Sunday 18th September 2005

Our best is yet to come, warns Dolby


Unbeaten Tonbridge Angels went to the top of the Ryman League division one table yesterday, but inspirational player-manager Tony Dolby warns his side have yet hit top form, writes Stephen McCartney.

Despite going a goal down - against the run of play - after 14 minutes at home to pointless Ashford Town yesterday, Ray Powell restored parity with a strike just before the interval.

And second half strikes from 20-year-old homegrown talent, Luke Piscina and substitute Warren Haughton sent them to the top, knocking off Cray Wanderers - who lost 4-0 at Hastings United.

Dolby's men have now played nine league and cup games so far this season and remain unbeaten.  They have collected 13 points from their first five league games and travel to 8th placed Metropolitan Police on Tuesday night and big-spenders Fisher Athletic (at Champion Hill, East Dulwich) in the FA Cup second qualifying round at the weekend.

"On our day we are really going to smash someone," Dolby told www.kentishfootball.co.uk

"Saying that we've averaged two goals a game and I think we've got to eradicate the silly goals we are giving away.  

"If we can stop that, and get a couple goals early doors I think we can go on and smash a couple of teams soon," he warned.

Dolby is pleased he can rely on local talented players, such as Ian Parkes (who can still play for the youth team) and John Beales, who made his 100th appearance for the club during their deserved win over Ashford.

"We've haven't had a full squad to choose from since the first game of the season but as I say, we've got strength in depth, which is helping us out."

Will the Angels' smash Metropolitan Police on Tuesday night?  The side that ended Kentish Observer League neighbours Tunbridge Wells' FA Cup dreams recently.

"They've spent a bit of money last year and opened it up to players outside the Police force I think last year or the year before.

"They've made some good signings so they are going to be big and strong I'm sure.

"But there's a nice surface down there and we'll go there and play our football.

"We seem to play better against the bigger and better sides."

Everyone at the club, however, is relishing their trip to Ryman Premier League side Fisher Athletic in the FA Cup second qualifying round on Saturday.

"It means an awful lot to us as a club and individuals as well," Dolby admitted.

"It's always good to get a good run in the cup and we've got a massive game against Fisher.

"It's obviously well documented their financial situation and the players they've brought in is fantastic.

"Hopefully we'll catch them cold, we're certainly full of confidence at the moment with great team spirit."

Angels' chairman, Nick Sullivan is also pleased with the progress of the club, on and off the pitch since taking over from Paul Dainty in May.

Reflecting on their 3-1 win over Ashford Town, he said: "We won today but didn't play partically well.  Saying that, we had enough chances to win a couple of games.

"But we have a magical spirit within our club now.  I think that was emphasised by (defender) Steve Aris playing with a broken nose.  He couldn't breathe properly but he wanted to be out there.  And that typifies what we are all about at the moment."

Looking ahead to their FA Cup clash at the weekend, Sullivan feels confident his players can pull off a victory.

"I think it's a good game for us," he said.  "We played them during pre-season and they absolutely alienated us.  

"They are a good side but it's a different game, a different day.  We probably had four or five boys that didn't play, and yes, we've got nothing to lose - but they've got everything to lose and I am confident we can get the right result."

But Sullivan spelt out his ambitions for the season, and added: "Our short term plans is just keep the momentum going with what we've got at the moment."

"Things on and off the pitch are coming along nicely and long term, come May is that we're in the mix.

"As I've said and I've been quite honest about it, we need to get out this league, but we have no divine right to."

With 53-years loyal service to the Kent club to his name, Frank Davis, 83, was presented with a bottle of champagne by Sullivan minutes before the Kent derby got underway.

"The man is unbelievable," praised Sullivan.  "He does the hospitality as I find it hard going in the boardroom and being nice as I'm still involved, my head's spinning now after the game and he does all that for me.

"He was the chairman, has done various roles and yes, we're lucky we've got many people like him, and people like him need their just rewards and he typifies that this football club is all about."

Sullivan, as you may recall, was understudy to Bob Wilson at Arsenal before playing for non-league sides including Bromley, and on Sunday, 25th September, a Tonbridge Angels XI or 24, tackle an Arsenal Ex-Pro/Celebrity side at the Betterview Longmead Stadium on Sunday 25th September, which kicks off at 2pm.

"Obviously when I can, I play for the Arsenal Veteran side and what we've done we're bringing them down here on Sunday 25th at 2 o'clock to play for the Pickering Centre, which is a cancer drop in centre based in Tunbridge Wells, which we've got close associations with," advertised Sullivan.

"We've rallied around and we've got the lads coming down to play against a Phil Emblem side.  He's brought a lot of the old boys back from past years and it should be a good day."

Sullivan has very fond memories at Highbury, and added: "I do a lot of their home games, I work for TWI and I still got a lot of good friends there, and yes, I am biased, it is a magical club."

Sullivan will be playing in goal for the Gunners side "for a while" and some top names - in an 18-19 man squad -  will grace the lush Betterview Longmead Stadium turf - raising funds for a very worthwhile cause.

And has the Angels' chairman coped with being behind the fence instead of playing or coaching inside the technical area?

"I don't miss the aches and pains, that's the hardest thing and the reason why I had to pack it in," he said.

"I still play in the Vets when I can but it takes me days to recover.  What I do find frustrating is being this side of the fence on match days, hence I don't sit in the directors box. 

"I stand behind the dug-out because I am the world's worse watcher.  I am still very much involved, it will come, but once you've played at a high level, or any level, it's very difficult to switch off."

And former Fisher Athletic defender, Steve Aris, hopes he will be fit enough to play against his former club, having been forced off after 75 minutes yesterday after sustaining a nose injury against Hastings United in midweek.

"I spent seven good years playing at Fisher, and going back so soon after leaving will give me the opportunity to say thanks to a lot of good people who was so friendly and supportive over the seven years I was there," he said.

"That's where all the pleasantries will end, we must go there believing we can get a positive result.

"Its true they have some very talented players, but our confidence is high at the moment and another well organised, big team effort could go a long way in seeing us through to the next round."

Reflecting about their 2-1 FA Cup replay win over Hastings United, Aris, added: "Tuesday night summed up football to me.  To finish the game at 9:30 on such a high and at 1 o'clock in the morning still sitting in the A+E department at Farnborough Hospital, waiting to be told that yes, your nose is broken but we can't do nothing until next Tuesday.

"It looks like I am going to need a small operation to fix my nose back straight again, but they can't touch it until the swelling goes down."

But with the spirit within the Tonbridge camp presently, who thinks Aris won't take to the field in South-East London at the weekend?

Metropolitan Police v Tonbridge Angels
Ryman League Division One
Tuesday 20th September 2005
Kick Off 7:45pm
at Imber Court, Ember Lane, East Molesey, Surrey