Thursday 01st September 2005

From top to bottom

Saturday 17th
September 2005
Ryman League
Division One
Stephen McCartney reports from Betterview
Longmead Stadium
Tonbridge Angels 3 Ray Powell 43
Luke Piscina 63
Warren Haughton 81
Ashford Town 1 Steve Humphrey 14

Tonbridge Angels sit proudly at the top of the Ryman League Division One table tonight, following their deserved 3-1 win over Kent rivals Ashford Town at the Betterview Longmead Stadium, writes Stephen McCartney.

Tony Dolby's men took full advantage of Cray Wanderers' 4-0 defeat at Hastings United - who bounced back following their midweek FA Cup exit on this ground - and Dover Athletic's day off, to lead the pack with 12 points from their first five league games.

Ashford Town, on the other hand, have now lost their first five league games and remain rooted to the foot of the table - and although the home side squandered a hat-full of first half chances - they can take comfort that they too will rise up the table soon.

Not helping was the fact that they had SIX players unavailable for one reason or another, but on the plus side, Steve Humphrey - who was replaced early in the second half due to a groin injury - and Richard Boorman - impressed.

Such was Tonbridge's dominance in the early exchanges, it seemed the ENTIRE stadium was stunned to silence when Ashford stole a fourteenth minute lead.

Boorman, an 18-year-old former Gills' youth team player, played the ball from the right hand side to the edge of the penalty area, but the Angels' defenders failed to react,  21-year-old striker Humphrey did, and as goalkeeper Jerome John advanced off his line, he stroked the ball past him and the ball rolled into the corner of an empty net.

The home fans in the crowd, however, were stunned to silence, and even the small band of loyal Ashford supporters, appeared to be in shock as their side went 1-0 up against the run of play.

But had Leroy Huggins, Dolby and Steve Aris (playing with a broken nose sustained during their 2-1 win over Hastings United) had scored before their visitors, the goal would have been a mere consolation.

And three minutes after taking a shock lead, Ashford almost doubled their lead but Gary Croxton headed Kennick Jarret-Elliott's corner just wide from close range.

More chances came for the home side but youth team midfielder, Ian Parkes' blazed over and Ray Powell, having latched onto a long ball out of defence, drove a shot wide of the far post and three penalty appeals fell on deaf ears.

You could have heard a pin drop as Ashford almost increased their lead after 35 minutes when Boorman swung in a corner but Humphrey, ghosting in at the far post, couldn't direct his header towards goal.

But parity was restored on the stroke of half time when "Razor" Powell finished off a great ball from the right hand side from Darren Smith with a sharp finish.

Both sides could have scored on the hour mark but Leroy Huggins' 17-yard shot rolled to Ashford goalkeeper Sean Glover, following Craig Roser's low centre from the left and at the other end Shaun Bradshaw drove a shot wide of the post.

But Tonbridge took the lead after 63 minutes when Luke Piscina capped off a good week for himself when he clinically fired a shot into the bottom far corner of the net from 15-yards after Dolby stabbed the ball into the 20-year-old's path.

And the player-manager headed Lee Carey's cross against the Ashford crossbar two minutes later.

Dolby who admitted in the post-match press conference that he's pleased with his early season form, was instrumental in his side's third goal with nine minutes left, when his shot from just outside the box took a deflection, but the ball fell nicely for substitute Warren Haughton and the striker finished well finding the corner of the net.

"It's not a bad start to the season at all," admitted Dolby.  "We'll settle for this five games in.

"We made hard work of it today but got the three points we required."

Speaking about his own form, the inspirational player-manager, added: "I am hitting a bit of form at the moment and long may it continue.

"I've still got a bit to offer as a player, so hopefully that can be maintained for the rest of the season.

"The spirit in the camp is fantastic at the moment," he revealed.  "We've got strength in depth as well, which always helps.

"We gave a very sloppy goal away, which we are very disappointed about, but straight away we looked like we were going to score.  

(It was a) "Good job we scored just before half time so we came out on an even keel second half and killed the game off."

Ashford's joint-manager, John Cumberbatch, however, emerged from the dressing rooms into the press conference at twenty to six, as he and Tim Thorogood discussed behind closed doors with their players what went wrong.

"We knew the opposition would come at us, and I think our players are at a stage where they get a little nervous and tentative," Cumberbatch said.

"Whatever we say to them, when we try to get them to relax, we find they relax too much and they make mistakes.

"If we bang on about it too much and make too much of a point of concentrating, then they over do it, and they get tight and that's what I think happened today."

Revealing the mood inside the visiting dressing room after the game, the Orpington resident added: "Well, it's a very dark mood.  The players are very down because how very well we played but we are making mistakes that are costing us goals and we are creating enough chances but we're just not putting them away.

"To an extent you look at it and think if we are creating the chances and not scoring, and you can't defend at the back, then you've got major problems.

"Having said that, as management, we are annoyed with them over a lot of minor things that occur in the games, but we're still pretty confident when we get back where we've got all our players back available, we will not be sitting at the bottom of the table for too long." will bring previews of Ashford Town's home clash against Kingstonian and Tonbridge Angels' trip to Metropolitan Police, both being played on Tuesday night, tomorrow.

Tonbridge Angels:  Jerome John, Darren Smith (Michael Cramp 67), Craig Roser, Tony Dolby, Steve Aris (Jay May 75), John Beales, Lee Carey, Ian Parkes, Leroy Huggins (Warren Haughton 62), Luke Piscina, Ray Powell.  Subs: Lee Kennett, Michael Czanner (GK)

Ashford Town: Sean Glover, Denver Birmingham, Kennick Jarret-Elliott (Ian Ross HT), Terry McCann, Lynvell Duncan (Capt), Gary Croxton, Richard Boorman, Gary Clarke, Shaun Bradshaw (Bradley Woods 78), Steve Humphrey (Darren Raymond 52), Solomon Henry.  Subs: Anthony Pace, Ray Riseley

Attendance: 383
Referee: Mr M Thompson (Uxbridge)
Assistants: Mr G Croft (Battle) & Mr D Spain (St Leonards)