oldaker 48
Attendance: 2,084
New Ground: 332

Admission: £11
Programme: £2
Mileage: 120/3,998

It was clearly an accident waiting to happen. The hawks of the BBC and the national press had assembled, microphones and pens at the ready, to portray as giant-killing heroes the latest non-league team to inflict humiliation on Gillingham. But the banana skin, if not kicked unceremoniously to one side, was at least side-stepped and now it might be the Kent club's turn to enjoy the role of underdog in the third round.

The bare statistics, Slough's first half tally of 10 shots to their visitors one and 21 overall to four, suggests that the National League South were more than a little unlucky but for all those efforts on goal they tested Tomas Holy on only a couple of occasions with the only heart stopping moment coming near the end when the goalkeeper's clumsy handling might have brought an equaliser, that nobody could deny the hosts deserved.

Slough's pristine new Arbour Park is nicely appointed with the main stand seating fronting a glasshouse that would serve the local community's needs for an entertaining venue. There was covered terracing behind both goals whilst the visiting following had the benefit of a seating stand that straddled the half-way line but they found standing on flat ground three or four deep frustrating.

And then, of course, there is the 3G factor. Personally, I've seen so many of these in the past few weeks I feel like the go-to expert and I felt that it played as good as any.

Whether it was anything to do with the pitch or just the enthusiasm of the home side, Gillingham were slow starting with Slough's Joe Dobson a constant threat and Matt Stevens finding pockets of space that the League One side were leaving vacant.

An overhead kick from Stevens cleared the bar narrowly and Holy flapped at a couple of crosses whilst Gabriel Zakuani did well to block a shot but the save of the half came from Slough's Jack Turner who turned aside a shot from Dean Parrett.

Slough's inability to take their first half opportunities came back to haunt them within three minutes of the start of the second half when a 30 yard dipping shot from Darren Oldaker found the top corner. It was a moment of quality completely out of context with the rest of Gillingham's forward play that had seen the long ball in search of Tom Eaves both ineffective and unappealing.

But the pattern of the second period after that one bit of quality followed that of the first, Slough making most of the running but their shooting was wayward and wasteful. Holy's late fumble saw Zakuani desperately clearing but for the non-leaguers it was not to be.

Dorking Wanderers 0 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 66/18/1659 - Saturday, 1st December 2018 - Bostik Premier

Dorking Wanderers (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Miles 90+6
Attendance: 526

Admission: £7
Programme: £2
Mileage: 120/3,998

The celebration on the field, and off it, told the story. November had been difficult, but now it had passed and December had immediately offered hope of a fresh start. And there was a sense of karma in Sonny Miles’ 97th minute winner that had triggered the elation.

Three weeks ago, same time, same place Tonbridge slipped out of the FA Trophy at Dorking in a somewhat unfortunate manner but worse was to follow as it became the first of, in effect, five successive defeats. Steve McKimm’s patience had been stretched to breaking point and changes were to be made. As it was, a couple of non-contract players, Sammy Knott and Liam King, were shown the door but, it was obvious, that these not the only ones that were in the manager’s sightline.

What was required was a reaction and that was what the manager got and a little bit more.

The week’s trading brought one new arrival, Michael West on loan from Eastbourne Borough and he went straight into the starting eleven with Craig Stone rested to the bench.

The pent-up frustration of November was very nearly eased within the first minute as Alex Read was sent clear by West but the nemesis of the Angels in that Trophy defeat, Dorking goalkeeper Slavomir Huk, saved at the feet of the striker.

Dorking’s first opportunity fell on three minutes when Tom Tolfrey’s scuffed shot was comfortably saved by Jonny Henly and a minute later, Reece Hall’s shot took a deflection on its way over the bar.

Good interplay between Liam Smith and Joe Turner ended with the striker’s shot drifting over and there was a scare for the Angels after 23 minutes when Tolfrey’s intended cross for an unmarked Jason Prior was deflected away for a corner.

The first half’s big moment came just past the half hour mark when a lofted clearance from Dorking’s Chris Boulter came down at the feet of Turner, whose first time shot took a wicked deflection but Huk brilliantly readjusted to plunge low to his left and push the ball away for a corner.

