Hythe Town 0-0 Tonbridge Angels - It's a massive achievement to reach The FA Trophy Third Round with our resources and I'm glad to give these fans these type of memories, says proud Hythe Town boss Steven Watt

Saturday 18th November 2023
Hythe Town 0 – 0 Tonbridge Angels
Location Reachfields Stadium, off Fort Road, Hythe, Kent CT21 6JS
Kickoff 18/11/2023 15:00

(Hythe Town win 3-1 on penalties)
The Isuzu FA Trophy Second Round
Saturday 18 November 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Reachfields Stadium

HYTHE TOWN manager Steven Watt says it’s a massive achievement to reach the Last 64 of The FA Trophy for the very first time after holding their nerve from the penalty spot after a 90 minute stalemate at fortress Reachfields Stadium.

Hythe Town goalkeeper Steven Phillips pulled off three saves during the shoot-out before player-coach Frannie Collin, 36, tucked home the ninth penalty to ensure Tonbridge Angels suffered first hurdle exits in both The FA Cup and The FA Trophy this season.

“I thought it was a good game. We knew what we were up against.  Tonbridge are a very good outfit. Jay Saunders has got a fantastic side, with the run they’re on as well.  I think they’re unbeaten in nine games or something like that, so you know what you’re coming up against,” said Watt.

“Look, we knew the game was going to turn out that way, a lot of defending, bodies on the line, surrendering possession in areas and then defending the right areas, so we spoke and worked on things on Thursday night and everything went to plan in terms of the game.

“If I’m being honest, I thought we could’ve won it in 90 minutes.   I think we had the better chances in the game.

“Look, they’re a good side and I just thought to a man the boys were outstanding!  I can’t speak highly enough to the boys and this team and what they continue to do.

“I want us to be a team that’s hard to play (against) and wears their heart on their sleeves and leave everything on the pitch.  I want people who come to watch our football games and know that they’ve got a team that will go out there and will leave absolutely nothing on the pitch.”

Tonbridge Angels’ reaction is further down the report.

Hythe Town went into their maiden FA Trophy Second Round tie sitting in tenth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 14 points (four wins, two draws and two defeats) from their eight league outings.

The Cannons have beaten Burgess Hill Town (3-1), Chertsey Town (4-2) and Concord Rangers (3-2) all away from home before beating Ramsgate 3-1 here in the First Round, just four days before Ben Smith’s side beat Vanarama National League side Woking 2-1 in The FA Cup First Round to set up their maiden Second Round tie, away to League Two side AFC Wimbledon.

Tonbridge Angels, meanwhile, are two leagues higher than Hythe Town and arrived on the Kent coast sitting in tenth-place in the Vanarama National League South table with 26 points (seven wins, five draws, seven defeats) from their 19 league games.

The Angels were also knocked out of The FA Trophy Second Round last season, losing 4-2 at home to Bracknell Town, but they reached the last 16 (Fifth Round) for the first time in 2021-22, losing to eventual winners Bromley – 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Longmead Stadium.

Tonbridge Angels were knocked out of The FA Cup at the first hurdle (Second Qualifying Round) by Isthmian League Premier Division side Haringey Borough, losing 4-2 away.

The Angels banked £1,125 from their FA Cup exit and walk away from here with a further £1,000 in prize money from The Football Association.

Hythe Town, who were without the injured Marcus Goldsmith and Lex Allan (foot), created the first chance of the game with only 188 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Aaron Barnes hit a diagonal out of defence and a good touch from right-back Kane Phillip saw the ball worked out to Ethan Smith on the right. He put in a low cross towards the near post towards targetman Johan Caney-Bryan, who swept a first time shot towards the bottom near corner from inside the six-yard box, only for Tonbridge Angels centre-half Ben Swift to make a vital block, as the ball went past the foot of the right-hand post.

“It’s a good block, it’s a very good block.  It was a great move, something we spoke about in the week and how we win the turnovers to exploit because the full-backs get high and aggressive so (we had to) try to exploit down the wide areas and we did that and we were unfortunate and it was good defending by them,” said Watt.

