Thursday, 31 May 2018

Ellan Vannin 4 Cascadia 1

Match 140/17/1590 - Thursday, 31st May 2018 - CONIFA World Cup

Ellan Vannin (2) 4 Whitley 15 Jones 41 Caine 62 McVey 70
Cascadia (1) 1 Doughty 18
Estimated attendance: 300
Played at Sutton United

Admission: £6 Senior
Tournament Programme: £5
Mileage: 106/8,927

The CONIFA World Cup brings together not necessarily countries but regions within countries with flamboyant names that are impossible to pronounce let alone spell and leaving one to reach for the atlas (or Wikipedia) to find their whereabouts.

My attention was immediately drawn to the competition with the participation of Ellan Vannin, the Manx-Gaelic name for the Isle of Man. Despite my link to the Island being tenuous, my Dad lived at Selby Glen during his childhood, visits have left me with a great deal of affection for the place.

A Thursday midday kick-off was hardly an attractive proposition for the working football supporter, so I would say that the estimated crowd of around 300 was healthy. There were small clutches of support for both sides, a fantastic effort especially for those from Cascadia, a region from the West coast of America, representing the states of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

I did not know what to expect in terms of standard, by the finish of a highly entertaining game, I would say that the level was around that of Bostik South, although three of the goals would have graced any level.

Cascadia opened the game on the front foot and almost took a second minute lead when an effort from Max Oldham was deflected goalwards taking a goal line clearance to retrieve the situation.

Ellan Vallin took the lead, against the run of play, when a magnificent strike from Stephen Whitley found the top corner from around 25 yards.

The Island’s joy was short lived however and two minutes later a fine run and cross from Calum Ferguson set-up a side foot tap in at the far post for Josh Doughty.

Cascadia, playing in their first Conifa World Cup, looked the more likely of the sides during the majority of the first half including Oldham bringing a save out of Dean Kearnes, who had had some nervous moments previously.

However, it was Ellan Vallin who got their noses in front before the break when a surging run down the left from Sean Doyle set up a close range finish for Frank Jones.

If Cascadia went into the break feeling a little hard-done-by, they could not deny the dominance of Ellan Vannin in the second period that was decorated with two goals of real quality.

Just past the hour, Sam Caine set out on a run from inside his own half that weaved its way from the right before skipping a couple of final challenges that left him one-on-one with the goalkeeper before despatching his shot from around the penalty spot.

After 70 minutes, Ellan Vannin put the game to bed when a free kick from 25 yards from Jack McVey was curled into the top corner.

Cascadia had a goal ruled out for offside and a header from Oldham sailed over following a corner as they sought a second consolation goal.

But it was deservedly the Isle of Man side that take the points into their next game on Saturday against Tamil Eelam, from Sri Lanka at Carshalton before finishing the group stage against Barawa, the Somalian hosts of the competition, at Haringey on Sunday. Three group games in four days, can you imagine our pampered superstars coping with that schedule in Russia.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Brackley Town 1 Bromley 1

Match 139/17/1589 - Sunday, 20th May 2018 - FA Trophy Final

Brackley Town (0) 1 Johnson (o.g.) 90+5
Bromley (0) 1 Bugiel 19
Combined attendance: 31,430
After Extra Time (1-1 at 90 minutes)
Brackley Town won 5-4 on penalties
Played at Wembley Stadium

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: £5
Mileage: 100/8,821

One again allowing timmy tabby to tell the tale:

After a ninety minute social get together with various reprobates, some whose paths had not crossed for all of twenty four hours and those who we had been out of contact with for a couple of years, it was time for Episode Two. With the first match, the aim was to see a decent contest, the second match I had a definite preference for Brackley, slightly because they were the underdogs on this occasion but I do like the town having visited at least twenty times since the first trip in September 1990 (FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round match against the now sadly departed Buckingham Town - A 1-1 draw for anyone that is remotely interested). Appreciate that they have a wealthy benefactor but Kevin Wilkin has quietly put together a stable team which has had an excellent season and to coin a much abused footballing cliche 'Did not know when it was beaten'. Plus excellent support, I am sure that the 6,500 supporters did not all come from Brackley itself as that would have been half the population of the town but I am sure that many of the surrounding villages were even quieter than what they normally are on a Sunday.

