Ashford Town 2 Tonbridge Angels 3

Saturday 21st January 2006

Adrian Stone 48, 50

Ray Powell 26
Jon Main 37, 52

Stephen McCartney reports from The Homelands
Ryman League Division One

Tonbridge Angels maintained pressure on leaders Horsham at the top of the Ryman League Division One table with a comfortable 3-2 victory over their Kent rivals Ashford Town, who are just one place and two points clear of the relegation zone, writes Stephen McCartney.

Fourth placed Tonbridge are just two points behind the West Sussex side, but do have three games in hand and are level on points (52) with Tooting & Mitcham United and their Kent rivals Ramsgate.

Although this Kent derby produced five-goals, Tonbridge were in complete control of the game. Both of Ashford’s goals were scored within the first five minutes of the second half, courtesy of striker Adrian Stone, whose now scored three goals following his return from Bromley.

By that stage, however, Ray Powell’s eighth goal of the season had given Tonbridge a deserved lead after 26 minutes, and striker Jon Main, a recent capture from league rivals Cray Wanderers, where he scored 21 goals before his switch to Longmead Stadium, added a second eight minutes before half-time.

Tonbridge started very well and their best chance fell to midfielder Nick Barnes after 12 minutes when his 20-yard drive flashed past the diving goalkeeper and far post.

Fraser Logan’s right-footed cross from the left picked out John Beales, and his shot from an acute angle was tipped over by Dave Wietecha.

But the former Bromley and Folkestone Invicta giant goalkeeper was beaten a minute later when his defenders failed to clear Logan’s corner and Ray Powell volleyed high into the net from six-yards.

Things got better for the visitors when Main was at the far post and blasted Richard Ponsford’s cross from the left into the net to give Tonbridge a deserved two-goal advantage.

Ashford, meanwhile, looked dead and buried. They created one real chance when Stone drove just wide of the foot of the near post, but a change of tactics by joint-manager Tim Thorogood had the desired effect and two goals in the opening five minutes brought his side level.

Tom Adlington’s hanging cross from the right went through Angels’ goalkeeper Mikhail Czanner’s fingers at the near post and the ball fell nicely for Stone to poke the ball over the line from just two-yards out.

Ashford fans were in dreamland when Stone rolled the ball into the far corner of the net from 16-yards but Tonbridge scored what turned out to be the winner within two minutes when Main netted his 23rd goal of the season, rifling a shot in off the underside of the crossbar after Ashford didn’t clear Darren Smith’s corner.

Once everybody got their breath back - it was Ashford’s second highest crowd of the season - Stone should have grabbed his hat-trick on the hour-mark, but Czanner made amends for his earlier howler, blocking the striker’s shot as he raced through the visitors defence.

Thorogood, however, admitted his side had then “lost the plot”, as they failed to take the game to their higher placed visitors and it was Tonbridge that looked likely to add to the scoreline.

Logan’s 20-yard drive clipped the base of the right upright and Powell had two late chances to add to Ashford’s relegation fears. His best chance came in the final minute when he latched onto Main’s through ball, and as Wietecha advanced he drove his shot wide of the far post.

So what did Ashford manager Tim Thorogood tell his players during the half-time interval to inspire them?

“I just said to them if we get at them early, we can get something out of this,” he replied. “To be honest with you, we told all our players, because what’s gone on with referee’s, they can’t make tackles.

“Second half I said to them, “you’re 2-0 down, you will have to start putting your foot in, and just go for it” and their reaction was just brilliant. To come in after five minutes two-all, I was chuffed to bits!”.

Angels’ player-boss Tony Dolby, wasn’t very pleased with his side’s “lack of concentration,” during that spell.

“Well, it was obviously a shock to the system,” he admitted. “We emphasised on keeping our concentration and doing the same things, going out for the second half and hopefully make it easier for ourselves - and the complete opposite happened.

“Saying that, that was probably Ashford’s two minutes in the game where they had any sort of pressure. I mean, we scored straight away after that. We’ve hit the post, had two one-on-one’s where they’ve missed them. They couldn’t be unhappy if we came away with six today.”

Thorogood admitted the Angels’ third goal - after his side clawed back a two-goal deficit - was a “slap in the face.”

“We defended badly again, they scored and that’s a slap in the face - and to be honest with you I felt we completely lost he plot.”

Although his side have collected only nine points (two wins) from their last 15 league games, leaving them in a precarious position, Thorogood can see his side getting out of trouble.

They MUST break their duck and win their FIRST away win of the season next Saturday when they travel to basement boys, Newport IOW and have just 17 games to preserve their Ryman League status or will face tough times - both on and off the pitch - playing Kent League football.

“If I’m being honest with you, I look at the way we’ve played though. If you’re playing badly you’re not going to get results,” he said. “We’ve played against a team in the top four today and you tell me the difference between them and us? I can’t!

“Baring in mind they were a bit sharper up front, I thought their forwards to be fair, were a handful and I thought Nick Barnes was quality in midfield.

“I didn’t really think they had any thing else better than we did to be fair. Stoney (Adrian Stone) was top drawer for us. It’s a fine line.”

The Angels, meanwhile, are at home in their next three games, against Dulwich Hamlet (28th January), Metropolitan Police (Tuesday, 31st) and Tooting & Mitcham United (Saturday 4th February).

Ashford Town: Dave Wietecha, Tom Adlington, Ian Ross (Capt), Peter Mortley, Mark Banks, Denver Birmingham (Kenny Jarrett-Elliott 72), Richard Boorman, Jonathan Thorogood (Gary Clarke 55), Shaun Bradshaw, Adrian Stone, Solomon Henry.
Subs:   John-Paul Collier, Richard Vidler, Sean Glover (GK)

Tonbridge Angels: Michail Czanner, John Beales, Richard Ponsford, Jon Main, Steve Aris (Capt), Lew Watts, Darren Smith, Danny Lye, Fraser Logan, Nick Barnes, Ray Powell (Leroy Huggins 89).
Subs: Jay May, Mike Cramp, Tony Dolby

Attendance:  352
Referee: Mr Stuart Butler (Maidstone)
Assistants: Mr Graham Kendall & Mr Paul Burton