Lingfield 1-0 Tunbridge Wells - To lose in this competition hurts - all I can say to the fans is stick with us, says Tunbridge Wells boss Steve Ives, while FA Vase upset means the world to Lingfield boss Daniel Burnett

Sunday 12th November 2023
Lingfield 1 – 0 Tunbridge Wells
Location The New Defence, Anderson Way, Horley, Surrey RH6 8SP
Kickoff 12/11/2023 15:00

The Isuzu FA Vase Second Round
Sunday 12 November 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from The New Defence

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Steve Ives says it hurts to be knocked out of The FA Vase by Lingfield, while opposing manager Daniel Burnett insists it means the world to reach the Third Round for only the second time in their history.

Lingfield boss Burnett, who started his goalkeeper career playing in the Kent Youth League for Tunbridge Wells back in 2004, masterminded a FA Vase upset as 29-year-old striker Richard Wetton scored the only goal of a game that lacked quality in both penalty boxes.

Lingfield were reduced to 10 men with 14 minutes of normal time remaining when referee Pete Andrews sent off centre-half Luke Richardson for an off-the-ball incident with Tunbridge Wells’ right-back Harry Hudson.

Burnett’s side went into this Second Round tie sitting in eleventh-place in the Southern Combination League Premier Division table with 17 points (four wins, five draws and four defeats and unbeaten at home in six league games.

Lingfield have now knocked out four sides in the Southern Counties East Football League, two in the Premier and two from the First Division.

Lingfield defeated Tooting Bec (4-0), Premier Division outfit Whitstable Town (2-1) and Greenways (4-1) all away from home and haven’t played at all in 22 days since the last round.

Tunbridge Wells – FA Vase runners up in 2013 – arrived in Horley sitting in 12th place in the Southern  Counties East Football League Premier Division table with 18 points (five wins, three draws and six defeats).

Ives’ men defeated lower league side Bridon Ropes (4-0), league rivals Kennington (3-2) and Little Common (3-2) and failed to score for only the second time this season.

“Poor from us in terms of quality, in terms of creating clear-cut chances,” admitted Ives during the post-match press conference.

“Ultimately, not a game blessed with a lot of quality and if you allow it to become fine margins, you can be on the end of it. That’s what happened.  I think we’ve let in a poor goal and then huffed and puffed a lot and not managed to create anything.”

When asked what was missing from his 12 players that took part in the game, Ives replied: “It was a little bit like the Lordswood game last week (1-0 away defeat).  You can’t really fault people’s effort but there wasn’t really enough quality in the attacking third.  That’s probably what I’ll say.

“Defensively we’ve been ok most of the time.  The goal was poor. It was one switch off in 96 minutes and it cost us.”

Lingfield were a direct outfit and created an opening after only 82 seconds following the first of their two corners.  Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, had nine.

The impressive right-winger Jimmy Williams delivered a deep hanging corner from the right and centre-half Tom Green recycled the ball back into the box towards an unmarked Haydn Dickenson, who smashed his right-footed volley high, high over the crossbar from 15-yards.

Dickenson was an impressive driving force in the middle of the park for Lingfield during the first half, playing with plenty of heart and desire, along with his team-mates who were keen to take their second big scalp of their FA Vase campaign (Whitstable Town being the other).

Wetton launched a long throw into the Tunbridge Wells penalty area and Richardson’s free-header from the edge of the box sailed comfortably into the outstretched hands of visiting goalkeeper Nathan Carter.

Lingfield certainly done their homework on their opponents as Lingfield left-back Stephen Hodge snuffed out the threat of Regan Corke down the right-hand side during most of the game.

Hodge almost gifted Tunbridge Wells a goal in the sixth minute when he attempted to throw the ball down the line some 35-yards from his goal, which looped in to the air and Corke worked the ball inside before Richardson rolled the ball back towards his goalkeeper Jack Webb-Olley, whose clearance bounced off the pressing Trevor McCreadie but the ball ricochet past the far post.