Quiet opening minutes with both teams both being overly cautious, but a penetrating run from Mekki and a precision pass inside allowed Bugiel to angle past Lewis to give Bromley the lead. A lead that could have been doubled but Lewis just managed to block and hold onto a Porter half volley. Little seen from Brackley going forward apart from a the type of tempting crosses across the face of the goal from Williams of the sort that the afternoon specialised in. At half time with Bromley in the ascendancy the fear was that Brackley could end up losing three finals in eleven days.

Much improved from Brackley in the second period as they created far more opportunities, however it was a question of them simply not being able to level. There was the usual array of timely blocks and crucial saves from Gregory. A curling effort from Arnson curled the wrong side of the post, the same player then struck the base of the post after the Bromley defence failed to clear a corner and to conclude what was a frantic period, Williams struck a shot against Gregory, the rebound falling straight back to the former but the resultant shot spectacularly cleared off the line. The best opportunity for Brackley though was when Arnson was set up by Lowe for what looked like that equaliser moment but the shot was sent inextricably high over the bar in what looked like being the occasion when you thought that it does not matter how hard they tried, Brackley were simply not going to be in a position to level.

The Bromley defence regained it's structure and as the minutes ticked down and possession was being directed into the corners there appeared to be only one outcome. Hanlan's failure to beat Gregory was not seen as a crucial miss. However, in one of those moments that will (hopefully) be embossed into Wembley folklore, we had a 95th minute Brackley leveller with Lowe's drive rebounding off the post, initially it looked as if Dean had forced the rebound over the line but clear that the leveller was an oggie as the ball rebounded off of Johnson's toe and over the line.

Extra time ensued and although Bromley started well with Hanlan's drive being kept out by Lewis' feet, Brackley were the more enterprising and determined but in the final third they lacked the required attacking prowess apart from the nth tantalising cross across the face that simply required a touch this time by Williams.

And so to the dreaded penalties. where Bromley gained the advantage as Gregory flew suspiciously quickly off his line to block Byrne's effort. Bromley managed to convert their quota leaving Bugiel to take the penalty which would have won the Trophy, but Bugiel's posture was all wrong as he sent his spot kick high over the bar. This led to Arnson converting to level at 4-4. Holland striking the post for Bromley and in turn Brown who in complete contrast to Bugiel calmly converted to turn around what had appeared to be a lost penalty competition cause and to ensure that this seasons Trophy Meanderings resulted in a win that was acclaimed in these parts. A degree of sympathy for the Bromley support which was numerous and no doubt vexed at going so close to their own moment of glory.

So Totsiens for 17-18 (not 18-19 as my erstwhile post proof reader pointed out as incorrectly inscribed in a previous posting) and a few weeks break in the company of a can of Pledge will now ensue. Hopefully, be back from 21st July on the proviso that there is something remotely resembling a competitive match.

Stockton 0 Thatcham Town 1

Match 138/17/1588 - Sunday, 20th May 2018 - FA Vase Final

Stockton (0) 0
Thatcham Town (0) 1 Cooper-Clark 24 (pen)
Combined attendance: 31,430
Played at Wembley Stadium

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: £5
Mileage: 100/8,821

Match Report

Non-league Finals Day is my day to put away the notebook and enjoy the day, this was accomplished by virtue of two very good games of football and not by the shambolic catering of Wembley Stadium and the awkwardness of officials on the concourse. If you are going to open so few outlets at least have the good grace to let people move around.

The benefit of a group purchase bought a senior citizen ticket for a fiver constituting the bargain of the season, so anything in terms of decent games is a bonus.

As said, my day off, so I'll let timmy_tabby from the Non-League Matters forum tell the story:

Leaving aside the efficacy of whether it is a good idea or not to let loose Jeff Brazier on unsuspecting mangers, lets digress to what was the best Finals Day in terms of contests seen thus far. Wembley is Wembley and I left the purchasing of over priced Fish and Chips and EPA to others and in a parallel universe, you wish that at the end of the first match that the doors will be flung open so that you can partake in the delights of the eateries of Wembley Retail Park, however you know that is never going to transpire...

