Wednesday, 31 January 2018

South Park 1 Hastings United 1

Match 87/17/1537 - Tuesday, 30th January 2018 - Bostik South

South Park (0) 1 Jackson 59
Hastings United (1) 1 Davies 40
Attendance: 92
New Ground: 324

Entrance: £5
Programme: £2
Mileage: 90/6,157

A second trip this week into the Surrey’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this time to King George’s Field, the home of South Park. Sadly, I can’t say that it fits within the title, perhaps it needs to be seen in daytime sunshine.

However, it fits very nicely into the functional category with a very nice changing room complex that also houses the tea bar. It is a shame for those that enjoy a half-time pint that the clubhouse is situated outside of the stadium. Two Atcost stands provide seating and cover behind a goal and the brick built complex’s roof has an overhang that provides some shelter from the rain.

I wouldn’t go as far to say that the opening 20 minutes were thrilling but they were absorbing enough to distract from the rain that was getting harder eventually forcing a retreat to the larger of the Atcosts.

Hastings’ goalkeeper, Charlie Horlock, was as vocal as any I’ve heard in a while and it was not always encouraging, giving a rocket to a fellow defender after being forced to touch over an effort from Jerry O’Sullivan.

After the initial 20 minute period it was the visitors that took up the attacking mantle for the rest of the half with their centre forward, Calum Davies, proving a handful.

South Park’s goalkeeper, Callum Thomas, did well to save at Davies’ feet and the forward was inches away from converting a cross from the right. But when Park’s Josh Gallagher lost possession in midfield, Davies was sent away to bury his opportunity into the bottom corner.

The opening minutes of the second half saw the Sussex side remaining in the ascendancy with Davies perhaps needing to be a bit more selfish when offered a chance from the right and Thomas made a terrific stop to claw Davide Rodari’s effort out of the top corner.

However, the hosts got back on terms just shy of the hour when Dan Moody set up Joe Jackson to score from just inside the box.

Chris Smith, who interested Tonbridge a while back, was surprisingly on the bench given his 15 goals this season was summoned for the last 20 minutes and he immediately gave the South Park attack some movement and momentum.

The final 15 minutes saw South Park finishing much the stronger and Horlock was needed on four separate occasions to preserve the hard-earned point.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Walton & Hersham Reserves 0 Tonbridge Angels U21 2

Match 86/17/1536 - Monday, 29th January 2018 - Suburban League

Walton & Hersham Reserves (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels U21 (1) 2 Thompson 12, 55
Headcount: 25
New Ground: 323

Entrance: £4
Programme: None
Mileage: 128/6,067

Tonbridge Angels Under-21s came away from Walton & Hersham’s spanking new Xcel Sports Hub stadium with a win far more convincing than the 2-0 scoreline suggests.

Chris Wye’s side, who were boosted by the inclusion of first team squad members Dominic Welsh, Liam Smith, Dan Thompson, Tashi-Jay Kwayie and Jack Fenton, dominated the game from the first whistle to the last and only a combination of some wayward finishing and a superb goalkeeping performance from the Walton custodian kept the scoreline as respectable as it was.

The Angels had to survive the embarrassment of a wardrobe malfunction as our very own man of many hats, Charlie Cole, inadvertently picked up the wrong bag en-route to Surrey and, to his horror, found that the Under-21's kit had been left behind and he had brought the Under-13s kit! The Under-13's shorts and socks were used and Walton kindly lent their visitors a set of training tops that were evidently used by their ladies' side with vastly differing levels of fit. Poor Josh Olafemi, looked as if he had to be stitched into his kit and on his substitution at the hour mark nobody was too sure whether it was for tactical reasons or chafing! Meanwhile, for the diminutive skipper Welsh, the shirts fitted a treat!

Tonbridge started on the front foot with chances falling to Thompson and Fenton, who went on to have a private battle with the Walton keeper, who saved shot after shot from the midfielder.

The Walton rearguard was broken after 12 minutes when, following a corner, a shot from outside of the box was deflected into the path of Thompson who was able to stab home from close range.

