Tunbridge Wells 1-1 Lordswood - It will mean the absolute world to me to stay up because they're a club that doesn't deserve to go down, says Lordswood boss Richard Dimmock

Tuesday 29th March 2022
Tunbridge Wells 1 – 1 Lordswood
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 29/03/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 29 March 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

LORDSWOOD manager Richard Dimmock says it will mean the absolute world to him to guide the club towards safety in their last six games of their Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division relegation dog-fight against Rusthall.

Lordswood extended their unbeaten run to three games after being denied a vital victory at Culverden Stadium, which would have seen them leapfrog over Jimmy Anderson’s side and out of the relegation zone but they were denied thanks to a controversial penalty incident at the end of the game.

Dimmock’s side dominated the early exchanges on a bobbly pitch at Culverden Stadium and pacey winger Joshua Reid swept home following an eighteenth-minute set-piece.

However, Tunbridge Wells kept plugging away and grabbed a last-gasp equaliser through talisman Matthew Gething’s 26th goal of the season, heading home deep into injury time after his penalty was brilliantly saved and tipped onto the crossbar by Lordswood keeper George Bentley.

Dimmock was angry when he had his centre-half Phillip Makinde sent off, referee Nicholas Monkman claiming that the 17-year-old defender had committed a handball, pulled back his man and allegedly stamped on his opponent - despite another initial contact was made outside the penalty area.

He said: “How do I sum that up?  To be honest with you, I’m just shocked.  I’ve just spoken to the referee over the penalty incident, saying one of our players stamped on their player. It’s just embarrassing! We seem to get all the bad officials at the minute.

“I’m not one to moan about officials ever but that was embarrassing tonight.  I didn’t see no stamp whatsoever. All I’ve seen our player went to pull him, the lino raised his flag to give the foul. Their player has gone down in the box and he’s waving his flag like a lunatic.”

Despite that, Dimmock could see signs from his players that they can get out of relegation trouble, despite winning five and drawing five of their 33 league games this season.

“They gave us everything. It’s not an easy place to come Tunbridge Wells and to play the way that we did tonight, I thought first half we really battled well. We didn’t really give them a sniff in the first half at all.  We’ve done everything right, we got in behind them, we were causing them some problems and first half I thought we were superb.”

Tunbridge Wells are also unbeaten in their last three games but this was a poor performance from Styles’ men.

“Bad night, really bad night, poor, poor, embarrassing result really for us, which is probably the best way that I can describe it,” admitted Styles.

“Teams do (fight) when they’re battling for relegation.  They battle, they fight and they didn’t stop. We know that, we’re aware of that. It was stuff we mentioned before the game and whenever.  Yes, from our point of view it’s a game we should win. It’s a game we should be winning, a bad night at the office.

“There was a huge number of things that didn’t work. We didn’t do well enough up until the 85th minute really and then we decided to come alive.  We’ll pick that apart in the coming days and Thursday night we’ll get together, get to work.”

Lordswood created their first opening inside the opening seven minutes, with striker Zachary Jakubowski keen the run the channel.

Holding midfielder Grant Brown released Jakubowski down the left channel, latching onto a through ball which went in behind Tunbridge Wells’ right-back Frank Griffin, before cutting the ball back to left-winger Sam Bailey, who swept his first-time left-footed shot across the keeper and past the far post from just inside the corner of the penalty area.

Tunbridge Wells were forced to shoot from distance when left-winger Kyron Lightfoot played the ball in to Connor Pring, who was in space and drilled a left-footed drive screaming past the left-hand post from 35-yards, before he was replaced due to a knock that Styles rated as “nothing serious.”

“Again, he was just trying too hard to score really, whereas it might’ve been easier to set-up and build and get bodies in and around the box and cause problems,” said Styles.

Lordswood went within inches of taking a deserved lead in the 14th minute, this time it was Bailey that hit the ball down the left channel.

Jakubowski played the ball in from the left and Mehmet Piro sublimely brought the ball under his spell before stroking his left-footed shot towards the bottom far corner, only for the ball to deflect off a pressing Johnny Phillips before the ball trickled just past the foot of the far post.

“We had some really good early chances, on another day, on a decent pitch, maybe they go in,” said Dimmock.

“That was a good move down the flank and cut back and the shot got deflected and another chance went begging.”

Styles added: “They came out, they pressed, they ran. That’s what they do. They run about a lot. I never felt that caused us many problems. I don’t think there was a gilt open chance.”