The purpose of the day was to conclude the season with two worthwhile games and there was little doubt that those that were of a neutral persuasion and stayed for both matches were well rewarded. Reasonable seats in Club Wembley Block 203, but as each year go's past, the players look more and like ants running around and it is a culture shock that when all the previous matches seen this season were in a non-league environment a day at Wembley is a real culture shock.

In order of appearance, naturally start with Stockton v Thatcham, which was a good opener, with the latter deserving their win and for only the second time in nine seasons the Vase is not en route to Northern League territory. Thatcham were the more organised, moving well off the ball and had a good balance between the pace and trickery of Elliott on the left and the robustness in defence of Jarra and Melledew (who I must have seen play for Thatcham initially at least a decade ago). As stated Elliott was a real irritant to the Stockton defence, an early angled drive flew past the far post and a similar low cross of an enticing nature was perfectly placed but lacked a toe to steer the ball over the line.

It was a further Elliott cross which led to the Stockton defence failing to clear and a rash challenge from Ward took Brown's legs from under him leading to an obvious penalty award. The spot kick taken by the prolific Cooper-Clark was well struck but had enough pace to take it over the line even though Arthur in the Stockton goal managed to get a 'firm hand' to. Cooper-Clark nearly doubled the advantage just before half time with a perfectly struck half volley after his free kick rebounded back to him. Arthur did well to block to ensure that the first half lead for Thatcham did not increase.

Quick reaction from Stockton in the second half with the closest they came to a leveller. Stockton (presumably from Stockton on Tees) was in plenty of space as the Thatcham defence was for what was the only occasion invisible. His angled drive beat Rackley but Angell stuck out a leg to deflect behind.

One of the mysteries of the contest was as to why the net only bulged on one occasion. Thatcham had an excellent spell early in the second half but were unable to convert with Elliott yet again tormenting down the left, tempting low cross for James who pretentiously tried to back heel the cross in but obtained minimal connection allowing Arthur to gather. Soon after James had an even better opportunity, again supplied by Elliott but trying to break the net rather than calmly side foot, he ended up sending his close range shot off the underside of the bar and it was adjudged that the ball had not crossed the line.

Towards the end there was a succession of corners for Stockton and Jarra had to react quickly to clear off the line from D Mulligan. However, with the Stockton entourage including Arthur in the Thatcham penalty area they were badly caught on the break as Cook speeded towards the gaping net, perhaps he could have taken the ball in further, but his final effort did not quite have the pace to take it over the line and Garbutt sliding back managed to curl a toe around to ensure that the margin of Thatcham's victory remained at one.

Overall, Thatcham just about deserved their win, with a performance that suggests that providing that they keep the current personnel in place that they will be formidable at Level 4 next season. However, the curious aspect of an exciting contest only yielding a low scoring contest was replicated later in the afternoon.

Tonbridge Angels Ladies 3 Thamesview Ladies 1

Match 137/17/1587 - Thursday, 17th May 2018 - SECWL Kent Divisional Cup Final

Tonbridge Angels Ladies (1) 3 Akehurst 7,108 Janes 120+3
Thamesview Ladies (0) 1 Stilwell 86
Attendance: 305
After extra time, score at 90 minutes: 1-1
Played at Maidstone United FC

Admission: £3 Senior
Programme: £2 donation
Mileage: 20/8,721

There were moments in extra time when the unforgiving 3G surface at Maidstone’s Gallagher Stadium resembled a scene from the film Platoon as players from both sides fell to the ground, victims of the excruciating pain brought on by cramp. Tonbridge’s Alex Weston, who had suffered her own bout, aided friend and foe alike as the on-field physio. But, ultimately, it was how the cup was won. It took determination and a will-to-win attitude for the Angels to overcome their division’s champion side, Thamesview.

As has been Thamesview’s lot this season, despite their success, they came into the game with just one substitute and when they lost a player in the second half they had no more cards to play whilst the Tonbridge management were able to use the rolling substitutions to good effect.

The Angels were given a confidence boost with the opening goal after seven minutes. Becky Janes earned a foul after being the meat in a sandwich between two Thamesview defenders. Kelly Moran lofted the free kick to the far post where Megan Akehurst lost her marker to head home.

Thamesview responded with Tonbridge goalkeeper, Sam Wright plunging bravely at the feet of Lydia Wills and, after 13 minutes, saving low to her right to deny Kylie Yull.

