Saturday, 24 February 2018

Tonbridge Angels 2 Metropolitan Police 0

Match 96/17/1546 - Thursday, 24th February 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (1) 2 Turner 27 Smith 51
Metropolitan Police (0) 0
Attendance: 380

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/6,789

The last week has been disturbing as a Tonbridge Angels supporter. The first team budget was cut following the away win at Merstham with Tom Jelley, Ryan Worrall and Dan Thompson leaving the club. We will all speculate on the whys and wherefores of the decision but with the club marooned in mid-table, it is surely prudent to write this season off and set aside those saved wages for another day.

But, out of the darkness, came encouragement. A month ago Tonbridge produced a truly awful performance at Metropolitan Police that brought condemnation and no shortage of calls for heads to roll. Today, it was the turn their visitors to look as equally ineffective.

For the first time this season three wins have been recorded on the spin; Liam Smith scored his first senior goal and the game was finished with five 18-year-olds on the pitch. The sun was shining once more (but it was bloody cold!)

The opening 10 minutes did not reflect the brightness of the sun. The Met spurned a couple of chances and Craig Stone was forced from the pitch after just six minutes to be replaced by Callum Adonis-Taylor.

Livewire Alex Akrofi, who ran the Plod ragged all afternoon had a chance on the quarter-hour before a wonderful turn and delivery sent Joe Turner clear to slide the ball past Alex Kozakis.

The loss of Stone brought about an extensive shuffle of positions in the Angels’ back line but they restricted Jonny Henly to little more than fielding practice.

Tonbridge went two-up after six second half minutes when a Turner corner found Smith at the back post to direct a header into the net. Cue, the celebrations, none more so than from his Mum, Sandra, stood next me! Photo: David Couldridge.

As play-off contenders, the Police were quite woeful and just a couple of routine saves in the final moments warmed Henly’s hands. It does make you wonder, what might have been, but we are where we are for a reason. Inconsistency.

The season is safe, it would be nice to think that with that relaxation, Tonbridge can entertain through the back end of season and win back the hearts of a few disenchanted supporters. This was a good start.

Picture courtesy of

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Halls Athletic 0 Sutton Athletic Res 0

Match 95/17/1545 - Wednesday, 21st February 2018 - Hospitals Charity Cup SF

Halls Athletic (0) 0
Sutton Athletic Reserves (0) 0
Attendance: 86
Sutton Athletic Reserves won 5-4 on penalties

Entrance: Free
Programme: £1
Mileage: 54/6,751
New Ground: 323

This visit to Princes Park’s Community 4G pitch was probably as obscure as I’m going to get this season.

I had no idea that any team used the pitch as their home ground within the pyramid. But Halls Athletic are that side, playing in Kent County League One West.

Tony Incenzo, TalkSPORT reporter and renowned groundhopper promoted the game through his twitter account and this exposure brought a very decent attendance of 78 through the free gate.

It has to be said that this Hospitals Charity Cup Semi-Final was not of the greatest quality but it wasn’t without incident. The kick-off time was listed as 20:05 and I was guessing this was because, as a community facility, the pitch had been booked from 20:00. But the referee got the game underway nearly 10 minutes early as rumours were that the lights were on a timer to turn off at 22:00.

Halls’ Lewis Tristram broke through after 12 minutes but shot wide and David Stevens turned a shot wide at the far post which proved to be his last action as he was carried from the field.

The referee compounded the thoughts regarding the floodlight timer as he reduced the half-time break to 10 minutes but, after 62 minutes and at 21:10, the stadium was plunged into darkness as the floodlights went out.

A 10 minute delay ensued while somebody got the lights put back on again and given the evening was a cold one it was necessary for the players to group jog to keep warm.

The game, unfortunately, had 0-0 written all over it but the penalty shoot-out could have been avoided had Halls’ Russell Allen not blasted over after being set up by Lewis Tristram.

The home side eventually paid the price for this wastefulness when they had two penalties saved and Sutton Athletic progressed to the Final when Joe Shaw converted.

The ground had a functional 65-seater Atcost stand and all credit to Halls Athletic for producing a programme.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Ebbsfleet United 2 Woking 1

Match 94/17/1544 - Tuesday, 20th February 2018 - National League

Ebbsfleet United (1) 2 Kedwell 42 (pen) 49
Woking (0) 1 Carter 63
Attendance: 1,146

Entrance: £11 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 54/6,697

Match Report

It is two years since I last set foot into Stonebridge Road and in that time much has changed. They now ply their trade in the National League and, on this view, the standard is appreciably higher.

