Tunbridge Wells 2-2 Erith & Belvedere - We know we'll have to dig ourselves out of this position but we'll be absolutely fine, says Tunbridge Wells boss Jason Bourne

Saturday 06th February 2016
Tunbridge Wells 2 – 2 Erith & Belvedere
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 06/02/2016 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League
Saturday 6th February 2016
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Jason Bourne says his side will be absolutely fine in terms of maintaining the club’s status in the Southern Counties East Football League.

The Wells went into this game on the back of a six match losing run but they put in a spirited and vastly improved performance that suggests the club will avoid the one relegation spot, which is presently occupied by Holmesdale.

Tunbridge Wells went into this game sitting in the bottom two with 21 points from 24 games, while Erith & Belvedere arrived at a muddy Culverden Stadium in 12th place with 27 points from 23 league outings and on a run of a five match unbeaten run, winning their last two and scoring 17 goals in the process.

Erith & Belvedere took over 175 seconds to open the scoring through former Crystal Palace star Ashley-Paul Robinson, 26, who took one step to score a penalty.

But Tunbridge Wells levelled through Alwayne Jones’ first goal of the season for the club, before the striker doubled his tally with a powerful header in the second half.

Erith & Belvedere claimed a point through a late headed goal from substitute striker James Pinnock, as the side climbed up a couple of places in the table to tenth-place.

“In terms of performance levels the boys gave me everything, that’s all I ask for, that’s a minimum requirement,” said Bourne, who has won two of his 12 games in charge of his home-town club.

“I was happy with their days work.  I thought we probably edged it to be honest. I thought we were the better team.

“Two little bits of naïve defending cost us goals but we’ll build on that, it’s a building block.

“We didn’t take the three points but it’s definitely a performance on the back of a good performance last week (at Beckenham Town, which we lost 2-1) that we can build on.

“We weren’t talking about it (our losing run) but it was on the back of everyone’s minds, of course it was. 

“This performance today will breed confidence and gives us a bit of momentum and breaks that run.”

Erith & Belvedere manager John Wilfort reflected on his eighteenth game in charge of the club following his switch from Holmesdale.

“Look, it’s a lottery playing on here, the pitch was terrible, but for both teams, it’s hard to play on,” he said.

“We tried to play at times but it’s so boggy in the middle but most of all I’m pleased getting the equaliser and coming away with a point. We showed a lot of character.

“I think we had plenty of chances in the first half to kill the game but it didn’t go for us.

“Our wingers didn’t put the balls in the box where we was telling them to put them, so it didn’t happen so as far as happy with a point? No! I wanted three but coming away from home and playing on a pitch like this in the end a point’s a point and we’re still unbeaten.”

Erith & Belvedere created their first opening after only 41 seconds when striker Daniel Stewart cut into the box down the left before blasting his left-footed drive just past the foot of the near post from 16-yards.

The Deres took the lead from the penalty spot after right-winger Romario Hart cut inside Wells’ left-back Alfie Hall and was tripped and referee James Hurst pointed to the spot.

Robinson took one step and stroked his right-footed penalty into the back of the net as keeper Steve Lawrence took one step to his left.

“Every time he steps up for a pen I know he’s going to score, I’ve got that much confidence in him,” said Wilfort of the former Crystal Palace player.

He added: “Every team, for me personally has to have a luxury player to create stuff. Ash is a luxury player.

“Ash brings a lot to the table as in the way he talks to the boys.

“Ash sees things that players are not going to see and that’s a fact! He puts in balls that many players at this level never see so having him is definitely a luxury and managing him is a joy. He’s not big time considering where he’s been and what he’s done. He’s come in and he’s been good for the boys.”

The Deres manager also praised Hart for winning the penalty in the first place.

“Romario Hart’s done well. He’s been doing that since he came here. He causes full-backs problems. He makes them want to foul him but he done well but same again with our wingers today we got forward but the balls just wasn’t good enough!”

Bourne said: “Their front players are very, very good and (Hart) just come inside him and left Alfie nowhere to go really and he’s clipped his heels and it’s a little bit soft, but nevertheless the penalty was despatched well.

“More importantly conceding that early of a back of a bad run, it’s nice to get a reaction from the boys and that’s exactly what they did.”

