Glebe 3-2 Tunbridge Wells - If we can get play-offs that is a massive achievement, considering some of the budgets that some of the other clubs have and we know that we're not close to competing budget wise, says Glebe coach Frankie Sawyer

Tuesday 21st November 2023
Glebe 3 – 2 Tunbridge Wells
Location Foxbury Avenue, off Perry Street, Chislehurst, Kent BR7 6SD
Kickoff 21/11/2023 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 21 November 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Foxbury Avenue

GLEBE coach Frankie Sawyer says it will be a massive achievement if the club can finish in the play-offs after climbing to the summit of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table tonight.

Jointly-managed by Craig Nelson and Danny Oakins, the Chislehurst-based outfit are now two points clear of big-spending Faversham Town, who were held to a goal-less draw away to Lordswood tonight.

Glebe – with a budget of less than £1,500 per week  – have banked 37 points from their 18 games, while Faversham Town – with a budget of £10,000 per week – are in second-place with 35 points from 17 games.

Erith Town (33 points from 17 games), Whitstable Town (32 points from 17 games) and Deal Town (29 points from 14 games) are in the play-off zone.

Glebe - who lost 3-1 at home to Lydd Town at the weekend - grabbed the lead through Tom Hever’s volleyed strike – following a mistake from Tunbridge Wells’ goalkeeper – before Trevor McCreadie tapped in his 17th goal of the season to equalise.

Hever headed Glebe into the lead a minute before the break, before left-winger Alfawaz Dada found the far corner with a stunning strike.

However, Hever headed in his first career hat-trick to give Glebe the winning goal, just 74 seconds after Tunbridge Wells had deservedly restored parity at Foxbury Avenue.

“I’m glad it’s over, happy to come away with the three points,” said Sawyer, 35, who has been ruled out since pre-season with ankle ligament damage.

“I felt quite comfortable, even though the scoreline probably doesn’t reflect that.  I felt from the bench, as a management group, we felt quite comfortable throughout the 90 plus minutes.  I felt we probably could’ve given them a little bit more to think about and cause them a few more problems.

“We knew coming into the game, their biggest threat was probably Regan Corke on the right. His pace was electric. Everything they did probably came through him. I felt we could’ve nullified him a little bit better than we did.

“But listen, anywhere in this league on a Tuesday night, against anyone, you’re happy to come away with the three points, so I’m glad it’s done.”

Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, remain in 12th place in the table with 18 points from their 15 league games and have suffered back to back defeats, having lost 1-0 to Lingfield in The FA Vase Second Round last time out,

“In the huddle at the end, we let the players say what they thought and the main feeling was that’s a missed opportunity and as a group they want to set the bar higher than that,” said disappointed manager Steve Ives.

“We don’t want to say ‘unlucky’,  We made a couple of mistakes and ultimately we want to set the bar that we should be coming here and getting points.

“It’s exceptionally frustrating because off the top of my head, we’ve hit the crossbar. We’ve had one very fine margin whether the ball crossed the line or not, so we did more than enough in terms of the opponents box to get something out of the game.  We’ve just let in a couple of soft goals, in fact, three soft ones.”

Patient Glebe enjoyed plenty of early possession, as Tunbridge Wells’ game plan was to let the home side play the ball around the back and keeping every man behind the ball as Glebe centre-half Jamie Coyle hit long balls forward from close to the half-way line.

Sawyer said: “We had a lot of possession. We’re very possession based and we like to have a lot of the ball. That was the third time that we’ve played Tunbridge Wells and every time they’ve allowed us to have a lot of the ball.”

Ives added: “We know how Glebe want to play. We think we found a way on the whole to combat it and that does mean certainly them having the ball in certain areas and we’re then looking to be quick on the counter-attack.

“I guess if gives them a little bit of possession which I guess is what you’re talking about but I felt we were quite effective of what we had.”

Glebe relied on a mistake from Tunbridge Wells goalkeeper Nathan Carter to break the stalemate with 16 minutes and 54 seconds on the clock.

Tunbridge Wells had 11 men behind the ball for Coyle’s long ball from close to the half-way line, which should have been comfortably gathered by Carter.

However, he inexplicably failed to grab hold of the ball and the ball dropped down for an unmarked Hever to hook his volley into the roof of the net from 12-yards.

“Tom was unbelievable tonight, away from his goals, he was unbelievable,” said Sawyer.

“I don’t think in my whole career - and I’ve played at some good levels and with some good players - I’ve ever come across someone who covers so much ground.  He covers every blade of grass, every single game that he plays. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he gives absolutely everything that he’s got while he’s out there and today he got his rewards for scoring his first career hat-trick. He was in the right place at the right time.