Yull was looking a significant threat but pulled a shot wide whilst the division’s player of the season, Shannon Redhouse took advantage of a loose touch from Akehurst but fired wide. Redhouse had the odd opportunity but overall was supremely patrolled by Angels’ skipper Sharon Lyons.

Flo Anastasiou was lucky to be dealt with leniently when she committed a hand ball as Redhouse threatened to get behind the Tonbridge rearguard. The resultant free kick was delivered to the far post where the header from Wills was directed straight at the goalkeeper.

A good chance opened up for Janes just prior to the break but she took her shot a shade too early and Bronwyn Allen was able save with relative comfort.

The first real chances of the second period fell to Thamesview just past the hour mark when Rebecca Merritt shot narrowly past the far post and Redhouse wastefully fired wide and high when clear down the right hand side of the box.

Thamesview were being asked to throw caution to the wind and a shot from just outside of the box from Hannah Lorton was tipped over the bar by Wright, who was ultimately awarded player of the match for her fine display between the sticks (although personally, my award went to Lyons, who manager Dan Couldridge later described as the glue that holds everything together).

With just four minutes remaining, Tonbridge hearts were broken when a lofted ball into the area from Merritt found a hesitation between defender and goalkeeper that allowed Lucy Stillwell to get in between and steer the ball into an empty net to condemn the tired legs of both teams to an extra 30 minutes.

One little incidence of little note but telling in its commitment was a full throttle chase down the line between Janes and Thamesview’s Sian Cheedy, neither willing to give up a lost cause, a testament to both team’s fitness levels.

Extra-time though certainly took its toll as both sides struggled to gain momentum with fallen bodies strewn here, there and everywhere.

Three minutes into the second period, Akehurst (who had had a period of time substituted) chased down a long ball forward from Janes and as Cheedy tried to protect the ball for her goalkeeper to collect, under pressure, she only managed to touch it past her colleague for Akehurst to run the ball into the empty net.

With four minutes remaining, Tonbridge were offered the opportunity to put the game to bed when Akehurst was bundled over for a penalty. Janes’ shot came back off the cross bar and illegally took a second touch.

Janes’ despair was only to last until time-added when she latched onto a loose ball, created when the ball hit the face of Akehurst, to fire into the roof of the net from the right hand angle of the six yard box to seal a famous triumph that was greeted at the final whistle with tired limbs rejuvenated by the adrenaline of a first piece of silverware for the club.

All the good photographs are courtesy of David Couldridge, the blurry ones are not!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Ashford 4 Tonbridge Invicta 4

Match 136/17/1586 - Tuesday, 15th May 2018 - Les Leckie Cup Final

Ashford (2) 4 Jones 34,70 Forster 35,49
Tonbridge Invicta (2) 4 Ramsell 6 Knight 21 Hogben 85 Moore 90+5
Attendance: 161
Tonbridge Invicta won 4-2 on penalties
After extra time, score at 90 minutes: 4-4
Played at Sevenoaks Town FC

Admission: £3 Senior
Programme: Included
Mileage: 46/8,701

Match Report

Sometimes, when you least expect it, a great game of football unfolds in front of you. The roller-coaster that is trotted out all too regularly could not have rang any truer. Tonbridge Invicta were 2-0 up, 4-2 down and took the game into extra time with an equaliser just 15 seconds from the end before extra time failed to produce a winner and the penalty shoot-out ensued.

Tonbridge Invicta looked to be cruising after opening the scoring after six minutes when Kane Ramsell caught Ashford goalkeeper, James Atkins, off his line and from around 35 yards produced an inch perfect shot over his head.

Invicta doubled their advantage after 21 minutes when a bad mistake from Bryan Pearce who was caught in possession by Ramsell who crossed for James Knight to score.

When Tonbridge’s Ramsell curled a shot against the bar after 30 minutes, Ashford had barely got themselves into first gear, but four minutes later, it was as if somebody had finally flicked the switch.

Ashford’s Josh Jones picked off a woeful clearance from Invicta’s goalkeeper Sam Jenner to weave his way through three defenders before firing home.

Within a minute Ashford were level. Jones got to the bye-line to cut the ball back to Matt Forster to score from close range.

At this level you quite often spot a player whose ability defies their physical appearance. Ashford’s Stephen Cowell might be a few pounds overweight but he could pick a pass and his 30 yard pass into the path of Forster allowed the striker to shoot into the bottom corner for a 49th minute 3-2 lead.

Ashford took control of the game and could have gone further ahead just past the hour when full back Ben Hunt’s double effort firstly was blocked by Jenner with the rebound coming back off the bar.

The game looked sealed after 70 minutes when Jones was allowed acres of space to fire into the bottom corner.

A lifeline was handed to Invicta five minutes from time when a free kick was headed home by Ollie Hogben from 12 yards.

With caution being thrown to the wind, Atkins did well to touch over a strike from Invicta substitute Josh Marshall.

It looked like the sands of time had run its course when a cross from the right wasn’t collected by the goalkeeper which the ball running loose, the first attempt was blocked but the rebound fell to Jack Moore to stab it home with just 15 seconds remaining.

Both sides went for the kill in extra time which was a credit to Step Seven players whose fitness levels were remarkable but neither side was able to find a winner.

Invicta’s Jenner saved low to his right the first penalty of the shoot-out before the fifth penalty, with the score at 2-1 to Invicta he saved again. Although, Ashford’s goalkeeper brought the scoreline to 3-2, he was unlucky with the winning spot kick from Kyle Walker as he saved but the ball spun from his grasp to cross the line and start the celebration for Tonbridge Invicta.

Picture: Lee Chambers

Monday, 14 May 2018

Tunbridge Wells U21 2 Chatham Reserves 4

Match 135/17/1585 - Monday, 14th May 2018 - Suburban League South

Tunbridge Wells U21 (1) 2 Forrester 30 Alex Carey 48 (pen)
Chatham Reserves (1) 4 Carver 45+1,54 Collins 74 Stace 89
Headcount: 42

Admission: £1
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/8,655

This was a third visit to Culverden Stadium in six days for Tunbridge Wells Under-21s. All three games have ended in defeat which may have accounted for the substitutes using us as their half-time target practice!

The prize on offer for the evening was elevation of one place in the division, should Tunbridge Wells win they would leapfrog their visitors Chatham Town into fifth position but should the Chats win they would in turn leapfrog Dorking Wanderers into a respectable fourth place finish.

The early stages was very much one-way traffic in favour of the hosts with Bayley Colbran smacking a shot against the post and, a minute later, forcing the Chatham goalkeeper to palm the ball over the bar. So it came as no surprise when the Wells went in front after 29 minutes. Colbran’s shot came back off the bar for Harry Forster to tuck in the rebound.

The set back triggered the Chats into action with chances for Warren Carver, who headed over and Jake Collins whose shot was saved on the line by Callum Hampson with claims that the ball had crossed the line.

Colbran had a shot cleared from the line but the visitors equaliser in first half stoppage time had been a long time coming. A fine run from the right wing and cross set up a tap-in for Carver.

A ridiculous push in the back from the Chats centre half on the lively Harry Osbourne resulted in a penalty from which Alex Carey converted to give the Wells a 48th minute 2-1 advantage.

That advantage did not last as, six minutes later, a defensive slip allowed Carver the opportunity that Hampson was only able to help the ball in.

Chatham took control of the game and went in front for the first time after 74 minutes when Collins shot into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

The Wells rallied but could not find a way through and the Chats wrapped up the game when Sam Stace scored.

All three of these Suburban League games have been watchable in their own way and it is a shame that as a Saturday league most supporters are watching their first teams leaving some talented youngsters to perform for the proverbial two men and a dog on a weekly basis.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Tunbridge Wells U21 1 Molesey Reserves 4

Match 134/17/1584 - Saturday, 12th May 2018 - Suburban League South

Tunbridge Wells U21 (1) 1 Coleman 19
Molesey Reserves (2) 4 Majekodunmi 1 Nelson 24,80 Nwaogwugwn 72
Headcount: 85

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/8,619

As I go about the business of squeezing the pips out of season 2017/18, the Suburban League and its inability to get games played through the harsh winter has given those of us looking for the extension places to go. This will be the second of three consecutive Tunbridge Wells' Suburban League games as they wind up their season on Monday with another home game against Chatham.

