Tonbridge Angels 3-1 East Thurrock United - We've still got a lot of work to do, says Steve McKimm

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Ryman Premier League
Saturday 14th February 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS manager Steve McKimm says his side are still involved in a relegation dog-fight despite easing ten points clear of the drop zone following their deserved win over fifth-placed East Thurrock United.

RELEGATION FIGHT: Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm says his side are still in the mire despite their win over high-flying East Thurrock United.

The Angels remain in seventeenth-place in the Ryman Premier League table on 39 points from 34 games after inflicting East Thurrock United’s ninth league defeat of the season.

Tonbridge Angels were on the front foot during the first half and two goals from Tommy Whitnell, 26, who played behind Joe Taylor, who scored the third on the stroke of half-time, pleased the home fans in the crowd of 414.

The Rocks made a double substitution at the break and one of them, Ellis Brown, stroked home his first goal for the Essex club with fifteen minutes left.

“I thought first half we put them under a lot of pressure, worked hard, worked to the system we wanted to play and got our just rewards at the end of it,” said McKimm after his side’s eleventh league win of a disappointing campaign.

“We got the three goals, three good goals as well through hard work. 

“First five minutes they put us under a bit of pressure but we withstood it.  That was always going to be a case where they were going to throw the kitchen sink at you and they done that and we withstood that bar one lapse when they got inside. Other than that, I’m very pleased.”

East Thurrock United started well and striker Mitchell Gilbey’s right-footed drive from 25-yards deflected wide after only 29 seconds.

But Tonbridge Angels started to get a stranglehold on the game.

A fine diagonal pass from skipper Lee Carey released Mitchell Pinnock down the left and the winger dragged his left-footed shot across goal and past the far post from 12-yards inside six minutes.

But the Kent side deservedly opened the scoring after 12 minutes.

Pinnock cut a corner short to Carey, who clipped his cross towards the far post, which was flicked on by Taylor and Whitnell lashed his right-footed shot into the roof of the net from one-yard.

“Tom hasn’t scored many this season but he’s a nearly man so far and then all off a sudden he pops up with two good goals today,” said McKimm.

“It’s good instincts from him. I’ve asked him to play a different role and he’s thriving on it. If I’m being honest, being able to link up with the front man and getting beyond the front man and he’s deserved his goals today.”

East Thurrock United were guilty of playing a direct game during the first half, but the Angels back four was expertly marshalled by Simon Cox, who was playing his third game for the club whilst on loan from Vanarama Conference South Farnborough.

“No disrespect to Charlie (Slocombe), Charlie’s a good player but Coxy has come in and he’s got that little bit of nous about him,” said McKimm.

“He knows when to deal with balls and when not to and he’s a solid defender and he likes to defend.

“I thought he was brilliant and held his hands up at the end because he hasn’t played a lot of football himself. He was tired so I had to bring him off but what he done for those 81 minutes, he was immense.”

Tonbridge Angels hit East Thurrock on the break when Pinnock won the ball in midfield, played the ball short to Whitnell, who swept the ball out to Jack Parter down the left.  The former Gillingham left-back whipped the ball into the box and Taylor flicked the ball to Whitnell, whose right-footed shot on the turn sailed over from sixteen-yards.

East Thurrock won the corner count 9-3 but they went close through this method when Joe Paxman swing in the ball from the left towards the far post where Kye Ruel looped his towering header over the bar.

But Tonbridge Angels doubled their lead in the 23rd minute, courtesy of Whitnell’s quality finish, to score his seventh goal of the season.

The impressive Pinnock whipped in a cross from the left into the penalty area and Whitnell, with his back to goal, clipped a spectacular over-head kick over David Hughes’ head from 12-yards, which looped in just underneath the crossbar.

McKimm said: “Mitchell’s come in, left-foot again. I’ve got a bit of balance with a left-footer crossing the ball.  I’ve gone with two wide men and just asked them to put crosses in the box. If you put crosses in the box you score goals and it’s a great finish from Tommy.”

McKimm was delighted as his back four kept 34-goal striker Sam Higgins quiet.

Higgins’ only chance arrived on the half-hour mark when he met Ross Parmenter’s deep cross with a glancing header from six-yards, which sailed past the near post.

McKimm said of Higgins: “He’s prolific. He’s a very good player. We had a game plan. He likes to pin the defenders and set people up running off him.

“We made sure Lee Carey screened the back two as well as doing a job on their centre midfield player and he done it very well.