Fenton’s battle continued with the keeper making two flying saves whilst the midfielder set up an opportunity for Kwayie who ballooned wastefully over.

Steve McKimm was in attendance to watch over his first team charges but would surely have also been impressed with a livewire display from Luciano Osbourne that was full of direct running coupled with some very clever footwork.

Tonbridge’s goalkeeper, Peter Ruggles, was only really called into action once in the first period saving comfortably a headed attempt.

Early in the second half, Thompson was denied by the goalkeeper’s feet at the near post and when Fenton rounded the keeper and pulled the ball back for Osbourne there was a defender on the line to clear.

A second goal finally arrived after 55 minutes when a great retrieval on the left bye-line from Fenton allowed a pull back to Thompson who rifled the ball into the roof of the net.

Steven Panayi had the ball in the net a couple of minutes later but this was disallowed for a high boot on the goalkeeper in the challenge that led to the ball falling at Panayi’s feet.

The second half took on exactly the same format as the first with the Angels completely dominating.

It would be nice to give the Walton & Hersham goalkeeper some credit by name, but the lack of a team sheet sadly doesn’t allow this, but he alone was the saviour of his side.

Ruggles was asked to make one save and there was a clearance from the line in the second period but Chris Wye will be more than satisfied with his side’s dominant performance.

The Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub is an impressive facility with the main grandstand looking out from one side onto the 3G surface that is shared between Walton & Hersham and Walton Casuals. The reverse side looks out onto an athletics facility. From the bar area both sides can be viewed. Inside the bar area, I think that there will be a few Combined Counties sides supporters who will take a pretty dim view of being charged £1.40 for a tea. But I understand this is beyond the control of the football clubs as Elmbridge Borough Council are the 100% recipients of all bar takings.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Gillingham 2 Fleetwood Town 1

Match 85/17/1535 - Saturday, 27th January 2018 - League One

Gillingham (0) 2 Eves 53,90 (pen)
Fleetwood Town (1) 1 Madden 13
Attendance: 6,332

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/5,939

Match Report

I don’t consider myself as a pessimist but I cannot buy into the surge into the play-offs excitement of some on social media. In the end, the lack of quality that was evident in the first half in particular of this match will be Gillingham’s undoing. But what cannot be denied is the attitude and determination that Steve Lovell has instilled into his side. This team has a will-to-win coupled with a level of fitness that drives them through to the final whistle.

At half-time I was bemoaning the fact that fantastic away performances were not being translated into the same at home, but come the finish there was nothing but admiration for their efforts.

Lovell added a couple of players to his squad during the week and the loanee from Bury, Callum Reilly, was brought down to earn the penalty that ultimately won the game, but the players at his disposal are the same that performed so dismally for Justin Edinburgh and Adrian Pennock. I have a couple of for instances, players that have changed my opinion of them. Mark Byrne was a player that Edinburgh was desperate to bring to the club. Whilst he did sustain an injury that probably set him back, I could not see what Edinburgh had seen in his time at Newport County. I can now. The other was the outstanding player of the match, Luke O’Neill. He also suffered a stop-start opening to the season and didn’t convince but now he looks a really good signing by Pennock.

O’Neill’s saving block led to the corner from which Fleetwood opening the scoring after 13 minutes. Tomas Holy made a great stop to deny Paddy Madden but when the ball was recycled it ended back with Madden to fire into the far corner.

Holy made another good stop to save the Gordon Road boo-boys having their taunts at Ashley Hunter thrust straight back down their throats.

After a couple of second half corners that had come to nothing, skipper Lee Martin who had taken them, ushered O’Neill across to take the next one. The corner found Tom Eaves at the near post; whether it was his or a defender’s final touch that took it into the net, the striker will claim it.

The oohs and aarhs came in very quick succession after 70 minutes when a trio of efforts were desperately saved by the Fleetwood goalkeeper, Chris Neal.

As the game entered its final throes, Holy produced a magnificent save to claw away an effort from Wes Burns after initially taking a step in the wrong direction.

It proved a match-winning save as Gillingham went straight to the other end for Reilly to take a pass in the area only to be brought down by Burns for an undisputed penalty which Eaves fired in high to Neal’s left.