“Unbelievable technique. It was a good ball into the box from Coylie. I think Jamie Philpot jumped and gave the keeper something to think about and he’s come out and flapped at it. We identified the keeper isn’t very good at coming for things.

Ives added: “We had a very quick debrief about that and Nath just said ‘he lost the ball in the lights.’

“I don’t know, maybe that’s an excuse but Nath’s lost it, what can you do?  If a mistake like that happens, that’s when you need one of your defenders to sort of bail you out but unfortunately we’ve left him unmarked haven’t we, so that was poor, after a relatively encouraging start.”

Tunbridge Wells showed good character to respond from that set-back with McCreadie driving forward before hitting a right-footed deflected shot just past the foot of the near post with 18:19 on the clock.

Tunbridge Wells almost equalised following their first corner of the game.

Left-winger Dada floated a corner in from the right towards the back post where Michael Adepoju lost his man but Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Siji Akinlusi smacked his right-footed half-volley over the crossbar.

“I guess it gives you a little bit of encouragement, just lets us see we’re more than capable of going toe-to-toe in a game like that,” added Ives.

Tunbridge Wells produced a well-worked move down the slope to equalise with 23 minutes and 36 seconds on the clock.

Holding midfielder Rory Ward played the ball out to right-back Mohamed Zabadne, who released the impressive winger Regan Corke down the right wing.

He easily cut inside Glebe’s left-back Timi Joseph before putting a low cross on a plate for McCreadie to sweep his first-time shot into the bottom right-hand corner from inside the six-yard box to join Glebe striker Jamie Philpot on 17 goals in all competitions this season.

Ives said: “I thought it was a good move, a typical Tunbridge Wells goal to be honest.  A low cross and Trevor’s across the front post.  A lot of people know we’re going to do it, they know exactly what to expect from Regan Corke, I think, but you’ve still got to stop it, haven’t you?

“From our point of view, I thought that was a spell where we deserved a goal.”

Praising McCreadie, Ives said: “I think most of the teams that are being successful have either got a prolific forward or four or five sharing the goals. We’re very blessed, we’ve got a prolific forward who does it season-in-season-out.

“We know how lucky we are to have Trev but you’ve got to service him and I feel that we are setting the team up, whether it’s Alfawaz Dada or Regan Corke tonight to service him quite well.”

Sawyer added: “I know Trev, we played together before when we were a strike partnership for Hastings.

“Listen, that’s bread and butter for him. If we’re not going to defend that in the box, he’s going to eat that up all day.

“I feel that we could’ve gone out and stopped Regan Corke earlier than we did.  The fact that we identified him (Corke) as their biggest threat but he’s done well and we should’ve dealt with the ball into the box a lot easier than we did.

“We had three players in there and Trev was able to come through the middle of all of them and tap it in from about two yards out.  That’s something that we spoke about in the dressing room afterwards. Listen, it’s a mistake, it’s happens, disappointing.”

Glebe just couldn’t create many goalscoring chances against a well-organised Tunbridge Wells defence, well marshalled by centre-half James White.

Glebe’s holding midfielder Parish Muirhead hung a free-kick towards the edge of the penalty area but Adepoju’s downward header bounced harmlessly wide of the goal.

Glebe – six to four winners on the corner-count – almost scored direct from their second flag-kick of the night.  Left-winger Malachi Hudson’s delivery kissed the side netting, as Carter stepped towards his near-post in an attempt to make the catch.

Tunbridge Wells’ left-back Johnny Phillips was at fault in Glebe’s second goal, when it arrived with 43 minutes and 13 seconds on the clock.

Phillips strangely drilled his clearance from the edge of his penalty area towards the corner flag and the ball went behind for Glebe’s third flag-kick.

Morris whipped in a great delivery from the left and Hever jumped up to head past the hapless Carter from a couple of yards out.

Sawyer revealed: “The last couple of weeks we’ve spoken to Malachi Morris about his deliveries because up until probably a few weeks ago, his deliveries have been unbelievable.  He’s actually scored two goals directly from corners this season.

“We identified their keeper was a little bit of a weakness coming for balls so we said ‘put it under the crossbar and see what happens’, and he’s actually put it on the money and Tom headed it in.  It might’ve possibly had gone in if Tom hadn’t been there anyway.”

Ives said: “In an ideal world we hit that out for a throw in and then who knows?

“It’s a great delivery, he’s really whipped it at us but we ain’t done well enough have we?  It’s disappointing. I’m not even sure who’s man it was?  I haven’t even had that debrief, so I can’t really comment but it felt like another soft one, I’ve got to be honest.”

