Thursday, 22 August 2019

Gillingham 2 Blackpool 2

Match 16/19/1740 - Tuesday, 20th August 2019 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Jakubiak 9,37
Blackpool (2) 2 Kaikai 41 Gnanduillet 45
Attendance: 4,390

Admission: Free ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 44/1,185

So my pledge to stay away from Priestfield until the day someone other than the Fat Scottish One was the Gillingham manager lasted just two games. A blank Tuesday evening and a free ticket was temptation too much, so I swallowed hard on humble pie and went back on my word. And, to be honest, I am glad I did because I saw an entertaining game that despite the result that leaves Gillingham still searching for their first win on the season and offering those that are to be at Priestfield each game plenty of hope for the future coupled with the prospect that they are going to be entertained, one of the issues that drove me away in the first place.

That they threw away a two goal lead was disappointing but their last 15 minute barrage on the league leader's goal was thrilling and praiseworthy. How Blackpool survived was through last ditch defending and a lack of a little finesse in front of goal from the home side.

It made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening, but these days sadly, a game at Priestfield is not that far removed from a game at Cray Valley in terms of partisanship. There were only four players on show in the Gillingham side that I could truly recognise leaving a sense of being something of a neutral. But I celebrated the goals and felt the disappointment at the end, so the little bit inside me refuses to die.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Bath City 0 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 15/19/1739 - Saturday, 17th August 2019 - National League South

Bath City (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 832

Admission: Pass
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 326/1,141

I’ve always had Twerton Park as a tick on my Groundhopping map, believing that I made a visit when I was in my late teens, some 50 years ago. But as I surveyed this magnificent old ground I could not remember a thing, so I’m glad that I have made this visit because should Bath City gain the necessary planning permission this grand old place is about to be hauled into the 21st century and with it much of its character will disappear. The old sitting stand and the add-on to its right will make way for something modern, something functional. It is said that the area of Twerton is a deprived one and that the refurbishment of the football ground is a centrepiece for the revitalisation of the area. It is a shame, but it is a necessary evil of survival within non-league football.

Almost everything about Twerton Park takes you back to a time gone-by. The sweeping terrace that goes from one end along the long side to the other end with the length of the pitch covered. The main stand with its green corrugated iron is hardly a thing of beauty but still has its charm. And the floodlights, proper old pylons with the square tops housing the lamps, I refer to my description elsewhere, Floodlight Porn!

And there was a match in which Tonbridge battled hard to take home a much deserved point despite some bizarre refereeing decisions.

A hard won point against the overnight leaders, Bath City was well deserved. True enough, the Angels benefited from a missed penalty but one that was contentious to say the least.

Unfortunately, the numbering on the back of the Roman’s shirts was virtually impossible to distinguish so a lot of the references to the Bath side might be hit and miss!

On a warm afternoon, Steve McKimm rested Alex Bentley to the bench as he was carrying a knock with James Folkes restored to the starting 11.

Myles Roberts was brought into the action within the first minute diving low to his left to deny Ross Stearn.

The game settled down and it was into the 22nd minute before the next chance arrived with once again Roberts excelling.

Tonbridge ended the half on the front foot with D’Sean Theobalds firing over and Joe Turner missing narrowly right.

The second half started slowly with neither side registering a meaningful effort before the hour mark had elapsed.

On 63 minutes Bath’s Stearn struck a decent volley which Roberts saved comfortably.

Two minutes later, Tom Derry was sent clear, and although a long way from goal, was cynically taken out to earn the Bath player a yellow. But, in a clear case of mistaken identity, the perpetrator who was already on a booking, departed the scene and the card was shown elsewhere.

After 71 minutes, following a free kick into the box, Rhian Bray was adjudged to have manhandled an opponent leaving the referee pointing to the spot. Thankfully for the Angels, Tyler Harvey blazed high over the bar.

With ten minutes remaining Turner missed by inches and at the other end some desperate defending saw the Angels see the ball to safety.

At late penalty appeal was survived as the referee called time on a well drilled performance from the visitors.

Steve McKimm commented after the game: “Nil-Nil sounds boring but that was an exciting game. That had everything, there should have been a sending off, they got a penalty which shouldn’t have been, they didn’t get a penalty they should have. Bodies on the line, we gave everything.”

