Thursday 01st September 2005

Dolby: We can hold our heads up high

Saturday 8th
October 2005
FA Cup
Third Qualifying Round
Stephen McCartney reports from 
St George's Lane
Worcester City 3 Leon Kelly 24
Adam Webster 77
Graham Hyde 87
Tonbridge Angels 0  

Although hugely disappointed that his side were knocked out of the FA Cup at the third qualifying round stage, Tonbridge Angels' player-manager Tony Dolby admitted they will learn from their first defeat of the season to make sure they secure promotion from the Ryman League first division at the first time of asking, writes Stephen McCartney.

Everyone at the Betterview Longmead Stadium club enjoyed their FA Cup campaign, which saw them knock Horsham, Hastings United and big spending Fisher Athletic out, but Nationwide Conference North strugglers Worcester City were just too strong.

But Dover Athletic's surprise 2-0 defeat at Tooting & Mitcham United - also, their first defeat of the season - meant the Angels remain at the top of the Ryman League Division One table.

So it will be Worcester, and Kent side's Gravesend & Northfleet, Welling United, Bromley (who travel to Mangotsfield United for Tuesday night's replay), Folkestone Invicta, Cray Wanderers and Ramsgate that join the other sides in the hat for Monday's final qualifying round draw, leaving Dolby to ponder what might have been.

"Any defeat is disappointing," Dolby told www.kentishfootball.co.uk in the post match press conference underneath the shelter of the main stand roof as the rain came down from depressing grey clouds above.

"It's the first time we've tasted defeat this season and hopefully we don't have to do it many more times."

But Dolby was confident his side could progress into the final qualifying round, and added: "We went into the game full of confidence.  We knew they were going to be big, strong and physical and that was never going to be anything that we didn't know about and today they were that little bit too strong for us."

The public address announcer tried to rally both sets of supporters as he read out the team line-ups out on the pitch before kick off, just like they do before a heavyweight boxing contest.

And it was the Kent side that started brightly in the opening ten minutes but Worcester recovered and dealt three knockout punches.

Dolby's left-footed driven free kick from forty yards flew straight at Worcester goalkeeper Danny McDonnell in the middle of the goal, and following a penetrating run, Jay May's shot from just outside the box deflected wide of the far post.

But Worcester took a stranglehold on the game and almost took the lead from their third corner of the game but central defender Chris Smith's header - following Liam McDonald's corner - sailed wide of the post from 12 yards.

Worcester, however, took a deserved lead after 24 minutes when their skipper Graham Hyde - who came off the bench for Sheffield Wednesday during their FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal in the 90's - whipped in a cross across the face of goal from the left flank, and found Adam Webster at the far post.

Instead of shooting, Webster poked the ball across the goal mouth to Leon Kelly to fire home from just two yards.

They almost doubled their lead after 39 minutes when long black haired defender Shabir Khan rose above the Angels' defence to plant a header over from six yards following another McDonald corner.

Angels' striker Nick Barnes, however, did well to intercept a Worcester pass inside his own half and raced down the centre of the pitch.  Exchanging passes with striker Leroy Huggins, he was denied inside the box as goalkeeper Danny McDonnell smothered the ball at his feet.

The rain lashed down in the second half from the grey skies above but with the score only 1-0 the Kent side always had a chance.

The impressive Webster and Kelly were big, strong and quick, and Webster's 25-yard shot was charged down by on-loan Brighton & Hove Albion young defender Steve May as Jerome John, the Angels' stopper, comfortably saved.

Tonbridge's best chance of the second half came with 18 minutes left.  Lee Carey - the second of their youngsters from the Withdean Stadium - chested the ball down and played the ball to May on the left.

May switched the ball to Ray Powell on the far side of the pitch and his low drive from the edge of the box went across the face of goal.  The ball, however, was retrieved by May close to the by-line inside the box, but his low centre was put behind by former Nottingham Forest defender Des Lyttle.  Huggins, however, headed over from the resulting corner.

Then at the other end, Worcester's Webster latched onto a slip by Powell, cut in towards the penalty area and his right-footed 20-yarder flashed wide of the far post.

