Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Maidstone United Academy 0 Tonbridge Angels Academy 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Tonbridge Angels 0 Leatherhead 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Tonbridge Angels U21 3 Tunbridge Wells U21 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maplesden Oaks 8 Hugh Christie 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worthing 1 Tonbridge Angels 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Harlow Town 1 Tonbridge Angels 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Bromley Reds Academy 0 Tonbridge Angels Academy 0

Match 59/18/1652 - Wednesday, 14th November 2018 - National Academy

Bromley Reds (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Headcount: 40

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 84/3,858

After a heavy 6-1 defeat against the same opposition at King’s Hill in a League Cup tie just a week ago, the Angels’ Academy will take great encouragement from this goalless draw despite having to mount a rearguard action for much of the match.

Afforded the compliment of playing in the main stadium at Hayes Lane in front of a larger than usual throng, albeit mainly made up of players and staff of the following match that involved Crystal Palace, the Angels were forced through injury to field a side shorn of several regulars.

The first half was totally dominated by Bromley and it took until the last minute of the half for Ned Snowden-Lewis to test the goalkeeper, Emmanuel Nwosui.

Bromley’s Klaudio Kraswiri and Harry Smith fired in early efforts that failed to occupy the Angels’ stopper, Tommy Taylor, who subsequently saved well at the feet of Rodney Adamen-Fruitor. After 24 minutes, the latter crashed a free kick against the bar with Taylor a spectator.

Spencer Cripps fired narrowly wide as Tonbridge rode their luck and how the ball finally came to be cleared following a 32nd minute Bromley corner, one can only applaud the steadfast nature of the Angels’ defence.

As if the Academy’s injury woes had not been enough coming into the game Jacob Lambert needed to be replaced at half-time whilst Gideon Donker lasted barely a minute of the second period. Rhys Bartlett and Tom Hylton took their places.

Whilst the traffic remained principally one-way, the visitors at least fashioned a few second half chances, the first of which coming four minutes into the half when a free kick delivered by Sam Slipper was headed over by Harry Hudson.

Taylor kept the game goalless after 55 minutes when he made an excellent stop to deny Festos Kanara who had been sent clear by Kraswiri.

The Bromley left back, Mario Carby, given a licence to press on was guilty of wasting successive chances and a free kick initially fired at the wall saw the rebound struck by Kraswiri go agonisingly wide.

With just four minutes remaining a free kick was met with a powerful header from Alex Beffo that should have found the target. Perhaps the Angels sensed that this really was going to be their day with Elliott Capel forcing the goalkeeper into a save and with the final act of the afternoon, Lewis steered a header wide as Tonbridge sought the ultimate smash and grab. Not to be, but the Academy lads can be justifiably delighted to have turned around such a heavy defeat of a week ago.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Haringey Borough 4 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 58/18/1651 - Monday, 13th November 2018 - Bostik Premier

Haringey Borough (1) 4 Richards 22 Rowe 59,84 Aresti 90+2
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 260
New Ground: 331

Admission: £6 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 124/3,774

In a month or so we might just look back on this first ever trip to Coles Park as “one of those games”. The scoreline gives no reflection of the game, but however you dress it up, 4-0 (the worst league defeat for two years) is a pasting in anyone’s language.

A statistician among the Angels’ following cited that Tonbridge had 28 attempts on goal and no less than 10 corners, all of which amounted to nothing as the hosts, Haringey Borough netted from four of their five shots on target.

The Dartford Tunnel, and possibly even worse, the North Circular didn’t make for an appealing prospect on a Monday evening but, if anything went well on the night, travel to White Hart Lane was trouble free.

Haringey Borough came into the game off a magnificent FA Cup run that took them to a televised First Round tie against AFC Wimbledon and although they lost to a heartbreaking 90th minute goal from ex-Angel Mitchell Pinnock, they had the compensation of £120,000-plus to ease the pain. One would hope that a fair proportion of this windfall will be spent on the infrastructure because Coles Park certainly needs some upgrading.

