Tunbridge Wells 3-0 Whitstable Town - We’re definitely targeting the play-offs but that’s just because we want to aim high. I don’t see why we can’t but we’ve got to be consistent and we haven’t been, says Tunbridge Wells boss Steve Ives
Tunbridge Wells 3 – 0 Whitstable Town
|Location||Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG|
TUNBRIDGE WELLS 3-0 WHITSTABLE TOWN
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 30 September 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium
TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Steve Ives says he is definitely targeting the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division play-offs but his side have to be consistent in order to meet their potential.
Whitstable Town have gone into this season suffering from delusions of grandeur, as they are the only club in this division that have players’ names above their squad numbers on their shirts.
However, if you are arrogant enough to believe that you are a professional footballer – in the ninth-tier of English football – then you must perform like one and not put in a poor performance that lacked desire – and be higher up in the table than languishing in fifteenth-place with 10 points from eight games.
The Oystermen have lost half of their league games – all away from home – and are now 11 points adrift of new league leaders Faversham Town, who are operating with the largest budget in this League’s entire history.
Tunbridge Wells raced into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 30 minutes, with impressive left-winger Festos Kamara beating four players before slotting home a composed finish, before striker Trevor McCreadie was left unmarked to tuck home a second.
McCreadie notched his ninth goal of the season to give Tunbridge Wells a commanding three goal victory, scoring from the penalty spot just six minutes into the second half to kill the game off.
Tunbridge Wells remain in tenth-place in the table with 14 points from 10 games and are three points adrift of the play-off zone, which currently contain Glebe, Fisher, Corinthian and Erith Town.
“I think it was relatively comprehensive if I’m going to be honest and that’s no disrespect to Whitstable, who I know are a good side but I just thought on the day we were able to turn up and put a good account of ourselves,” said Ives.
“The game management was better. There’s been a few times recently where we’ve got our nose in front and allowed the opposition back in, so to get through at half-time with the clean-sheet intact, when Whitstable were having a little bit of spell, that was good and actually the clean-sheet, full stop, because we haven’t had enough. We’ve let in too many goals this season (19), so that was encouraging.”
Whitstable Town manager Marcel Nimani sent out his assistant coach Tom Holmes for post-match media duties.
“Disappointing performance. I think they just battled harder than us to be honest, so it’s a hard one to take but we go again, ready for our next fixture,” said Holmes.
“First half, I think they won their battles in the middle and I think we were maybe just a little bit off the pace there. It was just that little bit of grit and just a little bit of reaction. We lose the ball, can we get back to try to get it a bit faster? Overall, that awareness, that reactiveness to try and get back in and secure the ball.”
Tunbridge Wells started the game on the front foot, creating a couple of goalscoring chances inside the opening 133 seconds.
Dominant holding midfielder Jack Walder won the ball inside his own half before playing the ball up to Billy Lewins, who split open Whitstable Town’s left-back George Sheminant to put McCreadie through on goal but Daniel Eason’s strong right-hand denied the former Haywards Heath Town striker.
Attacking midfielder Lewins, right-back Daniel Tear and right-winger Regan Corke all linked up in a triangle down the right before Corke whipped in a cross towards the edge of the box for McCreadie to glance his free header across Eason and just past the far post.
“The common theme being Trev will always be in and around the thick of it when there’s chances,” added Ives.
“Ok, he didn’t manage to convert either of those first two, but I think he is just a constant danger to the opposition and he duly got his (two) goals in the end.”
Holmes added: “Credit to Tunbridge Wells, they did start very well. They got us on the back foot a little bit and it was a great stop from Dan.”
Whitstable Town weathered the early storm, however, and were to be denied a 12th minute lead.
Winger Joshua Williams split open Tear with a sublime through ball which put fellow winger Tyler Anderson through on goal but former Whitehawk goalkeeper Luke Glover stood tall and used his left knee to make the save.
“It’s a great through ball. I think he’s tried it a few times and it hasn’t quite come off but that one’s come off from Williams and Tyler’s got into a great space. They’ve got a good chemistry together those two and when it clicks, it’s really good,” added Holmes.
Attacking midfielder Benjamin Cheklit drew a free-kick from Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Siji Akinlusi but Whitstable Town were to be denied by a fine save from Glover.
Cheklit placed his right-footed free-kick around the five-man wall and the ball was destined to nestle inside the bottom right-hand corner, only for Glover to dive low to his left and use a strong left hand to make a big save.
Holmes said: “I thought it was clever to try to keep it low, use the wall as a bit of a disguise to try to put it into the corner and credit to the keeper, I think he’s made a couple of good saves actually, our free-kick, as well in the second half, he’s made a good save as well.”
