Tonbridge Angels 1-0 Hampton & Richmond Borough - We're not looking for that top spot, says Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm

Saturday 27th February 2016
Tonbridge Angels 1 – 0 Hampton & Richmond Borough
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 27/02/2016 15:00

Ryman Premier League
Saturday 27th February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS boss Steve McKimm has distanced himself from talk of winning the Ryman Premier League title after beating league leaders Hampton & Richmond Borough.

The Angels lost their six-match unbeaten run when they lost 3-1 at home to fifth-placed Bognor Regis Town on Tuesday night. The Rocks extended their unbeaten run to 14 games after knocking out Vanarama National League strugglers Torquay United in The FA Trophy Quarter-Finals today and impressed more than Hampton & Richmond Borough.

Alan Dowson’s side arrived at Longmead Stadium sitting eight points clear of third-placed Tonbridge Angels at the top of the table on 70 points from 36 games, but that lead has been shortened to five points thanks to Luke Blewden scoring his nineteenth goal of the season in the second half, from the penalty spot.

A higher-than-average crowd of 559 watched a tight, nervy affair, but McKimm was pleased with his side’s disciplined performance which secured their 18th league win of the season.

“Pleased with the result obviously, but the reaction from Tuesday night’s defeat,” said McKimm.

“All season we’ve lost one and we’ve always come back with a positive result. We’ve not had back-to-back defeats in the league which is a sign of a good side.  I’m not saying championship winning side or anything like that. It’s a sign of a good side if you can bounce back from a defeat and we’ve done that today.

“It was about being disciplined. I’ve used the word patience before but I knew what they were. We were disciplined from front-to-back because the work-rate from the front stops the ball coming forward to them. I thought everyone to a man done a very good job today.”

McKimm made a couple of changes from the side that played poorly in midweek. Tom Parkinson came back into the middle of the park after being ill for the game against  Bognor Regis Town, while Blewden came in for Bradley Woods-Garness.

Tonbridge Angels created the first chance of this game after only 182 seconds.

Blewden hooked the ball out to Charlie Webster out on the right and two players doubled up on him so he cut the ball back to right-back James Folkes, who cut into the penalty area and swept his left-footed shot sailing harmlessly wide of the far post from 16-yards.

Hampton & Richmond Borough, who failed to impress despite being six games unbeaten, created their first opening in the 17th minute.

Left-back Josh Casey swung in the second of their nine corners from the right in towards the near post but all that captain Kieran Murphy could do was flash his shot past the post.

Chances were at a premium for both sides and Angels’ central midfielder Luke Allen curled a cross-shot into the hands of visiting keeper Mark Smith exactly 60 seconds later.

Poor defending from Allen close to the corner flag saw him lose the ball to Nicke Kabamba, who slipped the ball through to left-winger Jamal Lowe, his angled drive from a tight angle was cut out by Anthony Di Bernardo at his near post.

Smith was called into action following the home side’s fourth corner of the game after 27 uninspiring minutes.

Nick Wheeler swung in the corner from the right and Blewden rose with Smith, who punched the ball away underneath the crossbar.  Seconds later the ball was played into Allen at the far post, who stroked his left-footed shot towards the bottom corner from eight-yards, the keeper getting down low to his right to make the save at his near post.

The game was crying out for a goal and Hampton & Richmond Borough created a chance in the 37th minute.

Tom Berre played the ball up to Leon Solomon, who cut inside and played the ball inside to striker Brendan Kiernan, the former Bromley winger hitting his first time right-footed drive past the post from 10-yards.

Folkes clipped the ball up to Blewden, who brought the ball under control with his chest before producing a woeful shot, volleying his right-footed shot high over the bar from 25-yards.

But Tonbridge Angels striker Nathan Elder squandered an excellent chance to break the stalemate in the 39th minute.

Di Bernardo’s big kick down the middle was flicked on by Elder and the ball was picked up by Blewden, who cut from the middle to the left flank.  Blewden floated over a cross towards the edge of the six-yard box, which Elder brought down under his spell with his chest and clipped his shot straight at the 20-year-old former Brentford keeper.

“It’s a great ball in, a great touch, whether he was off-balance or not only he will know and it’s a quite comfortable save from the keeper,” said McKimm.

“But I don’t mind when we create chances. If we’re creating chances I’m happy with that, if they go in or not we can work on that. What is hard to work on is when you don’t create chances. The chances we created – in a tight game – I was pleased with.”

The Beavers won four successive corners towards the end of the first half and they should have scored just before the break when Tonbridge had cleared away Casey’s corner.

