Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Tunbridge Wells 3 Crowborough Athletic 0

Match 103/17/1553 - Tuesday, 20th March 2018 - SCEFL Challenge Cup SF 1st Leg

Tunbridge Wells (2) 3 Trespaderne 9,59 Harris 42
Crowborough Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 234

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 36/7,079

Tunbridge Wells completely upset the apple cart as the High Flyin’ Crows were dispatched back down the A26 with a performance of the season that gives them a great chance of reaching the SCEFL Challenge Cup Final. Crowborough, who sit second in the league but face a daunting backlog of fixtures in their pursuit of Sevenoaks for the title, may well rue their indiscipline that saw Jack Turner and Sam Crabb sent off in the closing minutes of the game.

The Wells have been improving, with the odd set back along the way, since the turn of the year, but this was a performance above anything else. It would be easy to dismiss this as a game that Crowborough could have done without, but a cup semi-final, albeit with a second leg to come?

Tunbridge Wells were resilient and had a goalkeeper on the top of his game and after building a two goal lead they were dangerous on the break as Crowborough threw caution to the wind in an attempt to give themselves something to grasp for the second leg next Tuesday.

The opening goal arrived after nine minutes when an inch perfect cross from Jon Pilbeam was met with a towering header from Jack Harris that crashed against the bar for Jared Trespaderne to tuck home the rebound from close range.

The first signs of a little niggle in the game came after Crowborough were awarded a free kick that was initially spilt by Wells ‘keeper Cameron Hall who was then hurt in the melee that followed his retrieval of the ball.

Turner went into the book following a challenge on the edge of the box. The Crows had clearly not settled into the game as their hosts chased and harried them all over the pitch.

A ridiculous booking for kicking the ball away by Greg Skinner was the only blot on the Wells’ first half which got a whole lot better after 42 minutes. Pilbeam was brought down by Sam Carrington that resulted in a yellow and from the resultant free kick, a delightfully flighted cross from Tom Davey, Jack Harris buried a header past Dan Ellis.

There were raised voices from the visiting dressing room and Crowborough came out with a renewed sense of purpose. Hall made a good save to deny Carrington and the resulting corner needed Jake Hampson to clear from the line.

On the hour, a long ball over the top by Alfie Hall was seized upon by Trespaderne to finish clinically past Ellis. The young striker certainly pushed back down the throat my assertion that he is not an out-and-out striker!

Crowborough literally now had nothing to lose and proceeded to throw everything at the Wells to reduce the deficit thus bringing Cameron Hall to the fore. His fine double save to thwart substitute Ross Treleaven from close range brought cheers as loud as any of the goals.

The referee angered the Crows contingent when no action was taken after Henry Muggeridge had been felled and further handbags ensued.

The Wells were certainly under the cosh but a break-out firstly saw Alexx Kendal have a shot blocked with the follow-up sent over the top by Trespaderne and with five minutes remaining John Shea hit a post.

Frustration for the Crows led to indiscipline and, as the game entered time added, Turner saw red following a second booking and when Crabb threw a punch a Trespaderne a straight red was shown.

For Crowborough now is the difficult balancing act of rescuing this tie with a full strength side for the second leg or resting a few with the vital Easter period around the corner. For the Wells, this was a glorious night, but with the caution that the job is only half-done.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Tonbridge Angels 3 Kingstonian 1

Match 102/17/1552 - Saturday, 17th March 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (1) 3 Akrofi 9 Francis (o.g.) 52 Turner 72
Kingstonian (1) 1 Hunte 4
Attendance: 308

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/7,043

The Mini Beast from the East brought an icy blast and a little more than a dusting of snow but still wreaked havoc with football fixtures in the south-east. Gillingham’s home game against Blackburn Rovers with the much-anticipated return to Priestfield of Bradley Dack fell victim to Health and Safety. Had Gillingham been playing, with no offence to, Rochdale the game would probably have gone ahead as the covers had done their job on the pitch and the 100 or so visiting supporters could have been moved to the Gordon Road Stand but with Blackburn bringing a much larger following that would not have been possible and so the Brian Moore Stand was deemed unsafe for them to occupy. The temporary structure (15 years is temporary!) has long been an embarrassment with Gillingham often voted least desirable away ground because of its open-to-the-elements nature and was the butt of much disgruntlement as Rovers supporters were already in the town when the postponement was declared.

