Tonbridge Angels 1-2 Worthing – We didn’t have enough in the tank, admits Tonbridge Angels coach Justin Luchford

Saturday 10th March 2018
Tonbridge Angels 1 – 2 Worthing
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 10/03/2018 15:00

Bostik Premier Division
Saturday 10 March 2018
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS coach Justin Luchford says his players gave their all during their cruel defeat to an impressive Worthing side at Longmead Stadium.

Adam Hinshelwood’s side played an impressive passing game which was miles better than their position in eighteenth-place in the Bostik Premier Division table but they left it late to claim a deserved win.

Tonbridge Angels are underperforming and this defeat ended Steve McKimm’s slender chances of grabbing a play-off place as they remain rooted in eleventh-place in the table with 50 points with 11 games remaining.

Tonbridge Angels goalkeeper Jonathan Henly was outstanding during a first half that Worthing dominated and somehow the score was goal-less going into the break.

Tonbridge Angels improved in the second half and took the lead through Joe Turner’s deflected finish but as this was their first game in two weeks, Worthing came back to win it at the death.

Striker Zack Newton grabbed an equaliser with 44:51 on the clock, before substitute Ben Pope clinched the victory with 46:32 and on both occasions Worthing players ran to the perimeter fencing to celebrate their goals with their fans.

Luchford said:  “Gutted, absolutely gutted!  I felt for them today. I thought we weren’t very good in the first half.  I thought they were a far better side and Jonny’s (Henly) kept us in the game.  I don’t think there was any argument about that at all.

“But I thought second half they didn’t really have a chance before the first 44 minutes.  When the ball went in the back of the net, that was their first clear cut chance they had in the second half.

“I thought we were better, marginally better in the second half, we deserved the goal and we were dead on our feet and our biggest concern was conceding a goal late on because I just felt that we didn’t have enough in the tank to withstand a barrage for a couple of minutes. 

“I preferred them to score in the 94th and to blow the whistle because it just gave them momentum and we’ve made a mistake and at that point we’re dead on our feet, so I feel for them today, I’m gutted!”

McKimm, who won his last three league games, despite being hit by a budget cut and right-back Callum Adonis-Taylor was given the run-around by Worthing’s left-winger Jared Rance for the 18 minutes that he struggled before he was forced off with a hamstring injury.

Luchford said: “He was struggling with it earlier on. He’s probably played 10 minutes too long if I’m honest and we were lucky to get away with it because he was getting destroyed down that side and I felt for him.  He couldn’t run so we had to make the change early doors and had to bring Nathan (Elder) off the bench when we really didn’t want to play Nathan today but we’ve got round pegs in square holes all over the pitch.”

Liam Smith, who started the game at left-back, then slotted in at right-back.

Worthing created the first chance of the game inside the opening eight minutes.

Jesse Starkey and Rance linked up down the left and Starkey whipped in a deep cross towards the far post which was swept first time across Henly and past the far post by the impressive Kieron Pamment.

Tonbridge Angels’ first opening arrived in the 13th minute when Turner drove in their first corner from the right and holding midfielder George Beaven sent his downward header comfortably into the hands of visiting keeper Lucas Cabagnari.

Henly was called into saving Tonbridge in the 20th minute.

A big kick from Cavagnari caught Smith in two minds and his poor back-header back towards Henly was intercepted by Newton, who was denied by Henly, who spread himself well to narrow the angle then saw Starkey lash his shot over the crossbar.

“All I’m going to say is Jonny done really well.  Jon was outstanding in the first half.  He was absolutely outstanding and he kept us in the game. We came in at 0-0 because of Jonny, simple as that,” admitted Luchford.

Worthing’s left-wing-back Sam Rents then played the ball in behind Smith to put Rance through on goal and Henly dived low to his left to hold the low angled drive.

Newton played in Pamment, who was denied by another fine save from the busy Tonbridge keeper, standing up before palming the powerful drive behind for a corner.

Worthing were playing a great passing game and Rance drove a shot into the base of the side netting with Smith struggling to keep up - after Newton and Starkey linked up on the edge of the Tonbridge box.

Tonbridge Angels weathered the storm and target-man Nathan Elder, who came off the bench for Adonis-Taylor, sent his downward header into Cavagnari’s hands for a comfortable save after Xavier Vidal chipped a free-kick into the Worthing box.

Rents swung in Worthing’s fourth corner of the game in from the right towards the near post and Alfie Young came up from the back to hook his shot into Henly’s hands for a comfortable save.

Another Worthing chance went begging in the 33rd minute.

Rance whipped in another cross from the left and this came out to right-wing-back Reece Myles-Meekums, who put the ball back into the box for Newton to sweep his shot across goal and past the far post from 16-yards.

Worthing should have made the breakthrough in the 36th minute – but Henly pulled off a great diving save.

Starkey rolled the ball in behind Paul Mbiya-Kalambayi to put Newton through on goal and his left-footed drive was destined to nestle inside the bottom far corner, only for the Tonbridge keeper to dive low to his right to tip the ball around the post.