Griffin was penalised for a foul on Bailey, who drilled the resulting left-footed free-kick towards goal from 30-yards, which bounced just in front of goalkeeper Aaron Lee-Wharton, who gathered at the second attempt.

“I did have a go at the boys at half-time. They should’ve followed that one up as the keeper parried it and we’ve got to be running in on them but that’s another opportunity,” added Dimmock.

Styles had faith in his keeper not to be beaten from there, adding, “It’s dipped a little bit in front of him but Aaron saves them all day long.”

Lordswood deserved their lead when it arrived with 17 minutes and 27 seconds on the clock, however.

Lewis Tristram launched five long throws into the Tunbridge Wells penalty area and his second delivery was cleared back to him by the first defender.

The left-back recycled the ball into a crowded goal-mouth and Lee-Wharton pulled off a reaction save to his right to deny Jakubowski before Reid swept the ball into the bottom near corner from inside the six-yard box.

Dimmock said: “He deserved his goal. He’s been playing well in recent weeks.  I’ve just told the boys, in games now, throw-ins, corners, get them in the box and be in and around the ball. Let’s get the second balls and that’s exactly where the goal has come from. It was knocked down and we got the second ball.”

A clearly frustrated Styles, added: “Just a poor, sloppy goal, poor, sloppy goal. Poor defending, not winning the second ball, not following men, not marking men, where to start with that?”

Lordswood were putting their bodies on the line and denied Tunbridge Wells an equaliser in the 29th minute.

Pring’s last action of the game before being forced off through injury saw the diminutive central midfielder run into the final third before Fjord Rogers swept a first-time pass into his strike partner Gething, who cut inside and his shot was blocked by Vinnie Medhurst inside the box and went behind for a corner.

“Not a bad effort to be fair, not a bad little passage of play. We got something, got a corner out of it,” added Styles.

Phillips whipped in a first time cross from the left and Josh Froggatt turned Tristram outside the penalty area and his shot deflected off his marker and Bentley comfortably caught the dropping ball into his midriff.

Lordswood were to be denied a second goal ten minutes before half-time, courtesy of another long throw from Tristram.

Bailey cracked a left-footed drive from 25-yards which was beaten away at head height by Lee-Wharton as Tunbridge Wells were nearly punished by playing a slow tempo game.

“Once again we were knocking on the door for a second.  I could go on with chances, even in the second half.  We caused them problems, even though they would give it to us in the second half,” said Dimmock.

Tunbridge Wells centre-half Freeman Rogers was thrown into the sin-bin with 38:06 on the clock and Styles asked Fjord Rogers to slot in beside Danny Keyte in the heart of defence for the 10 minute colling off period.

“The boys have worked their socks off going up the hill in the first-half,” said Dimmock, who has won three, drawn two and lost nine of his games since taking over from Neil Hunter on Christmas Eve.

“I said it’s a tough place, the pitch is rock solid, it’s not the best.  Let’s get the ball in behind them and press them in their own half and we’ve done exactly that. We got the goal and then it’s chance-after-chance, three or four good chances.

“The last three or four weeks we’ve finally got the squad together what we want. We had them in at training and I’ve told them to start believing in what we’re trying to get you to do and the hard work that they’ve put in over the last three or four weeks is phenomenal and I’ve just said to them at half-time start believing – hard work will get you out of this.”

Styles added: “Just be better at the things that we set out, the principles and the basics, be better at the basic stuff because we wasn’t.  We wasn’t good enough with the basics.  I said be better with the basic stuff from back to front really and have a bit more urgency and create more chances.”

You had the impression that Tunbridge Wells’ players had their minds on their summer holidays – with nothing left to play for.

Styles refuted that claim, adding: “When the players turn up for a game, they want to win a game. I turn up here, I want to win. I turn up Saturday, I want to win.  You play at this level and you’re around this level you want to win games so the mentality in the changing room and around the players’ should be to win this game and to put everything into winning this game and that’s it because you enjoy it when you win.”

Lordswood deserved their lead going into half-time but Tunbridge Wells were to be denied an equaliser 112 seconds in.

Lightfoot stroked a right-footed free-kick towards the right-hand corner from 30-yards, forcing Bentley to dive to his left and use two strong fists to punch the ball towards safety.

Styles said: “It’s a chance, a free-kick. He’s hit the target and he’s made the keeper work, that’s all he can do.”

Dimmock added: “It was a bit of a photo one that one. I knew they were going to have a few chances but we kept them at bay for a majority of the time.”