Solomon played Lowe in behind the Tonbridge defence and smacked a right-footed volley towards goal from 12-yards, which was brilliantly palmed over the bar by Di Bernardo, high to his left.

“That’s the only time we switched off,” admitted McKimm.

“We cleared the ball to the half-way line and we came out not looking at players who we were marking. It could’ve been a choice of two of them that could’ve got in. He’s had a shot and Tony’s done what he’s paid to do which is make a great save.”

Both sets of supporters’ hoped for an improved second half and McKimm revealed what he said to his promotion chasing side at the break.

“Keep doing the same thing; keep being disciplined; keep the work-rate going - and I know we’ll create chances.

“If we can nullify their threats, which was their front four, which I thought we coped very well with today and limited them to not a lot of possession in our final third.  We will create and I thought we created a few chances as the game went on.”

Wheeler’s outswinging corner from the right held up in the wind and Elder directed his header across goal and past the far post inside the opening six minutes of the second half, before Hampton & Richmond Borough created a couple of headed chances.

Lowe found himself in behind Tonbridge right-back Folkes down the left-channel and rolled the ball back to Casey, who whipped in a first time cross into the Tonbridge box where Kiernan’s looping header from 16-yards was comfortably caught by Di Bernardo.

Casey then swung in a corner from the right and Kiernan made space for himself at the near post to plant his header over.

“They weren’t troubling us were they?” said McKimm.

“Tony was comfortable with everything that was coming in and the back four was comfortable. We were reading the second ball and dealing with that so as much as the threat they caused at their place (in a 2-2 draw on 23 January), which I was expecting today, they didn’t really put us under as much pressure as I was expecting and that’s credit to our boys.

“Again, that shows you what this league is about because they might’ve had an off-day today. They’ve hit five goals in four goals in their last two games without reply and we’ve kept them to no goals so that’s credit to us but they might’ve been off their game like we were on Tuesday night.”

But Tonbridge Angels sealed the victory with Blewden’s penalty strike with 18:06 on the clock.

Folkes played a one-two with Blewden down the right and the right-back cut in towards the corner of the penalty area to float over a cross, which sailed over Smith’s right-shoulder.

Wheeler ghosted in and his diving header was blocked by Smith, the ball trickling agonisingly across the goal-line.

Just as though the home fans were coming to terms with an easy chance missed, Eastleigh-based referee Aaron Moody pointed to the spot and booked Casey and Blewden’s right-footed penalty nestled into the bottom left-hand corner, despite Smith diving the same way.

“I don’t have a clue what it was given for,” admitted McKimm.

“I think it was a pull on Nathan. Again, I’ll look at the video and see. I haven’t asked the ref because sometimes you have to take what’s given to you. Until I see it, I don’t know.

“Luke steps up and to be fair a bit of courage because he’s missed one previous, that’s when it was given to Nathan and tucked it away so however it went in, I’m just happy it went in.”

The Tonbridge-based match-winner hobbled off through injury just before the end of the game and McKimm revealed: “His studs got caught in the ground, just as he turned and just felt his knee a little bit, but nothing too serious. They’ve got ice on it in there and he’ll be fine to train on Tuesday night.”

Blewden was then released down the left and his dinked shot bounced across Smith and rolled past the far post.

Smith made a comfortable low save with 15 minutes remaining after Blewden charged into the penalty area down the left hand side and cut the ball back to left-back Jack Parter, who’s shot rolled into the keeper’s hands from 20-yards.

Kiernan’s last piece of action before he was substituted saw him play the ball inside to substitute Dean Sinclair, who drilled his right-footed shot past the left-hand post but Hampton & Richmond Borough – who had scored nine goals from their last two games - lacked ideas to break down a resilient Tonbridge Angels defence, brilliantly marshalled by Jerrome Sobers and Sonny Miles at the back.

Tonbridge Angels substitute Tommy Whitnell played the ball into Blewden, whose right-footed shot on the turn from 20-yards looped into the hands of the visiting keeper.

Hampton & Richmond Borough received a huge slice of luck with seven minutes left.

Parter’s hung over a crossfrom the left towards target-man Elder, who rose and planted his header across the keeper only for the ball to clip the inside of the left-hand post and an alert Smith caught the ball before it crossed the goal-line.

“Like all good strikers and he is, he’s a great striker. The ball’s come in the box, he’s in the right place again. He’s headed it back from where the keeper’s come from and a bit of luck didn’t go with us that time because nine times out of ten that would hit the post and go in the back of the net,” said McKimm.