The dusting was even lighter in Tonbridge and their match against Kingstonian was able to go ahead albeit that it was another toe-numbing encounter to go with several others this winter. Perhaps it is an age thing, but this winter has felt pretty severe, especially on the feet.

The Tonbridge team sheet read like a side that had to be cobbled together. Luke Blewden and Tommy Whitnell returning from long-term injury that would almost certainly mean that they had no more than an hour in their legs with very little experience on the bench to replaced them. In that respect, Stephen Ibizugsbe was a mystery man. I don’t think he has come from the Reserves as the Full-Time website doesn’t show any appearances. A quick Google says he was a Brentford youngster and played for Horsham.

Kingstonian got off to the best possible starts with a goal after four minutes through Connor Hunte adding to the fears for the Angels’ makeshift team.

But those fears disappeared five minutes later when Alex Akrofi capitalised on dithering between goalkeeper and defender to pounce on a long ball forward and shoot into an unguarded net.

George Beavan picked up a rather harsh yellow card that would prove significant later and after 35 minutes had a defender’s shot on goal that sailed over.

Kingstonian had the momentum going into the break and Jonny Henly produced good saves to deny Greg Cundle twice and ex-Angel Tom Beere. Cundle, on loan from Gillingham, put in a very decent shift.

Tonbridge went ahead seven minutes into the second half when a long cross into the box from Liam Smith was turned into his own net by Sean Francis.

Blewden and Whitnell had served their hour when Turner was sent clear by Akrofi to convert after 72 minutes, the time on my Golden Goal ticket that was worth £25! All of a sudden I wanted no more goals!

A fantastic defensive effort from Kingstonian denied Turner and Akrofi to preserve my hold on the money and Henly did his bit saving from Cundle and Jason Williams.

Two minutes remained when Beavan dragged back Cundle and saw red for his trouble. On the day with little time remaining it did not prove costly but his suspension will be another absence with so few bodies from which Steve McKimm can choose.

Three points and a nice little cash prize from a game I wasn’t meant to be at, all thanks to the Beast from the East's little brother.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Rusthall 1 Cray Valley PM 2

Match 101/17/1551 - Wednesday, 14th March 2018 - SCEFL

Rusthall (0) 1 Smith 80
Cray Valley PM (0) 2 Lisbie 65 Gayle 72
Attendance: 97

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: None issued
Mileage: 38/7,005

Rusthall didn’t reap any reward for a great effort in getting this match played but, looking at the state of the pitch at the final whistle, they might have given themselves a whole load of work to get it playable for the next time out which is thankfully 10 days away.

Cray Valley boasted Kevin Lisbie, ex of Charlton Athletic, Gillingham and a multitude of other clubs in their ranks. The Jamaican striker might now be approaching his 40th birthday but he still has an eye for goal that brought him over a 100 Football League goals.

Lisbie saw an early effort go narrowly wide but the game took on an uneventful first period. Cray Valley largely dominated but Rusthall responded with Ryan Waterman bringing a good save out of Andy Walker and a comfortable one from Stephen Smith.

Callum Christie, in the Rustics goal, made the first of many good saves after 36 minutes saving at his near post to deny Denzil Gayle and, just before the break, a touch onto the bar when Lisbie had been sent clear was top drawer.

If Rusthall had scraped an honourable draw at the end of the first half, the second half was very much Cray Valley’s. It became a story of Christie’s hits and CV’s misses.

