Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk
Everyone wants to be part of Tunbridge Wells
TUNBRIDGE WELLS have been given a boost ahead of Saturday's trip to Bourne Park in Sittingbourne for their game with Maidstone United, writes Stephen McCartney.
Culverden Stadium outfit are one place but seven points behind the Stones - who
are unbeaten in seven games - going into Saturday's game.
Although the Wells are going through a transition period due to injuries to their key senior players, manager Kevin Metcalf has revealed some good news.
"We're looking at the present personnel seeing if we do need to bring in perhaps a couple of experienced heads," said the Tenterden based manager.
"Looking at the injury list, 90% of the injured players have played at a higher level. I do believe we do have a good squad.
"Aaron O'Leary may be back for the Herne Bay game but we told him not to rush back. (Defender) Martin Anderson could be a week away and Jay Westwood - but we've told them not to rush.
"No disrespect to the teams we need to play but we want them back in the pre-season.
"Basically all of the squad we've got now, the likes of Dave Hassett, Aaron O'Leary, Martin Anderson, Buster Beaney, Luke Williams, Kevin Brown, have all pledged their loyalty.
"That shows that the club is definitely going forward.
"In Martin (Telford) and Dave (Rice) I believe we've got two of the best coaches at this level. If I am honest it's enjoyable to work with them and be in the same dressing room as them.
"A lot of the players who we asked after training last week and on Saturday, they've pledged with Martin, Dave and myself to work with us in pre-season."
That news proves players that have played at a higher level - most of the Wells squad have - are committed to bring success to Tunbridge Wells.
Wells have collected four points in their last two games, a 1-0 win over local rivals Sevenoaks Town on Easter Monday at Culverden Stadium and collecting a point in a 2-2 draw at Thamesmead Town.
Both west-Kent sides started tentatively as they tried to come to terms with a bumpy Culverden pitch.
The only action of note coming when Sevenoaks' Dave Waters shot weakly at Wells goalkeeper Matt Bromby.
However, Sevenoaks were dealt a major blow after 15 minutes when goalkeeper Darren Smart went down after collecting an easy cross, his ankle collapsing underneath him.
Play was held up for fifteen minutes and Andy Hart took over in goal and rarely looked troubled in the first half.
The second half, however, was almost as uneventful as the first with neither goalkeeper tested.
The home side brought on Lee Porter and he made an impact five minutes later. A free kick was headed across goal by Buster Beaney and Porter was on hand at the far post to stab the ball home.
Hart saved well from Porter and somehow got away with carrying the ball over his goal-line. However, the assistant referee flagged for offside, even though there wasn't a Tunbridge Wells player within 15 yards of the goal.
Reflecting on the game, Metcalf admitted it was a typical derby clash. "A bit of a boring game to be honest, local derbies are, aren't they?
"But to give Sevenoaks their due they came looking for three points to be honest and even though their goalkeeper went off injured after 15 minutes, we didn't make many chances.
"The second half was more or less the same. There are certain things in a derby that sparks a derby into life and I think it was Lee Porter who had a shot from 25-yards and the goalkeeper caught and stepped back into the goal but the officials gave offside, which took everyone by surprise.
"But then a few tactical changes made by Martin (Telford), a cross came in from Steve Ward, which found Lee Porter on the far post to slot home."
Metcalf, however, wasn't sure how to describe their 2-2 draw at Bayliss Avenue on Saturday, despite being 2-0 up, they had to settle for a point.
"Well, let's say, in the first 15 minutes Thamesmead Town had four clear cut chances, and two of them the boy only had to put the ball wide of Matt (Bromby) to score.
"But as the first half went on, I know their manager Paul Blade, and I kept joking that we were going to nick this game."
However, after Jason Clews missed numerous chances to give the South East Londoners a healthy lead, Wells found themselves 2-0 and should have wrapped up the game but Michael Ward squandered a good chance.
Tunbridge Wells took the lead in a rather bizarre fashion. Peter Deadman had the ball in the visitors area when one of the Wells' players shouted for the ball to be kicked out of play due to an injury to one of their players.
Sportingly Deadman kicked the ball out. However, from the resulting throw Wells kicked the ball all the way back to Thamesmead goalkeeper Danny Kemp, who over hit his short pass to former Wells defender Jon Mayall and Luke Williams nipped in to slot the ball past Kemp.
Metcalf descried this as a "real strange goal. It was probably one of the flukiest goals I've seen.
"So not playing well and going in 1-0 at half time, you take that."
He added: "A big heart to heart from Martin and Dave with the players during half-time and we sent them out and for the first 20 minutes we looked a different side. Michael Ward was set free on the right hand side and he crossed for Dave Hassett to slot home.
"About five minutes later Dave Hassett was sent free down the left, who crossed for Michael Ward to hit the bar. That would have been 3-0 and game gone. But Paul (Blade) made a couple of tactical changes and they got two late goals."
Metcalf, however, admits if his side had experience then they would have shut up shop to win the game.
"It was a very difficult one to assess," he said. "When we asked the players how they felt about losing a two goal lead they told us they have to learn to shut up shop.
"The coaching team were asking each individual player and this is what comes out of it - they are young and we have to basically learn to kill games.
"It's a difficult one to call - on paper we got away light, but we could have come out easy 3-0 winners."
Metcalf comes face to face with an in-form Stones side on Saturday and the Wells will be making sure they don't get beaten for a second time.
"There is a lot riding on the game," he said. "Dave Rice said after the Thamesmead game that no team in the league has taken six points of us this year, so we let the lads know that we don't want Maidstone to be the first.
"We had Danny Barham come back on Saturday but he's the only one at the moment, so again, it will be a very youthful Tunbridge Wells side.
"They've still got to learn. We are treating these last three games to rebuild for next year and to give the youngsters a go."
Tunbridge Wells finish their Kent League campaign with two home games against Erith Town on Saturday 16th April and against second placed Herne Bay seven days later.
Maidstone United v Tunbridge Wells
Go Travel Kent League Premier Division
Saturday 9th April 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Sittingbourne FC, Bourne Park, Central Park, Eurolink, Sittingbourne