On that last visit the bulldozers were in position to start the demolition of the Liam Daish stand. At the time, I wrote: “I'm sure something lovely will rise from the rubble, but I've always kind of liked it as it was.” A new, all-seater has emerged from the rubble. Something lovely? Of that I’m not so sure. It is functional but lacking in character as is said for most new builds, but whilst I’m no architect, there does seem to be a waste of space. There are only six rows of seats that accommodates just over a 1,000 spectators but the high wall at the back suggests that a couple more rows could have been added. I sat in the fifth row back where the rain managed to sweep below the roof. Question of wind direction, etc., maybe.

What wasn’t in question though was the quality of the match in which Ebbsfleet built a deserved two goal lead but found themselves hanging on in the closing moments.

The Fleet might have got their noses in front early when a sixth minute shot from 25 yards by Andy Drury struck the right hand post and two minutes later, new signing Cory Whitely dragged a shot wide.

A couple of meaty challenges saw bookings for Fleet’s Dean Rance and Woking’s Chez Isaac before Whitely struck the post a second time.

Woking were not without their own threat and, after 27 minutes, Josh Staunton also hit the post with the rebound scrambled to safety.

Ebbsfleet’s goalkeeper, Nathan Ashmore, produced a fine reaction save to deny Reece Grego-Cox before the home side broke the deadlock a couple of minutes before the break.

Sam Nagri was brought down by a clumsy challenge just inside the box and Danny Kedwell stepped up to confidently despatch the spot kick.

Just four minutes in the second period saw Kedwell and his side double their tally. Kedwell struck from the edge of the box with his shot taking a massive deflection that left the Woking keeper, Nathan Baxter wrong-footed as the ball rolled past him.

Woking hit back just past the hour when a cross from the left found an unmarked Charlie Carter to climb high and plant a header into the corner of the net.

Ebbsfleet showed great professionalism to see out the final half-hour without too much alarm bar a header from Fabio Saraiva that drifted just wide of a post.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Gillingham 0 Walsall 0

Match 93/17/1543 - Saturday, 17th February 2018 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Walsall (0) 0
Attendance: 4,682

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/6,643

A goalless draw can be entertaining and absorbing, sadly this was not the case with this particular encounter. Walsall came with a game plan that did not involve a lot of ambition and managed to stretch Tomas Holy just the once, a 30 yard shot from George Dobson just past the half-hour mark, that the goalkeeper pushed away.

Gillingham will reflect on missed chances with Tom Eaves having a couple of headers, one of which struck the top of the bar, and a hooked shot from close range that brushed the outside of a post. Josh Parker cleared the bar with a second half header; they were all opportunities that should have brought a winning goal.

What can we say we have learnt from the afternoon's exercise? Steve Lovell maintains that the first objective is 50-plus points and safety; without a shadow of doubt this will be attained. His side have far too much resolve to get dragged into a relegation battle.

Indeed, with six points the gap to a play-off place, the optimist has a right their hopes. But, in truth, the home form continues to fail to live up to the impressive results attained on the road and this will probably ensure that their mid-table position will be where they finish. But, that is no mean feat given Lovell's starting point.

Off the field, we also learnt that good form does not alone bring in the punters. The 7,500 attendances of the last two games was quickly reduced to 4,500 once said punters were asked to pay the full price. The missing people have shown a desire to watch the club, they just do not want to pay through the nose. Realistic season ticket and matchday prices are going to be needed next season if the club is not going to drop below the 4,000 threshold.

Two defeats in 17 games should be encouragement enough, sadly games like this one does very little to entice people back.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Chatham Town 2 Lordswood 2

Match 92/17/1542 - Tuesday, 13th February 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup QF

Chatham Town (1) 2 Osibodu 19 Parker 72
Lordswood (0) 2 Webb 84 Mahon 90+2
After Extra Time. Lordswood won 4-1 on penalties
Attendance: 120

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/6,585

ElChavvico, the wonderfully self-deprecating title given to this local derby, turned into an ElClassico sting on those of us that had endured the freezing extra time at Erith Town a week ago. Chatham, two goals to the good going into the final 10 minutes, managed to self-destruct and then make a complete pig’s ear of the penalty shoot-out.

Lordswood had an early opportunity, a header from Jordan Wells, before Chatham took the lead after 19 minutes when a cross from Ralique Lawrence teed up a tap-in at the far post for Timi Osubodu.

Lawrence was proving a handful for the Lordswood defence and his fine effort was cleared from the line at the right hand post.

Lordswood hadn’t really offered too much before they had a goal from Jack Mahon disallowed, somewhat controversially, for offside. It wasn’t the first time in the match that the referee had had a moment and it certainly was not the last. His first decision, prior to kick-off, to allow the colour clashing shirts of red/black and orange/black to go ahead was as poor as any he made on the pitch.