Lordswood, who lost the corner count by 10-1, squandered a glorious chance to kill the game off on the hour-mark.

Keyte was sent crashing to the ground after losing a tussle with Jakubowski some 35-yards from goal before the hardworking Lordswood striker raced through on goal. The ball was bouncing up and down like a hand grenade and Jukubowski stabbed his left-footed shot agonisingly past the foot of the far post, when he only had the keeper to beat.

Dimmock said: “It’s a second one that we could’ve had, a very big chance but the pitch didn’t help as it was bobbling all over the place.  Later on in that half he has another exactly the same situation and it bobbled up again.”

Styles added: “They were clutching at them a little bit in that final third.  Every chance they got in the final third they were trying hitting it and doing all they could.”

Tunbridge Wells woke up from their deep sleep with the introduction of winger Regan Corke and started to press for an equaliser during the final 20 minutes.

Griffin raced down the right and reached the by-line after riding a challenge before hanging over a deep cross towards the far post but Corke smacked a right-footed half-volley sailing harmlessly wide from 15-yards.

Substitute midfielder Jonathan Shea fed the ball into Jordan Wells, who released Gething down the left channel and his low cross was met at the near post by Phillips, who bundled his shot just past the foot of the left post despite being under pressure from Makinde. 

Left-back Phillips was thrown up front alongside Gething for the last 20 minutes in a bid to salvage something from this poor performance, as James Nurden came off the bench to slot in at left-back, his natural position.

Lordswood’s striker Jakubowski hit a snap-shot from 30-yards which screamed past the flat-footed goalkeeper and past the right-hand post with 15 minutes remaining.

Reid gave the ball away inside the Tunbridge Wells half instead of breaking away down the right and Phillips played in Gething, whose left-footed shot from 16-yards brought a comfortable save in Bentley’s midriff, down on his knees.

Styles said: “Maybe they got a bit nervous. To be blunt they haven’t held onto a lead very much this season, so it’s something maybe they were being a bit naïve.

“But from us we were getting the ascendancy and actually coming out of second gear. Unfortunately it was too little too late.”

Dimmock said: “Our two centre-halves tonight, young Phillip (Makinde) and Chris Mirrlees, I’m not going to lie, they have probably the two top forwards in the league, Fjord Rogers and Matt Gething and I thought they kept them quite quiet tonight.”

Bailey played a through ball on the deck but the bobbly pitch was too unkind for Jakubowski, who failed to keep his shot on target while being pressed by Freeman Rogers inside the Tunbridge Wells penalty area.

However, Tunbridge Wells grabbed a last-gasp equaliser, timed at 46:32 on the clock.

Keyte hit a low long ball out of defence to release Lightfoot down the right and it appeared that Makinde had pulled the winger with initial contact being made outside the penalty area.

However, assistant referee Stuart Peerless frantically waved his flag above his head and referee Nicholas Monkman went over to him.

The referee pulled out a red card and sent off Makinde and awarded a penalty and Gething’s right-footed penalty was brilliantly flicked onto the bar by Bentley, diving to his right, but Gething buried the header into the back of the net.

It was the 96th league goal that Lordswood have conceded this season and it got Tunbridge Wells out of jail.

Styles said: “Losing the game potentially goes through your mind, you’re hoping not but you’ve just got to throw caution to the wind and just keep plugging away. Our boys are pretty good at that.

“It was a blatant penalty from where I was stood, all day long. You can’t do that in the box (bringing the player down).  That’s what I saw, I’m glad the linesman has actually taken responsibility and given what he’s seen because on other occasions this year with officials that hasn’t happened.

“Geth has good habits following it in.  The keeper’s done his job and saved it but a good striker follows it in, in normal play, not just penalties and he’s followed it in and scored and he’s got what he’s deserved and got us back into the game and I thought we looked like we might win it. We had another five minutes.

“The standards we set as staff the last three years, that’s two points dropped without a shadow of a doubt.”

Dimmock said: “We’ve had exactly the same thing at Bearsted.  They got given a penalty, George saved it, unfortunately tonight he’s saved it and pushed it onto the bar but it’s come straight back out instead of carrying on over but when you’re at the bottom you don’t seem to get decisions go your way whatsoever.”

“I’m not one to moan about officials but they were embarrassing tonight!

“The FA have asked us to respect referees and all this because a lot of referee’s are quitting the game because of players are getting violent and threatening them and stuff like this.

