|FA Vase (Carlsberg)
|Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium
|Ricky DeFreitas 1
Lee Porter 81
Martin Anderson 87
Steve Ward 89
|Terry Cohen 15
Matt Russell 38,43
A Grand comeback!
TUNBRIDGE WELLS made it through to the last 64 of this season's FA Vase with a dramatic late victory in a seven-goal thriller at a wet Culverden Stadium today.
Striker Ricky DeFreitas, scored his third goal in only his fourth game for the Wells following his switch from Nationwide South club Grays Athletic, as the home side got off to a flying start, taking the lead after only 22 seconds.
However, they found themselves 3-1 down after 43 minutes as their Go Travel Kent League rivals scored through Terry Cohen and a brace from striker Matt Russell.
home side's management team of Kevin Metcalf, Martin Telford and Dave Rice, who
replaced Jay Westwood for Danny Barham at the interval, made a tactical
masterstroke for the final twenty minutes, bringing on Steve Smith and Lee
Porter, changing their shape and formation and went for the kill.
The Wells scored three goals in a devastating spell in the final nine minutes to leave Erith Town shell-shocked, a side that looked so comfortable before strikes from Porter, Martin Anderson and Steve Ward sealed a dramatic late victory.
Tunbridge Wells also had goalkeeper Matt Bromby to thank for numerous saves, especially from Russell, and the foot of the left post, which denied the striker his hat-trick in the 65th minute.
And ignorant supporters from Kent sides from the Ryman and Southern League call the Kent League a Mickey-Mouse League. For those 103 supporters at Culverden Stadium today, they witnessed a pulsating match, which was a credit to Kent League football.
And it took only 22 seconds for the drama to unfold when the home side took the lead when DeFreitas slid the ball under Chris Arnold and into the back of the net to give Tunbridge Wells a dream start.
However, their dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Russell gave the home side an eighth minute warning when Steve Smith hooked the ball upfield, and the striker watched the ball come over his shoulder before pulling the trigger. Bromby - the best goalkeeper in the Kent League - blocked the shot.
This was the start of a personal battle between the goalkeeper and the Erith Town number ten, and although Russell netted twice, the goalkeeper performed heroics throughout, and was clearly man-of-the-match.
Erith, however, deservedly drew level after 15 minutes when Aran Heyrettin's cross from the right picked out Cohen who headed into the corner of the net.
Two minutes later, Erith had appeals for a penalty waved away by Sussex referee Mr Martins - who enjoyed a good game - when Martin Anderson dived in on Erith's top scorer, Glenn McTaggart.
McTaggart, shunned a move to Southern Leaguers Erith & Belvedere last Monday to sign a contract with the Erith Sports Stadium outfit, and joins Russell, Hayrettin, Arnold, Paul Springett and Paul Voiter on contact with the club until the end of this season.
McTaggart, with 15 goals to his name, said: "I want to stay with Erith Town and hopefully keep on scoring goals for the rest of the season.
"Erith & Belvedere made me a good offer but it's not all about money.
"I've got my eye on the golden boot and that was another one of the reasons that I wanted to stay as well."
McTaggart's words breath a sigh of relief around Kent football that there are some footballers that play for the love of the game and not for a bulging brown envelope at the end of the week.
Bromby made a brave save at Russell's feet as he received a pass from Hayrettin in the 22nd minute and Arnold twice denied Ward before Erith took a deserved lead after 38 minutes and raced into a 3-1 lead two minutes before the break.
McTaggart and Cohen put Anderson, the Wells right-back, under pressure, and the two Erith players made inroads down the left hand side. McTaggart then delivered a cross to the far post which was flicked on by Heyrittin and Russell nodded home from close range.
Two minutes before the break, Bromby parried Steve Smith's shot but Russell fired into the bottom left hand corner to have one foot in the next round of the competition.
McTaggart's decision to stay with Erith Town was the boost the Dockers needed going into this cup tie, and after 53 minutes he sent in a cross from the right for Russell to plant a header down but Bromby, who dived to his right, the chance went agonisingly wide of the post.
Four minutes later, another chance from Erith Town was kept out by the impressive Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper.
How higher league club's haven't come in for the former Tonbridge Angels and Rusthall (Kent County League) goalkeeper no-one knows.
Erith Town would have clocked up a cricket score if it wasn't for the Tonbridge based stopper. Heyrittin's header was pushed over the crossbar by the busy goalkeeper, who kept his side in with a small shout.
Two minutes later, a goal bound, fierce, low drive, from 25-yards from Michael Scowlon was on course of finding the bottom right corner, but Bromby got down low to his left to push the shot around the post.