Gillingham rise to tenth and within seven points of the magic play-off line giving the excitable social media posters free rein for their optimism. I might not concur, but Lovell’s troops are giving plenty of reasons to prove me wrong.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Metropolitan Police 2 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 84/17/1534 - Tuesday, 23rd January 2018 - Bostik Premier

Metropolitan Police (2) 2 Mummery 27 Wright 30
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 126

Entrance: £5
Programme: £2
Mileage: 112/5,893

A better blog than mine

Even though the reality has been evident for some while, there comes a watershed moment when you know this season is dead in the water. Marooned in mid-table the season is destined to drift to its conclusion with little other than pride to play for.

Tonbridge produced their worst half of the season at Metropolitan Police’s Imber Court going into the break 2-0 down when a fair reflection on the game would have been nearer 6-0. Steve McKimm rightly lambasted his lacklustre troops after the game reflecting that it was the type of performance that gets managers the sack. Steve can possibly take comfort from the fact that Tonbridge have not sacked a manager since Terry Naylor left his post in September 1988. I should clarify this statistic with the conjecture that Tony Dolby was sacked in October 2007 after a FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round defeat at Ware, but this was recorded as “amicably parting company,”.

Sam Bantick flashed a shot wide of the right hand post after just two minutes but to all intents and purposes that was as close as the Angels were to get, failing to stretch Tom Williams into a single save all evening.

The Plod are enjoying a decent season, they are on the edge of the play-off places, and for the most part, they looked a good side. How much the woeful Tonbridge performance contributed to that appearance is open to question.

The warning signs were there before the Met took a 27th minute lead. A cross from the impressive Tom Bird found the head of Jay Gasson and it took a combination of Jonny Henly and his right hand post to keep the ball out.

Lessons were not learnt and the home side gained the lead when a cross from Jonny Wright was delivered to an unmarked Bayley Mummery to head home from inside the six yard box.

Three minutes later, I guess it was the precise time of that watershed moment, it was 2-0. This time a soft free kick awarded against Liam Smith, was floated to beyond the far post from where Wright planted a header that somehow got between Henly and the post.

Tonbridge simply had no idea how to defend the cross into the box and the half could have taken on embarrassing proportions as headed efforts from Mummery brought a save from Henly and another that hit the top of the bar.

A half-time rant from a well-known Tonbridge supporter, actually defending the first half performance, took up the entire break and provided the only memorable entertainment of the evening.

The Tonbridge bar was struck again by Gasson as the aerial battle continued to be won by the hosts. McKimm made a series of substitutions, including the return of Ryan Worrall for a second spell from Eastbourne Borough, to inject some life into his side.

But, in boxing parlance, the Angels failed dismally to lay a glove on their hosts despite enjoying (if that is the right word) more of the ball in the second period.

Here we are, not quite out of January, and there are many of us that are wishing this season away for a fresh start in August.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Leiston P Tonbridge Angels P

Saturday, 20th January 2018 - Bostik Premier

Leiston P
Tonbridge Angels P
Wasted Mileage: 240/5,781

Match postponed by the match officials at around 2 p.m. when we were within 10 miles of Leiston. Persistent heavy rain that was forecast to continue for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, 19 January 2018

FC Elmstead 2 SC Thamesmead 0

Match 83/17/1533 - Wednesday, 17th January 2018 - SCEFL 1

FC Elmstead (1) 2 Quan 23 Babalola 80
SC Thamesmead (0) 0
Attendance: 48
Bracketed Tick

Entrance: £4
Programme: £1
Mileage: 65/5,541

Match Report

Neutral football sometimes takes some doing. A cold night, a poor game and a boot full of puddle water walking both to and from Oakley Road down an unlit track did nothing to enrich the evening. So why bother? Despite the fact that the game managed to throw up a magic moment, I have to question myself. The answer is the bracketed tick from the flimsy set of rules governing ground hopping.

When I visited the ground with Holmesdale as the home team, I failed to wander round to the main stand and since have been told many stories of daring-do of just sitting in the rickety old structure. One of the reasons I didn’t make my way round on my previous visit was that it was so dark I didn’t even realise it was there until the game had begun!