The main stand is a lovely old-fashioned structure but as far as cover and seating goes that is it, unless you count an area of standing, laid back from the pitch perimeter that would not offer much of a view with people on the fence in front, as there would have been when 2,700 packed the ground for the FA Cup tie.

Tonbridge are in the midst of a grand tour of the Isthmian’s 3G surfaces and, so far, it is not going well. Manager Steve McKimm preferred Tommy Whitnell to Craig Stone and, with Liam King’s ankle feeling the strain of Saturday’s plastic surface, Alex Read was recalled. James Folkes, also carrying an injury, made way for Liam Smith.

Tonbridge dominated possession from the outset and a flap at a cross by goalkeeper, Valery Pajetat was far from a sign of things to come.

The goalkeeper made a good save, low to his left, from Joe Turner after 19 minutes and, a minute later, the same man crashed a shot against the bar.

Thoughts of, it has to come, were quickly dispelled as Haringey took the lead after 22 minutes. A headed clearance found Rakim Richards on the edge of the box and his shot took a deflection to carry it past Jonny Henly.

The momentum of the game did not change as Tonbridge pressed forward from the restart. Jared Small had an effort that Pajetat gathered at the second attempt and a fine low stop to deny Tom Beere.

After 32 minutes, an inviting cross to the far post brought a head-in-hands moment for Read as he managed to turn the cross wide from a matter of a yard. On the stroke of half-time, a recycled corner from Turner was met with a strong, goal bound header from Sonny Miles that was acrobatically turned over bye Pajetat. On these two moments, I’m convinced the game hinged. Had one been converted and the teams went into the break on level terms, I’ve no doubt in my mind that the scoreline would have read a lot different.

The adulation that the Cameroonian goalkeeper took from supporters and fellow players suggests that their thoughts were not a lot different to mine.

And so the story went on, same old same old. Small shot narrowly wide, Pajetat saved well from Tom Parkinson before, apart from picking the ball out of his net, Henly made his first serious save of the game at his near post to turn away for a corner an effort from Michael Ademiluyi. But, from the resultant corner driven to the far post, Coby Rowe converted with a downward header to double the hosts advantage.

In an instant, the dynamics of the game changed and as Tonbridge gambled, gaps appeared that Haringey were able to exploit but the chances continued to fall the visitor's way with Turner heading over and substitute Adem Ramadan seeing his effort cleared from the line by David Olufemi.

The game was settled after 84 minutes when Joel Nouble laid the ball back from the edge of the box into the path of Rowe who let go an absolute exocet of a shot from 30 yards that no goalkeeper in the world was keeping out.

As the game ticked into five minutes of time-added, which at least brought some gallows humour following Saturday’s time piece debacle, insult was added to injury as a near post cross was converted by substitute Georgios Aresti.

No UEFA coaching badge is needed to know that goals win games and, if from the volume of chances had, no goals are scored, games are not going to be won.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Dorking Wanderers 1 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 57/18/1650 - Saturday, 10th November 2018 - FA Trophy 2QR

Dorking Wanderers (1) 1 Prior 37
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 330
New Ground: 330

Admission: £7 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 120/3,650

Not all games are won on a moment of brilliance, in fact they rarely are. More often than not, a goal an be traced back to an error from which the maximum capital has been gained and, in tight games, it is the difference between victory and defeat.

Such was the case at Meadowbank where an uncharacteristic mistake by Arthur Lee ultimately allowed Dorking Wanderers passage into the FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round and in turn banking the £4,000 prize money.

Meadowbank is the new home to Dorking Wanderers. It is a fairly smart facility that is also home to the Surrey FA and within the grounds of a Family Park that houses a Playground, Soft Play and a Cafe.

The first impression you get is not a normal one, rarely are you charged £3 to park your car at a non-league ground. This came as a particular shock for the players who are similarly charged, in fact they would have paid even more given they were in the car park for a longer period.

Inside the stadium, the main stand is functional rather than attractive and the covered standing areas are oddly positioned in corners rather than central positions. As it was a day of heavy showers it was a case of pick your position and stay where you are and as with all new builds these days, the game is played out on a 3G pitch that appeared overladen with the rubber pellet base.

Tonbridge started slowly and pretty much stayed on the back foot for the opening half. Goalkeeper Jonny Henly made his first save to deny Jerry O’Sullivan after seven minutes and made further saves at the feet of the prolific Jason Prior after 23 minutes and from the head of Lewis Taylor following a 25th minute corner. In between, Tom Beere brought a save out of Slavomir Huk and Joe Turner flashed a cross across the face of goal with no one to apply a finish.

After 37 minutes a throw-in from James Folkes back into his own six-yard box inexplicably escaped from under the feet of Lee, to a waiting Prior, who must have been as surprised as anyone in the ground, but had the composure to fire home past Henly.

Tonbridge were more of an attacking force from the outset of the second half forcing several corners that saw headers from Lee and Liam Smith miss the target. But it was not one-way traffic as Henly saved once more from O’Sullivan.

On the hour, Tommy Whitnall was introduced for Callum Taylor and 10 minutes later, Craig Stone made way for Alex Read as Tonbridge needed to press forward in search of a goal that would take the tie back to Longmead.

Whilst Henly had kept his side in the game, it was now the turn of Huk to preserve Dorking’s place in Monday’s draw, saving from Read and Turner before brilliantly turning over an effort from Adem Ramadan in added time.

The referee blew his whistle on a modest three minutes of time added early as if he knew of the monsoon conditions that were about to engulf the ground and with it Tonbridge’s hopes of a cup cash windfall disappeared down the drain with the torrent of water from the skies.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Kingstonian 1 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 56/18/1649 - Wednesday, 7th November 2018 - Bostik Premier

Kingstonian (1) 1 Theophanous 32
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 King 86
Attendance: 290
Played at Corinthian Casuals

Admission: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 112/3,530

Tonbridge retained their recent tendancy for a slow start that eventually turns into barnstorming finish that on this occasion rescued a point from the visit to Kingstonian’s present tenancy at Corinthian Casuals.

Kingstonian came into the game with a record of five straight home victories whilst their visitors maintained a 100% record from their five away matches. There was also the intriguing contest of Kingstonian’s free-scoring strike force of Elliott Buchanan and Louie Theophanous coming up against a defence that had not conceded a single goal on their travels.

Buchanan shot wide in the opening minutes, but neither side created any real chances in the first half-hour although it was Kingstonian that had the momentum.

After 32 minutes, the ball was carelessly given away in a misunderstanding between Joe Turner and Angels’ debutant Sammy Knott which allowed Theophanous to cut in from the right and fire in a powerful shot that beat Jonny Henly at his near post to give Kingstonian a deserved lead.

Tonbridge’s only chance of the first period came with four minutes remaining when Jared Small’s cross was headed over by Tommy Parkinson.

Five minutes into the second half a long range effort from Kingstonian substitute Muhammadu Faal rebounded off Henly into the path of Theophanous who netted but was adjudged offside.

Tonbridge’s management team, minus Steve McKimm who was absent sick, withdrew Alex Read, who had an unproductive evening, in favour of Liam King on the hour, but it continued to be Kingstonian that created the chances with Henly twice saving to deny Alfie Doughty.

Another positive substitution saw central defender Callum Adonis-Taylor replaced by Tommy Whitnall and, from virtually nowhere, Tonbridge forced themselves onto the front foot. Turner, who had been unusually quiet, was running defenders ragged down the left. He fired over after 72 minutes; Whitnall fired wide and Craig Stone saw his effort deflected wide for a corner.

Knott, who was feeling the effects of a full 90 minutes and had been pushed forward missed narrowly and when Arthur Lee headed a corner that was deflected away, we were left to wonder whether it would come. But, with five minutes remaining, a cross from James Folkes saw King get between two defenders and the goalkeeper to steer a header home.

In fact, had it not been for a fine save from Berti Schotteri, Turner might well have sent the Angels home with an improbable three points.

Wrotham School 5 Hugh Christie School 0

Match 55/18/1648 - Wednesday, 7th November 2018 - Academies League – Kent Schools FA

Wrotham School (4) 5
Hugh Christie (0) 0
Attendance: Me!

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/3,418

I am sure a few readers of this blog will be thinking to themselves, schools’ football? This is really scrapping the barrel, but let me explain.

Although the matches are played under the titles of the participating schools, they are actually representing the Academies of senior clubs or private football academies. So this game was Pro Soccer Academy, who numbered ex-Angels goalkeepers Lee Worgan and Scott Chalmers-Stevens among their coaching team versus Tonbridge Angels Academy’s Development team.

I have recently been enlisted to drive the minibus to some of the games and, on this occasion, took the squad to Wrotham School. The lads were in high spirits, singing along to their tunes after been told by their gaffer, Dom Welsh, that on this occasion he wanted no depressing music as they had lost to the selections last time, personally I was quite happy when Adele was on! In fairness to the lads, they were in the same high spirits on the way back despite losing on this occasion as well.

Both of the Academy sides are experiencing a period in which they are being stretched to the limit with injuries to key personnel, for this game, Hugh Christie being forced to play without a recognised goalkeeper with the diminutive Adam Barden, an outfield player, taking the gloves.

This was one of those days where the elements ask an awful lot of you. The 3G pitch inside the dreaded cage had no available cover and the need to retreat to shelter under a tree outside of the cage was done on about half-a-dozen occasions as the rain swept down.

An early through ball saw the Wrotham goalkeeper advancing to the edge of his box to challenge Bernard who took a knock and needed to be substituted with just five minutes on the clock, such is your luck when the injury jinx is upon you.

No names are available for the Wrotham team, except for Liam McCreadie, who was with the successful Tonbridge Under-18s a couple of years ago.

After 10 minutes, Wrotham’s substantially built centre forward curled a shot in, off the far post, to open the scoring for the hosts.

The traffic was pretty much one-way and the Tonbridge lads, and Barden in particular, did well to hold out until the 27th minute when the centre forward curled a second goal into the net from the edge of the box.

McCreadie, who impressed, scored with a well placed free kick after 34 minutes and when he scored again just prior to the break, the floodgates threatened to open along with the skies.

But, great credit to the Hugh Christie lads, who dug in during a second half period in which they created a couple of chances of their own. Brad Needham forced the goalkeeper into a good save, low to his left, whilst Jem Loxton, the bus DJ, saw an effort deflected away for a corner.

Unfortunately, they were to concede a fifth as the Wrotham centre forward completed his hat trick. A deserved consolation was denied as a final minute header came back off the bar for Hugh Christie.

Hopefully, and I’m sure there will be, better days for the bus driver who at least had the satisfaction of safely reversing the vehicle back into its position at Tonbridge Baptist Church!

Gillingham 0 Blackpool 1

Match 54/18/1647 - Tuesday, 6th November 2018 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Blackpool (0) 1 Delfouneso 50
Attendance: 4,055

Admission: £19.75
Programme: £3
Mileage: 44/3,382

Match Report

It became very apparent to me, sitting in the Rainham End on a pretty dismal evening, that I’ve now put a lot of distance between myself and Gillingham Football Club.

I made a fundamental mistake in deciding to sit in the Rainham End where I would meet up with a few old friends. Non League football is not sanitised, and immune from the industrial language of the man on the terrace, indeed in such close proximity to the action you are aware of how much bad language is dispensed on the pitch. But such was the verbal abuse coming from behind me, every two minutes, with each tirade at the referee, the opposition, even the Gillingham players ending with the dropping of the C-bomb it became such a distraction that the game became almost a sideshow. If I return to Priestfield this season, a return to the relative sanctuary of the Gordon Road Stand is a must.

Gillingham came into this game, rearranged after the pitch was relaid, on the back of two home wins scoring seven goals in the process. Steve Lovell has emerged as a manager that, when it appears his job is on the line, he can find a result.

Overall, Gillingham probably didn’t deserve to lose this game but when you think back to the amount of saves that the Blackpool goalkeeper, Christoffer Mafoumbi had to make during the game it becomes less of an argument.

Connor Ogilvie crashed a shot against the bar from outside of the box after 12 minutes with the follow-up from Darren Oldaker going close but it wasn’t until six minutes before the break that Mafoumbi got his hands on the ball again fielding a effort from Mark Byrne.

That is not say that Blackpool were any more productive, not registering a single shot in the first period.

The first shot on goal for Blackpool proved to be the winner. Chris Taylor fastened on to a poor Max Ehmer clearance and his left wing cross found an unmarked Nathan Delfouneso who headed home at the far post.

Blackpool, much the the annoyance of the home support, embarked on 40 minutes of clocking winding but the Gills were unable to fashion anything resembling a golden chance until the last five minutes when Barry Fuller tested Mafoumbi.

This, at least, sparked a furious assault on the visitor’s goal for the time remaining, the best chance of which falling to substitute Elliott List.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Tonbridge Angels 2 Whitehawk 0

Match 53/18/1646 - Saturday, 3rd November 2018 - Bostik Premier League

Tonbridge Angels (0) 2 Drage (o.g.) 78 Turner 90
Whitehawk (0) 0
Attendance: 508

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,338

Patience is a virtue …

And patience was needed in abundance, on and off the pitch as Whitehawk, victims of some recent heavy defeats, decamped on the edge of their penalty area in search of some reward from their trip to Tonbridge.

Whitehawk’s manager, Jude Macdonald reshuffled his squad during the week bringing in no less than five new faces including that of Nathaniel Pinney, previous of the Angels. Four of the newcomers were to feature in the starting eleven.

Among the home support there was a high expectancy that, following successive home defeats, a return to winning ways at Longmead was a formality and we know how often that can come back to bite you.

On the front foot from the outset, there was nothing to suggest that those opinions would be misguided. With the visitors sitting so deep, Tonbridge could play in front of them as much as they desired and wing back Jack Parter was involved in the first couple of efforts in the opening five minutes, setting up a chance for Tom Parkinson to head over and bringing a save out of the Whitehawk goalkeeper, Melvin Minter

Minter made saves to deny Joe Turner and Alex Read before, out of nowhere, Pinney pulled a shot narrowly wide after 15 minutes.

The one-way traffic continued with Minter acrobatically turning over a header from Turner as the crosses from both flanks literally rained in on the Hawks’ goal.

Pinney placed a header wide of the post after 39 minutes and it was an oddity that after a half that had been almost totally dominated by the home side, the two closest efforts had gone to the visitors.

The second half could literally be a cut and paste from the first. Jared Small was creating havoc down the right, ably assisted by his wing partner James Folkes but without reward.

Whitehawk offered so little threat that Steve McKimm was able to gamble by sacrificing one of his central defenders, Callum Adonis-Taylor for the extra creativity of Tommy Whitnell. After 73 minutes, following a corner from Turner, a shot came back off the bar with the follow-up shot from Whitnell cleared from the line.

That pre-game optimism was now turning into despair as supporters sensed an afternoon of wasted chances. But, finally, after 78 minutes, there was a breakthrough. Folkes drove in a wicked, low cross that was turned into his own net by Matt Drage.

Adem Ramadan came on for Small, who deserved the fulsome applause for his performance, and in the final minute he created an opening for Turner, who produced an audacious chip over the advancing Minter.

The Whitehawk support, were magnificent in their range of songs and wholehearted support that continued for the whole 90 minutes and for several more after the final whistle. They sang to We’ll Meet Again: We’ll Score Again, Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When. For their sakes, they deserve to be right but, almost always, it is needed to cross the half-way line to do so.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Whitstable Town 2 Tonbridge Angels 3

Match 52/18/1645 - Wednesday, 31st October 2018 - Kent Senior Cup 2R

Whitstable Town (2) 2 Smith 4 Freeman 42
Tonbridge Angels (2) 3 King 36,38 Wright (o.g.) 50
Attendance: 100

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 76/3,300

Whilst waiting for the Tonbridge Angels Press Officer to do his media duties, I sat myself in the bar and as I contemplated the game I slightly changed my mind about its conclusion. After an highly entertaining encounter, which I thought Tonbridge had just shaded with two goal Liam King getting my vote as man of the match, not only for his goals but his general nuisance to the Whitstable defence. But on quiet reflection, it came to me that Jonny Henly had made several really good saves that had kept us in the tie and, on the strength of that, perhaps we were slightly lucky to come away from the Belmont with our name in the hat for the next round.

It is five years since my last visit to the Belmont and, as with many club's grounds of this size, nothing much has changed. But for that, it is a pleasant venue with a quirky feel and a warm welcome. The stadium announcer had a sense of humour, no more so than faced with a triple substitution from the visitors, to which he did his best, but then told the world he was giving up!

As for the game, with a little sense of laziness, but feeling the need to direct readers to an excellent website report, I'll leave the match details for the official Whitstable Town site. Read here.

Tonbridge Angels Academy 5 Hastings United Academy 1

Match 51/18/1644 - Wednesday, 31st October 2018 - National Under-19 Alliance

Tonbridge Angels (0) 5 Mayhew 54 Hylton 65,90+3 Hudson 69 Stirman 84
Hastings United (1) 1 #9 31
Headcount: 12

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 32/3,224

Tonbridge Angels Academy produced a superb second half performance to overcome a Jekyll and Hyde Hastings United team on the 3G at Kings Hill.

After a good opening 10 minutes for the Angels, the visitors who arrived slightly late, appeared to get the travel out of the legs and went on to dominate the opening half.

Ned Snowdon-Lewis had two chances in the first six minutes, the second of which being safely deflected to the Hastings goalkeeper and a minute later he saw his effort crash against the bar after being well assisted by Jacob Lambert. Zak Wolvey had his follow-up attempt blocked as the Hastings’ defenders bravely threw bodies in front of the ball.

Tonbridge continued to force the pace with Harry Hudson heading over from a corner but following a strong, but fair, challenge on Tyler Richardson, a formation reshuffle was needed after 17 minutes as the full back was unable to continue. Harrison Mayhew, fresh back from an injury lay-off himself was introduced.

As the Angels’ took time to adapt to the changed formation, Hastings grew into the game. Their burly centre forward and strike partner were a handful with the left winger, who had been giving Richardson a few problems, supplying the service.

The right midfielder (sorry, no names for the Hastings team) struck the bar and Hudson needed to clear from the line as the visitors pressed forward.

Eventually something would have to give and, on 31 minutes, it inevitably did. Some fine work down the left from the winger ended with a pass inside and a further pass from the number 10 to the main striker who scored from close range.

Hastings were now in complete ascendancy and Joe Roberts needed to make a good save low to his left to maintain the scoreline.

The Angels were forced into a second substitution when they lost another defender, Harry Lewis, to another strong challenge, this time forward Tom Hylton was the replacement necessitating another reshuffle.

Such was the nature of the first half with Hastings dominant and Tonbridge having to reshuffle it was difficult to imagine the way the second half would unfold.

Whatever Tommy Parkinson put in their half-time tea is worth bottling because from the outset the Angels were on the front foot and the Hastings’ goalkeeper, who had be sound in the first period looked a nervous character.