Lingfield were much the better side during the first half and went close to taking a deserved lead in the 19th minute.

Hodge played a long ball forward along the deck to a deep Wetton, who trapped the ball superbly to play the ball to left-winger Jay Simpson, who easily cut inside Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Siji Akinlusi before dragging his left-footed shot across Carter and flashing past the far post on the angle from 15-yards.

“I thought Simpson was a threat. He’s a good player, lively, good feet, cutting in off the left and getting shots away.  I think we dealt with him ok on the whole. He was probably their dangerman,” said Ives.

“Aside from that, It felt like set-pieces on a day like this, a pitch like this (that was played on by Horley Town yesterday). It did feel like set-pieces were going to be one of the major chance creators.”

Tunbridge Wells should have grabbed the lead following their first corner just 71 seconds later.

Rory Ward floated the ball in from the left towards the back post where Akinlusi’s diving header from inside the six-yard box was guided across the keeper and agonisingly past the far post with the keeper beaten.

“I mean fair play to Siji for the run and fair play to Rory for the delivery,” said Ives.

“I think it’s probably fair to say that he should hit the target there and I don’t think the keeper stands any hope of getting anywhere near it, if he does.”

Lingfield claimed the victory through Wetton’s third goal of the season, with 24 minutes and 43 seconds on the clock.

Richardson launched a diagonal out of defence, the ball was flicked on by an unmarked Williams and Akinlusi switched off and allowed Wetton to sweep a first time right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 15-yards.

“I don’t think we cleared our lines very well, then I don’t think we competed for the header very well and I didn’t think positionally we got ourselves in a very good position, so not text book defending from us on that one, which is a shame because on the whole we defended quite well,” said Ives.

Lingfield goalkeeper Webb-Olley pulled off a fine low save at his near-post to frustrate Tunbridge Wells in the 39th minute.

Hudson launched the second of his seven long throws into the penalty area, the ball was flicked on by centre-half James White and attacking midfielder Billy Lewins’ stopping header from three-yards was destined to bounce inside the bottom near corner, only for the keeper to dive to his left and smother the ball around his post.

“Bill’s not known for his aerial prowess but he does seem to get in between the posts quite often,” said Ives.

“We realised quite early on that the long throw was going to be a weapon, which is funny because we’ve never used it before in any other game.”

Tunbridge Wells originally listed Jack Walder on the team-sheet that was handed in to the match referee before the game but Walder failed a fitness test so in came Zak Wolvey and Ives lost central midfielder Luke Leppard, 34, to an impact injury in the 39th minute and he was replaced by left-winger Festos Kamara.

“Jack is just returning from an injury. We were really hopeful that he might be able to start today. He really, really desperately wanted to.  He just didn’t feel right. He’s got a knee injury at the moment,” revealed Ives.

“Jack’s our captain. He’s one of our senior players. I think any side isn’t going to be happy not to have that and a double whammy in losing Luke.  Yes, that’s quite big. It’s very big for us but look I don’t want it to sound like excuses.  We still had 15 players there that should be capable of doing a job.

“Luke’s injury was an impact injury, which he sustained during the game, so that’s difficult for us because that’s two talisman that are not on the pitch. It’s not helpful but it’s not excuses because I feel that we had enough off the ball in the second half.”

Ives revealed he wanted more from his side, when asked about his thoughts at the break.

“It was really a question of upping our effort levels, getting a little bit more creative with our movement.  I didn’t feel like we linked defence to attack well enough in the first half.

“We gave the boys a couple of ideas with movement patterns.  We wanted to get Billy Lewins on the ball a little bit more, which I think we did manage to do.

“Festos Kamara was on at this point.  I actually thought Festos made a very positive impact and if we can get our wingers in the game that’s probably our best route back into it but it was getting Bill and Trev linking up play a little bit more.”

Tunbridge Wells were to be denied an equaliser after only 38 seconds into the second half, following a sweeping raid down the left.