“Jonny was superb first half, that’s all I’m going to say, he had a fantastic game,” added Luchford.

“With 10 minutes to go we said on the bench it was a game of two goalkeeper’s I think both goalkeepers had fantastic games, really did.”

Tonbridge Angels only looked like scoring from set-pieces during a poor first half performance.

Turner delivered an out-swinging corner from the right and central defender Mbiya-Kalambayi made space at the near post to plant his header over.

Tonbridge’s fourth corner of the game came in from the right from Turner and Elder rose to guide his header towards the top left-hand corner, which was plucked out of the air by Cavagnari.

Tonbridge Angels were hanging on to a goal-less first half and Henly was almost caught out from Myles-Meekums’ speculative shot from the right from 45-yards, which sailed over the home keeper before kissing the top of the far post before going behind for a goal-kick.

“I think it was a bit of luck, that’s what happens sometimes. Some of them go in, we were more concerned Jonny hitting the post to be honest,” added Luchford.

With the score goal-less at the break, Luchford said: “Worthing are always going to be the same under the manager they’ve got down there because he wants to play football.  You can take that one or two ways. It’s great to watch when it comes off.  If you’ve got a plastic pitch then you can do that. 

“Ours isn’t a bad pitch at the moment, let’s be frank, but they’re a good side.  They’re not going to do anything and I don’t meant that nastily but in non-league you don’t play football if you want to win things, unfortunately.  You’ve got to be able to do a bit of everything!”

Luchford added: “We haven’t played for two weeks and you have to go out there and we’re in the game at 0-0!

“We know we can hurt people, we’ve got more than enough players’ out on the pitch to hurt people but we also know we didn’t really have a bench and we knew that there was maybe five on the pitch who we were worried how long they were going to last.”

Worthing created their first second half opening after only 183 seconds.

A driving run from Pamment through the heart of the pitch saw him feed Newton, who held off Mbiya-Kalambayi on the edge of the Tonbridge box and he poked the ball inside back to Pamment, who swept his first time shot over the crossbar.

Tonbridge Angels started to click into gear and created a great chance shortly afterwards.

Turner swung in a free-kick from the left, the ball was cleared out to Vidal, who cracked a dipping right-footed volley towards the bottom left-hand corner from 30-yards.  The ball whistled through a crowd of players and Worthing keeper Cavagnari pulled off a great save, flying to his right to turn the ball behind.

“Vidal had a couple of strikes today from distance and it was a good height for the keeper,” said Luchford.

“He’s made two good saves but Vidal’s got them on target with a difficult technique but he’s got that in his locker.”

The Worthing stopper was in action again in the 53rd minute.

The keeper punched away Turner’s inswinging corner from the left and Elder teed the ball up for Vidal, who powered a right-footed drive towards the near corner from 22-yards, which forced Cavagnari to dive to his right to palm towards safety.

Tonbridge Angels won the corner count 8-7 and Elder sent a trademark header over the crossbar after meeting Turner’s corner from the left.

But Tonbridge Angels took the lead with 16 minutes and 51 seconds on the clock, which was deserved on their second half performance at the time.

Worthing’s Joseph Clarke, playing at the base of the diamond, clipped Sam Bantick.

Vidal played a short free-kick inside to Bantick, who slipped the ball into Turner’s feet and his drilled his deflected angled right-footed drive through a crowd of players into the far corner.

Luchford admitted: “Everything I hate about free-kicks really, I hate short free-kicks! It does my head in because it never comes off!

“But to be fair to them they took it, they were bold and brave enough to do that and I like that if they’re bold and brave and they take responsibility, then you’ve got to pat them on the back and that was a good little bit of play and a good goal.”

Luchford was concerned that his players were struggling for fitness as the game went on.

“We’ve got Sam Bantick’s ankle that was killing him.  You’ve got Vidal, who hasn’t trained or done anything for two weeks pretty much, so his legs have pretty much gone.

“You’ve got Liam Smith on one side whose having one of those games where he’s finding it hard and he’s a young lad, he’s only 18 remember.

“George Beaven has had to come off.  Tommy Whitnell has come on and he hasn’t played for nine months.  You’ve got Alex Akrofi playing out of position at 10 and you’ve got Nathan, who shouldn’t really have played today. He’s just come back from injury.  We wanted to get him through the game without playing so with all that in mind we’ve got one sub left and we didn’t know what to do?”

Worthing broke away in the final 20 minutes and Starkey played the ball into Newton, who slipped the ball in behind substitute Tommy Whitnell for Pamment, whose right-footed angled drive towards the bottom corner from 12-yards was held by Henly, low to his right.

Thirty-six seconds later, Cavagnari denied Tonbridge a second goal.

Turner’s cross from the left flashed across the penalty area and found Bantick at the far post and the Worthing keeper made a vital block, diving low to his left.

Luchford added: “The keeper must’ve made four or five saves, the same as Jonny and you can argue that we’ve got to take our chances and that’s a fair point.  That’s what I’ve been saying all season so we do need to take these chances but the keeper did well.”