Despite these two Kent sides being separated by 45 teams and two levels there was no gulf in class.  Tonbridge Angels bossed the possession, often playing the ball backwards and sideways and they found an outstanding Hythe Town defence, who packed their penalty box and often put their bodies on the line to maintain their fifth clean sheet of the season.

Tonbridge Angels’ main threat was to be out wide – on a sticky pitch – with Sean Shields and Francis Mampolo.

They built-up patiently in their raids with central midfielder Lewis Gard (who was later forced off with a hamstring injury) who played the ball out to right-back Jordan Higgs, who got forward often in the first half but not so much after the interval.

Higgs whipped in a low cross towards the near post but Phillips made a comfortably collection at his near post.

Tonbridge Angels went direct in the 12th minute and should have taken the lead.

Left-back Tariq Hinds hit a long ball over the top of Hythe Town centre-half Jack Steventon to release targetman Jordan Greenidge, but his left-footed chip from 15-yards was clawed out high to his right by the advancing Phillips, whose handling was superb throughout.

“I think it was a miss-communication between Jack Steventon and Liam Smith.  I don’t think it would’ve gone in.  I couldn’t see from my angle. It was a good run by them, a good ball and a miss communication and I think it’s the only time they got in behind us all game,” said Watt.

Hythe Town went close to taking the lead in the 27th minute following a well-worked free-kick routine.

Collin was just outside the centre circle inside the Tonbridge Angels half and he played the ball short to Kane Phillip.  A spell of pinball inside the box followed before seven-goal Caney-Bryan swept a first time right-footed shot on the turn from 12-yards, which cracked the underside of the crossbar before the ball was cleared towards safety.

“He’s got to score that! The best chance of the game and we go in 1-0 and it gives you a great platform to go and win the second half,” added Watt.

“He’s hit it really well, it’s one of them, you wished he scuffed it a little bit because he’s caught it well and unluckily for us it hit the underside of the bar and came back out.”

Tonbridge Angels struggled to move the ball quickly on the pitch and balls often bounced off a struggling Greenidge, as he found the Hythe Town defence in determined, resilient and outstanding form.

AFC Wimbledon loanee, centre-half Ethan Sutcliffe, 19,  was dominating his tussle with Caney-Bryan, as both teams lacked quality in attack.

Tonbridge Angels finished the first half on the front foot and direct play ensured they created two decent chances.

Gard was inside his own half and he clipped a diagonal ball over the top of Garande to release right-winger Mampolo, who cut inside Garande and once inside the box his right-footed angled shot from 12-yards was comfortably held by Phillips, smothering the ball low to his right, to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom far corner.

Tonbridge Angels holding midfielder Scott Wagstaff (who pulled his calf during the game) played the ball into Sutcliffe, who swept the ball out to Mampolo out on the right and he cut inside before curling a left-footed shot over Phillips’ right-shoulder, crashing against the crossbar from 25-yards, in the 42nd minute.

Reflecting on those two chances, the Hythe Town boss said: “I wouldn’t class either of them as real good chances.  I expect Steve to make that save and when he cuts inside luckily enough he kind of miss-hit the shot and it came back off the crossbar.”

Centre-half Swift then hit a long ball out of the Tonbridge Angels defence with his left-foot, Mampolo cushioned the header down to Gard, who played the ball back to Mampolo, but his left-footed drive from outside the box took a deflection and went behind for the third of six Tonbridge corners.

“We spoke (at half-time) a little but they had a good rotation in the middle and just try to control that a little bit better and contain them a bit bitter but it was mainly about making them play in the areas we wanted to,” revealed Watt.

“You maybe saw that in the second half in terms of a lot of their play was in wide areas and we wanted to block off the middle because I think a couple of times in the first half they got through the centre a little bit too easily, it didn’t come to anything, but it was to get them in wide areas.

“I always felt we had enough in our box to deal with any balls that came into it and I thought the boys carried out the instructions fantastically.”

Hythe Town started the second half on the front foot with Barnes hitting a long ball forward, the ball was cleared to attacking midfielder Jake Embery, who lacked composure and scuffed his right-footed half-volley harmlessly wide of the left-post from 25-yards after only 47 seconds.

“I thought we started well and we spoke about being on the front foot a little bit and we caught them a little bit cold at the start of the second half,” said Watt.