Tunbridge Wells went close following a set-piece of their own on the stroke of half-time.

The pacey Dada swung the corner in from the right and Ward steered his header across the keeper and the ball dropped just past the foot of the far post.

Sawyer said: “We told the boys (at half-time) to relax.  We made a bit of a habit at times of scoring and switching off and conceding quite quickly.

“We felt that we were quite comfortable. We spoke about the fact that Regan Corke was probably their biggest threat and we have to try and deal with him better by getting closer to him because they looked to hit him on a big diagonal.

“We said just go and give them something else to think about going down the hill second half.   We were quite confident that we were going to win the game. We didn’t ever feel that we were going to lose the game but throughout the 90 we maybe could’ve caused them a little bit more problems.”

Ives said: “We just said we’ve seen plenty of evidence that we can have success, if we can work the wide areas.  We’ve just got to preserver.  We weren’t doing too much wrong.  There was a couple of tactical bits. The main thing was the game was far from dead and we just had to keep working the wide areas and hopefully the chances will come.”

Corke was a threat for Tunbridge Wells down on the right and his deflected drive only just cleared the crossbar in the tenth minute of the second half.

Ward played a 20-yard pass to Corke in a central position and he cut inside before hitting a left-footed drive towards goal from 25-yards, the ball taking a deflection off a pressing Coyle and nestling on top of the roof of the net.

“Regan is always a threat, as long as we give him the ball in the right areas in the right way,” added Ives.

“I felt tonight it wasn’t just Regan. I felt Alfawaz Dada was a big threat on the left. I felt Festos Kamara was also starting to grow into the game. It was quite lively.”

When asked what former Erith & Belvedere right centre-half Coyle brings to the party (playing beside Reece Bartlett), Sawyer replied: “Stability. He’s a leader. Someone who’s going to marshall the players around him. I’ve known Coylie for many years. We played against each other and he’s come in and settled us at the back. 

“I felt that we’ve struggled finding a good pairing all season. We’ve had many boys go in and out but Coylie’s come in and he’s given us something that we lacked and that’s someone who can talk from the back and talk over people through the game and pull people into positions and just lead us through the game.”

Ward flicked the ball on for otherwise quiet attacking midfielder Festos Kamara, who cut inside before cracking a left-footed drive from 35-yards, which sailed over Nathan Edwards’ right shoulder and crashed against the Glebe crossbar with 13:21 on the clock.

Ives said: “I said to Festos at half-time, if you can just get in that left 10 position and try to whip one like he did against Whitstable. I said I need a Whitstable out of you tonight and he very nearly gave us one.   The keeper’s beaten all hands up there.”

Sawyer added: “Unlucky! Very unlucky. He took it down really well, a great turn and a great strike. I think anywhere on target, that’s in. He’s struck it really well, so a good chance for them.”

Tunbridge Wells deserved their equaliser when it arrived with 14 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock.

Ward’s fine diagonal pass found Corke, who easily sped past Joseph, before cutting inside before drilling a diagonal cross towards Dada on the other side of the pitch and he kept composed to cut inside before curling his right-footed drive into the top far corner from 22-yards out.

“We’re talking about using both wingers and that’s exactly what happened,” said Ives.

“Regan’s got away down the right, he’s got the composure.  That wasn’t an accident. He’s got his head up, he’s hit the switch to Alfa, a couple of touches, squared the man up, cut inside, whipped one.  It looked like a great finish to me, right in the opposite side of the goal.

“Alfa deserves that and he’s waited for his opportunity and he’s impressed us in training.”

Sawyer replied: “Regan Corke. I think we’ve mentioned him quite a few times tonight. He seemed to be a bit of a thorn in our side all night and we knew that coming into the game. He’s very, very, very quick but at the same time I felt he was very good when he had the ball as well.  His decision making was very good on the ball, so he put some unbelievable balls into the box, pulled that one back and they’ve managed to equalise again.”

However, Tunbridge Wells threw it away as Glebe grabbed the winning goal with 15:53 on the clock.

Right-back Scott Jarvis was released down the line and he whipped in a great cross towards the near post and an unmarked Hever got in behind Akinlusi to bury his header into the left-hand corner from six-yards.

Sawyer said: “It was a very good goal.  Scotty done very well down the right, beat his man, he quite easily could’ve gone down but he stayed on his feet and put in a great delivery, which he’s done many times this season and that man again, Tom Hever, Mr Reliable popped up with a great header to score his first career hat-trick.”