“This time it’s hit the post and gone across the line and the keeper’s been able to pick it up so lady luck wasn’t with us then.  Two-nil it would’ve been more comfortable but I was very pleased with the boys today. I thought they’ve done very well.”

Hampton & Richmond Borough’s last chance arrived through another headed chance.

Lowe looped in a cross from the left and 16-goal striker Kabamba punched the ground in agony after his back-header looped into the hands of Di Bernardo, who made a comfortable catch.

Goalkeeper Smith went forward for a last-gasp Hampton & Richmond Borough corner, which was taken by substitute Dean Sinclair from the left.

The Angels cleared the ball away and Wheeler played the ball inside to Woods-Garness and with Smith still inside the Tonbridge half tried to score from 60-yards. 

With the home fans behind the goal trying to suck the ball into the bottom right-hand corner, the ball bounced agonisingly past the foot of the post and the referee signalled the end of this must-win battle. 

“He got through one-on-one the other night when it was 0-0 and just chipped the keeper and it’s just gone the other side of the post,” reflected McKimm.

“He’s had the initiative to hold people off and get a shot on from that distance. Everyone’s thinking it’s going in, it’s just hit the outside of the post and gone out.

“You get that type of things that happen. All in all I’m very pleased with what we’ve done.”

McKimm’s first season in charge resulted in Tonbridge Angels finishing fifth-from-bottom, just one place and four points clear of the relegation zone.

McKimm, though, is keeping his feet on the ground when in reality the club can now go on and lift the Ryman Premier League championship trophy for the first time.

“You had Justin (Luchford, coach) say it the other night and I’ll say it now, we’re not looking for that top spot,” said McKimm.

“What we’re looking for is to accumulate as many points as possible and see whether that gives us a play-off place or outside the play-offs.

“We’re better than last season. I’m truthful and honest. We’ve done better than last year and we’re going to keep going for the final 11 games, see how many points we can accumulate and see where that ends up.

“Next season’s project will be get better and more points than what we got this year and that’s the way, it’s progress.

“In two games we could be out of the play-offs, in three games we could be tenth. It’s tight up there so all we do is look at the next game and just go from there.

“I’ve never been one to predict anything. I never predict anything because I’ve been in this game too long and I know it comes and bites you on the backside. We’ll just keep taking game by game, whittle the games down and by the end of it we’ll see where we end up.”

Tonbridge Angels travel to second-placed East Thurrock United next Saturday, a side that are three points ahead of McKimm’s men, who have a game in hand.

They were to be denied victory at Dulwich Hamlet today as Gavin Rose’s side sealed a 2-2 draw at Champion Hill, courtesy of two late, late goals from Nyren Clunis and Ashley Carew’s penalty.

“We’ve got East Thurrock next Saturday, which is another tough game,” warned McKimm, who then reflected on their 2-1 defeat to the Rocks in January.

“They came down here and they beat us up and beat us. Physically they were stronger than us, probably the first time this season we’ve got outmuscled and they deserved their victory.

“We’ve got to go there and show a bit of mettle away from home and do the best we can. 

“I’m not predicting anything. I never will do. We’ve just got to go to that game, play that one, when that’s finished move onto the next one because the season’s not finished after next Saturday.”

Tonbridge Angels: Anthony Di Bernardo, James Folkes, Jack Parter, Tom Parkinson (Anthony Riviere 81), Jerrome Sobers, Sonny Miles, Charlie Webster (Tommy Whitnell 71), Luke Allen, Nathan Elder, Luke Blewden (Bradley Woods-Garness 90), Nick Wheeler.
Subs: Laurence Ball, Ben Harrison

Goal: Luke Blewden 64 (penalty)

Booked: Tommy Whitnell 86, Jack Parter 90

Hampton & Richmond Borough: Mark Smith, Tom Jelley, Josh Casey, Kieran Murphy, Moussa Diarra, Leon Solomon, Jerome Federico (Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick 65),  Tom Beere (Dean Sinclair 74), Nicke Kabamba, Brendan Kiernan (Charlie Moone 79), Jamal Lowe.
Subs: Joe Hicks, Eddie Hutchinson

Booked: Leon Solomon 33, Jerome Federico 48, Josh Casey 63, Moussa Diarra 82

Attendance: 559
Referee: Mr Aaron Moody (Eastleigh, Hampshire)
Assistants: Mr Michael Chard (Ramsgate) & Mr Nigel Baker (Bognor Regis, West Sussex)

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