Lambert fired over and from a raid by full back Luke Taylor, the goalkeeper made a fumbling stop before, nine minutes into the second half, from a corner that wasn’t dealt with in any convincing fashion, the ball fell to Mayhew who bundled it in with the visitor’s claiming that he it hadn’t crossed the line.

The referee had throughout the first period made some strange decisions that particularly riled Hastings and led to their coach getting a ticking off. But, with the goal decision going against them, they lost their discipline and their game consequently suffered.

After 65 minutes a good pass from Lambert sent Hylton clear to finish coolly into the bottom corner past the advancing keeper.

A very poor challenge from the Hastings’ right back brought a booking and a melee of handbags that was quickly brought to end by the Tonbridge staff who ordered their players away from the scene to allow the referee to do his job. Whether he did that with a yellow is open to question.

Retribution was quickly administered from the resultant free kick, delivered into the box by Sam Slipper, for Hudson to bury.

Tonbridge were now in complete control and, with six minutes remaining, Josh Stirman exquisitely curled a shot into the top corner to ensure the three points were going home with the Angels.

Hastings rallied briefly in time added and Roberts was asked to field a couple of efforts but in the final act, a well worked move between Stirman and Lewis ended with Hylton having a tap-in for his second, and Tonbridge’s fifth of the game.

The result lifts the Angels into third place in the National League Under-19 Alliance league table.

Tunbridge Wells 1 Erith Town 5

Match 50/18/1643 - Tuesday, 30th October 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup

Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Biddlecombe 77
Erith Town (3) 5 Goodchild 27 Nash 33 Kempton 38 Callender 46 Ojulatayo 80
Attendance: 109

Admission: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 38/3,192

This was the most depressing night that I’ve had at football in a very long time. A 5-1 defeat is, what it says on the tin, a thrashing. But they happen every day in football, such defeats leave football people angry with the chairman, the manager or the players or they can be confused, even distressed that a performance could produce a result so poor. But, at Tunbridge Wells, the reaction seems altogether different. There hardly seems to be any anger, just an air of resignation.

The bright new dawn, I won’t say has proven a false dawn, but the sun has yet to rise on the new era for Tunbridge Wells Football Club.

People are voting with their feet, an attendance of 109 for a first team fixture is woefully low for a club that has shown it can attract three times that amount. At half-time and 3-0 down, some disappeared to the bar and were slow to return and when they did they learnt that within 12 seconds of the restart the deficit had increased to four, they turned on their heels not to return to the bar but to their cars and home.

It seems that mildly despairing rather than Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells reside on the terraces of Culverden Stadium, such is the volume of protest at the present position of the club. There are many good people working hard behind the scenes to make a blanket accusation of apathy, but when I visit Rusthall, a club similarly struggling in regards of results, I don’t sense the same negativity that surrounds Tunbridge Wells.

What cannot be disputed is that those supporters need something to cheer and when the only shot on target is the consolation goal in the 77th minute it is easy to understand their disappointment.

An early move between Jake Beecroft and Rob Loftings ended with a shot from Alexx Kendall that went wide and nothing more was seen of the Wells as an attacking force until the 71st minute by which time they were 4-0 down and that effort from Beecroft didn’t test Adam Molloy either.

It took until the 27th minute for Erith to finally make a breakthrough when a cross from the right was headed back across the face of goal by Adrian Stone for Jason Goodchild to convert from close range.

Six minutes later, a shot from Dan Nash took a deflection before nestling in the bottom corner and, by the 38th minute, a free kick floated into the box saw Stefan Kempton given the freedom of the box to glance a header from close range.

Steadman Callender was allowed to run, virtually unchallenged and rifle a shot into the top corner as the second half opened to the despair of those that had not decamped to the bar.

The home side finally found a response when a cross from Bryce-Borthwick allowed Josh Biddlecombe a close range tap-in only for, three minutes later, Leon Ojulatayo to add a fifth for the the visitors.

My half-dozen or so Tunbridge Wells games a season barely merits an opinion but the people I know that support this club through thick and thin deserve so much better.