Scowlon, however, left Brad Mortimer in agony with a crude challenge on the left touchline, and this brought a reaction from both players and spectators alike.
Russell had beaten Bromby for the third time in the 65th minute, but his shot cannoned back off the foot of the left post.
Tunbridge Wells looked a dead and buried and well beaten side by the time Buster Beaney blasted a 74th minute free kick high over the bar.
Six minutes later, Ward, unmarked at the near post, headed Porter's corner wide.
What was to follow was totally out of the blue.
Wells won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area inside the D. Erith lined up a five-man wall and Porter struck a right-footed free kick, which took a deflection off the wall, finding the back of the net with Arnold well beaten to give them a glimmer of hope in the 81st minute.
In the 87th minute, Tunbridge Wells' amazingly drew level when DeFreitas' corner wasn't cleared by the visiting defence and Anderson turned onto the ball and fired home.
And the winning goal came two minutes later when Smith slipped the ball behind the Erith defence for seventeen-year-old right winger Ward to run onto. As Arnold came out of his goal, the teenager took the ball inside him and with a goal at his mercy, showing composure for such a young age, he lifted his shot into the roof of the net to send the Wells faithful into ecstasy.
Willie O'Sullivan, however, admitted he was left shell-shocked with the defeat.
When asked how he was feeling, he admitted: "Shocked - absolutely shell-shocked.
"These things happen in football, what can you say?
"Other than their goalkeeper, it should have been a cricket score. It could have been six, seven, eight-one, but at the end of the day they've taken their chances, thrown their three subs on, one up front, and it's gone their way.
"That's football, that's life!"
O'Sullivan praised two-goal hero Matt Russell.
He added: "Matt could have had four or five today. As I say it's about taking your chances and at the end of the day, they've taken their three at the end and that's why they are in the next round."
The former Charlton Athletic man, admitted he thought his side would have won the game, as did most of the people watching the game.
It proves you should never leave a football ground early. As some Wells fans did before the final whistle with their side 3-1 down. They would have been amazed when they found out the result was a 4-3 win for Wells.
O'Sullivan added: "Yes, of course I did. We had it won, we hit the post, their goalkeeper pulls of six or seven tremendous saves and your thinking your cruising.
"All of a sudden it all goes against you, a corner that wasn't, a free kick that wasn't but these things happen. That's football!"
Wells manager, Kevin Metcalf, however, admitted he was confident his side could pull it out of the bag, despite being 3-1 down with ten minutes to go.
"Last ten minutes we just changed our shape," he revealed.
"We tried to get players higher up the field because, to be honest, for 80 minutes we didn't even have a shot on goal.
"So what we done was we changed our shape and formation for ten minutes and to be honest, that's what has won us the game.
"Matt (Bromby) has kept us in the game, we were always confident in Matt so we decided, ten minutes to go, looking to go out in the Vase, to change our shape and our system and basically it's worked.
"I was talking to Martin (Telford) throughout the game, that another goal (at 3-1) and we were in the game. We just had to keep them quiet and we're in it.
"That proves a point that you can't sit back at this level.
"Erith sat back a little bit and basically we've scored three goals in eight minutes.
"It shows a lot for our fitness, the lads are learning. A game of football now is 95 minutes and this is the hard work.
"Hopefully we can get a nice draw in the next round."
The comeback has also increased Culverden coffers by £1,000 in prize money and they join Deal Town (1-0 winners over Whitney United) , Thamesmead Town - who beat Maidstone United 2-1 at Bayliss Avenue - and the winner of the Ramsgate-Greenwich Borough tie - who replay at Harrow Meadow on Tuesday - in Monday's third round draw.
Tunbridge Wells: Matt Bromby, Martin Anderson, Ben Hilden, Simon Joynes (Capt), Aaron O'Leary, Joe Wade (Steve Smith 75), Steve Ward, Jay Westwood (Danny Barham 46), Ricky DeFreitas, Buster Beaney, Brad Mortimer (Lee Porter 70). Subs: Paul Hallet, Alex Rich
Erith Town: Chris Arnold, Aran Heyritten, Scott Edwards, Paul Jones, Alan Hanlon (Capt), Paul Voiter, Terry Cohen, Steve Smith, Glenn McTaggart, Matt Russell, Michael Scowlon (Matt Fagan 78). Subs: Tony Kyle, Craig Clark (GK), Adam Salih, Willie O'Sullivan
Referee: Mr J Martins (Sussex)
Assistants: Mr A Knight (Sussex) & Mr P Russell (Sussex)