Lewes 0-1 Tonbridge Angels - It was one of those nights we didn't perform, admits Tonbridge Angels coach Justin Luchford

Wednesday 30th September 2015
Lewes 0 – 1 Tonbridge Angels
Location The Dripping Pan, Mountfield Road, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2XA
Kickoff 30/09/2015 19:45

Ryman Premier League
Wednesday 30th September 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from The Dripping Pan

TONBRIDGE ANGELS head coach Justin Luchford admits players dropped their standards during their workmanlike win over struggling Lewes.

The Angels leapfrogged over five clubs into third-place in the Ryman Premier League table on 23 points from 11 games, three points behind leaders Leiston, who defeated the Kent side in the league and FA Cup in the past couple of weeks.

Striker Luke Blewden returned to The Dripping Pan to score the only goal of a poor game which leaves managerless Lewes in the bottom three with 6 points from 13 league games and having now lost five games on the spin.

With Tom Phipp (knee),  Tom Parkinson (knee) and Tommy Whitnell (ankle) ruled out through injury and Saquille Hippolyte-Patrick returning to Sutton United, Angels boss Steve McKimm handed winger Mitchell Pinnock his third debut – signed on a month’s loan from Vanarama National League South neighbours Maidstone United – and central midfielder Anthony Riviere, a free-agent since leaving Margate at the end of last season.

Luchford said: “They’ve done ok. They haven’t played a lot of football have they? So it’s very difficult to come in. They haven’t even trained with us yet!

“We spoke at length on Saturday when we lost Tom Phipp, we already knew Parky (Tom Parkinson) was out. Tommy Whitnell was going to be out and all of a sudden we’re a bit decimated.  We know Shaq (Saquille Hippolyte-Patrick) was going back to Sutton and all of a sudden we’ve lost four players out of nothing so we had to bring some players in quite quickly.

“Fortunately Maidstone have been kind enough to let us have Mitchell for a month. He’s no stranger to us but I thought as you’ve seen tonight it’s hard to come in on a Wednesday night away from home, you haven’t trained with the lads. He showed glimpses of what he can do, cross-field balls and he’s got the ability to beat people.

“I think Rivs was solid in there with Lee Carey. They did the job that they needed to do.  I thought Rivs was solid in there with two minutes to go, the calmness and experience in the corner, not only to keep us the ball but keep us attacking and we nearly scored a second goal.  We’re pleased with them both.”

Tonbridge Angels edged a game of not many clear cut chances but whoever comes in to replace Steve Brown will have a major task on their hands to prevent Lewes dropping back down to Ryman League Division One South for the first time since 2004.

Reflecting on the club’s seventh league win of the season and their fifth clean sheet away from home in the league, Luchford added: “Well obviously pleasing after the last couple of weeks.  We haven’t had a bit of luck in the last couple of games that we’ve probably deserved and we got that little bit of luck tonight, so we’ll take it.

“But it’s not a great performance. They know that in there.  The gaffer said that to them afterwards – we’re better than that!

“But you’re coming here on a Wednesday night and you have to play Lewes who are up against it at the moment waiting for a new manager and to be fair they worked their socks off tonight, put us under a lot of pressure and probably made us make the mistakes that we made.

“At times we looked like we played with a bit of fear rather than take the game to them. 

“All in all we’ve got to take the positives. We got the result, we take it.”

Former Lewes striker Blewden hit a speculative right-footed drive which he screwed harmlessly wide of the far post from 35-yards after he was fed by Riviere after 165 seconds into the game.

Tonbridge Angels should have broken the stalemate inside ten minutes.

Lee Carey played the ball into Riviere, who fed striker Nathan Elder, who dinked his shot past the right-hand post from the edge of the Lewes penalty area.

“It wasn’t Nathan’s night tonight,” admitted Luchford.

“He was sort of bitty. He did some good things and not so good things but I think that was pretty much with the other ten that were with him.

“Until the goal, I didn’t really see either side scoring. There wasn’t many chances but he kept plugging away but it wasn’t his night.”

