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|Stephen McCartney reports from the
Richard Brady 87
James Dryden 51
Angels within striking distance over next opponents Salisbury
TWO GOALS in the final four minutes sealed a vital victory for Tonbridge Angels over their Kent rivals Folkestone Invicta at the Avavan Longmead Stadium tonight.
Striker Richard Brady, making only his second appearance for the club following his switch from Eastbourne Borough, headed home his first goal for the club with three minutes to spare to hand the points to the hosts.
however, go back home pointless, having taken a deserved lead early on through
Adam Flanagan's third goal of the season.
John Farley equalised on the stroke of half time but Invicta were looking good to clinch only their second league win on the road.
Prolific striker James Dryden stroked his 20th goal of the season from seven yards six minutes into the second half as their travelling fans were hoping they could win their second away game in the league this season. Their only one was their 4-0 win at Leyton on the 24th August.
But injuries to key players Paul Lamb (ankle) and Paul Sykes (groin) forced Invicta boss Neil Cugley to shuffle the pack, which ultimately cost them the points.
The majority of the 368 fans went home happy and if Tonbridge collect three points at Salisbury City on Saturday then they will go above them in the table with the same amount of points as the Wiltshire side.
Angels boss Tony Dolby said: "I stated before the game over the last couple of days that tonight was simply a must win game for us.
"Now we've got the three points we needed we can look forward to Saturday knowing another good result there will put the cat amongst the pigeons."
Saturday is a very crucial day for all three Kent sides at the wrong end of the Ryman Premier League table.
Dolby added: "Tonight was a big game and going into Saturday it makes it essential that we get another result - we can't just sit back on this we've got to go again.
"We've been threatening to score goals of late, whilst getting punished for our mistakes but tonight we've got a little bit of run of the ball in the box and we were there to finish them.
"We've still conceeded two goals, which we are not happy about but all in all we are on the right road I'm sure."
Three points in Wiltshire will give the Angels a very good chance to beat the drop - but they have to finish outside the bottom four.
Dolby added: "I think three points on Saturday will be massive for us and I think Salisbury depending on how Folkestone get on, Harrow Borough have a tricky game at home to Dover, literally not everybody can win and if the teams that are closest to us fail to win and we do we are definitely within striking distance.
"There is still a long, long way to go and a lot of football to be played before we will throw in the towel that's for sure."
Folkestone's aerial presence caused the home side problems early on and Steve Norman had already planted a header over following Lamb's corner kick before they took a deserved lead after a quarter of an hour.
Lamb's corner was met by Flanagan unmarked at the far post and from close range he swept the ball home inside the near post.
A bright opening twenty minutes saw Flanagan go close again, this time Angels goalkeeper and skipper Jamie Turner comfortably saved his header and former Dartford striker Paul Sykes sent a bullet header wide.
Tonbridge, however, ended the half well and after Dolby crashed a 30-yard free kick against the stand roof advertising hoardings he was unlucky not to draw level with a 20-yard volley which screamed narrowly wide of the left post.
They did bite back on the stroke of half time. Nick Barnes' flag kick caused panic inside the six-yard box and striker Leroy Huggins nodded the ball towards goal but goalkeeper Tony Kessell did well to get something onto the ball in a crowded goal mouth.
The ball dropped to Farley and from 16-yards he crashed a half volley past Kessell bulging the back of the net and sending the home contingent wild.
Six minutes after the break, Invicta took the lead following a sweet passing move involving Sykes and the blonde haired Simon Glover. Glover played the ball into Dryden's path and from the edge of the six-yard box on the right hand side stroked the ball, left footed, into the bottom far corner of the net.
Tonbridge's biting midfielder Craig Roser responded quickly with a 30-yard effort which was flying towards the top left hand corner but Kessell did well to claw it out from underneath the crossbar.
After an hour's football, Dryden's shot from inside the box, was blocked by John Beales but the ball fell nicely for the hit-man but his second attempt was comfortably saved at the near post by Turner.
A minute later Angels midfielder Danny Lye tried an ambitious shot from distance that was never going to trouble Kessell.
The long awaited introduction of Jay May for Lye - who ripped off his shirt whilst walking off the pitch before chucking it into the dug-out - changed the game and inspired the Angels to collect three vital points.
They equalised in the 86th minute when Dolby sent in a free kick from the right touchline from 40-yards which was flicked down by May and Farley found the top left hand corner with his header.
Folkestone were left bewildered when the Angels grabbed victory from the hands of defeat only a minute later when Dolby passed to May and his ball was met by the head of Brady - who was very quiet for the entire game - but his looping header went over Kessell and dropped into the back of the net.
Invicta boss Neil Cugley was clearly dejected after the game, as his side came within minutes of winning only their second away league game of the season to end up with nothing.
He said: "At the end, the side I had out on the pitch isn't good enough to play at this standard.
"We just had so many people out and to be fair to the youngsters who have done well for me its very hard for them to come on.
"I felt Tonbridge got physically stronger than us, winning the headers and the tackles we were winning earlier in the game.
"Players went off injured and it was really hard for us today."
Cugley admitted he was concerned with his side's poor away form, which has seen them collect only eight points away from their Westbourne Stadium base.
"We've tried everything to put it right but today I felt we were ever so good. Well pleased with our second goal, superb but it's very difficult with youngsters at this standard I'm afraid."
Cugley was full of praise for striker Dryden after scoring his 20th goal of the season, ten goals short of the target set by Cugley.
"It's difficult for Jim at the end, he's finished up with a 16-year-old alongside him but that's how it is at our club at the moment. We can't afford to pay anybody to sit on the bench so we just have to get on with it and do our best.
"It's very frustrating as I know we've got a very good side with everybody fit."
But it's their home form that is probably going to keep them in the division, according to Cugley.
He added: "I think our home form will keep us up, our enthusiasm, it showed today but once you get two or three out during a game its real difficult, you have to change everything around.
"I would love to get Kevin Watson again back - he will make a big difference."
Whilst Tonbridge travel to Salisbury City for a "six-pointer" Invicta host Northwood at Cheriton Road on Saturday - another "must win" game for the stripes.
"Northwood is like tonight, it's a must win one. We didn't' win tonight so we have to make sure we win that one."
Tonbridge Angels: Jamie Turner (Capt), Kieron Wilson, Steve McNamara, Tony Dolby, John Beales, John Farley, Craig Roser, Danny Lye (Jay May 76), Leroy Huggins (Gareth Street 90), Richard Brady, Nick Barnes. Subs: Luke Piscina, Brendon Cass, Nick Humphrey
Folkestone Invicta: Tony Kessell, James Everitt, Paul Lamb (John Walker 61), Adam Flanagan, Steve Norman, Scott Lindsey, Michael Everitt, Joe Neilson (Luke Coleman 78), James Dryden, Paul Sykes (Mark Munday 53), Simon Glover. Sub: Dan Morrin (GK)
Referee: M Adkins
Assistants: N Wilde & P Kelly