Burnham 0 Tonbridge Angels 1 - Leigh wants his players to push for first team places - EXCLUSIVE

Monday 08th May 2006


Danny Powell 89

Stephen McCartney reports from The Gore, Wymers Wood Road
Suburban League Shield Final

Tonbridge Angels’ reserve team manager Julian Leigh has called upon his side to start pushing for a first team place after winning their second cup final of the season tonight.

Danny Powell’s dramatic 89th minute winner secured the Suburban League Shield for Tonbridge Angels’ reserve side.

The 18-year-old former Sevenoaks Town striker latched onto a through ball from impressive midfielder John Sinclair, bursting past the last defender to slot home past Sam Southenden to score his 15th goal of the season.

Last month the Angels, who finished a successful campaign in fifth place in the Suburban League Southern Division and 21 games unbeaten, clinched the Kent Intermediate Cup having convincingly beaten a full-time Gravesend & Northfleet side 4-0 at Stonebridge Road.

But Tonbridge had enough in the tank to defeat a side that finished just two points from the top of the Northern Division in third place.

Burnham had lost their semi-final 2-0 to Hillingdon Borough but were re-instated into the competition and had the majority of possession and chances against a jaded side playing their 38th game of the campaign.

The Buckinghamshire side went close from their second corner of the game after just nine minutes but Wayne Watts’ shot looped against the top of the right upright following Rommel Gumes’ corner.

Highly-rated goalkeeper Matt Bromby denied Burnham nine minutes later, diving to his left to prevent Jake Parsons’ right-footed free kick from 30-yards creeping inside the right upright.

The former Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper pulled off his best save of the game after 26 minutes when he palmed over Ricardo Cannon’s snap shot.

Sinclair had a couple of headed chances for the Kent side during the first half but did enough to go in at the break on level - despite “running on empty.”

It took ten second half minutes for Tonbridge to carve open their best chance of the game when Manny Neville’s cross from the right was met by Powell’s header, which was tipped over by the redundant Burnham goalkeeper.

Burnham squandered some good chances when Leigh Elliott was left unmarked inside the Tonbridge penalty area, following Kevin Jones’ cross, but his looping header found Bromby’s grateful arms.

Then Bromby saved Parsons’ fierce drive at the second attempt after the midfielder latched onto Gumes’ ball over the top.

The last thing Leigh’s men wanted was extra time and they had Bromby to thank in the 85th minute for tipping Gumes’ cross-cum-shot onto the crossbar.

But with just 100 seconds of the 90 minutes remaining, Powell was on hand to enable former AFC Wimbledon defender Sim Johnson, 26, to hold aloft his second piece of silverware in the past month.

“We were running on empty really,” admitted Leigh after the game. “Full credit to the squad particularly the boys who didn’t come on. They’ve come up here, a long old way and at the end of the day we’ve got the 1-0 win.

“I’m really pleased for the team, the chairman, and the backroom staff.

“We looked the better of the two sides in the latter of the second half.”

The former Sevenoaks Town manager admitted he was pleased his side clinched both trophies - especially away from home.

“Both cup wins have been on away grounds technically and that makes it even more satisfying,” he said. “To be honest the pitch out there wasn’t particularly great and not good for the football we’re used to playing but we just dug-in and got the result.”

There is currently a feel good factor within the club at the moment following the club’s 3-2 play-off final victory over Dover Athletic last Saturday to secure a place in the Ryman Premier League.

And the club’s under 18’s can also win the John Ullman Cup if they win at Dulwich Hamlet on Wednesday night.

“I’m really pleased for the club and on top of Saturday’s euphoria it was a brilliant end to the season. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed my football so much for a long, long time.”

With the club playing in the Ryman Premier League next season, Leigh insists his players can make the step up in Tony Dolby’s squad next season.

He said: “As far as we’re concerned it’s business as usual,” said Leigh. “They’ve all got the opportunities, it’s how much they want it. It’s entirely up to them now.

“I’d like to see them push through, some might do next year or the year after but at the end of the day if they stay with the club they’ll be given every opportunity to push through to first team football, which is really what they want and need and what they should get as well.”

Goalscorer Powell admitted it was physically tough for the team playing on a pitch that needed cutting.

“It was a really physical match,” said the 18-year-old. “I think we overcame it and were a bit stronger in the second half and we got the goal. (John) Sinclair played a great ball through.

“We were tired as hell but we dug in - a great performance today right from the back to the front.”

Reflecting on their season, Powell added: “A great season, two trophies - you can’t ask for any more.”

And on his future? “I’m enjoying playing for the reserves and if I get a chance in the first team hopefully I can take it.”

Chairman Nick Sullivan watching the game, said afterwards. “Hugely successful for the reserves. I brought in Julian, forget he’s a mate of mine, he’s a good man manager, an excellent manager.

“The reserve side wasn’t run like a reserve side in the past but it has been this year. First team players play in the reserves when their coming back from injuries or suspension and the average age of the reserve side is just eighteen and a half.

“You’ll be looking for some of these to push on now next season.

“If you look at the club as a whole, people have been telling me it’s been the most
successful year the club’s ever had in terms of the youth, reserve and first teams.”

Burnham: Sam Southenden, Vinny Cuva, David Stevens, Mark Hokan, Paul Johnson, Kevin Jones, Jake Parsons, Leigh Elliott, Wayne Watts, Richard Cannon, Rommel Gumes.
Subs: Matthew Batten, Reece Richardson, Luke Keating, Tristian Lewis, Lloyd Dennison.

Sent off: Paul Johnson 90

Tonbridge Angels: Matt Bromby, Ben Rainbow, Terry Brock, Mike Cramp, Sim Johnson, Ollie Miles, Manny Neville, John Sinclair, Danny Powell, Phil Cramp (Steve Ward 70), Ian Parkes.
Subs: Dan Springer, Richard Percy, Alex McEwan, Adam O’Neill

Referee: Mr Richard Gould
Assistants: Mr Martin Chapman & Mr Bill Billingham
Fourth Official: Mr Barry Lynch