“I’m very pleased with Lee today. He did a captain’s performance. Unknown the way he went about his business but very effective.  The two centre halves and Lee kept Higgins very quiet.”

Another chance came the Angels way when Whitnell played the ball inside to Pinnock on the half-way line, who clipped a sublime diagonal to release Taylor down the right channel.  The lone striker cut the ball back to winger Dee Okojie, who cut in and curled his left-footed shot harmlessly around the far past from 25-yards.

Taylor broke and played the ball inside to Pinnock, who burst forward and curled his left-footed shot around the far post from 25-yards.

Pinnock, 20, playing his second goal of his loan-spell from Vanarama Conference South neighbours Bromley, was the best player on the pitch.

McKimm said: “He made the difference.  Tuesday night (in our 2-1 home defeat to Wingate & Finchley) he was fantastic and again just a bit of quality that he’s got with his left-foot, he put balls in good areas and hurt them with direct running, good crossing.  He maybe could have scored a couple himself through his desire and determination but yes, very pleased with him.”

East Thurrock right-back Ryan Sammons drilled a speculative right-footed angled drive from distance which flashed across goal and past the far post, before Tonbridge Angels killed the game off with 44:44 on the clock.

East Thurrock defender Simon Peddie rolled the ball back to Hughes, who kicked the ball straight at the onrushing Taylor, who was already in the box and he cut the ball on to his left foot to curl his shot into the far corner of an open goal from fourteen-yards.

“The thing with Joe, people knock him but he works hard,” said McKimm.

“He’s not the quickest on the ground, which makes him look lazy, but he’s not! He worked hard between their two defenders and done what we asked him to do. He won a number of flicks, got the ball and set it out wide and I said to him when he came off it’s hard work up there on your own and his hard work deserved that goal.

“It was a good finish in a time when people could panic and he’s just stroked it home with his weaker foot so I’m pleased for him to get another goal (his fourth) for the club.”

Pinnock almost made it four on the stroke of half-time when another curling shot flashed past the far post.

McKimm admitted he had a tough half-time talk to deliver.

He said: “It’s difficult. It’s probably my toughest half-time team talk of the season because being in a position of 3-0 you’re on a hiding to nothing because they throw everything at you and if you let in a goal in the first 15-20 then it’s back against the wall. 

“You catch them on the break and get a goal, it’s game over.

“It took them a while to get through us. We were resolute. We didn’t have much quality. When they throw bodies at you, you just need that little extra pass and that extra bit of quality to just open them up at times but we defended stoutly and resolutely and I’m very, very pleased with the boys.”

Visiting manager John Coventry had enough of his side’s poor first half performance and threw on attackers David Bryant and Brown and his side upped their game after the break.

They went close to pulling a goal back after only 55 seconds when Higgins floated in a cross into the box from the right but winger Brown looped his header just past the far post.

Brown played a ball inside to Bryant, who looped his shot high into the air and all Tonbridge Angels keeper Kyle Merson had to do was watch the ball drop and catch it.

But Merson was called into action in the 55th minute when he parried Brown’s stinging right-footed drive from inside the box.

Tonbridge Angels weathered that early storm and they were denied a fourth goal by Hughes four minutes later.

The keeper dived low to his right to parry Pinnock’s left-footed free-kick from 22-yards, which he stroked around the wall, away to safety.

When asked about the former Arsenal and Southend United winger, McKimm said: “It was a good save and Mitchell’s got that bit of quality. Many times this year we’ve had free-kicks and they’ve gone flying over the bar but he’s had two and he’s hit the target with two. That’s what he brings you. He brings you that little bit of quality.

“He’ll be judged after his month’s loan because he’ll probably have five or six games with us.

“To judge him after two games in a bit harsh, whether good or bad so when his loan’s up we’ll have a look and see where he’s at. Whether he can stay with us or whether he has to go back to Bromley, we don’t know. It depends on what he does. I think so far he’s hit the ground running and he’s been superb.”

Tonbridge Angels seemed content sitting back and protecting their 3-0 lead and trying to hit East Thurrock on the break.

McKimm explained that tactic, by saying, “All season when we’ve been in front or behind, we’re chasing games. 

“We’ve been on the front foot all the time and I said to them it’s time to be a little horrible and ugly and just sit in there. What we’ll do is we’ll defend and we’ll catch them on the break and that’s what we’ve done at times – not many.

“It didn’t look good as a spectacle in the second half but I’m not worried about that! We had three goals to the good, why should we push and try and get a fourth and leave ourselves open?