“I would’ve liked Jake to have taken a touch there and try to get a better shot off. We were really pleased with the way we started the second half.”

The away fans were starting to voice their frustrations as their sixth-tier side struggled to break down an outstanding eighth-tier defence, who often got back to defend their goal in numbers and Tonbridge Angels couldn’t find a way through the red brick wall.

“As I said to the players’ before the game today, it’s a good opportunity to go, some of the boys think you could maybe play at this level and it’s a good opportunity to show that you can and a lot of them in there can,” said Watt.

“We didn’t have a lot of the ball today but we chose not to have the ball today. If I wanted to go toe-to-toe with Jay in terms of style, I think we’ll end up being too open in possession so we had to stick to our game plan.  The players knew out there they had to sacrifice and do what they not normally do and we knew we’d have chances, it was about taking them when we get them.

“It was very much being disciplined and pouncing on mistakes and counter-attacking and I think as a game plan, it went perfectly.”

Hythe Town did get bodies forward from Phillips big kick upfield in the 20th minute of the second half but substitute Sam Flisher lacked composure and hit his right-footed drive sailing high over the crossbar, trying to aim for the top right-hand corner from 25-yards.

Tonbridge Angels did have the ball in the back of the net with 21:21 on the clock but it was ruled out for a push.

Hinds played Shields down the line and he took a touch before whipping in a cross from within the left-channel but Mampolo pushed his man just a second before burying his header into the left-hand corner – a second after the whistle blew.

Hythe Town produced a slick one-touch three-man move just 96 seconds later.

Collin, Ethan Smith and Embery produced a sweeping move inside the Tonbridge half but Embery lacked composure once more, sweeping his first-time right-footed shot across the keeper and harmlessly wide of the goal from 25-yards.

Watt said: “It was good play up top.  Those are moments you know you’re not going to get a lot of moments like that in this type of game.  It was very much, when we get them, can we capitalise?

“The surface was cut up a little bit by then and Jake maybe lost his footing. It was really hard when you strike the ball and maybe his standing leg let him down there and slipped when he shot. It was good attacking play and we maybe should’ve hit the target there.”

Tonbridge Angels restricted the home side’s main threat – set-pieces – but they almost took the lead through this method inside the final 15 minutes following their second and last corner.

Collin’s set-pieces are always on the money and in came the ball from the right and centre-half Liam Smith threw his head at the ball at the near post and the ball flew just over the crossbar from inside the six-yard box.

The best chance of the game fell to Hythe Town with 46:28 on the clock and a great save from visiting goalkeeper Jonathan Henly took the game to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

Substitute central midfielder Jarred Trespadern hit a first time diagonal pass to release Flisher in behind Hinds.  Flisher cut inside and his shot took a deflection off Hinds and Henly got down swiftly to his left and used a strong left-hand to delay the Cannons’ FA Trophy upset.

“Look, for me, it looked from my side, he maybe could’ve taken an extra touch but it turned out he couldn’t have done,” said Watt.

“Jonny’s a fantastic keeper, he has been for years at Tonbridge and he’s a really good keeper at any level, particularly at that level and it turns out to be a fantastic save because of the deflection if takes.

“We knew counter-attacks was what the game was going to be about for ourselves and it would’ve been nice to have won it in the last minute there but it wasn’t to be.”

Greenidge had a chance at the other end to snatch the victory with 49:39 on the clock – which would have been harsh on Watt’s men – but no one had confidence that he was going to tuck it away.

Shields rode Collin’s sliding challenge as he ran through the heart of the pitch before playing in Greenidge, who poked his left-footed shot past the post, so the game was settled by nine penalties.

“I said to the boys in the huddle at the end, I said ‘look, you’ve done everyone proud’, it doesn’t matter if we lose. To get nil-nil in that game and it’s not a game where we rode our luck in terms of them having chance-after-chance-after-chance, which I didn’t think they did,” said Watt.

Hythe Town skipper Liam Smith – and former Tonbridge Angels player – stepped up first and his right-footed spot-kick was saved by Henly, diving to his right to push around the post.