Bromley Academy 4 Tonbridge Angels Academy 0

Match 14/19/1738 - Wednesday, 14th August 2019 - Academy Pre-Season Friendly

Bromley (1) 4
Tonbridge Angels Academy (0) 0
Headcount: 35

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 76/815

Tommy Parkinson mixed his squad into two teams for a double header against Bromley at Hayes Lane resulting in the Angels’ Academy winning the first game but being comprehensively beaten by a much stronger Bromley since in the second.

In the opening game, Luke Taylor, on his 17th birthday, scored twice in the opening 10 minutes as the Angels took charge of the game.

The home side slowly grew into the game but Tonbridge looked far the most dangerous throughout the half.

The second half began with a stunning goal to put the Angels three in front. The ball was well worked from the right before being crossed for Brynley Ruck to score with a stunning volley into the top corner.

Bromley reacted well to the setback and scored with a well worked goal of their own but Tonbridge easily contained them to see the game out.

Team: Roberts, Smallwood, Tyrie, Ryan, Borden, Pettman, Haffenden, Needham, Vitler, Taylor, Ruck.

The second game saw a much stronger Bromley side, based on second and third year students whilst the Angels fielded half-a-dozen first years and a couple of trialists and it showed from the first whistle.

Within the first five minutes, Bromley went close with a shot narrowly wide and also saw a shot strike the crossbar.

The home side went ahead on 13 minutes when the same lad that had hit the crossbar converted when he turned home a cross from the right at the near post.

The Angels’ Academy mounted a response and Ben Twist was unlucky to see his effort go narrowly wide followed by a trio of corner that were eventually cleared to safety. The home side reasserted themselves and goalkeeper Charlie Martin kept the Angels in the game with some good saves before the break.

A very well-worked goal gave Bromley a 2-0 lead within four minutes of the restart and the game was one-way traffic for the period up to the hour mark when Twist brought a good save out of the home goalkeeper who also saved the rebound from Harry Kempton.

Two goals in three minutes wrapped up the game for Bromley when, after 72 minutes, the centre half hooked home a corner and, despite a fine save from substitute goalkeeper Nat Gibb, his parry was stabbed home.

Manager Parkinson reflected after the game that they had been beaten by a very strong Bromley team but there were plenty of lessons learnt for a team of mainly first year students.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Tonbridge Angels 1 Concord Rangers 0

Match 13/19/1737 - Tuesday, 13th August 2019 - National League South

Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Parter 89
Concord Rangers (0) 0
Attendance: 476

Admission: Pass
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/739

An 89th minute header from the unlikeliest of sources secured Tonbridge Angels first points of the season, sending the majority of the 476 attendance home with a smile on their faces.

Sonny Miles, free from suspension, returned to the side with a man of the match performance and it was no coincidence that the first clean sheet of the campaign was attained.

Steve McKimm also restored Tommy Brewer to the side after missing Saturday’s game at Dorking through injury.

Joel Nouble had the first opportunity of the game but fired over before the Angels tested Concord goalkeeper Chris Haigh to the full when Joe Turner’s header from Tommie Hession-Harris was turned past the post diving low to his left.

The game tightened up through the first half but Jared Small’s pace was causing the visitor’s back line concern and a cross across the face of goal after 31 minutes just begged a touch.

A lack of the rub of the green has become a recurring theme of the opening games and it seemed the luck wasn’t with Tonbridge once more as Hession-Harris’ shot crashed against the crossbar after 38 minutes.

A fantastic run by D’Sean Theobalds, reminiscent of his super play-off goal, was only brought to an end with a saving block and the mere reward this time of a corner.

Concord started the second period on the front foot forcing a corner from which David Olufemi shot well wide.

Tonbridge quickly found their first half rhythm with Small continuing to concern the Concord defence flashing another cross that evaded everyone and followed this with a cross to the head of Tom Derry on the back post that drifted wide.

Decarrey Sheriff, who had been fleet of foot all evening, fired in a shot that was comfortably dealt with by Myles Roberts, whose confidence has grown game by game since his arrival.

The Angels hearts went slightly in their mouths just past the hour when Nouble went down in the box but the referee decided it was simulation and duly showed the yellow card.

Successive corners eventually saw Miles steer a header wide followed by McKimm ringing the changes with Small making way for Khale Da Costa and Chinedu McKenzie on for Tom Derry.