Lewes created a good opening within a minute as Henry Muggeridge – keen to impress against his former club – and right-back Richie Welch linked up and the ball sailed into the penalty area.  The ball bounce off Jerrome Sobers head but Elliott Levy directed his free header straight at Anthony Di-Bernardo at his near post from eight-yards.

Pinnock launched a long throw into the Lewes penalty area but Elder planted his header across goal and past the far post from 15-yards.

Lewes went close with a couple of efforts just past the half-hour mark.

Lewes striker Nathan Crabb ran through the heart of the Tonbridge defence and slipped the ball through to Muggeridge, who took a touch and drilled his left-footed angled drive past the diving keeper and past the far post.

“He worked hard tonight to be fair Henry, he always does,” said Luchford.

“He always raises his game playing against us because it’s his old club and everyone does that and fair play to him. 

“Again, I don’t think either side first half didn’t have many chances.”

Lewes left-back Ronayne Marsh-Brown then pumped a deep free-kick from the half-way line towards the far post where player-caretaker manager Jay Lovett hung his header into Di-Bernardo’s hands for a comfortable catch.

Tonbridge Angels defender Sonny Miles, who alongside Sobers was immense, won his side a free-kick in the 35th minute, which he took himself and swept the ball out to Nick Wheeler on the right.  The winger cut inside and unleashed a dipping right-footed drive from 30-yards, which sailed just over the crossbar.

But Blewden’s eighth-goal of the season won the game for Tonbridge Angels, the goal timed at 42 minutes and 38 seconds into a poor first half.

Wheeler, now back down the left, shrugged off the attentions of Welch to reach the by-line before floating a cross into the penalty area.  Elder did well to bring the ball under control and knocked the ball down across the penalty area and Blewden steered his left-footed shot past keeper Nik Tzanev, the ball trickling over the line to nestle into the bottom left-hand corner.

“I think it was probably the only bits of play in the first half we looked alright,” said Luchford.

“We got the ball wide, which is what we do well. Wheeler’s got a good cross in, Nathan’s done well to hold it up and knocked it down to Luke and he’s got his shot away and the keeper’s a bit unfortunate. It looks like it’s bobbled in front of him and gone over his hands.

“It was probably the only bit of decent football we did first half and it’s created the goal.

“If we put crosses in the box we cause teams havoc. They tried hard tonight to not let us put crosses in the box and they did that up until that point.”

When asked about Blewden coming back to score against his former club, Luchford replied: “It’s what happens sometimes in football. He’s been here, Nick Wheeler’s been here, it’s a good club for them. It’s a good club. I think coming down here on a Wednesday night and getting a 1-0 win, although we didn’t perform well, we’ll still take it.”

Pinnock floated in a free-kick from the right and Blewden peeled off his marker to plant his header across goal and past the far post before Pinnock went close with a left-footed dipping drive from 30-yards, which only just cleared the bar.

When asked his thoughts at the break, Luchford admitted: “We weren’t happy! We weren’t doing what we told them to do. We weren’t passing the ball, we weren’t bring brave with the ball. We didn’t want the ball enough. We were going longer and we didn’t need to. We weren’t passing when we should’ve passed it. We were running with the ball when we shouldn’t be running with the ball.

“We just didn’t do what they were told to do at the beginning of the game so we had some words at half-time but like anything the goal changes the team talk slightly. We’ve got something to hold on to and you can go out second half and say alright, keep a clean-sheet and you’ve got the three points.”

The crowd of 460 hoped for a more entertaining second half for this local derby.

Lewes had a good spell of pressure at the start of the second half and skipper Fraser Logan tried to score against his old club with a left-footed shot from 30-yards, which bounced once to allow Di-Bernardo make a comfortable save.

Elder hit a speculative right-footed half-volley from 25-yards, which sailed across the keeper and past the far post, but his replacement, Ellis Brown, squandered an excellent chance to kill the game off in the 58th minute.

Wheeler released Angels’ left-back Jack Parter down the line and he reached the final third before putting Brown through on goal and the striker flashed his left-footed drive across goal and past the far post with his first touch.

Luchford said: “Ellis had three chances tonight. I think he gives us something different to Nathan and he’s got sheer pace and he showed that.  I think he got in three or four times tonight. I think it’s a bit of rustiness tonight.  He hasn’t played a lot of football, he’s been out on trial a bit but I think the goals will come as he gets into those good areas.”