Shields went first for Tonbridge Angels but his poor right-footed penalty was comfortably saved by Phillips, diving to his left to make his first save in the shoot-out.

The first spot-kick to be converted was from Johan-Bryan, who sent Henly the wrong way with his clinical right-footed penalty.

Despite an ineffective 90 minutes, Greenidge’s emphatic left-footed penalty was rifled into the top right-hand corner, giving Phillips no chance, as he dived to his right.

It remained one-all as Barnes’ right-footed penalty went into orbit, high over the crossbar, aiming for the top right-hand corner.

Tonbridge Angels’ left-back Hinds stepped up and his right-footed penalty brought a fine diving save from Phillips, who dived to his right.

Hythe Town edged 2-1 in front with the seventh penalty, as Embery left Henly rooted to the spot, as he clinically slotted his right-footed effort into the bottom right-hand corner.

The pressure got to Mampolo, whose right-footed penalty, which was heading for the bottom left-hand corner, was kept out by Phillips, diving to his right to make his third save of the shoot-out.

Henly was booked by referee Dean Skipper for kicking the ball away, before Collin clinically drove his right-footed penalty into the bottom right-hand corner to send one of his old club’s crashing out of the competition and sending the Cannons into the Third Round, the stage where National League top-flight clubs enter.

When asked whether his side have practiced penalties, Watt replied: “Not at all, not at all.  I’m quite calm with pens because I just think it is what it is.  You’re either going to win or lose. I think it’s a flip of a coin, I really do.

“We could’ve had the five best penalty takers in the world but if the keeper guessed the right way, it’s saved.

“Jonny’s had a great first save. Liam Smith normally scores from the penalty. I think it’s the first penalty he’s missed for me, so it’s a fantastic save and normally he scores.

“Steve Phillips has been fantastic for us, he really has and I’m happy for him. He was fantastic in the last penalty shoot-out in the Velocity Cup (7-6 defeat at Ashford United after a 1-1 draw), but in terms of games that really, really matter, he’s been fantastic.

“Today, he made some really, really good saves when we’ve missed penalties as well, so that adds pressure to him as well, so we don’t speak highly enough of that as well.  When you’ve gone up first and you’ve been the team that missed the pen, it’s very much like the keeper makes a save after that is important.”

Reflecting on Collin’s match-winning penalty, Watt said: “It’s like I said on the sidelines, you wouldn’t have anyone else stepping up to take a penalty in that situation, you wouldn’t.  If he missed it, you still wouldn’t.

“They even kicked the ball away at the end. He’s not realised it’s Frannie taking it. He’s got ice in his veins in this situation. You can’t put him off. If he’s going to miss, it’s either going to be a wonderful save or his miss-cued it because he scores nine times out of 10.

“When Steven saved the fourth, if I’m being honest, I thought we’re done, we’re through because I knew who was taking the fifth penalty.”

Hythe Town, meanwhile, have banked £15,144 in prize money for their exploits in both The FA Cup and The FA Trophy this season.

The Cannons are guaranteed either a further £4,500 if they win their Third Round tie on Saturday 9 December, or £1,250 should their longest run in the competition comes to an end.

“Someone here, anyone at home.  I fancy our chances against anyone at home,” said Watt.

“People talk about the pitch. I thought the pitch played really well today, considering the rain it’s had.  You certainly didn’t see Tonbridge struggle moving the ball about on it.

“It is a fortress here. We’ve only lost one game, which was Hanworth Villa (2-0 in The FA Cup First Qualifying Round on 2 September 2023), since Boxing Day last year.  We’ve haven’t lost in the league since (losing to Ramsgate) Boxing Day, so we’ve created a fortress here, which we will continue to do.

“I’d love to get to the year unbeaten at home in the league but if we don’t, we don’t.  We’re very comfortable being uncomfortable and very comfortable with set-backs and it’s all about how you move forward from them.

“It’s a massive achievement for a club at our level, with our resources, I think it’s a wonderful achievement (to get to the Third Round),” said Watt.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the boys, what they’ve done to get here.  What the club has gone through in the last two or three seasons, post-covid. I’m just glad to give these fans and the people who work here (voluntary) these type of memories.