The Angels support, magnificent throughout, were once more cursing their luck when, after 79 minutes, Theobalds beat three players but saw his shot hit the bar and bounce away off the line.

Just when minds were edging towards accepting a point and getting something on the board, after concerted pressure, Turner swung a ball into the box and there was Jack Parter, left back and not exactly the tallest, to rise and glance a header past Haigh for an 89th minute winner.

A naturally delighted Steve McKimm was nonetheless pragmatic emphasising how important it was to get something out of this game with three difficult games to follow. “We are delighted that we got all three” he said “they haven’t won their first three games for nothing, we knew how good they are, but we kept going.”

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Dorking Wanderers 3 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 12/19/1736 - Saturday, 10th August 2019 - National League South

Dorking Wanderers (2) 3 McShane 18 Prior 40 Buchanan 62
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Hession Harris 60
Attendance: 535

Admission: £9
Programme: £3
Mileage: 102/701

Despite a brave second half performance, the controversial sending-off of Rhyle Ovenden after 22 minutes hugely contributed to Tonbridge Angels’ defeat at Dorking which leaves them still searching for their first points of the season.

Ovenden, on his 21st birthday, had been brought into the starting 11 as Tommy Brewer was unavailable through injury. Steve McKimm also chose to start Jared Small and Tommie Hession-Harris with Khale Da Costa and Chinedu McKenzie dropping to the bench.

The Angels had the benefit of a gale force wind in the first half but such was its strength it was difficult to determine whether it provided much of an advantage.

The visitors opened brightly with D’Sean Theobalds firing wide after four minutes and Small forcing a good save out of Slavomir Huk.

A Hession-Harris corner flashed across the face of goal begging a touch, but the opening quarter-hour had been encouraging.

So it was somewhat against the run of play when the home side went ahead after 18 minutes. A challenge was won on the edge of the box and the ball slipped through to James McShane who buried his shot between goalkeeper Myles Roberts and the near post.

The pivotal moment of the game came four minutes later when Dorking’s Ben Dyett and Ovenden challenged for an aerial ball that ended with both players going down hurt. It seemed, from the touchline, nothing more than two players with their eyes on the ball culminating in an accidental coming together, but the officials had seen something different and after the referee had consulted his linesman, Ovenden was shown the red card.

McKimm speaking after the game commented: “The referee has told me it was an elbow, excessive force. I’ve watched the video and he doesn’t even lead with his elbow, he is looking at the ball. The referee has got that completely wrong. I know it’s not an elbow and it changed the game massively”.

The game itself took its time to recover from the incident and very little of attacking intent was shown until the 40th minute when Dorking doubled their advantage with a goal of clinical simplicity. A corner from the right from Tom Richards was met with the head of Jason Prior and buried in the manner that he has been doing for many-a-year.

Far from feeling sorry for themselves, Tonbridge mounted a brave second half performance that whilst not bringing any reward gives encouragement for the games ahead.

Small, who was a constant threat, had a snap shot four minutes into the half which was saved by the feet of Huk at his near post as Tonbridge set out to retrieve what seemed an impossible mission.

Stand-in goalkeeper Roberts acrobatically turned over a shot from Giuseppe Sole before, after 61 minutes, Small pulled the ball back from the right touchline for Hession-Harris to fire in at Huk’s near post.

Unfortunately the comeback was stalled in its tracks before it really began as, two minutes later, Elliott Buchanan struck a fine shot from 20 yards past the despairing dive of Roberts.

A fantastic run from inside his own half by Small ended with a shot that was parried away by Huk with the rebound falling to Joe Turner whose effort was saved by a combination of the goalkeeper and a goal line clearance.

The game had an entertaining final 20 minutes with both sides having chances but Tonbridge were indebted to Roberts for two fine saves from Sole and Richards and the intervention of the crossbar as a well struck shot from the latter rattled the woodwork.

A naturally disappointed McKimm reflected: “We didn’t deserve that result. I’m the first to say we have deserved a defeat. The first 25 minutes we were superb but the sending off has changed the game massively”.