Christie made a fine, plunging save at the feet of Enoch Adjei, injuring himself in the process. Next it was the turn of Gayle to twice be denied before the visitors finally achieved the breakthrough in the 65th minute with Lisbie springing the Rusthall offside trap to go one-on-one with Christie and this time winning the duel.

Two minutes later Gayle had a glorious chance to double the advantage when a nod down saw him with the ball at his feet from six yards but only managing to screw his shot wide.

However, it was Gayle that scored the second, after 72 minutes, when the ball was lost in midfield, Junior James sent him clear and he converted off the right hand post. Cue much banter with the Valley’s small but vocal support regarding his previous misses. As one player said: “He tried his hardest to miss”!

Rusthall rallied to find a goal that might have given them a sniff of a comeback when Smith scored with a far post header from a right wing cross and it might have been more than a consolation when, in time added, Waterman shot narrowly wide.

It seemed out-of-step with the game that Cray Valley found themselves hanging on for the final whistle, but hang on they did.

Chatham Town 1 Tunbridge Wells 0

Match 100/17/1550 - Tuesday, 13th March 2018 - SCEFL

Chatham Town (0) 1 Zanone 70
Tunbridge Wells (0) 0
Attendance: 103

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 32/6,967

Postponements have been the order of the past month and so it was that the latest, Tonbridge’s long-awaited visit of the Billericay Circus with their evangelistic leader, Glenn Tamplin befell victim to a waterlogged pitch.

Never mind, any opportunity to watch Tunbridge Wells is worth taking. True, on the field they are as inconsistent as it is possible to be, unless you go back six months when they were consistently poor, but the people that support them are never anything less than good company for a couple of hours.

Chatham Town have also had a season that they will probably want to forget as soon as the last ball is kicked and were just a little nervously looking over their shoulders as Hollands & Blair have started to put the odd point on the board. A new influx of players including the much-travelled Stuart Zanone, Jason Goodchild and ex-Tunbridge Wells man Joe Nwoko have been brought in, as much for next season as this one would hope, to stave off any threat of relegation.

The first half was a pretty even affair without either team laying too much of a glove on the other. Zanone had the ball in the net after six minutes but was clearly offside and the Wells had a shot from Jack Harris comfortably saved by Ben Nourse whilst a better save was needed to deny Jared Trespaderne after 19 minutes. Sadly, it turned out that these would be the Wells only efforts on target all evening.

Trespaderne’s work ethic is to be admired, example a 60 yard back track in the second half, but he doesn’t appear to be an out-and-out striker in these formative years.

There was a bit of handbags after a poor tackle put Chatham’s Jack Matthews in the book but largely an uneventful first half drew slowly to its close.

Chatham were by far the better team in the second period and only an excellent performance from Cameron Hall between the Wells sticks, kept the score line blank until the 70th minute when the home side finally broke the deadlock.

The early warning signs for the second half were there as Chatham’s Russell Bedford flashed a shot across the face of goal.

Cameron Hall produced a brave save at the feet of Zanone as the introduction of substitutes Billy Brown and Taylor McDonagh gave the home side fresh impetus.

It was Brown’s run that set-up the opportunity for Zanone to bury his shot into the bottom corner to give the Chats the lead.

Hall made saves from Brown (twice) and Nwoko whilst Zanone shot over and Greg Skinner made a goal line clearance as the traffic became largely one-way.

Three important points for Chatham, of which they were more desperate than the Wells, and this was clearly evident in the second period.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Tonbridge Angels 1 Worthing 2

Match 99/17/1549 - Saturday, 10th March 2018 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Turner 61
Worthing (0) 2 Newton 90+1, Pope 90+2
Attendance: 382

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/6,935

There is no worse place to be than mid-table in early March. Three successive wins failed to lift Tonbridge a single place and this defeat had a similar outcome. There were a few grumbles as the Angels conceded twice in time added, but mostly there was an acceptance that, over the 90 minutes, Worthing deserved the points. I sense there was no real anger at the result because it barely mattered.