Tonbridge Angels’ right-back James Folkes slipped a through ball in behind the Lewes defence to put Brown through on goal but a last-man tackle from Welch saved the day.

Wheeler swung in the resulting corner from the right and Miles came up from the back to have his header parried by Tzanev and Sobers couldn’t find the decisive touch.

Pinnock played a sublime 50-yard diagonal pass from left-to-right to pick out Wheeler, who twisted and turned his man inside the box and his cross found Pinnock at the far post, who smacked his shot across goal and screaming past the far post, which seemed to be the pattern of Tonbridge’s chances tonight.

Tonbridge Angels squandered another decent chance to kill off Lewes in the 69th minute.

Wheeler swung in a free-kick from the right with his right foot and Miles knocked the ball down on the edge of the box and Riviere cracked his right-footed volley past the far post from 20-yards.

While Tonbridge Angels were comfortable, Lewes didn’t threaten with any clear cut chances, but they put more men forward in the last ten minutes as they went in search for an underserved equaliser.

Luchford said: “We gave them a chance to have a chance. We got a little bit narrow, we stopped doing the jobs that we were meant to be doing. We were running all over the place a little bit. We were almost like headless chickens when we should’ve banked up 4-4-2 and saw the game out.”

Tonbridge Angels squandered an excellent chance to wrap up the victory with just over five minutes remaining.

Wheeler raced down the left and played the ball inside to Riviere, who clipped his cross towards the near post for Brown to flick his header across the keeper and against the far post and the ball bounced along the line and Charlie Webster stabbed the ball past the other post from close range.

“I think the whole game was a little bit like that, it was a very bitty game, there wasn’t many chances,” admitted Luchford.

“The only real chance of the second half was when Ellis flicked it on to the post from the header and Charlie Webster’s just unfortunate. He’s tried to get there and just couldn’t get there.

“I suppose the most disappointing thing really was the way we reacted when they didn’t go in.”

Tonbridge Angels caught Lewes on the counter-attack inside injury time when Webster released Blewden through on goal and Tzanev dived low to his right to make the save.

Luchford added: “Blewey’s gone through at the end and maybe should’ve scored!”

But these kind of wins are the ones that win league titles at the end of the season.

“It was one of those nights, we didn’t perform,” admitted Luchford.

“It wasn’t good enough and like the gaffer said we have standards right. For the first however many games the standards have been spot on and we have to get back to those and tonight wasn’t good enough, but look, at the other side of it, how many away games have we played now? Six league games away, I think we’ve conceded one goal.”

Tonbridge Angels have now maintained five clean sheets on the road in the league this season and unbeaten in six league trips and Luchford is proud of that.

He said: “The back four, the back five defended really well when we were up against it when they were putting balls forward. We had to put bodies on the line and we did that so we have to give credit where credits due.

“I think that shows, the stat that I’ve just given you, we’ve conceded one goal away from home in the league all season in six league games. That’s a very good defence and credit to the lads for that.”

Lewes:  Nik Tzanev, Richie Welch, Ronayne Marsh-Brown, Fraser Logan, Jordan Badger (George Brown 61, Phil Appiah 90), Jay Lovett, Henry Muggeridge, Leon Redwood, Robin Deen, Nathan Crabb, Elliott Levy (Alex Laing 79).
Subs: Ronnie Conlon, Dan Hutchins

Booked: Henry Muggeridge 73

Tonbridge Angels: Anthony Di-Bernardo, James Folkes, Jack Parter, Lee Carey, Jerrome Sobers, Sonny Miles, Mitchell Pinnock (Charlie Webster 69), Anthony Riviere, Nathan Elder (Ellis Brown 57), Luke Blewden, Nick Wheeler.
Subs: Laurence Ball, Charlie Slocombe

Goal: Luke Blewden 43

Attendance: 460
Referee: Mr Bhupinder Gill (Iver, Buckinghamshire)
Assistants: Mr Michael Hayden (Epsom, Surrey) & Mr Carl Smith (Dorking, Surrey)