The visitors had the ball in the net again after 11 minutes of the second half but, much to the annoyance of the Lords skipper, Gary Cook who talked himself into the book with some colourful language it was one more disallowed.

Chatham put some breathing space between them and their visitors after 72 minutes when Osubodu crossed for Freddie Parker to side-foot home from around 12 yards. As the feet were starting to get their now customary numbness, the goal was a welcome reiief from the prospect of extra time.

But, with seven minutes remaining, the Lords found a way back into the game when a header was only parried by Chats goalkeeper, Ryan Nicholls and, from the melee that ensued, the ball was bundled home by Bradley Webb.

As Chatham made a mess of time-wasting in the corner, the ball was launched downfield for Nicholls to rush from his goal on a fruitless chase as Mahon lobbed the ball over his head and into the unguarded net to frustrate both home supporters and neutrals alike.

To add to the frustration extra time was a non-event that really begs the question why not go straight to penalties? Whilst Lordswood were perfect from the spot, Ryan Chandler saved from Parker and Michael Hagan blasted his wide leaving George Blake to nail to tie.

Tunbridge Wells’ tie with Cray Valley was postponed and has been rearranged for next Tuesday, what price extra time?

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Gillingham 1 Peterborough United 1

Match 91/17/1541 - Saturday, 10th February 2018 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Ehmer 90+3
Peterborough United (0) 1 Lloyd 67
Attendance: 7,154

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/6,553

The curse of Manager of the Month, Big Crowd Syndrome or just that any unbeaten run has to come to an end, whatever it was, defeat was staring Gillingham in the face. But, a loose clearance saw central defender Max Ehmer race clear and finish with the aplomb of an accomplished striker. Ehmer's celebratory run to the corner of the Rainham End brought a little mayhem, some people were on the pitch, this was no World Cup win but it is some while since a draw has been greeted so rapturously at Priestfield. What it told me was that the never-say-die attitude on the pitch has duplicated itself on the terraces and the playing staff and its supporters are at one even if there remains a divide with the man at the top.

In the cold light of day, I think it will be considered a point that Gillingham just about deserved although for much of the game Peterborough looked the more accomplished of the two sides.

Arguments will rage as to whether the ball crossed the line when Josh Parker followed up his initial effort but the much-maligned linesman ruled that Jonathan Bond had smothered the ball on the line. From my seat in the Gordon Road Stand, I could not tell, but some of those around me seem to have x-ray eyes that can see through a throng of bodies and know conclusively that it was a goal. If only ...

After a first half in which the visitors held sway but didn't really threaten Tomas Holy's goal, the game came to life in the second period. Peterborough made the breakthrough after 67 minutes when a cross from the right was flicked on at the near post to the impressive Danny Lloyd who swept the ball home from close range.

But as I've made the point on this blog several times, Steve Lovell's team may be lacking in quality but not in heart and it is this steeliness that has taken them into the supporter's hearts.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Erith Town 2 Crowborough Athletic 6

Match 90/17/1540 - Wednesday, 7th February 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup QF

Erith Town (2) 2 Warden 3 Milton 33
Crowborough Athletic (1) 6 Treleaven 26,79 Phipp 97,115 Attwood 105,110
After extra time, score at 90 minutes: 2-2
Attendance: 62

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 70/6,497

The three pairs of socks that I had donned had long since given up being an effective form of defence against Jack Frost when Ross Treleaven’s shot from 12 yards consigned 62 people to a further toes-numbing half-hour. Young Sidney Warden might have made himself a hero to those longing for the warmth of the car heater when he ran clear three minutes into added time but he agonisingly pulled his shot wide and extra time was confirmed.

At kick-off time, it felt a degree or two warmer than the previous evening at Corinthian and the hosts, Erith Town were quick out of the blocks when Osman Proni crossed for Warden to tap-in after three minutes.

Erith made a good fist of the first period against their high-flying visitors from East Sussex but Crowborough gained parity in the game after 25 minutes when a free kick from the left hand edge of the box by Treleaven took a heavy deflection to wrong foot the goalkeeper, Adam Molloy.

The ever-verbal Dan Ellis made a fine save to deny Erith's Jim Day before Ollie Milton took a cross from the right to convert from close range to regain the lead for the home side. Milton also spurned a great chance just before the break to double their advantage.

Crowborough emerged from the dressing room a far more committed side and it appeared inevitable that an equaliser would not be too long coming. But as the clock ticked down and chances slipped away, Henry Muggeridge headed wide much to Ellis’ disgust who made his feelings felt from the length of the pitch asking the Crows captain if he had shut his eyes. Molloy saved low to deny Trevor McCreadie and Treleaven fired straight at the keeper.

It was a good game being played out in front of us but the temperature had really dipped when Treleaven levelled the score.