The end of a well-contested first period came with a Turner free kick that Huk gathered at the second attempt and a shot from Read that the goalkeeper saved at his near post.

A 30 yard drive from Tom Beere that cannoned off the chest of Huk opened the second half but Dorking’s best chance of the game came on the hour when, following a right sided free kick the ball arrived at the feet of Prior, whose shot from a couple of yards was brilliantly saved by the right hand of Henly at his near post.

Twice in a matter of moments Huk attempted to display the skills of a midfield ball player but was found wanting with Tonbridge failing to take full advantage.

A melee in the Tonbridge technical area following the ball going off for a throw-in saw Steve McKimm ordered off as the player’s became embroiled in a unnecessary bout of handbags.

A wild miskick from Huk, an awesome shot stopper, probably illustrated why he is not playing at a higher level. Turner flashed a shot across the face of goal as the game drifted seemingly towards its inevitable end as a goalless draw.

But, with the clock ticking towards the seventh minute of time-added, a Tonbridge corner from the right was delivered, probably overhit, to the far angle of the six yard box from where Sonny Miles hooked the ball over his shoulder and to the far post from where Huk, under pressure from Read, was only able to help the ball into the net and cue the joyous celebrations.

Country Roads pulsated out of the Tonbridge dressing room and the few Dorking supporters left grumbled that “anybody would think they had won the league.” After the month that has been endured from the manager through to the supporters, it felt like we had.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Maidstone United Academy 0 Tonbridge Angels Academy 4

Match 65/18/1658 - Wednesday, 28th November 2018 - National Academy

Maidstone United (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (2) 4 Owen 1 Hudson 22 Bartlett 50 Williams 63
Headcount: 28

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 20/3,878

For any Tonbridge Angels supporter, a 4-0 drubbing of arch-rivals Maidstone United at whatever level and at the Gallagher, is cause for celebration. But for Academy manager Tom Parkinson, whilst applauding a fantastic result against an established Academy fielding second and third year students, he felt that his team could have been better. He felt that their quality was not good enough and ball retention could have been a lot better.

Parkinson could not have been any more pleased with the way the Angels’ youngsters started the game. With less than a minute on the clock, a free kick won on the left hand angle of the 18 yard box, was fired into the bottom corner by Charlie Owen, a midfielder making his first appearance for the Academy.

Also making a first start were Ola Williams, a tall central defender and, in goal, Lewis Mitchell formerly of the Angels’ Under-18 side, who stepped in for the injured Joe Roberts and Tommy Taylor.

Whilst Tonbridge dominated the early possession it was not without a scare when, after 12 minutes, Maidstone's Charlie Deinnger crashed a left-sided free kick against the bar.

From a corner, Williams steered a header wide but the Stones’ aerial difficulties were exposed again on 22 minutes when a Sam Slipper corner was converted by a far post header from Harry Hudson.

Maidstone came back into the game in the last quarter-hour of the half. Maidstone's Matt Hathaway had the ball in the net, but was ruled out for offside and after a 30 yard shot had only been parried to a waiting Jamie Sherlock, Mitchell did well to smother his shot from close range.

Tonbridge reasserted themselves in the opening stages of the second period with Jacob Lambert hitting the bar and Ned Lewis seeing his shot from the rebound saved.

But, after 50 minutes, some excellent wing work from Charlie Dumas ended up with him standing-up a cross that left Rhys Bartlett with a close range header to effectively wrap the game up for the Angels.

To remove any doubt, the visitors added a fourth after 63 minutes when a Slipper free kick from the right was met with a glancing header by Williams.

Harry Hudson, once more exposed Maidstone’s frailty in the air, but steered his header wide. Despite Maidstone’s late search for a consolation that brought Mitchell’s only meaningful save of the half, the Angels eased their way through to the end of the match and a well-deserved three points.

Tonbridge Angels: Lewis Mitchell, Regan Bowden, Luke Taylor (Zak Wolvey 46), Sam Slipper (Harrison Mayhew 66), Ola Williams, Harry Hudson, Jacob Lambert (Saul Masungey 60), Charlie Owen, Rhys Bartlett, Charlie Dumas, Ned Lewis (Nick Ithier 79).