It houses just three rows of seats although it is quite a long stand but it is its steepness that is most noticeable, and a little frightening. Constructed of scaffolding and scaffold boards with metal climbing steps at each end it was a case of clambering into a seat.

FC Elmstead and Sporting Club Thamesmead started the game within a place of each other in mid-table so a tight game would have been in expected. In truth, after the visitors had hit the bar following a shot from Josh Patrick after just 27 seconds, Elmstead had the best of the attacking intentions and were fully deserving of their win.

The unexpected magic moment arrived after 23 minutes when Thamesmead’s goalkeeper Charlie Martin cleared a punt forward from the edge of his box directly to Chan Quan who returned it first time from 40 yards over the head of the stranded goalkeeper with the ball dipping under the bar.

Such was the poor nature of the game, I had long decided to invoke the groundhopper’s three goal rule which allows you to leave when one side has a lead of that number. Sadly, that was never going to happen, so when ten minutes from time, Dexter Babalola’s cross-cum-shot nestled in the far corner, I made my own two goal rule and retreated to the warmth of the car.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Enfield Town 0 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 82/17/1532 - Tuesday, 16th January 2018 - Bostik Premier

Enfield Town (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Akrofi 54
Attendance: 281
New Ground: 322

Entrance: £6
Programme: £2
Mileage: 127/5,476

Match Report

There are some decent stadiums in the Isthmian League Premier and a few that really don’t fit the bill. Many are much of a muchness with their functional but unappealing precast concrete and steel grandstands and covered terracing. Places like Dulwich and Staines offer something a little different in a modern sense whilst there is an old fashioned charm about Folkestone. But the groundhopper’s delight is the truly iconic photo opportunity, one of these is the back-to-back grandstand at Wingate and Finchley and the other is the art deco clubhouse at Enfield Town’s Queen Elizabeth II stadium.

With the word CAFE emblazoned above the windows of the circular clubhouse, the stadium is instantly recognisable on arrival at Donkey Lane. The QE2 is a athletics stadium that has been adapted to suit the needs of a football club and this has been done quite successfully. Rather than put the stands behind the goal at the back of the bend, Enfield have positioned them infield, so the track runs behind the stands.

This was a freezing evening that required several layers of clothing but, despite two pairs of socks, one of which were thermal, the cold finally got through, numbing the toes.

For Tonbridge supporters, a small following, the merry-go-round of inconsistency continued. Little was expected following Saturday’s defeat at Leatherhead coupled with Enfield’s unbeaten home record, but in this topsy-turvy season, they produced an impressive performance that deserved their result.

George Beavan’s absence following his substitution on Saturday allowed Craig Stone to continue alongside Sonny Miles with Liam Smith taking the right back berth and Tom Jelley as the holding midfielder. It is probably harsh to say that Steve McKimm has "stumbled" on a formation that looks more balanced and secure, but appears the case.

From the seventh minute when Nathan Elder sent Sam Bantick clear but thwarted by Joe Wright, the first half took on the shape of the visitors making chances and the Enfield goalkeeper earning his man-of-the-match accolade.

Wright went on to make saves from Joe Turner, Smith and Elder whilst Alex Akrofi put a free header over the bar.

Akrofi repeated the act after 35 minutes and when the home side came to life in the closing moments of the half, Jonny Henly was required to make a comfortable save from ex-Angel Simon Thomas whilst Sam Youngs fired narrowly wide.

The fear was, of course, that the lack of a goal to decorate the first half dominance would come back to bite the Angels on the bum.

But it was the visitors that deservedly took the lead on 54 minutes when Akrofi cut in from the left and fired in a shot from outside of the box into the bottom corner that Wright, this time, was not going to get anywhere near.

Enfield really needed to come to the party for the sake of their supporters who were probably feeling the cold worse than their visiting counterparts who were at least enjoying the show. Just past the hour, Henly made his most meaningful save of the evening to deny Aaron Greene’s free kick with Smith completing the clearance.