The Angels return to Longmead on Tuesday evening and the challenges do not get any easier as early-season pacemakers Concord Rangers are the visitors.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Welling United Academy 0 Tonbridge Angels Academy 2

Match 11/19/1735 - Wednesday, 7th August 2019 - Pre-Season Friendly

Welling United Academy (0) 0
Tonbridge Angels Academy (1) 2 Snowden Lewis 2 Copeland 77
Played at University of Greenwich
Headcount: 17

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 80/599

The Academy opened up their preseason with a hard fought win at the University of Greenwich against Welling United with a goal in each half and, in no small measure, to the heroics of 15-year-old goalkeeper, Nat Gibb.

Academy boss Tommy Parkinson fielded a mixture of first and second year students with another team playing at King’s Hill, also against Welling.

Tonbridge opened up on the front foot with a shot on target from George Martin within the first minute and were ahead in two minutes when a fine run and cross from Sam Babayale sent Ned Snowden-Lewis clear to finish past the advancing Welling goalkeeper.

The Angels dominated the opening half-hour before Welling registered their first attempt on goal after 32 minutes which was well saved by Gibb. Prior to that Lewis shot at the goalkeeper and, on 19 minutes was unlucky to see his shot come back off the underside of the crossbar.

Having finally made their initial foray into the Angels’ territory, Welling ended the half the stronger with Gibb, who normally plays his football at Kent Youth League level on a Sunday morning with Todd Tyrie’s Under-16’s, making a trio of saves and generally looking very composed given his tender years. He was actually beaten on 36 minutes but Welling were denied their equaliser by an offside flag.

The early part of the second period was competitive with both sides creating chances, Jacob Lambert and Sam Babayale firing over for Tonbridge and Welling being equally wasteful.

On the hour, a Lewis free kick was met with the head of Harry Hudson, who steered a great chance wide of the mark.

It was Welling’s turn to take the game to their opponents and, after 70 minutes, Gibb made a top drawer save, clawing the ball out of the top corner and this he followed up within a minute saving with his feet leaving the Welling coaching staff exasperated!

Tonbridge put the game to bed with 13 minutes to go with a fine move involving Lewis and Lambert to set up Louis Copeland with a tap-in at the far post. This they quickly followed with another flowing move that saw the ball into the net but ruled out for offside.

Tom Parkinson remarked after the game that his squad have a lot of potential but there is a great deal of work to be done. He felt that some of the decision making was rash and that on a first outing perhaps some were trying too hard to impress, often looking for the “Hollywood” ball. But, he was also quick to pay tribute to his young goalkeeper whom he had only seen previously in training.

He should have four or five players back from holiday next week for the games against Bromley before facing the champions Dover a week later in further pre-season games which he has deliberately selected to be against the better academies.

Team: Nat Gibb, Riley Morris, Sam Babayale, Ben Twist, Mikey Ryan, Harry Hudson, Louis Copeland, George Martin, Ned Lewis, Jacob Lambert, Malachi Babayale. Aidan Murphy was the lone substitute, but there were several rolling substitutions during the game.

Eastbourne Borough 2 Tonbridge Angels 0

Match 10/19/1734 - Tuesday, 6th August 2019 - National League South

Eastbourne Borough (2) 2 Wheeler 14 Luer 45
Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Attendance: 656

Admission: Pass
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 66/519

Make a defensive mistake at this level, you’ll get hurt. Fail to take the chances that come your way and the situation cannot be retrieved. Those were the harsh facts of Saturday’s defeat against Dulwich and repeated again at Eastbourne. Both performances showed a team that is not far off the level needed but the errors are costing dear.

Jonny Henly’s injury rather than his suspension that doesn’t kick in until Saturday kept him out of the side and Myles Roberts was drafted in from Reading.

In the Eastbourne side was an old friend in Nick Wheeler and it was his goal that gave the home side a 14th minute lead. Following a break down the left and cross into the box the ball was untidily cleared towards the corner flag where James Folkes misjudged the bounce and was quickly robbed by Wheeler who cut in and fired in a shot that took a deflection before creeping under Roberts.

The first half largely passed the visitors by with ex-Angels’ loanee, Tom Hadler, not having a shot to save and hopes of going into the break with just the single goal deficit was dashed when Kane Wills slid a slide-rule pass through the Tonbridge defence for Greg Luer to run onto and finish past the despairing Roberts. When I say slide-rule, the space allowed was not only enough to drive a double decker bus through but a fleet of them.

Frankly, it could only improve after the break and, to a certain extent it did. Roberts saved well from Dean Cox after 10 minutes of the second period but, a minute later, D’Sean Theobalds was through after being sent clear by Joe Turner but as Hadler advanced, Theobalds’ shot slipped past the left hand post. Over half-hour remained, but the way back into the game had gone begging.