Ives added: “He has done what he had to do very well and I think the whole defensive unit have done what they’ve got to do when they’ve been called upon and Gloves is also apart of that.
“He was Whitehawk’s goalkeeper last season (in the Isthmian League South East). What has he brought us? Well, he kicks very well. He talks very well and he’s fitted in well with the group.”
Tunbridge Wells swiftly went up the other end and opened the scoring on the counter-attack, with 15 minutes and 35 seconds on the clock.
Walder stroked a long ball down the line to release Kamara, who easily cut inside Whitstable Town’s long-serving right-winger Jake MacKenzie, who suffered a bang to the ankle at the end of the game and was forced off.
Kamara easily cut past three Whitstable players and once in the middle, held his composure by slotting his right-footed shot past the grounded Eason from 15-yards.
“I thought Festos was superb today,” hailed Ives.
“He’s had a little bit of a struggle with some injuries, which he picked up in pre-season, so we haven’t been able to get the best out of him.
“It’s been coming. We’ve got some very good options in wide attacking areas and the boys are kind of stepping up to the plate and making my life difficult but in a nice way.”
When asked why Kamara was hooked in the 66th minute, Ives replied: “We’ve got three or four good options in wide attack and we’re bringing Festos back from injury and it’s great to be able to bring on Alfawaz (Dada) and give the full-back another interesting 25 minutes.”
Holmes added: “A great finish and that’s something to credit Tunbridge Wells for. When they did get into good positions, they generally got good shots off and they took their chances very well today.”
Tunbridge Wells wingers Kamara and Corke were a threat during the first half and Eason was called into making another save in the 22nd minute.
Left-back Rory Ward recycled the ball back into the Whitstable Town box towards the back post for Corke to poke his shot towards the near corner, only for Eason to claw the ball away like a hot potato and Lewins lacked composure and lashed his shot over the top of the near post.
Whitstable Town’s holding midfielder Jack Palmby switched the play to MacKenzie, who fed Williams, who spun Ward before hitting a low left-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 30-yards, which was comfortably saved by Glover, diving low to his left.
Cheklit produced a high quality delivery from the left, which bounced in front of Glover, who saw the ball late and dived to his left to ensure he pushed the set-piece towards safety.
Tunbridge Wells grabbed their second goal with 29 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.
Ward clipped a diagonal ball out of defence and Corke played the ball to Lewins, who swiftly released Corke down the right.
Corke whipped in a quality delivery towards the back post and Whitstable centre-half William Thomas failed to track McCreadie’s run to the back post and the talisman striker hooked his left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from three-yards.
“Trev is always in and amongst the action and it’s inevitable he’ll score goals if he gets chances,” said Ives.
“I was really pleased with that move. It was a counter-attack. I thought Bill done really well to pick Regan out, a great delivery from Regan. It’s exactly the sort of ball that Trev thrives upon and it’s inevitable, once the ball goes into that area, if you’re not going to pick him up, you’re going to get punished.”
Holmes added: “Maybe a little bit of naivety there from us, just to make sure we’re picking up our players when balls are coming in really. As I said, it’s one of those performances where we needed a little bit more today and we just didn’t quite get it unfortunately.”
Whitstable Town were flat and moved the ball around the Culverden Stadium pitch in a slow manner and produced one further chance before the interval.
Central midfielder Liam Gillies played a fine diagonal pass in behind Tear, giving Anderson the licence to cut into the box and putting it on a plate for Cheklit, who lashed his right-footed drive over the crossbar from 25-yards.
“It’s probably every cliché in the book, especially with some of our performances in the first-half,” where we’ve unfortunately let opposition back in, admitted Ives, when asked about his thoughts at the break.
“It was just really that’s half a job done. It’s a good half but keep on doing what you’re doing, game manage, don’t let them back into the game with anything soft and we always know they’ve got to up their attempts to score, which will probably increase our opportunities on the counter-attack.”
Holmes added: “We needed that fight, secure the ball in the middle and actually get back to a little bit more like we played. Try to keep the ball, move the ball well. The pitch here is pretty decent at the moment, so we would’ve been able to do it, so it was just that and that bit of fight, I think.”
Tunbridge Wells created the first chance of the second half when Lewins linked up well with Tear inside the final third before hitting a left-footed angled drive across Eason and just flashing past the far post from 16-yards.
“I thought the boys came flying out of the traps to be honest. If anything, it was a bit too kamikaze. It wasn’t doing my nerves any good,” admitted Ives.
“I guess the boys were trying to put the game to bed and Billy (seven goals) and Trev have been in and amongst the goals and amongst the action in most games this season.”