Tonbridge game managed the last half-hour brilliantly restricting Enfield to a 90th minute effort from Greene that narrowly cleared the bar and a shot from Joe Hockney that only found the side netting.

Despite the cold, this was a good night both as a Tonbridge supporter and as a groundhopper.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Gillingham 2 Rochdale 1

Match 81/17/1531 - Saturday, 13th January 2018 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Garmston 41 Martin 63
Rochdale (1) 1 Cannon 27
Attendance: 4,352

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/5,349

It wasn’t pretty, indeed it was pretty ugly.

This was the first time I’ve seen Gillingham for six weeks, which in itself probably tell you a lot about my attitude towards the club, but, despite this being a sixth game without defeat, a crowd of just 4,352 tells you that indifference is not mine alone.

The win lifts Gillingham to 14th place, the relative sanctuary of mid-table and it can only be hoped that as their position of safety becomes a little bit more secure they might find it within themselves to embark on the lost art of entertainment.

More by accident than design, Chairman Scally has stumbled across a manager for whom the players want to play. Is he a master tactician (probably not); a man manager (certainly appears that way) or just a lucky blighter? Either way he is doing something right because on this performance nothing much has changed since early December but his side has won at Charlton (for the first time in history) and at Fleetwood.

In the middle of the field, for the first time (probably to my shame), I really got Mark Byrne who I thought put in a really good shift, but the others …

Upfront, Tom Eaves is willing and hardworking but for far too many minutes was isolated as Josh Parker seemed too deep and too far away from his partner.

Defensively, especially in the last half-hour when the negative feelings of their home record started to play on the mind, it was desperate at times but somehow they made it through to the final whistle. They dropped so deep the next stop was Gillingham High Street; invited Rochdale on and there was an inevitability that the visitors would snatch a late, deserved reward. But when the chance came, it fell to ex-Gillingham midfielder, Billy Knott to fire high over the bar.

The hosts carved out the early chances. They had the ball in the net but this was disallowed for offside; Rochdale goalkeeper, Josh Lillis made saves from Scott Wagstaff and Eaves, but it was the visitors that struck first after 27 minutes.

It’s no surprise when the butt of the home supporter’s abuse turns to bite them on the bum, because usually that player is, more often than not, a decent player. Step up Andy Cannon, who skipped his way through a couple of innocuous challenges to rifle a shot into the bottom corner.

Lifted by the goal, Rochdale took ascendancy for a period before a rasping free kick from 20 yards by Bradley Garmston found the bottom corner to bring the scores level.

Elliott List replaced the luckless Wagstaff during the half-time break and supplied first a cross that begged a touch but, just past the hour, his cross took a deflection that looped the ball invitingly into the path of Lee Martin to volley past a helpless Lillis.

The goal signalled the retreat and it was all hands to the pumps as possession of the football was conceded to the Lancastrians. It became a defensive masterclass in pumping the ball as far upfield and as far away from Eaves as possible. It was ugly, but it won the points. What more can be asked? Well, a whole lot more but for now, let us be grateful for the relative safe haven of lower mid-table.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Erith Town 3 Hollands & Blair 0

Match 80/17/1530 - Wednesday, 10th January 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup R3

Erith Town (2) 3 Hooper 33 Warden 41,69
Hollands & Blair (0) 0
Attendance: 54

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Free Teamsheet
Mileage: 70/5,291

I first spotted Sid Warden in the best game I watched last season, an epic FA Youth Cup tie between Tonbridge Angels and Maidstone United that went all the way to penalties after a pulsating 5-5 draw.

With my affiliations, I didn’t want to admire a player in a Maidstone shirt, but Sidney, in an albeit slightly cocky manner, was eye-catching. Here we have a slightly built lad that looks as if the next puff of wind could blow him over, but with a balance that skips the challenges and an eye for goal.

Warden followed the Tonbridge exodus to Margate as his Dad did likewise and now, with dual registration and his Dad on the staff at Erith Town, he might still be in need of a couple of meat puddings, but none of the ability that made him shine in youth football has been lost in the men’s game.

Being the proxy guest of the Erith Vice-President, I watched the game from what felt like the crow’s nest, high behind the goal at VCD’s Oakwood, at which Erith Town will share for the rest of the season.