When asked if he was fearing the worse at that point, Bourne replied: “Not at all, not at all. We spoke about the mind-sets of players and things like that and if things go wrong just stick to the game plan that we set out for them.”

Gayle was giving Tunbridge Wells right-back Kieron Tarbie a headache with his wing play down the left and his low centre was cleared out to Zak Henry, the midfielder’s right-footed drive from 25-yards being comfortably saved by Lawrence.

Tunbridge Wells turned defence into a swift attack following Erith & Belvedere’s first corner in the 15th minute.

Sherrife Babatunde swung out a corner towards the edge of the penalty area, which was completely missed by Robinson.

Tunbridge Wells’ central defender Jack Howlett seized on the opportunity to sweep a long ball out wide to winger Basit Ajala, who cut into the penalty area but ran out of space as he cut towards the by-line.

Tunbridge Wells should have equalised when Dane Moore, 20, who is on loan from Ryman League Division One South club Carshalton Athletic, released striker Ryan Crandley in space down the left channel.

The Gillingham youngster cut in to float in a delicious cross towards the far post but Jones looped his free header over the bar.

“It was a quick reaction from the boys from the goal and we got back on the front foot and we made chances,” said Bourne.

“It probably took us ten minutes to engineer one. It was a good chance. Alwayne played very well today, but another day, they go in.”

Wilfort, meanwhile, admitted the striker should’ve scored.

He said: “I think he’s a good player, Wyn.  He likes to talk to players. He done well. I thought he caused our centre halves a few problems. It was clever play between them. We never got to grips with that.”

But Tunbridge Wells equalised in the 22nd minute as Jones registered on the scoresheet.

Ajala, who signed from Kent Invicta League side Eltham Palace, impressed during the first half and he played a one-two with Jones.

Ajala then whipped in a cross towards the near post from the right and Jones ran in and brought the ball down under his spell and danced around the keeper to sweep the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

Bourne said: “That’s his first league goal for us, so he’ll be glad to get off the mark as well.

“He worked his socks off, which is part of his game. If he can add that work-rate to his quality, ability and his strength and you’re going to have one hell of a player.

“He delivered today, it was a nice finish. It got us back into the game and gave us a foot-hold.”

Bourne also praised Ajala, who covered a lot of grass and mud, especially during an impressive first half.

“He’s a good lad. He’s a great find for us.  He was lively. He always gets full back’s on the turn because he’s quick, he’s a handful.”

Wilfort claimed Jones had used his hand to bring the ball under his spell before converting.

“I was a bit disappointed with that goal to be fair because he fell on the ball and nudged it forward with his hand,” said the former Bromley midfielder.

“When I went to speak to the ref he just said ‘no, it wasn’t intentional.’

“But it was an advantage! He pushed the ball forward with his hand. Our centre half has gone to kick it and it’s gone forward and their striker’s tapped it in so for me that’s an advantage.

“I’m disappointed that the ref has given that but we’ve just got to take it.”

Erith & Belvedere went close through Gayle, who curled his shot across goal and past the far post from 20-yards from the left-hand side after linking up with skipper Henry and Diego Dasilva.

Robinson stroked a right-footed free-kick from 30-yards from the left-hand side through a crowded penalty area and straight into the hands of Lawrence, who made a comfortable catch.

Gayle cut into the penalty area again and his right-footed dinked shot was palmed over by Lawrence’s out-stretched right-hand.

“We had a few good chances, we’ve been creating a lot of chances,” added Wilfort.

“We’ve turned the corner with the aspect of the way we’ve been playing and the team spirit, massive. It’s amazing what winning can do.”

Erith & Belvedere central defender Nico James then ventured into the final third and rolled his shot on the turn into Lawrence’s hands for a comfortable save.

But the score remained level at 1-1 at the break and both managers were asked their thoughts.

Bourne said: “Pretty much the same thing, keep doing the same things. We spoke about not changing our game plan if we conceded so obviously drawing back level was back where we wanted to be.

“We tried to give a bit of confidence and encourage as much as we can, a little bit of constructive criticism. It was a good half-time team-talk, the boys were buoyant and got back out there.”

Wilfort said: “I was a bit upset with the way we started the game. We wasn’t on the front foot. We never got in behind them enough. We wasn’t winning enough second balls. The last few games we’ve been playing we’ve been basically tiring teams out where we’ve been winning second balls and matching them with the work-rate.