Ives added: “He got a hat-trick then – two of them headers and he’s probably five foot six, five foot seven, so that’s really disappointing.

“It was a bit of a lofted cross as well and it’s just the timing isn’t it.  You score a goal and you’ve got yourself back in the game and you’ve just got to dig in for five minutes minimum.  Dig in, compose yourself for five minutes and who knows where the game would’ve gone?  Fair play. We haven’t done that, they took their chance.”

Tunbridge Wells showed good character to try to get back into the game.

Coyle was booked for a challenge on Dada, who rolled and rolled and rolled several times in an effort to get the 40-year-old centre-half sent off.

Tunbridge Wells wasted the opportunity as Corke played the resulting free-kick short to Phillips who played the ball square to Zabadne but his 30-yard effort was speculative and was never going to trouble former Holmesdale stopper Edwards, who stepped to his left to easily gather.

Tunbridge Wells kept plugging away and Edwards made a comfortable save with 15 minutes remaining.

Dada’s corner came in from the right and talisman McCreadie chested the ball down and his shot on the turn was comfortably held by the Glebe keeper, low to his right.

There was a controversial moment as Tunbridge Wells felt they had equalised with 34:19 on the clock.

Joseph had earlier been hooked for Darion Dowrich, but Glebe’s replacement left-back was spun by the impressive Corke, who cut into the box and his driven shot was beaten away by Edwards at his near post.

There is no VAR or goal line technology in the ninth-tier of English football, so only Edwards will know whether the ball had crossed his line as he smothered the bouncing ball beside the foot of his near-post to prevent his name being on the scoresheet (going down as an own-goal).

“My take on it was, I was in a terrible position to really have an opinion. All I can say is the vast majority of our players say it was over the line,” claimed Ives.

“I don’t really know.  The linesman (Thomas Amber) said ‘he couldn’t be 100% sure if the whole of the ball wasn’t over the line,’ – so I guess we’ve got to respect that.”

Sawyer added: “I’ll be honest, from where I was, I thought it was in but the linesman was up with play, was bang in line with it and was adamant it never.

“Speaking to Cat (Nath, our keeper) after, he’s adamant it didn’t. He’s honest. He said he managed to stop it on the line fortunately.  From where I was, I was a little bit worried, I did think it crept over.”

With Tunbridge Wells pushing for an equaliser, Glebe sprung into life towards the end of the game.

The quiet Philpot released Hever through on goal and referee Howard Collins blew for a foul by Hever on Zabadne, before the hat-trick hero slotted the ball into the empty net after Carter came rushing out and failed to deal with the danger.

“I didn’t see a foul there. I felt the keeper and the defender had a coming together and Tom managed to pick it up after they spilled it. But listen, we’ve got to go with the ref and fortunately, it hasn’t cost us,” said Sawyer.

The excellent Hever played a lovely through ball to put Morris through on goal.  The winger cut in from the left but his 25-yarder bounced into Carter’s gloves, preventing the ball nestling into the bottom far corner.

Sawyer said: “I felt that we could’ve done a little bit better with that but on the whole happy with the three points.  I’m happy the game’s over. It could’ve gone the other way.”

Ives added: “Let’s be honest, I think the last 10 minutes including stoppage time (seven minutes and 32 seconds) we gone a little bit hell for leather and there’s going to be gaps and down the hill as well. They’re going to have counter-attacking opportunities so I don’t really read too much into that.

“I think for the vast majority of the game, we’ve gone toe-to-toe but does that actually make it worse? 

“Some of the senior boys said in the (post-match) huddle, we don’t want to be the valiant losers, we want to be taking points from places like that.  We’ve got some work to do but hopefully as and when we’re getting the full squad back on the pitch, we can start to get the results the performances like that performance deserve.”

Sawyer reported that Muirhead went off to a knock to his hip, while Glebe were already without centre-back Jamal Abubakari (torn ankle ligaments)

Ives was without goalkeeper George Bentley (broken hand), Jack Walder (knee), Luke Leppard (bruised hip), Daniel Tear (work commitments) and Billy Lewins (one match suspension).

“Fron our point of view, you take five key players out of anyone’s squad it’s…..but the boys have stepped up. Well, they haven’t because we’ve lost but in terms of effort and perseverance and representing the shirt, I thought they’ve done well.”

Punjab United (now in eighth-place with 25 points from 15 games) were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Erith Town tonight and visit Culverden Stadium on Saturday.

“Look, it’s good that we’re back at Culverden, point number one. Hopefully we’ll have a couple of players back. We’ll definitely have Billy Lewins back because that was his one game ban served and he’s our second top goalscorer,” said Ives.