Erith’s visitors were Hollands & Blair, whose season can only be described as a bit of a nightmare. But, in fairness to Blair, the result does not reflect their contribution to the game.

The hosts started strongly and following a cross from the left only the much-travelled Stuart Zanone will know how he hooked the ball over from close range.

Hollands though got themselves into the game and Erith goalkeeper, Adam Molloy, was called into action twice in a couple of minutes to deny Dave Raggett.

Hollands, in fact, were the better side until they went behind after 33 minutes when they failed to deal with a cross from the right that was headed into the path of Jack Hooper, who hooked it home.

A cross from the Erith right found an unmarked Warden at the far post to double the home side’s lead four minutes before the break. Blair were denied a goal that their early exploits had deserved when Travis Jackson struck the left hand post.

Once again, at the start of the second period, it was the visitors that carved out and wasted the chances. Molloy made good saves to deny Louis Valencia and Jackson and another, low to his left, to thwart Harvey Killick, one of Warden’s team mates down at Margate.

Erith sealed their place in the quarter-final draw after 69 minutes when a cross from Ben Fitchett (another Margate dual registration) was headed against the bar by Zanone only for the rebound to fall to Walden to steer home.

When Walden was brought down for a penalty the consensus was let him take it for his hat-trick. But Zanone pulled rank only to see his spot kick well saved by Ronan Forde with the rebound being messed up as two Erith players managed to hinder each other’s attempt to score.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

K Sports 0 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 79/17/1529 - Tuesday, 9th January 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup R3

K Sports (0) 0
Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Kendall 16
Attendance: 65

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 30/5,221

Jason Bourne’s 100th game in charge of Tunbridge Wells saw them secure a place in the quarter final draw of the SCEFL Challenge Cup. His side produced a good first half performance and followed this with a steadfast defensive second period that denied their promotion chasing hosts a scalp from the division to which they aspire.

A sweeping move from both Tunbridge Wells full backs saw Alfie Hall producing a devastating cross to the far post where his right-sided counterpart, Alexx Kendall was positioned for a simple tap-in.

The Wells dominated the half and should have entered the break more than the single goal to the good. Josh Biddlecombe sent the ball across the face of the goal that begged a touch that Jon Pilbeam just failed to make; John Shea brought a decent save out of Rhys Coates and when the exciting Franco Mici produced a mazy run and pass, Pilbeam’s shot struck a post.

K Sports may feel that their priorities are elsewhere this season but they gave it their best in the second half and Jack Bradshaw’s save from Sam Winch was as match winning as Kendall’s goal.

The neutrals alongside me in the seats thought it was a poor game, but for Tunbridge Wells supporters, starved of success, any victory is to be applauded and out of the debris of this season a cup final is now only a couple of games away.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Tonbridge Angels 2 Lowestoft Town 2

Match 78/17/1528 - Saturday, 6th January 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (2) 2 Vidal (pen) 3 Turner 12
Lowestoft Town (1) 2 Hodd 45 Cotton 73
Attendance: 438

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/5,191

Give it Away, a monotonous rap rock song from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Google sourced) blasted out from the media tower as people, some disgruntled, filed away from Longmead Stadium. This was not a song that I was familiar with, or would want to be, but I realised that this was Dave Brown (the stadium announcer) indulging in a little irony. When I later pressed him on social media, he said “it went over most people’s head”, which I take as a complement that it didn’t go over mine.

Giving it away was the immediate cause for disgruntlement as Tonbridge surrendered a two goal lead they had built within the opening 12 minutes. But the threat, if not the reality, is that this season is in danger of petering out to mid-table mediocrity as early as January is the source of much greater consternation to those supporters.

The Angels could not have wished for a better start. The Suffolk-based visitors had barely got the long journey out of their legs when a Jack Parter throw-in was headed on by Dan Thompson into the path of Alex Akrofi who easily got clear of a sleeping Harry Barker to round the Lowestoft goalkeeper, Ben Dudzinski, who brought him down. Xavier Vidal stepped up to successfully convert the spot kick low to his left, with the keeper guessing wrong.