“I just thought that wasn’t there in the first half. Seventy percent they was where previous games they’ve been full-out. That’s what disappointed me basically.”

Erith & Belvedere’s attacking threat was killed when right-back John-Paul Collier was subbed off at the break and Stewart dropped into that position as Marcus Cassius took up a place on the right-wing for the second half.

Tunbridge Wells came out of their shell during the second half and were the better side.

Tom Davey came up from his central defensive position to float in a corner from the right and his partner Howlett’s stabbed shot from inside a crowded penalty area was blocked.

Cassius released Hart down the right and his right-footed drive took a deflection and flashed past the far post for the fourth of the Deres’ six corners.

Erith & Belvedere created a better opening on the hour-mark.

Robinson played the ball out to Hart on the right and his low centre found Cassius at the near post, who poked his shot (whilst under pressure) just past the foot of the near post.

Bourne introduced Lee Radford into the game and he latched onto Moore’s diagonal pass to cut into the penalty area and his angled drive was pushed around the post by visiting keeper Bourne.

“Radders is always full of energy,” said The Wells boss.

“He came on and gave us the impact we wanted. It’s nice to have a player like Rads in the background and he’ll work his way back into the side and work hard like he always does.”

Wilfort, laughing, added: “I don’t think it was a shot really, was it? The wind got hold of it, he should’ve just tipped…..Ashley has done well but yes I don’t think it was a shot but sometimes they go in.”

Akosah was inches away for giving away a penalty for his foul on Tunbridge Wells’ striker Crandley.

Davey’s resulting free-kick was charged down by the wall and his second effort deflected off Hart and only just cleared the crossbar.

Davey swung in the resulting corner from the right and Jones powered his towering header into the roof of the net at the far post as Tunbridge Wells took a 66th minute lead.

“I think that’s half the reason we’re where we are, we don’t seem to score set-pieces,” admitted Bourne, who revealed the goal was off the training ground.

“We’ve been working on that a little bit. The movement was really good and he attached the ball well.

“Tom Davey puts the ball in a good area so we know we can trust him to go and attack those and that’s what he did, so satisfying.”

Wilfort added: “Good corner! Tom Davey, I played with him at Chatham. He’s got great delivery. I thought he caused us problems today with his deliveries. He’s got a very good left foot on him.

“But the centre halves switched off, Alwayne’s just peeled off them and it’s a free header basically. He shouldn’t really be missing from inside there.”

Wilfort knew his side should have equalised with 77 minutes on the clock.

Robinson, who was the best player on the pitch, played the ball into Dasilva, who played Hart in behind the Tunbridge Wells defence but the former Holmesdale player stroked his shot across goal and past the far post from the corner of the six-yard box.

“Very disappointed with that from where he was inside the box, he’s got to finish them,” said Wilfort.

“There’s no pressure on him and he’s got no-one around him. He’s disappointed that he’s missed that.

“He’s been quite clinical in the previous games so yes it was disappointing but I don’t want to be too harsh on him because he’s done well since he’s come in.”

Bourne admitted he was holding his breath at that lucky break.

“From where I was, it looked very close,” he said.

“He was a handful when he came inside. He got his shot off but just went past. We rode our luck a little there.” 

And within a minute Robinson’s angled drive brought a routine save from the Tunbridge Wells keeper.

Teams at the bottom always curse their bad luck and this was the case in the 81st minute.

Davey’s left-footed free-kick from 35-yards sailed over the back-peddling Bourne and bounced on top of the crossbar and dropped behind for a goal-kick for the Erith & Belvedere goalkeeper.

“That’s what we talk about,” added Bourne.

“We go one end and don’t do it and it goes the other end and it just seems to squeal in but that’s why we showed so much character.

“When things aren’t going for you, on another day if you’re riding high, they fly in and the goalkeeper’s in trouble but we know where we’re at and only hard work gets us out of it.”

Wilfort added: “Tom’s deliveries are really, really good. He makes the difference with them. He’s an experienced player and if you’re giving him chances like that the law of averages one’s going to go in so that’s disappointing thing that we’re giving him chances.”

Jones found himself in space as he chased the ball down towards the right by-line but his speculative swept effort from a ridiculous angle was saved by Bourne low to his right at his near post.