Referee Matthew Pollington awarded Tunbridge Wells a penalty when Lewins cut into the box and was fouled by Thomas in the middle.
McCreadie stroked his right-footed penalty into the right-hand corner, just above Eason, who had dived to his left and went the right way.
“It was persistent from Bill. I think at least one or two defenders had a bit of a nibble at him and I think he went down on a knee didn’t he and then he got back up and they seemed like not having the answer other than to take him out,” said Ives.
“Trev’s a specialist, so no doubt for me. He doesn’t mind a goal. I think he’s done it at whatever club he’s been at and I think he’s got his heart set on becoming a Tunbridge Wells legend, which he’s well on his way of doing. He loves the club, he loves the fans and I’m sure they love him, all of the time he keeps doing that.”
Holmes added: “I didn’t have a good view of it from my side. There were a few players in the way, so I’m not quite sure if it was a pen or not. But credit to the penalty taker, he’s done well to put it away.”
When asked what he was feeling with Whitstable Town staring down the barrel at their third straight defeat, Holmes replied: “Good question! I think there’s always got to be belief. One thing we sort of said we know Tunbridge Wells were 3-0 up in a game before and they ended up losing, so that was something that was always possible that could happen.
“We’ve got the technical players that are able to do that. If you look at our forward line, technically they are very, very good. It was just today we didn’t have it, unfortunately.”
Glover’s big kick up field, was flicked back by MacKenzie and this let in Kamara, who cut inside and put over a cross for McCreadie, who got in between MacKenzie and Cheklit to power his free header harmlessly wide of the near post.
Whitstable Town went close to pulling a goal back in the 55th minute.
Thomas hit a long ball which released substitute central midfielder Joshua Oliver, who charged down the right and put in a cross towards the edge of the box. Gillies laid the ball inside to striker Harvey Smith, who swept his shot across the diving Glover and just past the foot of the far post from 18-yards.
Kamara tore MacKenzie to shreds for the 66 minutes that the Tunbridge Wells winger was on the pitch and Kamara cut into the box and Eason dived to his right and used a strong right-hand to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom far corner.
Williams put over a decent cross from the right and Smith’s first-time flicked shot from inside the six-yard box was hit straight at the Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper in the 63rd minute.
Kamara’s last contribution to the game was to link up well with McCreadie down the left before cutting inside and drilling a right-footed drive across Eason and over the top of the far post from 18-yards.
Kamara’s replacement, Alfawaz Dada wasn’t the same standard of threat so MacKenzie had an easier time.
Ives said: “That was his last contribution, which probably makes people scratch their heads as to why I brought him off but he said to me at half-time ‘his legs were a little bit heavy,’ so it was never the intention for him to do 90 (minutes) and he definitely finished on a high point.
“He’s a handful. I think of him, I hope he doesn’t take it the wrong way, but I always think of him like a bit of a Faustino Asprillia (a Colombian born winger/attacker who played for Newcastle United between 1996-1998), the way that he gets at people and he’s very off the cuff and when he gets the bit between his teeth, like today, he must be a real difficult player to defend against.”
Whitstable Town centre-half Tom Mills often stepped into the middle of the park and the away side had plenty of possession for the remainder of the game but Tunbridge Wells maintained their third clean sheet of the season.
McCreadie released Lewins, who showed more desire than Gillies inside the box to get his shot away, albeit from a tight angle, which was pushed away by visiting goalkeeper Eason at his near post.
Holmes said: “Credit to Dan. He’s been really good for us this season in one-v-one situations. He’s very good in coming out and he’s done very well there.”
Ives added: “The point is what you’re mentioning is there’s quite a lot of chances for us. We didn’t have the game videoed today, so I haven’t got the analysis, but I would suggest we’re in double figures for opportunities on goal.”
Whitstable Town substitute left-winger Eri-Oluwa Akintimehin put over a cross at the second attempt towards the corner of the six-yard box but striker Smith steered his free header whistling past the left-hand post in the 77th minute.
“We’re getting chances in the box and Harvey’s finishing is normally of a high standard, so when that sort of chance comes along, we’re getting out of our seats and we hope it’s going in,” said Holmes.
“Eri has worked really hard and he’s come off the bench and he’s tried to put in a performance and he’s done his best today.”
When asked why Steadman Callender (30 goals for Erith Town last season, five for Whitstable Town so far this season) was watching from behind the away dug out, Holmes revealed: “He’s currently injured at the moment. We had a training session on Tuesday, he picked up a bit of an injury, he just hurt his ankle. He should be back in a couple of weeks.”