It is a shame that the Suburban League does not carry huge amount of midweek fixtures leaving these season's-end oddments to catch up with how good or bad these respective teams might be.

Molesey, who have enjoyed a decent season finishing third in the table, were ahead in the very first minute when a shot from Ayomide Majekodunmi took a heavy deflection to wrong foot Callum Hampson.

Tunbridge Wells equalised when a cross from the left was headed down by Bayley Colbran to Matt Coleman to score from close range.

Their parity didn't last long when a poor clearance only found Ezra Nelson who fired from the right side of the box into the bottom corner

Into the second period and Tunbridge Wells might have got their second goal when a shot came back of the post to Janai Riley but the ball got stuck under this feet and the chance was lost.

The Wells lived dangerously as Ezra had an effort well saved by Hampson before seeing a shot strike the underside of the bar.

However, Molesey went 3-1 in front when Eric Nwaogwugwn was afforded time and space to turn and strike from around ten yards.

The best was saved for last when, eight minutes from time, Nelson fired in a worldy from 35 yards on the angle into the top corner. Culverden has seen two such efforts in the last two games, sadly they both game from the opposition.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Tunbridge Wells U21 1 Lingfield Reserves 3

Match 133/17/1583 - Wednesday, 9th May 2018 - Suburban League South

Tunbridge Wells U21 (1) 1
Lingfield Reserves (1) 3
Headcount: 37

Admission: £1 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/8,583

Two essentially Reserve teams playing a middle of the table encounter taking place almost a fortnight after the season officially ended doesn’t shout commitment from the rooftops. But from an eighth minute worldie through to mid-second half handbags and finishing with a time-added sending off the commitment of Tunbridge Wells and Lingfield contesting this Suburban League encounter had to be admired.

Unfortunately, I have no Lingfield team sheet to give credit to the visiting number 10 who from the right side of the box and from an acute angle volleyed into the top corner to the amazement certainly of the few assembled behind the goal and, from the celebrations, his own team mates.

Said number 10, flush from his success, proceeded to embark on a shoot on sight policy that never quite reached his eighth minute height.

Tunbridge Wells equalised after 26 minutes when a corner was headed home, sadly for the visitors by their own left back.

Harry Osbourne brought a save from the Lingfield goalkeeper as did George Salter with the number 10 continuing to take pot shots in between.

The half ended on a flashpoint as the irrepressible number 10 was clearly brought down in the box but the referee had a micro-second previously blown his whistle to end the half.

A well delivered free kick, 10 minutes into the second period, was met with a close range header from the Lingfield number eight to regain the lead for the visitors.

Four minutes later some sorry defending allowed the Lingfield number eight to stab the ball home from close range to make the score 3-1.

A poor tackle developed into pushing and shoving before plenty more got involved for the handbags incident that brought just a single yellow for each side.

There were substitutions aplenty in the time remaining that highlighted that myself, and folk around me, had no idea of the substitution rules of the Suburban League.

As the evening became chilly, the game was brought to a close with Lingfield being reduced to ten men when a player picked up a second yellow for dissent.

Who said it was a match that would just go through the motions?

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Gillingham 5 Plymouth Argyle 2

Match 132/17/1582 - Saturday, 5th May 2018 - League One

Gillingham (3) 5 Parker 7 Eaves 31,37,51 List 90
Plymouth Argyle (1) 2 Grant 24 Carey 78
Attendance: 6,269

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/8,547

This was a good way to end my time as a Gillingham season ticket holder. Shame there wasn’t more performances like that which would have made my decision more difficult. Unfortunately Gillingham is no longer the club that I turned to in 1976 and has lost its soul but I think that probably goes for most League clubs these days. It would be easy to blame Scally and, believe me, he is a large part of my reason with his lack of investment but the truth is that I love the involvement you can get from non-League football with the contact with players and management that we had with Gillingham in the old social club back in 1976. This is not the end, but I’ll pick and choose my games rather than feeling obligated by a season ticket. I have made and still have some great friends at Gillingham and wish them and the club nothing but the best of fortunes. But sadly I can’t imagine that happening with Scally in charge.

Plymouth supporters who harboured faint hopes of a play-off place saw their taunts at Tom Eaves, labelling him "a shit Andy Carroll," rammed back down their throats as the striker scored a hat-trick.