With the confidence of the early goal, Tonbridge played as well as at any time this season, slick passing movements cutting through the Trawlerboys with Akrofi just failing to double the advantage after being sent clear by Joe Turner.

The lead was doubled after 12 minutes when a long punt forward from Dan Bennett left Turner in a one-on-one chase with Daniel Humphries. Turner was too strong for the youngster, took the ball on a couple of paces and slotted past Dudzinski.

After 34 minutes a sickening clash of heads saw Humphries and Parter needing urgent attention with the Lowestoft player looking in serious trouble. Thankfully, after a long delay, Humphries was able to leave the field on his feet but was immediately despatched to hospital; Parter was able to continue with his head heavily bandaged.

The delay seemed to drain the momentum out of Tonbridge and it was no surprise when in the extended period of time-added, a challenge won in midfield saw the ball sent forward to Harvey Hodd who confidently steered the ball into the bottom corner past the advancing Jonny Henly.

Lowestoft could have been level a minute later when a superb move ended with Jake Reed acrobatically firing just over the crossbar.

Lowestoft continued to hold the upper hand into the second half despite chances falling to Akrofi who wildly shot high and wide and another chance headed over.

The Suffolk side’s equaliser after 73 minutes was richly deserved when Reed cushioned a header into the path of Nico Cotton to beat Henly from 12 yards.

The introduction of Nathan Elder stemmed the tide somewhat and the game could have gone either way in the final quarter-hour.

The game marked the debut as new club Chairman for Roger Maddams. Roger is a bit of a musical aficionado, so he will be hoping that the departure music in future games is a bit more uplifting than the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Greenwich Borough 0 Cray Wanderers 0

Match 77/17/1527 - Monday, 1st January 2018 - Bostik South

Greenwich Borough (0) 0
Cray Wanderers (0) 0
Attendance: 165

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 77/5,153

Match Report

It was the day that the humble townsfolk had awaited with eager anticipation for months, the day when the Greatest Show on Earth, The Billy’s Dicky Circus, rolled into town. Roll up, roll up. Come and see the roaring lions; Tamplin, the greatest ringmaster of the modern era and clowns, there will be clowns, plenty of clowns.

But, sadly for the humble townsfolk, it rained and it rained. Despite the best efforts of the Top Man, soon the Big Top was awash. No ringmaster of such standing could be expected to perform in such conditions, the humble townsfolk would have to wait until another day.

So, forewarned is forearmed and I hightailed it up the A21 to Greenwich Borough, a club that had pretentions of their own to be the Greatest Show on, well if not quite Earth, perhaps the South East. These days they ply their trade in the less lavish surroundings of Middle Park Road in Eltham and, before the start of play, sat handily in fourth place whilst their visitors, Cray Wanderers were second setting up what should have been a good game. A few extra people than expected by Greenwich officials obviously made similar detours to mine, so at 2.30 p.m., programmes had sold out.

The division’s leading goalscorer in Michael Power, Shaggy from his Longmead days, led the line for Cray but for the home side there was no Charlie McDonald. Most people would have expected to see goals in the game, but my record at this ground is sparse pickings apart from the play-off game against Corinthian Casuals last season.

Cray started well, had the ball in the net after nine minutes but ruled out for offside and Power had a shot from the edge of the box deflected over. But once Greenwich got a foothold in the game they held the balance for the rest of the half. After 25 minutes, Tom Beere, quite possibly the best player on the pitch, send Jack Barham clear down the right and collected the cross to fire in a shot that was blocked with the rebound falling to Barham who put it fractionally wide.

The second half saw Cray in the ascendancy with Lea Dawson planting a header against a post just past their hour and Power and Dawson failed to force the ball home as chaos reigned in the Greenwich box following a corner.

As nil-nils go, it was half-decent but this was par for the course for me and Middle Park Road.

Meanwhile, back at the Big Top, a late arrival for whom Tamplin’s favourite communications outlet, Twatter, had obviously passed him by, was bemoaning the lack of a show. “Where are the clowns, there ought to be clowns”, he lamented. Well, maybe next year.