Smith then drove at the Tunbridge Wells back four but his deflected shot flashed just past the far post from 25-yards.
Whitstable Town kept plugging away, however, and Glover maintained his clean-sheet with 43:05 on the clock.
The dominant Akinlusi bundled over Anderson inside the D and Oliver stroked his right-footed free-kick over the five-man wall and Glover dived to his left and used a strong hand to push the ball onto the post.
Holmes said: “Their keeper has done very well today, especially with both free-kicks, so credit to the keeper and all the best for the rest of the season.”
Ives added: “He’s done well with that one. Another dead-ball from them, which was probably their main avenue of goal threat. He’s done very well to tip onto the post.
“That was important because psychologically it’s good for us to keep a clean-sheet. We haven’t kept one since Holmesdale (2-0 win on 12 September). Hopefully, that’s a habit that we can improve upon.”
Ives takes his Tunbridge Wells side to Fisher next Saturday. Ajay Ashainke’s side lost 2-1 at Holmesdale today and are in fourth-place in the table with 19 points form 10 games.
“We’re definitely targeting the play-offs but that’s just because we want to aim high. I don’t see why we can’t but we’ve got to be consistent and we haven’t been,” admitted Ives.
“We are a work in progress. We’ve had a good result today but we’ve got to back that up now. We’ve got Fisher next week, which is going to be a really big challenge for us, particularly away.
“Of course, we want to finish the highest we can. I don’t think fifth is beyond us potentially, if we can fulfil our performance potential.
“I’ve got a massive amount of respect for Ajay. Every season he seems to put a new squad together and he does it very well and that will be a tough game, no question, but I do look round our squad and think if everyone is available and turns up, I generally believe Fisher aren’t going to be looking at it as an easy one either.”
Whitstable Town were dumped out of The FA Vase last weekend, losing 2-1 at home to Lingfield, while Tunbridge Wells will travel to Bexhill based outfit Little Common in the First Round on Saturday 21 October.
Ives said: “The club have definitely got an infinity with the competition, dating back from the Wembley appearance – so no pressure.
“Little Common are well known to me. I know (their manager) Russell Eldridge. I know quite a lot of their players. It’s a league I know quite well from (managing) Uckfield, so we give them respect but if we can fulfil our potential, we can get through that one, no question.”
Bottom seven side Whitstable Town welcome top-eight side Bearsted to Belmont Road next Saturday (18:30).
When asked whether he was feeling concerned with losing half of their league games, Holmes replied: “Slightly. We’ve got our targets. We know what we want to win home and away and that’s what we’re aiming for.
“We’re still on track so we’re not panic stations just yet. We’re going into October now. Ideally, there’s a couple of games there where we think we should be winning, however, we’re still on target top get those wins that we de desire to get into the play-off positions.
“Competition is everywhere. Teams above us and below us are dropping points, so we’re not the only ones in that situation. It’s just a case of keep plugging away. We know our targets and we’re striving to achieve those.
“Bearsted is going to be another tough game. It’s all about character now, so it’s how we pick ourselves up. We don’t want to be pulling on a streak of four losses, so we go into that game with all of the belief that we can win.
“We generally play very good at home and it’s an evening kick-off I believe, so to enjoy a bit of an occasion and it could be the game that kick starts the rest of our season.
“We’ve lost three games now. It can’t continue. As a coaching staff we reflect ourselves and what can we work on. We look back on the footage and see what areas that need strengthening and work on those.
“Just in terms of the players, when you’re in losing positions, or you lose a few games, it’s very easy to get on a downward spiral. It’s about staying positive and believe in our ability and as a team working cohesively.”
Tunbridge Wells: Luke Glover, Daniel Tear, Rory Ward, Jack Walder (Frank Griffin 72), Tommy Smith, Siji Akinlusi, Festos Kamara (Alfawaz Dada 66), Luke Leppard, Trevor McCreadie, Billy Lewins, Regan Corke (Johnny Phillips 80).
Subs: James White, Ben Martin-Coward
Goals: Festos Kamara 16, Trevor McCreadie 30, 51 (penalty)
Booked: Siji Akinlusi 45
Whitstable Town: Daniel Eason, Jake MacKenzie (James Brown 90), George Sheminant, Jack Palmby (Joshua Oliver 46), William Thomas, Tom Mills, Tyler Anderson, Liam Gillies, Harvey Smith, Benjamin Cheklit (Eri-Oluwa Akintimehin 60), Joshua Williams.
Subs: Joshua Robson, Gus Barnes
Booked: Tyler Anderson 83
Referee: Mr Matthew Pollington
Assistants: Mr Alan Budden & Mr William Levett