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Tonbridge Angels 0 Leatherhead 2

Match 64/18/1657 - Saturday, 24th November 2018 - Bostik League Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Leatherhead (2) 2 Amoo 16 (pen) Theobalds 43
Attendance: 407

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,514

After the plastic tour, there was no welcome home to the green, green grass of Longmead Stadium.

At this stage of the season, “must win” would have been an unnecessary pressure but the need to get the season back on track in terms of either result or performance was obvious. Sadly, for the majority of the 407 attendance, we got neither.

My biro remained unemployed until the 13th minute when Craig Stone picked up a caution but two minutes later it was Leatherhead’s opening goal that was being recorded. Travis Gregory appeared to be a yard or two offside as he galloped clear of the Angels back line before Jonny Henly diving at his feet brought him down. Henly took his booking and could do nothing as Jeremiah Amoo calmly slotted into the corner.

A response was needed but, bar a couple of comfortable saves by Zaki Olulah, it never materialised.

And when, after 42 minutes, D’Sean Theobalds was allowed to to run from deep and meander across the face of goal before swivelling and firing into the bottom corner the task after the break became mountainous.

Steve McKimm shuffled his line-up for the restart with Liam King replacing Alex Read and Tommy Whitnell for Stone. It brought some improvement as Joe Turner brought the first meaningful save from Olulah and two blocks were made before Small drove over.

But the momentum largely petered out with James Folkes needing to clear from the line an effort from Shaun Okojie.

Tonbridge’s third substitute, Adem Ramadan produced a couple of good runs but without a finish as the Tanners eased their way to a fourth win on the spin whilst the home side’s fortunes are very much going in the opposite direction.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Tonbridge Angels U21 3 Tunbridge Wells U21 2

Match 63/18/1656 - Wednesday, 21st November 2018 - Suburban League South

Tonbridge Angels U21 (2) 3 Welsh 4,18 Toussaint 73
Tunbridge Wells U21 (2) 2
Headcount: 40

Admission: Free
Team sheet: None
Mileage: 38/3,476

For the first time this season Jack Frost was biting into the grass before kick-off which was a bit of a shame as midweek Suburban League fixtures are a rarity and the opportunity for Tonbridge Angels supporters who spend Saturday’s on the road with the senior side to watch the Under-21s was possibly passed up as the cold was a deterrent.

Those people who quite understandably chose the warmth of their living room missed a good, open game that both sides fully contributed to.

Near neighbours Tunbridge Wells may sit in a lowly position in the table at present but they may well have gone home thinking they were worth a point.

Tonbridge got off to a flyer when a pass from Stevie Panayi allowed Dominic Welsh to cut in from the left and bury a shot into the the far corner of the net after just four minutes.

The Wells got themselves on level terms when the Angels’ goalkeeper, Ethan Collen flapped at a cross under pressure which allowed Matt Coleman to stab the ball home from close range.

Such was the open nature of the game, the Angels were back in front two minutes later when Welsh, cutting in from the left, scored from the edge of the box.

Tunbridge Wells were well up for the challenge and Collen did well to tip over the top an effort from Tom Anstee.

Not to be denied the visitors went into the break on level terms when a shot from outside of the box from Harry Forster took a deflection that left Collen helpless.

Welsh might well have gone into the dressing room for his half-time cuppa with a hat-trick under his belt had his 44th minute strike not come back off the post.

The second half continued in much the same vein but without the goals of the first with both sides testing the goalkeeper and also guilty of wasting opportunities.

Tonbridge got their noses back in front after 73 minutes when Welsh stood up a cross for Dominic Toussaint to head home.

During the second period it was good to see Academy players Ned Lewis, Jacob Lambert and Saul Masungy all get minutes whilst Sam Slipper was a starter.

Tunbridge Wells fought hard to the finish but the Angels managed the game well in the closing stages to send the 40 or so people that braved the elements well satisfied with their evening’s entertainment.