“Punjab are a good side. I’ve got total respect for them. They nicked it against us at their place 2-1 and we kind of want to lose the valiant loser tag.  Hopefully we’ll have a training session on Thursday and we go into it going for the win, simple.

“Do we deserve to be any higher than 12th?  Probably not right at this moment because our results haven’t been consistent.  The only thing that I can say is that if we can get anything like our strongest squad out for a run of four or five games, then I generally believe we’ll start to find our natural level, which I believe is a little bit higher than what we are now.”

Sawyer is delighted that his side are sitting top of the table tonight.

“Listen, it’s very, very early in the season to be talking about it.  I know everyone’s going to be talking about it and looking at the league everyone’s expecting Faversham to run away with it, which there would be no surprise if they did, considering their budget.  You only have to look at their squad to sort of realise they’re paying some good money and they’ve got some very good players.

“But listen, we’re not getting carried away, we’ll take one game at a time. I’m sure everyone says that?

“Listen, as long as we keep doing what we need to do, that’s all we’ve got to worry about.

“I’m happy that we’re sitting there currently and personally I’d rather have the points on the board than the games in hand. You’ve got to win those games and while we’re sitting there, everyone’s looking up at us.

“I would have preferred to have gone under the radar a little bit but we’ve managed to get off to a good start and people are now expecting things from us and we also know we’re going to have a tough game every week because everyone wants to knock off whoever’s on top but listen, we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.

“I think every team starts the season with the aim of winning the league because otherwise what are you doing? 

“I’ll be honest, with the group that we’ve got, as much as we know how talented they are, we’re probably slightly over-achieving up to now but then saying that, with our management group and what we think we can do with this group, it’s a hard one.  I don’t want to say that we can go and win the league because I think there’s going to be numerous teams come the end of the season.

“We’ll be happy if we can reach the play-offs.  I think we’d be happy with that.   At this point if we can get play-offs that is a massive achievement, considering some of the budgets that some of the teams have.  We know that we’re not close to competing budget wise.

“We try to set a culture and environment that the boys want to be here, not for the money because I believe personally we’re trying to nurture some of the boys at the beginning of their career that they’re going to learn from us and potentially give them something long lasting that will take them to a higher level, rather than being money based, especially being a young group and as long as they believe in what we’re trying to do, then I believe we can be up there or be there abouts with the likes of the teams you’re talking about.”

Glebe are without a game at the weekend but the squad are all going out to bond – before their trip to Rusthall on Saturday 2 December.

Jimmy Anderson’s side are in the bottom four with 12 points from 16 games after losing 3-0 at home to Welling Town tonight.

“We’re going to go out on Saturday as a group and have a bit of a bonding day, which I think is needed.  Before then we’re going to have a little bit of a light training session on Thursday and we’ll look at that game next week.

“We’ll possibly have someone look at Rusthall (away to Deal Town) on Saturday so we know what we’re going into and pick up as much information as we can on them.  We’re confident going into any game that we can win.”

Now imagine spending £400,000 this season to get out of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.  One of the hardest divisions in the entire country to get out, especially at the first attempt.

Erith & Belvedere spent £2,500 per week and claimed the title by one point last season and have recently announced budget cuts in the Isthmian League South East Division.

Faversham Town have lost four league games in 17 games, while Glebe have lost three league games.  Which outfit is getting value for money and pressure is now on Sammy Moore, having thrown away two leads in Saturday's 4-3 home defeat to Adam Woodward's Erith Town at the weekend.

Glebe: Nathan Edwards, Scott Jarvis, Timi Joseph (Darion Dowrich 72), Parish Muirhead, Reece Bartlett, Jamie Coyle, Malachi Morris, Michael Adepoju (Jonathan Erhabor 85), Jamie Philpot, Tom Hever, Nathan Mampono (Kelvin De Graft 82).
Subs: Skye Salmon, Teddy Green

Goals: Tom Hever 17, 44, 61

Booked: Nathan Mampono 35, Jamie Coyle 67

Tunbridge Wells: Nathan Carter, Mohamed Zabadne, Johnny Phillips (Bradley Austin 81), Rory Ward (Zak Wolvey 90), James White, Siji Akinlusi, Alfawaz Dada (Muiz Alaka 77), Harry Hudson, Trevor McCreadie, Festos Kamara (Stephen Smith 66), Regan Corke.
Sub: Jack Gallagher

Goals: Trevor McCreadie 24, Alfawaz Dada 60

Booked: Rory Ward 33

Attendance: 72
Referee: Mr Howard Collins
Assistants: Mr Thomas Amber & Mr Thomas Sansom