Green gave the ball away in his defensive third and McCreadie, Lewins and Ward linked up well but McCreadie’s poor touch inside the box allowed Webb-Olley to bravely come rushing out and smother the ball at the 16-goal striker’s feet.

Lingfield were a threat on the counter-attack and Simpson released Hodge on an overlapping run down the left before the left-back cut inside and hit a cross towards two of his team-mates inside the box.  The ball was knocked down and Rhyan Ramsay stabbed his shot just past the foot of the right-hand post.

Lingfield lacked composure when a good chance presented itself in the 55th minute.

Goalkeeper Webb-Olley threw the ball to Hodge, who drilled a right-footed long ball along the deck down the line to Simpson, who cut inside White but lacked the finish by hitting his shot high over the crossbar.

Tunbridge Wells were bossing the possession stakes during a dominant second half performance but they lacked quality to break down a resilient Lingfield defence.

Centre-half Green, 18, a Tunbridge Wells resident, kept McCreadie in his pocket and Corke failed to produce his magic as he was kept quiet by the impressive Hodge.

Ives admitted his players ran out of ideas, over relying on Hudson’s long throws to get back into the game.

“They kept Trevor very quiet.  We probably haven’t supported Trev particularly well. We haven’t managed to get too many dangerous balls into that kind of corridor between the penalty spot and six-yard box, which he likes to attack.  He’s feeding off scraps a little bit.

“Maybe our problem was we couldn’t find another way. If that’s not working for us, we probably need a Plan B that’s a bit more effective than what we’ve done there.”

Tunbridge Wells’ pressing game won the ball back inside Lingfield’s defensive third and Ward played a short pass into Lewins, who drilled his right-footed shot past the left-hand post from 25-yards, another example of a lack of composure from a side chasing the game.

Tunbridge Wells’ left-back Johnny Phillips charged down the left on a 35-yard run before crossing to McCreadie, who poked the ball back to Corke (who was in a more central position) before drilling a right-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from 25-yards.

“I felt we were knocking on the door but a lot of it was speculative, 20-25 yards out or it was just balls running through to their keeper before we could get there,” admitted the Tunbridge Wells manager.

“Like I say, certainly no one gave up or downed tools. It was just not having that bit of quality.”

Lingfield almost grabbed a match winning clincher in the 69th minute when substitute central midfielder Jason Stripp pinged a 40-yard diagonal out to Williams – who beat the offside trap – senior assistant referee Michael Forman struggled to keep up with play.

Williams cut into the box and his low angled drive was blocked by Carter’s legs and Williams smashed the rebound into the side netting.

Ives said: “I mean, the next goal, either way, would’ve been absolutely pivotal in that game and from our point of view, especially, what have we got to lose?  We’ve got to go out and try to score. We’ll probably leave a few more holes at the back doing that.

“We started playing Siji Akinlusi higher up the pitch in open play, started telling our full-backs to gamble a little bit more so I guess it’s inevitable you’re going to get caught on the break.”

Ward cried out in agony as he was hit in a sensitive part of his body before his team-mates counter-attacked down the left but Kamara’s angled drive was pushed around the post by Webb-Olley, diving low to his right.

Lingfield were reduced to 10 men with 30:27 on the clock when referee Pete Andrews pulled out a red card for Richardson for an off-the-ball incident with Hudson, very close to the edge of the Lingfield penalty area.

Ives said: “It seemed a bit of a strange one because it was after the ball had left.  It must’ve been a kick out, I guess. I didn’t really see what happened.

“It didn’t really affect the game too much, which I guess is on us. We probably should’ve made the man advantage count a little bit more by that point.

“They’ve got their 1-0 lead and they’re obviously quite rightly just happy to sit on it, so it didn’t make a massive amount of difference in terms of how they defended their goal.”

Ward floated the resulting free-kick towards the back post and Lewins jumped up to head over the crossbar.

Tunbridge Wells kept knocking on the door and their dominance should have been rewarded with 36:38 on the clock.