So often in these cup ties, the higher league side's fitness tells and this was the case, scoring twice late on.

Worcester substitute Sam Wedgbury was brought down by blonde haired defender Jon Heath and the full-back was booked by the Walsall referee.

Rob Warner's free kick from 40-yards on the right was met by Webster, whose header from ten yards squirmed under diving goalkeeper Jerome John and crept inside the foot of the left post.

But the former Fisher Athletic goalkeeper made amends three minutes later, acrobatically tipping over Chris Smith's header, as the centre half rose to met Wedgbury's corner.

And Worcester wrapped up only their third competitive victory of the season with three minutes left when Hyde fired home from eight yards inside the bottom right hand corner.

"We put a little bit of pressure on them early doors, but they got the goal, not really against the run of play," reflected Dolby.

"But it was an even game, and a draw at half time would have been fair.

"We came out, we had a really good chance at 1-0 down and (during the second half) we tried to get something back, and obviously when you're chasing games, especially in the FA Cup when it's do or die, we threw men forward, taking a few risks, and they got a couple (of goals) late on."

After only ten days after his nose operation, inspirational skipper Steve Aris was called into action.

"We left it until the last minute," revealed Dolby.  "Steve obviously wants to play, we want him to play.

"It just optimises everything we're all about down here.  We've got fantastic spirit, players who want to play for Tonbridge and that's testament to the group of lads that we've got and they all want to get out there and play."

But the Angels are back in cup action this week - both matches being played at their Betterview Longmead Stadium.

Tooting & Mitcham United are the visitors on Tuesday night in the Westview Cup before Cheshunt visit next Saturday for a more important tie in the FA Trophy (first qualifying round).

"There's no reprieve for us.  Maybe I can give a couple of the boys a rest (on Tuesday), revealed Dolby.

"The schedule has been a bit hectic of late , playing two games a week and there's no let up until before Christmas.

"No excuses.  Worcester didn't have a midweek game but we can hold our heads up high today."

Dolby admitted they will learn from their visit to St George's Lane - and would like more games like this again in the future.

"Obviously the physical aspect of it, it's quite a big jump as you go up the leagues, and especially when you're coming to places like these," he said.

"We've got to learn from today, we've got to learn that when you do come away especially if we do get promoted and get the odd chance you've got to put them away.

"But at the end of the day, we are still playing some good stuff, we are still top of the league, we've still got so much to play for, we are still buoyant."

Steve Aris, the Angels' skipper, added: "The boys can take a lot from the game - to get this far in the first place."

The 27-year-old former Fisher Athletic defender added: "We've had three tough games, beating Horsham, Hastings and Fisher as well.

"We knew we had nothing to lose and we've tried our hardest.  The boys can take a lot from this game, we go away feeling disappointed but we don't take it (losing) into the league.

"We know what's it like to lose a game now and hopefully we don't get this feeling again."

Aris revealed he was told by doctors to rest for at least a month following his nose operation ten days ago.

"Under doctors orders I shouldn't have played today," he revealed.  I was told to rest for 4-6 weeks, but on the heat of the moment I was asked and I said yes so I turned out today."

Aris, however, will probably be rested on Tuesday night but will be back in action for the more important FA Trophy tie against Cheshunt.

Worcester City: Danny McDonnell, Rob Warner, Shabir Khan, Chris Smith, Justin Thompson, Des Lyttle, Tom Warmer (Sam Wedgbury 71), Graham Hyde (Capt), Leon Kelly, Adam Webster, Liam McDonald (Andy Preece 77).  Subs: Danny Hodnett, Jimmi-Lee Jones, Lewis Skyers

Tonbridge Angels: Jerome John, Ray Powell, Jon Heath, Tony Dolby, Steve Aris (Capt), Steve May, Lee Carey, Darren Smith, Leroy Huggins, Nick Barnes (Luke Piscina 59), Jay May (John Beales 85).  Subs: Mike Cramp, Craig Roser, Ian Parkes

Attendance: 684
Referee: Mr Neil Hancox (Walsall)
Assistants: Mr Dragan Kuznmanovic (Lichfield) & Mr Stephen Martin (Wolverhampton)