Worthing, for a period before Christmas, looked certs for relegation but a change of manager has seen a splendid run of form that has lifted the Rebels to safety. One wonders if their early season form was due to their enforced exile at Bognor Regis following problems with the 3G surface at their Woodside Road home.

Tonbridge needed to reshuffle their back line with Craig Stone’s absence and when Callum Adonis-Taylor was injured after 20 minutes another shuffle left them looking like a puzzle with three pieces missing.

Worthing started brightly with their forwards looking lively. Kieron Pamment fired over and successive corners from ex-Angel Sam Rents caused concern with a Jesse Starkey shot deflected narrowly wide and Joe Clarke’s header going over.

After 20 minutes Jonny Henly did well to save at the feet of Zack Newton with the rebound falling to Starkey whose shot sailed over the bar.

The chances continued to fall to the visitors. A lovely move set-up Jazz Rance but he fired wide before Xavier Vidal stretched Worthing’s goalkeeper, Lucas Cavagnari for the first, and only time of the half.

Henly did well to touch a Newton shot onto the post as the hosts went into the break on level terms thanks only to the profligacy of their visitors.

Steve McKimm, forced to watch from the media tower by virtue of a touchlne ban, saw his side open the second half in a more positive manner with Vidal twice bringing good saves out of Cavagnari with shots from distance.

Joe Turner’s corner found the head of Nathan Elder but the effort went over but, after 61 minutes, Tonbridge took the lead with a cleverly worked free kick that saw Sam Bantick send Turner clear into the box to fire past Cavagnari.

Cavagnari saved from Bantick that might have given the Angels some breathing space before Worthing regained their first half momentum.

Rance fired across the face of goal; Newton set-up Pamment to fire wastefully over as did Starkey moments later.

There was a sense of inevitability, as the game entered three minutes of time added, when Rance crossed for Newton to score from close range.

Not content with their point, Worthing went in search of a win and within a minute, Rance again the perpetrator drawing a save from Henly with the rebound fired in by substitute Ben Pope.

There was still time for Tonbridge to earn a share of the honours when Elder managed to get the ball stuck under his feet from six yards with the goal yawning in front of him.

Elder’s mishap seemed to foster more discontent than the actual result as the supporters filed away with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. There is nothing like mid-table obscurity to nurture apathy.

Picture: Dave Couldridge

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Tunbridge Wells 2 Cray Valley PM 1

Match 98/17/1548 - Tuesday, 6th March 2018 - SCEFL League Cup QF

Tunbridge Wells (1) 2 Pilbeam 6, 90+3
Cray Valley PM (1) 1 Flack 22
Attendance: 137

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 36/6,897

As the two previous quarter-finals of this competition had produced bone-numbing extra time on freezing cold evenings, extra time was something of a fait accompli as we entered three minutes of time added. For much of the second half Cray Valley had looked the likely winners, but a punt forward found a dallying full back and a goalkeeper unsure what his defender was about to do. Jon Pilbeam capitalised on the uncertainly, got between the two and slotted home with virtually the last kick of the match. It was nowhere near as cold as at Erith or Chatham, but the avoidance of those extra 30 minutes was still welcomed as was Tunbridge Wells’ place in the semi-finals.

Tunbridge Wells went ahead with the first real opportunity of the game in the sixth minute. A quick throw from Alfie Hall gave Tom Davey the time to deliver an inch perfect cross for Pilbeam to score with a far post header.

Cray Valley responded and took the game to the Wells and were fully deserving of their equaliser on 23 minutes. A cross into the box from Joe N’Guessan was headed clear by Jack Harris but only to Ryan Flack whose first touch lifted the ball to volley over the head of Cameron Hall.

Cray Valley enjoyed a dominant period with Hall injuring himself after a brave save at the feet of Callum Willock followed by some quick feet from substitute Enoch Adjei but a shot that was dragged wide.