“Whoever we get in the next round, we’ll try to cause another upset.  We’re the last team left in our level in the Trophy, so we’ll go and try to fly the flag for our league, like Ramsgate are doing for our League in The FA Cup and like Cray Valley did and Sheppey did getting into the FA Cup First Round and we’ll try to stay as long as we can in the Trophy.”

Watt takes his side to league leaders Ramsgate on Wednesday night.

Smith’s men humiliated Steve O’Boyle’s Phoenix Sports with a 9-1 home win in the league today to move three points clear of Three Bridges with two games in hand.

The Rams have banked 27 points from 10 games, while the play-offs currently contain Three Bridges (24 points from 12 games), Sittingbourne (21 points from 10 games), Herne Bay (20 points from 12 games) and Sevenoaks Town (20 points from 12 games).

“Tough game. I’m not surprised (by their 9-1 win today), they’re a winning machine at the minute, so we’ll go down there, we’ll do what we can and try to win the game.

“We’re not expected to get anything, with the money they spend and the team that they’ve got down there.  We’re not expected to do anything, so we’ll go down there and do what we can and what will be, will be.”

Tonbridge Angels manager Jay Saunders said: “I thought we were pretty toothless going forward.  Listen, it’s a game of few chances wasn’t it?  If you really look at it, they hit the crossbar in the first half, a well-worked free-kick and Francis Mampolo hit the bar for us first half, other than that they had a chance right at the end, when Sam Flisher broke through. Other than that, I just thought there wasn’t much here.

“We had a lot of the ball, a lot of possession, but we didn’t have the quality to break them down and I thought they defended very well and you’ve got to give them credit.

“Once it goes to pens, it’s a lottery and they’ve come out on top.”

When asked what was missing from his side’s performance, Saunders replied: “In the final third.  I thought Shieldsey tried, found it probably difficult on the pitch with his quality but he tried.

“I thought Jordan Greenidge was very quiet.  Francis Mampolo was quite quiet.  We brought Sonny Fish on and it didn’t happen for him. He got in a good area and it didn’t happen.

“Decision making in the final third didn’t help but sometimes you have to give the other team some credit and they defended well.  Look, I don’t know, we probably had a lot of possession but it’s then turn that into goals.

“We went to Eastbourne Borough the other night, probably had less possession and we were clinical (in our 3-0 win) and today we haven’t done that so I thought we took that into the penalties.  You look at our penalties there was no conviction in them.

“Did we miss players?  Losing Lewis Gard (to a hamstring injury) was a blow to us second half because I thought he’s got creativity and he’s our top goalscorer (with six goals).  Now my bigger concern is him and Scott Wagstaff, he was feeling his calf at the end.

“Look, it’s happened, it’s Cup football. I’m not happy. I would’ve loved to have gone through but sometimes you have to congratulate the other team.  I thought Hythe defended really well and stayed in the game and gone on and won it.

“If you actually look at the two best chances that we had in the first half, it was Jordan Greenidge and Francis Mampolo pulled a save from the keeper but they were probably when we were a little bit more direct on the turnover, on the break.

“Once Hythe got people behind the ball, it was hard for us to break them down.  Look maybe a better pitch – you don’t want to make excuses.  We haven’t had the quality in the final third today to win the game.

“Look, we’ve been good lately. We’ve lost one in nine (in the league before today), so I’m not going to stand here and crucify the boys.  Jordan Greenidge’s had three in the last two games and this and that but today we weren’t good enough from the final third.

“We weren’t good enough, whether that was them defending well, whether that was us not coming up with the goods, either way, we wasn’t good enough in the final third today.

“I’ve got to dust the boys down and I’ve just said to them, we’ve got to pick ourselves up and go again Tuesday because we’ve got a tough one against Aveley.

“I’m just disappointed because I wanted a cup run for the supporters and we’ve not managed to do that.”

Saunders revealed his half-time message to his players.

“We asked to commit more bodies into the box and move the ball a bit quicker if we could. I felt the pitch was hard to do that, to move the ball quickly because I felt like once they got bodies behind it, it was then difficult for us but it was try to be a bit more positive and get your shots off and we didn’t do that second half.

“If you’re really looking at how many shots we had second half, did we have enough and we didn’t – and that’s frustrating!”