“We ended up putting two in the middle of midfield, just sitting in there and although the two wide boys were linking up with Marvin (Williams) when he came on to use the pace.

“I wanted it to be ugly and that’s exactly what it was second half and the three points are more sweet than beautiful, passing football.”

Tom Parkinson lumped a long ball forward to put substitute Marvin Williams through on goal but he slipped over in the mud as he faced a one-on-one opportunity with hesitant Hughes.

But East Thurrock pulled a goal back when central defender Ben Wood ventured forward and slipped the ball through to Brown, who stroked his right-footed shot into the bottom near corner from fifteen-yards, before picking the ball out of the net and jogging back with it towards the centre spot.

“I saw from the dug-out, we were left wide open and they slid the ball in to the edge of the box. He’s had a touch and he’s slide it past, but it was a good finish by him.

“I’m not going to lambast players for that! They’ve worked hard, they’ve worked tirelessly, they’ve done what I wanted them to do and they get every bit of credit from me today.”
The former Staines Town keeper was almost caught out when Sammons swept a first time cross-come-shot from the right some 30-yards from goal, which sailed over the keeper’s head and dropped just over the bar.

Tonbridge Angels created a couple of late chances to increase their lead.

Left-back Parter, who picked the ball up inside the Rocks’ half, opted against having a pop at goal and played the ball inside to Whitnell, who stroked a right-footed shot towards the bottom corner, which Hughes dived low to his left to make the save.

Williams then cut in from the right but his left-footed shot lacked power and rolled into Hughes for a comfortable save.

East Thurrock United created the last chance of the game when Peddie found himself on the right by-line to whip in a cross towards the far post but Higgins looped his header over the bar.

Despite his side’s deserved victory, McKimm admits he’s still looking over his shoulder.

He said: “Without going over the top because we’re still in the mire and we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

“That might not be the most entertaining performance but we haven’t had the best of joys this season and when we do get them we’ve got to enjoy it and that’s what I’ve said to the players. Be sensible, enjoy it because we’ve got to go again away to Grays next week.

“We’re still in trouble but they’ve got to enjoy these moments at the minute because they’ve had too many down moments and I want them to enjoy it.”

The Angels are ten points clear of the drop zone and McKimm said: “Everyone’s still got points to play for. We’re nowhere near out of it yet!

“We’ve now won two of the last three which is good. The performance against Wingate & Finchley wasn’t bad. Watching the DVD it was just errors. We didn’t make errors today and I’m proud of the boys for talking on board what I’ve told them.

“We’re still in it! Until it’s mathematically safe you’ve still got to imagine that you’re still in trouble because anyone can go on a little run.

“We’ve had two wins in three now, some may have three in three and that pulls points back on us.  So until we’re mathematically safe then I can rest a little bit but at the moment we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Grays Athletic dropped a place to fourteenth following their 1-1 draw at Canvey Island today.

Tonbridge can close the gap on the Essex side should they claim a win at Mill Field next Saturday.

McKimm said: “I know Mark Bentley, he’s just got the job there. We’ve had two tough games. They beat us down here in the league and we beat them in the Trophy so it’s not going to be easy.

“We’ll go there with the same attitude and the same application that we’ve done in the last three games, not three games but all season and put a shift in and a bit of graft from the start, we’ll have half a chance.”

Tonbridge Angels: Kyle Merson, James Folkes, Jack Parter, Lee Carey, Simon Cox (Nathan Campbell 81), Laurence Ball, Mitchell Pinnock, Tom Parkinson, Joe Taylor (Marvin Williams 72), Tommy Whitnell, Dee Okojie (Royce Greenidge 87).
Subs: Dan Parkinson, Charlie Slocombe

Goals: Tommy Whitnell 12, 23, Joe Taylor 45

Booked: Lee Carey 48

East Thurrock United: David Hughes, Ryan Sammons, Tom Stephen, Simon Peddie, Ben Wood, Nicholas Symons, Kye Ruel, Ross Parmenter (Connor Witherspoon 60), Sam Higgins, Mitchell Gilbey (David Bryant 46), Joe Paxman (Ellis Brown 46).
Sub: Paul Goodacre

Goal: Ellis Brown 75

Booked: Sam Higgins 50, Nicholas Symons 84, Tom Stephen 85

Attendance: 414
Referee: Mr Christopher Bodell (Enfield, Middlesex)
Assistants: Mr Michael Ryan (Littlehampton, West Sussex) & Mr Steven Hughes (Brighton, East Sussex)