“It’s not the easiest job in the world, let me tell you but referee a game how you see it, that’s all I ask them and if they do that to their ability, then I’ve got no problems but for the referee to go over to the linesman and say a 17-year-old kid has stamped on someone is embarrassing because there was no stamp in there.

“He’s (Makinde) cleared the ball, the only thing that would come out of that is him trying to tug his shoulder. He was outside the box. It should be a free-kick and a yellow card. They’re just making the stamp up.”

Tunbridge Wells leapfrogged over Crowborough Athletic into eighth-place in the table with 48 points from their 32 games.

Sean Muggeridge’s side lost 2-1 at home to Sheppey United, which earned Ernie Batten’s side promotion into the Isthmian League, leapfrogging over Chatham Town into top spot, three points clear but having played a game more.

Tower Hamlets remain rooted to the foot of the table on 12 points with four games left, after losing 2-0 at Lordswood at the weekend.

Lordswood remain in the relegation zone tonight with 20 points, level on points with Rusthall, who have a superior goal-difference of +14 and a game in hand.

Styles demands a reaction from his side when they travel to Barnehurst to play Tower Hamlets, having beaten them 3-0 here seven days ago.

Lordswood travel to Glebe on Saturday and then to fourth-placed Deal Town the following weekend.

Lordswood then host plummeting K Sports (16 April), before traveling to Ashford to play Kennington and end their campaign at home to Holmesdale.

Rusthall’s next two games are away, at K Sports on Saturday and Welling Town two nights later, before Anderson takes his side to Kennington (9 April.).

Chatham Town visit Jockey Farm on Easter Saturday, before Anderson brings his side to Culverden Stadium (18 April) before ending their campaign at home to Erith & Belvedere (23 April).

“See how it is on the day,” Dimmock said of his trip to Glebe.

“Anyone can beat anyone on their day. We’re on a good run at the moment so we’ll be going there very confident.

“All I worry about is ourselves and what we do each game as it comes. I don’t care what Rusthall do, they have got to do what they’ve got to do but all I’m focused on are my boys for the next game and that’s away at Glebe.

“I expect them to be a solid outfit.  They will want to win the game because they want to finish as high as possibly but I’ll go there in my mindset that we’ve got to work hard again and if you work hard and keep a clean-sheet you’ve got a chance of winning games.

“It will mean the world, absolutely mean the world to me (to stay up) because they’re a club that doesn’t deserve to go down. They’ve got a good committee, they’ve got a good following with the fans’ coming to games. The club is a good general set-up and they don’t deserve to go down.”

Dimmock revealed this is his first relegation dog-fight of his career.

“That is why I took the job.  I wanted a new challenge and when Lordswood offered me the job I jumped at it because it’s a club that I’ve always had in my heart. I played for them for many years’ and I thought I’ve never been in a relegation battle. It’s hell but it’s a good challenge.  Another three wins, that’s my aim – keep believing in us.”

Styles demands a vastly improved performance from his men against soon to be relegated outfit Tower Hamlets on Saturday.

“We’ve got to play better than that and there’s got to be a reaction and there’s got to be better performance in terms of individuals, in terms of units and in terms of a collective 11 on the pitch. We’ve got to be better,” said Styles.

“After the Chatham game (which we lost 1-0), the target we set was to remain unbeaten until the end of the season, to finish the season on a positive and finish the season as strongly as possible.”

Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Frank Griffin, Johnny Phillips, Connor Pring (Jonathan Shea 32), Freeman Rogers, Danny Keyte, Kyron Lightfoot, Jordan Wells, Matthew Gething, Fjord Rogers (James Nurden 70), Josh Froggatt (Regan Corke 59).
Subs: Cameron Wootton, Jack Hope

Goal: Matthew Gething 90

Temporary Dismissal:  Freeman Rogers 39

Lordswood: George Bentley, Vinnie Medhurst, Lewis Tristram (Abdul Muiz Alaka 65), Grant Brown, Chris Mirrlees, Phillip Makinde, Sam Bailey (Dominic Wynter-Stephens 87), Callum O’Shea (Chris Ware 80), Zachary Jakubowski, Mehmet Piro, Joshua Reid.
Subs: Ben Bayoko, Robert Hicks

Goal: Joshua Reid 18

Booked: Callum O’Shea 45, Lewis Tristram 53, Joshua Reid 76

Sent Off: Phillip Makinde 90

Attendance: 172
Referee: Mr Nicholas Monkman
Assistants: Mr Stuart Peerless & Mr David Lambert