Wednesday 31st March 2004

Tunbridge Wells build for next season

Kevin Metcalfe, manager of Go Travel Kent League Premier Division side Tunbridge Wells, admitted he was happy with his players work-rate after holding third placed Cray Wanderers to a frustrating 1-1 draw at Hayes Lane on Wednesday evening, writes Stephen McCartney.

Tunbridge Wells went into the game with only Deal Town and Sporting Bengal United underneath them in the table,  with only six league wins and four draws after 26 games, and, although the defending champions Cray created twelve decent chances in the first half, it was the visitors who opened the scoring six minutes after the break.

Shane Symes corner kick was knocked towards his own goal by Cray substitute Richard Dimmock and Nick Young fired home low inside the near post from close range.

However, their lead lasted only eleven minutes when Cray finally scored from one of their many chances when David Gray turned in a corner kick after Dimmock had headed a Matt Woolf corner kick into the six yard box.

Metcalfe, 45, praised his players after the game for their heroics, he said: "I think it was a well-deserved point.  We came here and done a job.  We had a game plan and the boys stuck to it.  I kept telling them during the game to keep their shape and they did, and we come away with a draw."

Metcalfe still thinks Ian Jenkins' side will retain their Kent League crown at the end of the season, even though the Wands have still got to play rivals VCD Athletic and Maidstone United twice in the closing month of the current campaign.

He said: "We played the big-boys Cray Wanderers tonight, I think they will be champions as they are a very good side, so I am pleased with a point."

In recent games, Tunbridge Wells have played well against teams in the top six in the table and came away without their rewards.  At Harrow Meadow, a late Greenwich Borough goal salvaged a point in a 1-1 draw before Thamesmead Town, currently in second place, snatched three points at Culverden Stadium with a last minute penalty, which gave the Bayliss Avenue side a crucial 1-0 win.

The long-suffering fans at Culverden Stadium saw their team lose to Sporting Bengal United for the first time in Kent League football.  The east London side celebrated a 4-0 victory but Metcalfe was pleased for the Asian side as they broke their duck winning their first ever game in the Kent League.

He said: "No one wanted to lose to Sporting Bengal, but we were beaten by a very good side.  However, we weren't at the races but I'm pleased for the Kent League and for Sporting Bengal that they won."

With close neighbours Tonbridge Angels being successful in the Dr Martens League Eastern Division, attendances at Culverden Stadium have dropped to under 50 on a regular basis this season but Metcalfe is working hard to attract the floating supporter to watch his side as he aims to build on the playing squad next season.

He hopes performances like the one they showed at Hayes Lane against third placed Cray Wanderers this evening, will inspire more local people to watch their games at the Culverden and bring success to the club's long-suffering but loyal supporters.

Metcalf said: "Obviously people come and see a winning side and they go to Tonbridge Angels but there is another football side in the area and hopefully we'll build a side that they will come and watch in the future."

With finances tight at most clubs at Kent League level, Metcalfe is always scouting for players at reserve team and Sunday level to provide them a platform to improve themselves as footballers.  Three players, recently recruited from Ashford Town, faced Cray at Hayes Lane this evening.

He added: "I've always got plans to improve the squad.  I've got my eyes out and I played three boys from Ashford tonight,  Simon Joynes, Bradley Hobbs and Shane Symes.

"I thought Lee Skinner, my captain, was outstanding at the back tonight - he normally plays in midfield but we came with a game plan and we done it and gained a point."

Skinner, Lee Dawes and Symes were key players for Wells against Cray and will be key players for Metcalfe's side next season as they will want to improve on their league standing next time round.

The manager added: "We'll just keep plodding along for the remainder of the season.  We've got a young squad so having a season in the Kent League under their belts we can build on that next season."

Metcalfe, a former manager at Canterbury City before they folded,  was asked to manage his home town team, Tenterden Town in the British Energy Kent County League.  It was with them he build a reputation as a manager winning the league and he answered a call from Tunbridge Wells to become their manager earlier in the season following Steve Clark's departure.

Only two former Tenterden Town players are in the current Tunbridge Wells squad. It's good that home grown and local players are given the chance to improve their careers in the Kent League.  It would be even better if the Tunbridge Wells public would come down to Culverden Down to support their local home grown talent.