Reflecting on Flisher’s last-gasp late chance to win the tie outright for the hosts, Saunders replied: “It was on the turnover, they broke on us and he found himself in a big hole and I’m glad it was him and not his brother at the end of it because Alex would’ve stuck that away.

“But I thought second half I don’t remember many chances for either team, of the top of my head. We had a lot of possession and it never went nowhere, yes, it’s frustrating.”

Watt said his side didn’t practice penalties but Saunders’ men did and when asked about the penalty shoot-out, the former Maidstone United and Margate boss said: “You do (practice).  Lewis Gard’s our penalty taker. I think he’s got five out of five in the league, so he was off the pitch.  Jonny makes a great save from the first one and after that you kind of need to score your next one and Shieldsey doesn’t and after that the next two pens are poor to be fair.

“The keeper’s guessed the right way. It is a lottery.  Once Frannie Collin stepped up, I kind of half knew where he was going to go and he tucked out away nicely.

“The standard of penalties probably wasn’t great either, if you’re looking at it.  They’ve missed two and we’ve missed three. It wasn’t great and I thought that probably summed it up.

“Sometimes you’ve got to go ‘fair play’. They defended really well and they’ve got a result and they move on.”

Saunders has won none of his seven cup ties (in 90 minutes, one game was won on penalties after a draw) since taking over in the Longmead Stadium hot-seat in the summer of 2022.

“We’d all like a cup run, especially FA Cup.  I don’t think the early rounds of this (FA Trophy) are not brilliant financially but it’s a chance to go on a run.

“For me, it’s disappointing.  I’ve always had quite good success in the cups and since I’ve been here, it’s not happened. Yes, we’ve improved the league standings but it’s not happened for us in the cups, so I’m disappointed because the Trophy is something that I’d like to have a really good run at.”

Saunders issued an apology for exiting The FA Trophy at the first hurdle for sixth-tier clubs.

“It’s disappointing for the club and mainly for the supporters really. I’m disappointed because I wanted to give them something to cheer about.

“We apologise. I apologise. I’ll probably take a lot of stick and maybe rightly so. We’ve gone out of both cups early – and the Kent Senior Cup and I’m gutted about that but as a manager my job is now to pick the boys up and go again Tuesday.

“Now I’ve got to do my job and get one or two in to improve us and make sure that we kick on in the league.”

Second-placed newly-promoted side Aveley – (32 points from 18 games, 10 wins, two draws) arrive at Longmead Stadium on Tuesday night, fresh from their 2-1 home win over St Ives Town in The FA Trophy.  Danny Scopes’ men are nine points adrift of leaders Yeovil Town.

“We need to asses the boys how they are tomorrow. We probably need to try to get one or two in by Tuesday, which hopefully we will because the squad is really thin. I don’t want to stand here and use that as an excuse but for me we’ve just got to look who’s fit and we’ve got to pick ourselves up because Aveley won’t be an easy game.

“I went and watched their 2-1 home defeat to Chelmsford City last Monday night and I know Danny Scopes really well.  They’re well organised, doing really well in the league. 

“If you’re looking at the form guide, we’re top four or five in our league. We’ve been on a great run and we’ve just got to go ‘ok this has happened, let’s move on now.”

Hythe Town: Steven Phillips, Kane Phillip (Sam Flisher 63), Aaron Barnes, Frannie Collin, Liam Smith, Jack Steventon, Kai Garande, Bradley Schafer (Jarred Trespadern 83), Johan Caney-Bryan, Ethan Smith, Jake Embery.
Subs: Josh Stirman, Charles Noyelle, Lex Allan

Booked: Liam Smith 90

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Jordan Higgs, Tariq Hinds, Scott Wagstaff, Ethan Sutcliffe, Ben Swift, Sean Shields, Lewis Gard (Sonny Fish 68), Jordan Greenidge, Ansu Janneh, Francis Mampolo.
Subs: Tom Parkinson, Nat Gibb, Billy French, Leo Vowles

Booked: Jonathan Henly 90

Attendance: 385
Referee:  Mr Dean Skipper
Assistants: Mr Daniel Doyle & Mr Fabio Roque