Thursday 01st September 2005

Flying Angels relish Fisher test

Tuesday 13th
September 2005
FA Cup
First Qualifying Round Replay
Stephen McCartney reports from Betterview Longmead Stadium
Tonbridge Angels 2 Danny Lye 77
Luke Piscina 90
Hastings United 1 Sean Ray 57

A dramatic winner from local hero Luke Piscina sent Tonbridge Angels through to the second qualifying round of the FA Cup - with a trip to Ryman Premier League side Fisher Athletic awaiting them, writes Stephen McCartney.

The 20-year-old striker, who lives in the town, scored an excellent solo goal 81 seconds into stoppage time to break Hastings United's hearts.

His shot from an acute angle, after cutting in from the left, screamed in off the far post to send the home fans in the crowd of 454 - wild.

In what was a tight clash in the first half, although both sides created a couple of good chances, the 66th minute introduction of Tony Dolby - the Kent side's player-boss, was inspirational.

With his side losing 1-0, the former Fisher Athletic man inspired his players and took the game by the scruff of the neck.

Dolby, however, was playing through the pain barrier, but kicked his players up the backside and they responded with two goals in the final thirteen minutes - also having a goal ruled out - to progress.

Hastings had taken the lead 12 minutes into the second half, when their skipper, Sean Ray left his defensive duties to join their other big men inside the penalty box, and he was left completely unmarked to power home a header following Danny Ellis' corner kick.

Angels' Jay May, Piscina and Craig Roser all had good chances to break the deadlock in a tight opening 45 minutes but Dolby's introduction sparked them into life and with 18 minutes remaining, striker Leroy Huggins, who had jumped up with Hastings goalkeeper Sean Thomas, flicked Lee Carey's right wing cross wide of the far post.

But they drew level only five minutes later when Danny Lye toe-poked the ball through the goalkeeper's legs following Dolby's corner on the left.

And within a minute the home fans were celebrating again, only to have Piscina's goal ruled out for a foul on the goalkeeper by Ray Powell.

But Tonbridge maintained the pressure and with extra time looming, Piscina was there to wrap it up, scoring his 30th career goal for the Kent club.

Piscina, is relishing the trip to Fisher Athletic in the next round.  In an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk following the team's warm-down, he said: "We are going to be confident going into the game.  There's a lot of strings attached to that club with players here that have played for them but that sets it up for a good game.

"It's definitely a big game and being away we will set our stall out and be up for it," he promised.  "To win and get into the next round is what everyone wants."

Piscina, however, admitted the player's character shone through in the end.  "There's a lot of character in the dressing room, everyone is willing to work for each other.  We are unbeaten in the league, which is good and I can see us do well in this league and go back where we came from."

Speaking about his boss, he added: "He's excellent as a manager and as a person and is good to get on with.  We all look up to him.  When he came on he was going to be the anchorman, he's going to be there ready to give the orders and we reacted to that.  We pushed on and got the goal and it's a great win."

One former Fisher Athletic player in the Angels' side is relishing playing against his former club.

28-year-old goalkeeper, Jerome John, who lives in Crystal Palace and works for Premiership club West Ham United, where he coaches their academy team goalkeepers, revealed he had just made it due to a recent hamstring injury.

And John denied Hastings scoring a late equaliser when he, somehow, kept out a shot from Ray, who felt he had scored and held his head in agony.

"It was touch and go," he said.  "I spoke to Dolb's (Tony Dolby) last night and it (hamstring injury) was ok but he said make sure it was allright in the morning, which it was.

"We've done well to battle from a goal down to win.

"The hamstring has been a bit of a pain actually because it feels allright and then I play and I have to come off and it's been frustrating and disappointing so it's really nice to play in front of the home crowd and win."

His injury has meant he has played half of his team's eight competitive games this season - but he is relishing the trip to Fisher.

"Very tough game as we played them in pre-season and to be fair they alienated us but obviously it will be a different sort of game in the cup.

"We've got nothing to lose - all the pressure is on them."

John - nicknamed JJ - admitted he has settled in well at the Betterview Longmead Stadium club.

"It's great - I like it," he said regarding his new surroundings.  "It's a bit further from my old club but the boys and the fans are really nice and everyone's really welcoming so it's nice to play for a team that have such nice people around."

Unbeaten all season, John, added: "I was thinking we were going to lose but we've nicked two late goals.  It's great because everyone's confident - winning's a habit and if we can keep the habit going, then who knows?"

And if you want to know the injury Mr Dolby is suffering from, you'll have to ask him, but the boss was very pleased getting through.

"I would have started but (his injury) was really killing me, so I would have not liked to have played a part in the game, but as it turned out, it could have done with an old head out there, and so it proved right, he said.

But he was delighted his side made it through, adding: "I think over the two games we were the better side.

"They've come here, went a goal in front and we weren't playing at our best and on another night they might have held out.

"But we've got character, a good bunch of lads and a good team spirit and that came through in the end.  

"We've won six and drawn two of our first eight games and that's not bad."

But it's back to business in the Ryman League first division on Saturday when bottom of the table Ashford Town - who have six players missing - visit Betterview Longmead Stadium.

"We look to win every game in this league," Dolby insisted.  "Ashford is a Kent derby and I am sure they aren't going to come here and lie down and let us win.

"We will have to pick the pace up with good tempo early on and hopefully get a goal in front and grow in confidence and kill the game off."

And before their trip to Champion Hill to tackle Fisher Athletic, Dolby takes his side to Metropolitan Police (20th September).

"The games are coming thick and fast at the moment and there's one extra team in the league so we've got quite a few midweek games," he said.

"Ideally you would like the fixtures to slow down around this time (of the season) but it's the same for everyone.

"We'll just have to make sure we prepare right, and go into the game looking to keep our unbeaten run going."

The Angels, however, have been handed the worse possible draw, and will lose out financially as the home side lack support.

"Every aspect of it is not what we were looking for but again it's the luck of the draw.

"I don't have any qualms going down there and playing them.  We are a side full of confidence, they've got to lose it, it's not really ours to win, looking at their budget, but we are going there to give our all and hopefully we'll be able to get something out of the game.

"I have a few friends down there and know a few of their supporters so yes, it will be a nice day, but it's all about the football and to do a job."

Tonbridge Angels:  Jerome John, Ray Powell, Craig Roser, Darren Smith, Steve Aris (Capt), John Beales, Lee Carney, Danny Lye, Leroy Huggins, Luke Piscina, Jay May (Tony Dolby 66).  Subs: Mike Cramp, Warren Haughton, Ian Parkes, Mikhail Czanner (GK)

Hastings United: Sean Thomas, Rhys Whyborne, Jimmy Elford, Peter Mortley, Sean Ray (Capt), Nick Fagden, Steve Ringwood, Ben White (Danny Spice 83), Sam Adams, Ade Olorunda, Danny Ellis.  Subs: Chris Honey, Shaun Loft, Nigel Kane, Pat Brown

Attendance:  454
Referee:  Mr B Holdness (Ilford)
Assistants: Mr I Fissenden (Gravesend) & Mr P Andrews (Rochester)