Kamara released Phillips down the line and he put in a low cross towards an unmarked Hudson, who swept his first time shot across the keeper and past the far post from 12-yards.

Ives admitted:  “You just think to yourself, it ain’t going to be your day – but you can’t have hard luck stories.  You’ve got to make it your day and today we didn’t have the quality to break them down.  Fair play to them, they’ve kept a clean-sheet.  Good luck to them.”

Lingfield’s substitute striker Dennis Asante broke and fed Simpson, who cut inside White and his left-footed shot deflected off Hudson and looped just over the crossbar and went behind for a corner.

Williams cut along the by-line and put over a cross towards the far post where unmarked holding midfielder Alec Campbell lacked composure (there was not much composure on display during the entire game) and lashed his left-footed drive over the top of the near post.

McCreadie jumped out of Green’s pocket and should have levelled to take the game to a penalty shoot-out.

Phillips swung in the away side’s seventh corner and McCreadie found a pocket of space inside the box and hit a shot on the turn which sailed past the far post.

Another chance went begging for Tunbridge Wells when Hudson’s long throw was cleared back to him and he floated in a great cross towards the far post.  Goalkeeper Webb-Olley stayed on his line and Lewins jumped to steer his header over from inside the six-yard box.

Lingfield created the final chance of the game when Webb-Olley threw the ball to Simpson, who easily beat Wolvey and Ward down the touchline before charging forward before cutting inside Hudson before placing his right-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post on the counter-attack.

“To lose, especially in this competition hurts.  I know (our fans) are devastated because they’ve had some great days in this competition and it’s a shame that we couldn’t go a little bit further and give them a couple more,” said Ives.

“It isn’t from the want of trying. I don’t think anybody would say they saw a team that downed tools and weren’t fighting to the very end.

“But all the time we make these games fine margins, it can go either way. All I can say to the fans is stick with us.

“The dressing room is quiet now. Everyone’s a bit despondent rightly so but look, we’ll bounce back.  We’re still gelling, we’re still getting to know each other as a group, they’re a good set of lads.

“We’ve got to lick our wounds, get a couple of training sessions in and get back to it.

“We’ve got nine days until we play Glebe away in the league (Tuesday 21 November) and hopefully we can get a reaction there.”

The Wells lost 4-3 at home to Glebe in the League on 15 August and beat them 2-0 at home in the Challenge Cup last Tuesday night.

“We’ve had two looks of them now. We know what to expect. They’re top two now, Faversham have just gone above them (by two points) yesterday, so they’re still one of the better sides in the league,” said Ives.

“It’s tough but when do you get an easy day at this level? Bring it on! We just want to play games and we just want to try to get some consistency going.”

Tunbridge Wells are only six points adrift of the play-off zone, which contains Glebe (31 points from 15 games), Erith Town (29 points from 15 games), Whitstable Town (25 points from 14 games) and Corinthian (24 points from 13 games).

“We have to be more consistent. It seems to be the only word that comes out of my mouth when I’m interviewed.  We’ve got to win games back-to-back and it’s only six points. It’s well doable but it’s down to us.”

A club the size of Tunbridge Wells should be challenging to get out of the ninth-tier of English football and haven’t won the League title since 1985.

“You’ve mentioned that fifth-spot. That for me would represent a big achievement based on what I’ve taken over, based on the strength of the league, which I say is stronger than last season,” said Ives.

“We finished eighth last year. We’ve had a couple of key players leave. If we could finish fifth, off the back of very minimal work pre-season, I’d say that’s fantastic. I’m not ruling it out but we’ve got to get some consistency going.”

Lingfield manager Burnett, meanwhile, was delighted with his superb side for pulling off another scalp.

“We haven’t played for three weeks, so first 45 minutes was superb, second 45 I think they just edged it a little bit but we defended superbly.

“The first 45 minutes we had that true Lingfield style where we fight for every ball and win everything and that’s what we’ve done.”