Crowborough finally had their host's measure in extra time and once they had got their noses in front in the 97th minute with a carefully placed shot from the edge of the box by substitute Tom Phipp they swept Erith aside.

On the cusp of the break and five minutes into the second period Zac Attwood scored a pair of goals to put the Crows three in front. That advantage encouraged me to safely miss the last few minutes and as I took a fairly slow walk towards the exit, Phipp fired in a shot at the far post to make it six to confirm my retreat to the relative warmth of the car.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Corinthian U18 1 Tunbridge Wells U18 0

Match 89/17/1539 - Tuesday, 6th February 2018 - Bostik Youth

Corinthian U18 (1) 1 Mabb 7
Tunbridge Wells U18 (0) 0
Attendance: 26

Entrance: £1.50
Programme: Free
Mileage: 50/6,427

On an absolutely freezing evening, the referee took the decision to start the game 15 minutes early. I arrived in reasonable time for the original kick-off time but eight minutes after the new start time. The only goal of the match was scored after seven, sometimes you almost have to question whether you are of sound mind?

I understand that the goal was a far post header from Leo Mabb.

Tunbridge Wells made a full contribution to the game, which on a temperature-friendly evening would have been a decent watch. Pip Preston (if the team sheet was to be believed) was a constant threat fired straight at Corinthian goalkeeper, Harry Earls, following a loose clearance and then picked up a booking as the referee started to make stranger decisions than his kick off time choice. Added to my indignation of the referee, I've never seen one that needed to pull up his socks every couple of minutes, borrow a tie-up ref!

Into the second half and Earls made a fine save clawing the ball out of the top corner. Preston took on several defenders but screwed his shot wide.

Corinthian successfully saw the game out under heavy pressure from the Wells who would have seen the defeat as an injustice whilst the real injustice in my eyes was my missing eight minutes and the single goal.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Needham Market 4 Tonbridge Angels 2

Match 88/17/1538 - Saturday, 3rd February 2018 - Bostik Premier

Needham Market (2) 4 Ingram 8, Sands 23, Mills 75,78
Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Bantick 85, Turner 87
Attendance: 233

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 220/6,377

If I was based in Suffolk, I would be a Needham Market supporter as I rate it as the friendliest place in the Isthmian Premier. From the man on the gate through to the bubbly tea ladies to supporters in the bar there is a warmth that is the ethos of non league football. Sadly the charitable side on the pitch came only from the visitors as individual mistakes consigned them to a fourth defeat in five games.

Needham Market opened the scoring after eight minutes when Luke Ingram met a corner from the right with an unchallenged header that crept past Jonny Henly at his near post. Tonbridge responded and in a five minute spell directly after the goal they created, but failed to convert, five chances. Craig Stone planted a header at Market goalkeeper, Danny Gay who then saved low to his left to deny Joe Turner within a minute. Gay then made a brilliant save to push a heavily deflected shot from Sam Bantick over the bar. From the resultant corner, Sonny Miles saw his header cleared from the line by Callum Sturgess and, seconds later, Bantick had another effort cleared from the line. It was quite unbelievable that in such a short space of time, Tonbridge had failed to equalise.

Gay saved from Alex Akrofi before a catastrophic error from Stone saw a misplaced pass find Adam Mills who sent John Sands through to convert past Henly.

Once again Tonbridge responded positively but without the ruthlessness required in front of goal. Tashi-Jay Kwayie heading over on a couple of occasions.

After five minutes of the second half, Turner had a shot from the edge of the box brilliantly pushed onto the right hand post by Gay and following a corner headed on Miles, Bantick lobbed a shot onto the top of the bar. Kwayie fired narrowly over with his final contribution before being replaced by Nathan Elder just past the hour mark.

The game was all but put beyond the Angels’ reach with 15 minutes remaining when a breakdown in communication between Henly and Stone allowed Mills to walk the ball into an empty goal.

Three minutes later it was four. An overhit free kick beyond the far post found Mills whose side-footed volley went back across the face to nestle in the far corner. Was it an intended cross? Only the goalscorer knows and he is not going to care.

Still Tonbridge made chances, Bantick managed to find the woodwork again and Gay denied him with his feet once more. Consolation came with five minutes remaining when substitute Dan Thompson headed on for Bantick to volley home and the scoreline gained some semblance of respectability when Turner’s shot from the edge of the box went through Gay, for the Market goalkeeper’s only mistake of the game.

For those not there, this is just another defeat and at 4-0 nobody was going to convince those supporters of anything different. But from my notes, 17 attempts on goal have been made; the woodwork struck three times and a goalkeeper has been found at the top of his game. Just sometimes, the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.

Glum and Glummer. Picture by Chris Coolbear