Eastbourne appeared content to manage the game, much as Dulwich had done on Saturday, and their threat receded. Alex Read came on for Chinedu McKenzie on the hour and nobody could really make a claim that the two up-front plan had worked.

Tonbridge pressed hard with Eastbourne’s content obvious and with 11 minutes remaining, Jared Small put a header safely into Hadler’s hands and when Small’s cross to far post saw Tom Derry’s header agonisingly drift across the face of goal and past the right hand post, you sensed that Tonbridge’s night was done.

Eastbourne felt comfortable enough the finish the game with a flourish and Roberts did well to save from Charlie Walker.

Nobody said this was going to be easy …

Monday, 5 August 2019

Tonbridge Angels 1 Dulwich Hamlet 2

Match 9/19/1733 - Saturday, 3rd August 2019 - National League South

Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Turner 67 (pen)
Dulwich Hamlet (1) 2 Ijaha 22 Monakana 61 (pen)
Attendance: 954

Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/453

There was to be no fairytale return to National South football for Tonbridge Angels but in terms of lessons to be learnt the experience will, hopefully, prove invaluable.

When Dulwich Hamlet’s Quade Taylor saw red after just 13 minutes it seemed that opportunity knocked but, with one season’s experience, Hamlet have mastered the dark arts and their breaking up of the play by falling to the ground after the lightest of touches; the eternity of time that every free kick took to return the ball into play and the constant chatter to the official negated any advantage Tonbridge might have had from the extra man.

This is lesson one on day one, National South points are not necessarily gained by virtue of the beautiful game, in fact I can’t remember an uglier performance last season in the Isthmian.

There were talking points from the outset. Steve McKimm opted to go with a lone striker, did this smack of too much respect, especially on home soil? In central defence, to replace the suspended Sonny Miles, he chose the less than imposing Alex Bentley, and he got this one spot on as the ex-Hornchurch man put in a man-of-the-match display.

After Joe Turner had gone close, a quick free kick saw Tommie Hession-Harris clear before being unceremoniously brought down with what referee Daniel Lamport saw as a goal denying foul by Taylor who saw the red card and with that Dulwich game plan changed to spoiling and, boy did they know how to play it! Chief protagonist was ex-Angel David Ijaha, the Dulwich skipper, a big unit that munched the grass with the merest puff of wind.

After 22 minutes, Ijaha added to his villain status when he outmuscled his markers to easily nod home a corner from the right. Now a goal to the good, the Dulwich tactics were only to worsen, but in fairness, apart from a Jack Parter effort that brought a low save from Ashley Maynard-Brewer, it was the visitors that created the best of the chances in the period up to the break.

But, in the longer term of the game, it was a headed back pass from James Folkes that had Jonny Henly sprawling to save a corner and in so doing needing treatment for a shoulder injury that was to have a significant effect.

An early effort across the face of goal from Hamlet’s Danny Mills was a scare but, on the hour, a floated cross appeared to be an easy catch for Henly, but hampered by the injury, the ball was dropped and in his effort to retrieve it, Mills was a brought down for a penalty with the Angels’ goalkeeper also seeing red.

Folkes volunteered his services between the sticks but had no chance as Jeffrey Monakana blasted the ball down the middle to give his side a 2-0 lead.

Dulwich’s game plan went from dark to plainly mystifying as rather than pepper a stand-in goalkeeper they retreated behind the ball, never once threatening the goal.

This did give Tonbridge the opportunity to press forward with the introduction of Jared Small adding a threat.

After 67 minutes Tonbridge were back in the contest after Turner was brought down in the box for him to drive home the spot kick.

With renewed hope the home support in an impressive attendance marginally short of four figures raised the noise levels to rally their troops.

Ultimately, the width of a post denied the Angels a deserved point when, two minutes into six minutes of added time, Chinedu McKenzie struck the woodwork, a chance he should have taken.

So the new era of National League football got off to a losing start, but signs of progress were in evidence off the field. A new stadium sponsor has seen Longmead rebranded; there is card payment available for admission; a new home shirt sponsor and, as always, the Longmead pitch was resplendent.

No team wins the league, or gets relegated, on day one but lessons to be learnt.