When asked about Richardson’s red card, Burnett replied: “I just had a quiet word with him. He’s kicked him and then he’s reacted so that’s how I see it and he's reacted strongly.”

But Burnett was delighted with his side’s defensive attributes and heaped plenty of praise on Green, who kept Tunbridge Wells’ talisman striker McCreadie quiet.

“Tom’s a young head, he’s only 18, he’s from Tunbridge Wells as well, so I think he wanted to get one over them today and he was superb today, him and the whole defence.”

Reflecting on the winning goal, the Lingfield boss said: “Jimmy Williams has been playing well recently and that was one of his best games, best 45 minutes I’ve seen him play and then the last 10 minutes he played superbly at right-back.

“I told Richard Wetton in the changing room, if he gets his chance, he’s got to put it away first time. Anything can happen, so he’s taken a snapshot.

“I knew they were going to come firing out (second half) so I just said (at half-time) to keep our heads and play the same way as the first 45. It didn’t pan out but they couldn’t score and we defended well.

“When we went down to 10 men you think ‘oh god, here we go,’ but the boys stuck in.  I moved my right-back (Tyrone Magala-Bryan) to centre-half, who I’ve known for a long time and he’s done superb.

“My striker’s coming back defending corners and he’s putting himself and his body in the way. That’s what we’re all like in the changing room, we’re all together.  They gave me 100%. That’s all you ask for at the end of the day. 

“Credit goes to little Alec Campbell in the midfield, superb. He ain’t been around and he’s come in sat in there and got man-of-the-match for me today.”

Burnett – who reached The FA Vase Third Round as Colliers Wood United’s  goalkeeper, losing 2-0 away to Simon Halsey’s Herne Bay back in December 2010 – is eyeing up another upset.

“This round was one of the biggest that we’ve been in. The next round’s even bigger but we’ve beaten Whitstable, beaten Tunbridge Wells now. I wouldn’t mind an easier draw but nowadays you can go wherever and lose.  We will never be the underdog in this competition.

“Beating Tunbridge Wells – we all knew they’ve been to the Final before – we know what the Kent League (the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division) is like.  I’ve played in the league before.  I’ve been there so we know what the Kent League is like. It’s always tough. It’s always tough.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game today.  Whitstable, they were 1-0 up with three minutes to go, we won the game 2-1. It’s the passion!

“That’s no fluke but I know if we raise our game we can beat anyone on our day. It’s can we keep doing it? Can we keep doing it?

“We’re in the last 64 – no game’s easy I say.  Any game is tough, now it’s the last 64.  As long as I’m in the draw after Christmas, I don’t mind.

“A little club like Lingfield, it means the world, it means the world. After the next round, if we win that, that’s the furthest we’ve ever been in our history.  They got to the Third Round before (losing 9-2 at Colliers Wood United in 2014) and can we can go one step further?

“I said to the boys, do they believe in themselves to go all the way to Wembley? That’s the belief that we’ve got!”

Lingfield: Jack Webb-Olley, Tyrone Magala-Bryan, Stephen Hodge, Alec Campbell, Tom Green, Luke Richardson, Jay Simpson, Rhyan Ramsay (Jason Stripp 66), Richard Wetton (Dennis Asante 72), Haydn Dickenson, Jimmy Williams.
Subs: Jamal Robinson-Davis, Toby Allen, Daniel Harvey

Goal: Richard Wetton 25

Booked: Haydn Dickenson 81, Tyrone Magala-Bryan 90

Sent Off: Luke Richardson 76

Tunbridge Wells: Nathan Carter, Harry Hudson, Johnny Phillips, Zak Wolvey, James White, Siji Akinlusi, Rory Ward, Luke Leppard (Festos Kamara 39), Trevor McCreadie, Billy Lewins, Regan Corke.
Subs: Mohamed Zabadne, Jack Walder, Bradley Austin, Muiz Alaka

Attendance: 144
Referee:  Mr Pete Andrews
Assistants:  Mr Michel Forman & Mr Sam Rumble