Maplesden Oaks 8 Hugh Christie 3

Match 62/18/1655 - Wednesday, 21st November 2018 - Academies League – Kent Schools FA

Maplesden Oaks School (2) 8
Hugh Christie (0) 3 Lewis 54 Taylor 62 Musengy 77
Headcount: 6

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 20/3,438

The latest stop on the minibus tour of Kent Schools is Maplesden Oaks, Maidstone, home to Soccer Elite, probably the most prestigious Academy in the south-east. When you’ve parked the bus and jumped out and the first face you see is the instantly recognisable Jay Saunders, and then Lee Spiller, you quickly realise it is going to be a long afternoon for your passengers.

With the Elite squad’s game against Sutton United postponed due to their opponents continued involvement in the FA Youth Cup which now has a home tie against Manchester City to look forward to, the Development squad was able to call on some of their senior colleagues, albeit for limited game time as they were turning out for the Under-21 side in the evening.

As appears usual with these games, no team sheets are available, so no names can be credited to the Maplesden side who came into the game with a perfect record from their opening three games.

Hugh Christie were forced back from the first whistle and needed to defend courageously, and sometimes desperately, but they held out for 15 minutes before a cross from the right bye-line was turned in at the near post.

The visitors deserved credit for continuing to hold out until the 43rd minute when the Maplesden 9 cut in from the right to bury a shot into the bottom corner.

Two-nil at the break was perfectly respectable and when Ned Snowdon-Lewis fired in a 30 yard free kick over the head of a tall goalkeeper, respectability turned into a bit of hope.

Two goals in a couple of minutes left the game remaining open. Maplesden’s 10 was allowed to run from deep to make it 3-1 but Hugh Christie hit back immediately when Lewis set up Luke Taylor to finish clinically for 3-2.

As Tom Parkinson commented about his Development side, unfortunately they have a habit of conceding goals in clusters around this point in matches and sure enough it happened again with 3-2 becoming 6-2 in a matter of 10 minutes.

Hugh Christie managed to reduce the deficit once more when Saul Musengy was sent clear to score, but two late goals made the score line probably a fair reflection of the game but it could have been so much closer had it not been for the confidence meltdown around the hour mark.

Worthing 1 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 61/18/1654 - Tuesday, 20th November 2018 - Velocity Cup 2R

Worthing (0) 1 Rents 68
Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 King 38
Worthing won on penalties 3-2
Attendance: 296

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 124/4,102

My experience of playing the lottery is that, if nothing else, you win the odd tenner. So when the old cliche is trotted out about penalty shootouts and lotteries, why is it we seemingly never win the tenner? Not exactly true, two years ago we disposed of Romford via the spot-kick raffle but that was the exception to prove the rule.

After a closely contested tie, with Tonbridge Angels showing a distinct improvement on Saturday’s defeat at Harlow, it came down once again to spot kicks. As the process unfolded with Worthing proving almost as inept as Tonbridge, we dared to think that perhaps this might be our lucky day. Sonny Miles, possibly taking a penalty for the first-ever time, saw his attempt saved low to his left by Kleton Perntreou but Worthing’s Callum Kealy replicated with Henly saving. Alex Read scored for the Angels, but so did Rhyle Ovenden. Tom Beere saw his shot saved but a controversial double save from Henly (did it cross the line?) saw Reece Meekums effort fail. Joe Turner scored and Sam Rents did likewise. As Jared Small stepped up, his reluctant trudge to the box told a story and he blazed high over the bar only for Isaac Newton to do the self same thing. I had more faith in Tommy Whitnell but his shot was saved leaving Alex Parsons to end the contest in favour of the home side.

It was a bitterly cold evening and the journey down to the West Sussex coast had been far from an easy one with supporters and the Tonbridge physio caught up in traffic incidents. But a quick walk after finding a parking space in a nearby street, left me puffing my way into the Bibby Financial Services Stadium with a couple of minutes to spare. Another 3G surface, but this one looked from the outset to play a lot better than Harlow.

The early pace was set by the home side with the closest effort being a header from Kealy that went over following a Meekums free kick. Tonbridge’s first foray brought a powerfully driven effort from Turner that Perntreou didn’t completely deal with, parrying the ball in front of him before it was cleared to safety.