Worthing missed a glorious chance to equalise in the 74th minute when Newton easily got past Smith to pull the ball back from the by-line but Pamment skied his first time left-footed shot when left unmarked 12-yards from goal.

“They had a couple like that from about 12-yards where they squared it back and they hit it back over the bar.  They didn’t work Jonny second half, Jonny didn’t have a lot to do.  I think he had one punch and one save until the 44th minute,” added Luchford.

With Tonbridge players tiring, Worthing kept knocking on the door.

Newton played the ball out to Myles-Meekums on the right and the winger’s first time cross was half cleared out to Starkey and the tall player smacked his half-volley over the crossbar from just inside the corner of the penalty area.

Tonbridge Angels were hanging on to a slender 1-0 lead, but Worthing won it at the death.

Rance got in behind Smith down the left, cut the ball back for Newton to smash his first time right-footed shot across Henly from 12-yards, the ball nestling into the bottom far corner, before the Worthing players ran to the crowd behind the goal to celebrate.

“That was my biggest fear because that was at 45 so you know he’s going to add three or four minutes and you’re like have we got it in us and unfortunately we didn’t,” admitted Luchford.

And Parter was at fault for Worthing scoring their last-gasp winner.

Myles-Meekums got in down the right and hooked the ball back across goal towards Newton at the far post and his low shot was spilt by Henly and substitute Ben Pope smashed the ball into the bottom far corner from four-yards, which sent visiting players and fans wild.

Luchford said: “Jack’s made a mistake at left-back.  As the kick-offs gone down the left-hand side, Jack’s got it and he’s just got to turn them and he’s got caught in two minds and tried to play it back to Jonny and it’s been intercepted and they’re on the front foot and they get the winner.

“On the first half display, they deserve something out from the game.  On the second half display we deserved at least a point from the guts that we showed, players giving everything to the cause but unfortunately not having just that little bit. It’s the hardest thing in the world at this level is when you’ve conceded a goal in the 90th minute and you know you’ve got a few minutes left and you know everyone’s dead on their feet and trying to channel that mindset that we’re going to grab hold of this game now and we’re not going to lose. That’s the right thing to do but it’s the hardest thing to do.

“When you’ve got players out there playing out of position and you’ve got youngsters out there who are still learning their trade, it’s even harder and that’s why I feel for them.  They deserved at least a point today and after the second half display, probably all three.”

Tonbridge Angels should have snatched a late point but you will have to ask Elder why he took too many touches at the far post and failed to hit the back of the net after a chance was put on the plate by Bantick.

Tonbridge’s players collapsed on to the pitch at the final whistle but know they are underperforming in the Bostik Premier Division this season.

Big-spending circus Billericay Town visit Longmead Stadium on Tuesday night.

Folkestone Invicta climbed to the summit following their 3-0 win at Harrow Borough and Neil Cugley’s surprise package have reached 70 points from 37 games.

The four play-off sides comprise of Dulwich Hamlet (69 points from 35 games),  Margate (68 points from 37 games), Billericay Town (67 points from 30 games) and Hendon (61 points from 34 games).

Tonbridge Angels, meanwhile, now have nothing to play for and can’t wait for the season to end.

“We’re safe so that’s the positive. We’re now looking forward to next season,” admitted Luchford.

“I’m sure the gaffer will be here and that gets tied up at some point. Hopefully the club will want to back him more or whatever he wants to do that’s the decision of the club and the gaffer.  Hopefully that gets sored out and players get sorted out and we go to the end of the season and get as many points as we can.”

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Callum Adonis-Taylor (Nathan Elder 18), Liam Smith, George Beaven (Tommy Whitnell 59), Sonny Miles, Paul Mbiya-Kalambayi, Sam Bantick, Jack Parter, Alexander Akrofi, Xavier Vidal, Joe Turner.
Subs: Jack Fenton, Luciano Osbourne, Stewart Copeland

Goal: Joe Turner 62

Booked: Xavier Vidal 72, Liam Smith 76, Sam Bantick 87, Joe Turner 90

Worthing: Lucas Cavagnari, Matthew Boiling (Hayden Skerry 84), Sam Rents, Danny Barker, Joseph Clarke (Ben Pope 69), Alfie Young, Reece Myles-Meekums, Kieron Pamment (Jake Luff 90), Zack Newton, Jesse Starkey, Jared Rance.
Subs: Anesu Sisimayi, Harvey Sparks

Goals: Zack Newton 90, Ben Pope 90

Booked: Matthew Boiling 12, Joseph Clarke 25, Reece Myles-Meekums 85, Alfie Young 89

Attendance: 382
Referee: Mr John Pike (Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex)
Assistants: Mr Carl Smith (Dorking, Surrey) & Mr Alexander Bradley (Brighton, East Sussex)

I admit, sometimes I get things wrong and upon reflection I have removed the harsh assessment of a player in the original report.  Sorry!

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