A fine move down the left hand side saw Lee Martin send Josh Parker clear, who finished with a smart strike past Remi Matthews.

A Plymouth free kick into the box was only half-cleared with the ball falling to Joel Grant whose shot was declared to have crossed the line by the linesman.

Eaves, whose early missed chance prompted the taunts, converted as he profited from his marker's slip when he got onto the end of Max Ehmer's long punt forward after 31 mminutes. Six minutes later, a trade mark header at the far post put Gillingham into a 3-1 half-time lead.

A corner headed on by Ehmer found Eaves to dive in and head home to make it 4-1 after 56 minutes.

Plymouth pulled one back after 77 minutes when Graham Carey headed in but Elliot List came off the bench to finish the game and the season with a good finish and a fifth goal.

Tunbridge Wells 0 Whitstable Town 1

Match 131/17/1581 - Saturday, 5th May 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup Final

Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Whitstable Town (0) 1 Freeman 66
Attendance: 749
Played at Tonbridge Angels FC

Admission: £5
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/8,489

A moment of top quality from the player on the pitch with real pedigree unlocked this SCEFL Challenge Cup Final that was absorbing rather than classically exciting and was enough to ice the cake of a great season for Whitstable Town.

Ricky Freeman has scored goals at every level he has played but his 66th minute volley following a Perry Spackman headed clearance rocketed into the net past Cameron Hall, who probably only felt a rush of air as the missile whistled past will rank among his best.

Whitstable Town had already placed the Kent Senior Trophy in their cabinet and also secured promotion as runners-up to Sevenoaks Town to the Bostik League.

On a hot day at a resplendent Longmead Stadium, it was the respective defences that held the upper hand with chances for both sides, but particularly Tunbridge Wells, at a premium.

The Wells opened the brighter with Jack Harris firing over in the first minute and Jared Tresparderne heading a Josh Stanford free kick over the bar after five minutes.

Whitstable’s first opportunity came after nine minutes when Freeman pulled his shot wide.

The best effort of the first half came after 26 minutes when a rising shot from Jon Pilbeam was touched over by the Oysterman’s goalkeeper, Dan Eason.

If the first half had resulted in a close encounter, the second half certainly swayed the way of the East Kent team. After 56 minutes Danny Williams shot tamely into the hands of Hall but, two minutes later, the Wells stopper was a mere spectator as Williams' header struck the post.

Josh Burchell planted a header at Hall a couple of minutes before Freeman’s moment of magic with a goal that deserved to win any cup final.

Tunbridge Wells mounted a last 10 minute effort with Eason saving from Pilbeam and Josh Biddlecombe firing over but the feeling was that they could have played for a week and not found a way through a solid Whitstable defence and this is the area in which they have to recruit to make headway next season.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Rusthall Reserves 2 Southborough 1

Match 130/17/1580 - Friday, 4th May 2018 - Tunbridge Wells Charity Hospitals Cup Final

Rusthall Reserves (1) 2 Maga 45 Coxon
Southborough (1) 1 Hammond
After extra time, score at 90 minutes: 1-1
Headcount: 200
Played at Tunbridge Wells FC

Admission: £1
Programme: Free
Mileage: 38/8,451

I forgot my notebook, so a cut and paste from Rusthall's website:

May 4th and Cup Final night. Rusthall Reserves were up against Southborough in the TWCC Senior Cup. I don't suppose we can call ourselves local rivals as we play in different leagues to one another, but there was a healthy rivalry on the night as both sides went hammer and tong for the win.

The game started at a fairly frantic pace as you would expect, with the Rustics shading possession, and Southborough were looking for the ball over the top to their lively front men. Rusthall's Yannick Tchoundjin came closest in the early exchanges as he hit the bar with a great strike from 25 yards. However it was Southborough who took the lead, shortly after Rusthall's centre half Stuart Hunter had come off with a dead leg. A ball was played over the top and Boro's Simon Hammond was in pursuit with company from three Rustic defenders, Jake Cornishg, the Rusthall goalkeeper, had no need to come rushing out to get involved. Hammond spotted this and lobbed him expertly from out wide. With half-time approaching Rusthall levelled matters. This time it was Rusthall who went long. The Boro defence failed to clear and the ball fell to Arnel Maga who, cool as you like, side-footed past the Boro keeper to level at half-time.