Worthing were set up defensively narrow that offered the Angels’ wide men, Adem Ramadan and Small almost the freedom of the flanks with the former causing the home side a lot of difficulty down the left side.

Henly made a couple of saves from Meekums and Parsons before Ramadan made use of the space being offered to waltz his way in from the left touchline before crossing low to Liam King, who turned the ball into the bottom corner to give the Angels a 38th minute lead that they took into the break.

Despite Tonbridge creating early chances in the second period with a Miles header from a Turner corner going wide and a Liam Smith drive going over, it was obvious that the Worthing half-time talk had been to tighten the reins on Ramadan and Small.

The equaliser came after 67 minutes when Miles’ headed clearance found ex-Angel Sam Rents who drove into the bottom corner from the left hand angle of the box.

Tonbridge almost immediately had a response and when Turner was sent clear he should have done better than a rising shot over the bar.

Worthing substitute David Abijiye saw his shot beaten away at the near post by Henly and as the clock ticked down and the hosts pressed for a winner, I indulged in the thought that it might be worth taking our chances in the shootout, a mad thought for a Tonbridge supporter that, of course, proved to be just that.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Harlow Town 1 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 60/18/1653 - Saturday, 17th November 2018 - Bostik Premier

Harlow Town (0) 1 Vaughan 86
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Headcount: 277

Admission: £8 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 120/3,978

Three wheels on my wagon, game by game on the plastic tour of the Isthmian League, the wheels have come off culminating with this horror show at Harlow.

The first signs of wheel wobble came at Kingstonian when a late goal was needed to retrieve a point. The second wheel disappeared, somewhat undeservedly, at Dorking and when the third wheel slipped from the axle at Haringey, despite the 4-0 score line, some consolation could be found in the number of chances created. But, as the last wheel buckled under the wagon at bottom of the table Harlow there could be no excuses for such a lame performance.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room, the 3G surface at Harlow is a disgrace, a throw back to the old days at QPR. As the players ran past they sounded like horses galloping past at the Derby. But, as will always be pointed out, it is the same for both sides and it has not exactly suited Harlow this season having not won a single match at the Arena prior to this game.

Tonbridge fielded their two summer signings from Harlow and whilst Jared Small was proffered a warm welcome, the same wasn’t forthcoming for Alex Read, somewhat surprising given the 178 goals he scored for them over five seasons.

The first half was, by some distance, the worst I’ve seen this season. It took 20 minutes for pen to be put to paper and this was only to make sure the biro still worked.

As the sun had dipped below the main stand, the first half served only to remind you that your hands and feet were now getting cold. A comfortable save apiece from both goalkeeper’s barely meriting a mention.

The second period really couldn’t be any worse and when, after 50 minutes, Arthur Lee planted a header against the bar from a Tom Beere corner the prospects for better to come were hopeful.

After being brought down by JJ Da Cruz that earned a booking for the Harlow man, Beere cracked the free kick narrowly wide.

What few chances that arrived were Tonbridge’s as Harlow seemed content to soak up the pressure, especially as this wasn’t amounting to much with the saves asked of Josh Bexon being fairly routine.

A 69th minute booking for Louis Yuill was significant only for a foul committed four minutes later that would definitely have brought a caution had it not been for the previous booking.

Four minutes from time an innocuous situation brought indecision on the edge of the Tonbridge six yard box that allowed substitute Laurence Vauighan to stab the ball home from Harlow’s only shot of the entire half.

Tonbridge were shocked into a desperate attempt to take something from the game and time added saw a shot from Tommy Whitnell saved low by Bexon with the follow-up hacked away from the line. A strong penalty claim for hand ball fell on deaf ears before the Harlow supporters were able to celebrate their first home win of the season.

A long wait in the bar ensued as Steve McKimm locked his side into a dressing room dressing down, the manager looking visibly angry when he emerged from his post-match interview.

Getting those wheels back on track in an Isthmian League Cup tie at Worthing seems a little far-fetched at the moment but Saturday’s return to the green, green grass of home is almost a must win in terms of confidence rebuilding.