It was the Wells though that finished the half in the ascendancy as the Cray goalkeeper, Andy Walker saved from Josh Biddlecombe and superbly from Jared Trespaderne from close range at the far post.

Goalkeeper Hall took the honours as the Wells fought a second half rearguard action coupled with some stout defending. Hall denied Adjei and Denzel Gayle before producing a double save to thwart both Gayle and Willock before a third effort was blasted over.

Extra time beckoned before Pilbeam’s intervention and, whilst Cray Valley will bemoan their wasted opportunities, the Wells resilience was to be admired and Cameron Hall, take a bow young man.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Grays Athletic 3 Bury Town 1

Match 97/17/1547 - Saturday, 3rd March 2018 - Bostik North

Grays Athletic (3) 3 Bishop 9,18 Carlos 11
Bury Town (1) 1 Ramadam 57
Attendance: 251
[Bracketed tick]

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 72/6,861

Match Report

The Beast from the East roared in like a grumpy Adebayo Akinfenwa, firstly blasting us with sub-zero temperatures and then dumping a snowfall of proportions not seen for five years. Transport ground to a halt, the shops emptied of staple supplies as the south east descended into the panic which would make most European countries wet themselves in amusement. Naturally, football wasn’t immune and the week’s plans were wiped out in an instant. I have to say the postponement of the trip to Leiston on Tuesday was met more with relief than disappointment having already completed one aborted attempt. Wednesday’s game at Lordswood fell and eyes turned to the weekend as the weather showed little signs of relenting. Gillingham’s home game against Rotherham was an early postponement on Thursday and by Friday the list had lengthened to the point where it was easier to list the ons rather than the offs. 3G alternatives at Bromley and K Sports went the same way and on Friday evening the choices were very sparse. East Kent seemed to have suffered less harshly and Folkestone and Dover were good to go, but it was the 3G surface at Aveley’s Parkside that, whilst still needing a morning inspection, ticked the box of the easiest to get to. Inspection passed it was the home game for tenants Grays Athletic against Bury Town that got my vote.

At the risk of this post becoming a weather report, the morning’s warm sunshine on the Kent side of the Tunnel had turned to freezing fog on the Essex side, a temperature drop that hit you as soon as you got out of the car.
Grays fielded a couple of old friends, ex-Gill Dennis Oli and ex-Angel James Folkes, one of the game’s real nice guys.

The match was seemingly over as a contest after 18 minutes as Grays raced into a 3-0 lead. A couple of early chances for Bury had gone begging before Kieron Bishop collected a clearance, cut in from the left and fired into the bottom corner to open the scoring after nine minutes.

Two minutes later, Grays were two up with Joao Carlos unleashed a thunderous shot that found the net via the underside of the bar.

Unsurprisingly the visitors were a rattled side and goalkeeper, Luis Tibbles, did well to save at the feet of Bishop. But goal number three was not long in coming. A free kick played in Oli whose cross allowed Bishop a tap-in at the far post.

At this point, it looked like a humiliating afternoon was on the cards for the Suffolk side, but to their credit they rallied and had chances to reduce the arrears before the break with Cemal Ramadam sent clear but pulling his shot wide left.

The game got hot under the collar, almost impossible with everybody’s feet turning to ice, when a melee followed a tackle that ended with the referee issuing three yellow cards.

Ramadam reduced the arrears after 57 minutes when he scored from the left sided angle of the six yard box.

Both sides had chances to either put the game to bed or set-up a grandstand finish but the one to report was an open goal for a Grays' substitute that should get a mention if only to use the wonderfully named Furo Gogo-Ibiama.

To finish with the weather theme, it could be identified that spring is around the corner as the game managed to get to its conclusion without the floodlights being turned on. It was just a shame that nobody told my feet as I hastened back to the comfort of the car’s heater.