The second half was more of the same, both sides having periods of pressure and both creating opportunities. One of these fell to Coxon just before full time but just has he was about poke home, a Boro player made an excellent interception.

So we headed into extra time. With both sides rotating subs the pace was still lively. Although the chances were drying up, Boro had a weapon in a massive long throw. Every time we conceded a throw in our half it was a danger. Just as we were heading for a penalty shoot-out, Callum Seal won a free kick near the Boro goal line. The initial kick was cleared, but Rusthall recycled the ball, Craig Gallie did some great work out wide (so he tells me) and chipped the ball across goal. Nick Coxon was in the right place to head home the winner.

With a minute left this was the last action of the night and Rusthall Reserves lifted the trophy for the second time in three years. Credit to both sides who put on a good show for the punters and fought out good Final.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Tonbridge Angels Academy 1 Charlton Athletic Academy 6

Match 129/17/1579 - Wednesday, 2nd May 2018 - Academy Friendly

Tonbridge Angels (1) 1 Stirman
Charlton Athletic (1) 6 Jenkins 45+2, Silvera 50,55,69 (pen) Barker 84 Appiah 90
Headcount: 65

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 38/8,413

Despite the ultimate result, the first match of the newly-formed Tonbridge Angels' Academy can be viewed with great optimism. For 45 minutes, they gave as good as they got against a well-established National League Academy side despite only having limited time together following the trials that have been completed with 38 boys going forward into next year’s Academy.

Two teams will be entered into the Natonal League Academy and the Kent Youth League with their home games to be played at Longmead or K Sports.

After team pictures were taken with a brand new Angels strip of blue with white sleeves and sides, reminiscent of a kit worn in the mid-1970s that had been donated by McDonalds, Tonbridge got into their stride quickly and had the first chance of the game when Faz Abassi headed over.

The Angels' goalkeeper, Tommy Taylor, who will fulfil the job of goalkeeping coach within the new set-up, was called into action a minute later making a fine double save to thwart the Addicks centre forward, Jack Jenkins.

Charlton’s Andre Thompson-Faeron gave Regan Bowden a difficult time in the first 20 minutes but the full back grew into the game, eventually lessening the effectiveness of the tricky winger.

Tonbridge were having to work hard to contain their opponents, who it should not be forgotten are already training five days of the week, with Taylor making a save before Harry Beadle shot against a post.

But the Angels were not without their own threat and, following a corner delivered by Josh Stirman, the ball found its way into the net after 27 minutes.

Tonbridge might well have doubled their advantage after 33 minutes when Stirman had an effort cleared from the line followed, three minutes later, when the Charlton goalkeeper, Harry Whitling, saved at the near post to deny Elliot Capel.

Two minutes into added time at the end of the first period Charlton got themselves level when Jenkins scored from 10 yards.

The second half brought substitutions aplenty for both sides and Charlton appeared a lot stronger for the changes. They were quickly on the front foot with Angels substitute goalkeeper Joe Roberts saving before Troy Silvera was allowed a turn and strike from around 10 yards to give the south Londoners the lead.

After 55 minutes, Silvera cut in from the right to fire home a shot as the visitors took control of the game at 3-1.

Tonbridge had a good chance to reduce the arrears after 62 minutes when Ned Lewis was sent clear but the goalkeeper saved at his feet.

Charlton’s Kai Garande was brought down after 69 minutes for Silvera to complete a 19 minute hat-trick from the spot.

The Angels showed spirit with Lewis heading over a Tom Nolan cross; Lewis shooting wide after being set-up by Zak Wolvey whilst more good work down the right by Nolan set up a further heading opportunity.

However, a towering header by Charlton’s Charlie Barker made it five and on the final whistle a move that really showed their quality ended with Jimmy Appiah scoring for close range.

Nobody should be dispirited, as Tommy Parkinson emphasised after the game his lads are not going to meet teams of Charlton’s quality next season and his own lads are only going to get stronger and more cohesive as a team with their football education.

Edit: Charlton, with thanks to them, did supply a line-up so numbers were be replaced by names.

Picture: David Couldridge