But Erith & Belvedere claimed a deserved point with the equaliser timed at 42:49 on the clock.

Dasilva whipped in a high-quality free-kick towards the far post from 20-yards and Pinnock showed the more desire to rise to plant his header across goal to find the far corner of the net to score his second goal of the season.

“Very pleased for Pinno, he’s had a run of games where he hasn’t been scoring,” said Wilfort.

“I’ve brought him in because I rate him as a player and he hasn’t been scoring, been playing well but hadn’t been scoring, working hard for his team-mates but things just haven’t been going his way.

“I pulled him out the last couple of games. He’s got a great attitude on the kid, been working hard even though he hasn’t been getting on, doing bits after and he came on today and he thoroughly deserved it.

“I said to him he’s going to score goals because he’s a goalscorer, he’s just having a bit of bad luck at the moment.”

Bourne, who played right-back for the club, added: “It was a really nice ball whipped in a really good area, always tricky to defend against.

“Beckenham scored pretty much a carbon copy goal late on so our concentration, standing people up outside the box, not giving away those free-kicks to let them deliver it into those areas.

“It was a nice ball in.  I think we deserved better but they’re on a good run as well so those things go in when you’re playing well.”

Holmesdale were held to a 1-1 draw by Croydon at Oakley Road so remain 10 points adrift of Tunbridge Wells tonight, but with four games in hand, although the Bromley based outfit have won only two of their 21 league games this season.

“We knew we have to dig ourselves out of this position,” said Bourne and on this performance Tunbridge Wells will NOT get relegated.

“The way Erith & Belvedere are playing we knew this was always going to be a tricky fixture.

“We asked the boys to come and perform and deliver a performance for the supporters and that’s what they’ve done today.

“As from today and last week we’ll be absolutely fine.  We’ll finish in a nice place. We’ll strengthen the squad.  We’ve added a bit of youth to the squad. I think we’re in a good place. If we convert those draws into wins and we’ve got a different mind-set going on.”

Wilfort added: “This is a massive point for them because where they are. I feel it’s still a great point for us because we need points on the table as well so away from home it’s always a good point.”

Erith & Belvedere host fourth-placed Beckenham Town at Park View Road on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the Semi-Final draw for the Macron Southern Counties East Football League Challenge Cup was made at half-time today.

Erith & Belvedere host Cray Valley, while Croydon host league leaders Hollands & Blair, the ties being played over two-legs.

The Deres also host Kent Invicta Leaguers Sheppey United in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy on Sunday 21 February.

Wilfort said: “Obviously the target is the cups.   When I came into the job it was obviously the cups but I also want to do well in the league still.

“Like I said to the boys we’ve got through to the Semi-Finals now concentrate on picking some points up and move up the table.

“I think we’re in a false position but stats don’t lie, we are where we are but we just need to keep plugging away and getting points.

“We will move up the table, I know that, we’re good enough.”

Tunbridge Wells: Steve Lawrence, Kieron Tarbie, Alfie Hall, Jason Barton (Stephen Ikpeme 81), Jack Howlett, Tom Davey, Brad Large (Lee Radford 62), Dane Moore, Ryan Crandley, Alwayne Jones, Basit Ajala (Joe Nwoko 73).
Subs: Ian Parsons, Michal Czanner

Goals: Alwayne Jones 22, 66

Booked: Basit Ajala 3, Jason Barton 8, Dane Moore 68

Erith & Belvedere: Ashley Bourne, John-Paul Collier (Marcus Cassius 46), Sherrife Babatunde, Zak Henry, Enoch Akosah, Nico James, Romario Hart (Nad Nwitua 67), Diego Dasilva, Daniel Stewart, Ashley-Paul Robinson (James Pinnock 83), Denzel Gayle.
Subs: George Reed, Samuel I’Anson

Goals: Ashley-Paul Robinson 3 (penalty), James Pinnock 87

Booked: Daniel Stewart 81

Attendance: 178
Referee: Mr James Hurst (Peckham, London SE15)
Assistants: Mr Stephen Cole (Borough Green) & Mr Steve Roots (Tunbridge Wells)


Advertise here for 12 months
Email stephen@kentishfootball.co.uk
to book your slot

Clubs can advertise their home games for just £250 for the season.
Email stephen@kentishfootball.co.uk
to book your slot below.