Friday 05th May 2006

Tonbridge Angels play their 70th but most important game (including friendlies) of the 2005-06 campaign tomorrow, writes Stephen McCartney.

But player-boss Tony Dolby feels his influence on the pitch will assist his side securing promotion.

The Angels will be hoping that they’ll be booking a ticket back into the Ryman Premier League at the first attempt - condemning arch-rivals Dover Athletic to another campaign in the first division.

And with a crowd of at least 1,500 expected to the Betterview Longmead Stadium - breaking the record attendance figure for a competitive match at the ground - Dolby knows his side must get the victory they need.

“Personally it means a hell of a lot at this stage in my managerial career,” he said after last night’s training session.

“It’s very important to get things like promotion under my belt and obviously playing in the game as well I’m dead keen. I can’t wait and hopefully I can lead the boys onto promotion.

“When the chips are down people look for experienced players and hopefully I can encourage them and get the best out of them.

“I’ve said before that we’ve got a decent blend of youth and experience and I think that’s key in games like this.

“You’ve got the old heads that keep calm and collected and very determined to win and you’ve got the young lads that need to be kept in check and make sure their doing the jobs they have to do in order to get the result we need.”

Dolby, without the suspended pair Ray Powell and Nick Barnes, is relishing playing in front of a “carnival atmosphere.”

He said: “Carnival atmospheres are always great for a football match. There’s nothing worse than playing in front of a measly crowd with no atmosphere whatsoever.

“We’ve played them a few times over the last couple of years, there’s always been a decent atmosphere but there’s a lot more riding on this on so I fully anticipate a highly-charged stadium here on Saturday.”

But Dolby admitted he has “strength in depth” to cover for their player-of-the-year and midfielder Barnes.

“It’s well documented that Ray Powell got sent off in the semi-final and Nick Barnes is out through suspension but we’ve got a little strength in depth and hopefully we’ll have enough to see us through,” said Dolby.

Tomorrow’s SHOWDOWN is the BIGGEST game played in the Garden of England this season, attracting fans from other Kent clubs - supporting the Angels.

And the Longmead Stadium outfit received a letter from Tooting & Mitcham United - the side they beat 2-0 on Monday - wishing them luck.

And Dolby agrees this is the biggest game in his short managerial career, adding: “It’s against Dover and it’s a massive crowd and it’s for promotion in a play-off final - You can’t really get much bigger than that.

“It’s a massive game for me and the club and a lot else goes on in life but for 90 or 120 minutes or whatever it may be on Saturday nothing else matters.”

Dolby’s men were practising penalties at the end of their training session last night, but you can’t legislate taking a pressure penalty in front of crowd of anything between 1500-2000 plus fans with promotion at stake.

“You’ve got to get a feel for whoever can strike a penalty under the intense pressure of a penalty shoot-out in something as big as this and it requires something a bit special,” he said.

“I’m sure we’ll deal with it when and if the time comes. Hopefully we’d done the job before penalties. If it does come to penalties hopefully we’ll have enough about us to get the edge.”

Meanwhile, according to the Ryman League website: “Banstead Athletic have tendered their resignation as members of the Ryman Football League, and understanding the position the Club finds itself in, it has been accepted by the Board of Directors.

“The Club will now seek permission from the Football Association to play in the Combined Counties Football League next season.

“In accordance with the rules of the Football Association, the club will be placed in a relegation position, thus reprieving Newport IoW Football Club from relegation this season.“

Goalkeeper Jerome John, meanwhile, has kept FOUR clean sheets in his last FOUR HOME matches, and the former Fisher Athletic goalkeeper cannot wait for the game.

“It means a lot,” insisted the 29-year-old. “It means we can get promotion to the Premier League and that’s what we’ve been striving for all season.

“It comes down to one game and we really need to win it.”

Both league games between the two sides have failed to produce a goal, but John knows it’s going to be very noisy and plenty of passion - on and off the pitch.

“It’s great to see a big crowd because it brings a bit more drama to the game,” he said. “Hopefully we can come out on top and our fans sing as loud as they’ve been signing in recent games and it bodes well for a good atmosphere.”

He added: “Both games have been nil-nil with not many chances in both games. I think it’s going to be a really tight game especially with what’s riding on it.”

So can the Angels handle the pressure? “We’ll we have to really. We don’t have much choice! It’s going to be very hard, especially with us being at our home ground.

“But because of our home advantage hopefully we’ll have more fans here than they will but it’s going to be a very tough game.”

Mike Rutherford, Angels’ assistant manager, acknowledges what’s riding on tomorrow’s SHOWDOWN.

When asked what the game meant to him, he said: “Everything really. Obviously everything we’ve done all year, every game, every training session it’s all coming down to one game so it means everything.”

Speaking about the two stalemates between the two Kent clubs, Rutherford said: “I don’t think you can read too much into these games because we could’ve beaten them twice and it wouldn’t mean a thing and vice versa.

“They were two very tight games and we know what Dover are all about. Their strong, physical and dangerous at set pieces and corners. You don’t want to be giving free kicks away.”

But both sets of players won’t need much motivating before they enter the cauldron that will be the Betterview Longmead Stadium tomorrow.

“To be honest there’s not much that needs saying, everyone’s prepared and knows what it’s all about and it’s important that the boys relax going into it as well and not get uptight. At the same time they know what it means and they’ll be ready,” said Rutherford.

“To be honest the last month I had a feeling that if we couldn’t get that second place we’d end up playing Dover somewhere along the line. It was on the cards, everyone was saying it and so it’s turned out that way.”



£8 (adults)
£4 (OAP’s)
£2 (Concessions)
£1.50 (programmes)

The club advises all supporters to arrive at the ground as early as possible. Stewards and Police will deal with anyone that are not behaving themselves.  There is NO SEGREGATION.


By Car: From the M25: Take the A21 (Sevenoaks/Hastings) turning at Junction 5 and leave at the junction with A225/B245 (signposted Hildenborough). After passing The Langley Hotel on the left take the slightly hidden left hand turning into Dry Hill Park Road. Left again at the mini-roundabout into Shipbourne Road (A227) and then left again at the next roundabout into Darenth Avenue. The ground is at the bottom of the hill across the car park.

From East Kent:
Leave the M20 at Junction 4 and follow the signs to Tonbridge. Turn right into The Ridgeway immediately after the 30mph signs and then straight on at the roundabout into Darenth Avenue. The ground is at the bottom of the hill across the car park.

By Train:
Regular trains into Tonbridge from London terminals and from Dover Priory/Folkestone/Ashford International. Turn left out of the station into the High Street, carry on through the High Street and take the right hand fork at the junction with the B245 London Road/A227 Shipbourne Road. Carry straight on along this road past the first mini-roundabout and turn left at the second roundabout into Darenth Avenue. The ground is at the bottom of the hill across the car park.

PRESS COVERAGE: shall bring you team news as soon as we get it before the game, and will bring you the half-time score and the result, with a brief report after the game. We shall bring you interviews and a full report over the weekend

BBC Radio Kent’s Mike Green shall be covering the game. More details can be obtained by tuning in on 96.7FM or by visiting their website

Tonbridge Angels v Dover Athletic
Ryman League Division One Play-Off Final
Saturday 6th May 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
At the Betterview Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF