Rusthall 1-0 Tunbridge Wells - It's a great feeling to win today, this win is for our brilliant fans, says Rusthall boss Jimmy Anderson

Saturday 13th November 2021
Rusthall 1 – 0 Tunbridge Wells
Location Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH
Kickoff 13/11/2021 15:00

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 13 November 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Jockey Farm Stadium

RUSTHALL manager Jimmy Anderson says it’s a great feeling to beat Tunbridge Wells to climb out of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division relegation zone.

A crowd of 679 flocked through the Jockey Farm Stadium turnstiles to watch a low-tempo local derby, settled by a stunning strike from central midfielder Ashley Sheppard with 18 minutes remaining as struggling Rusthall notched their third league win of the season to claim the local bragging rights against a complacent Tunbridge Wells side.

“Thoroughly deserved it and it’s just great,” said Anderson.

“The players’, the committee, my management team, all of the fans, they deserve it.  A clean-sheet at home in front of all of those fans, yes, great!

“The amount of people who are here and we get the 1-0 win and everyone around us loses as well and we move up the table, we deserved to win.

“Look, for us in the changing room, obviously we’re celebrating massively on the pitch because we’re local rivals but for us in the changing room it’s a huge three points.”

When asked about the lack of tempo, especially during the first-half, Anderson replied: “The pitch is a bit sticky to be fair. It’s not an excuse.  In a game like this you either come out and you go for it and you raise the tempo or you have to kill the tempo and we wanted to kill the tempo and play our game. This is our home so we wanted to control the whole game basically.”

With only three locally based players in their starting eleven, Tunbridge Wells allowed complacency to creep into their ranks for Rusthall’s biggest game of the season.

Tunbridge Wells’ assistant manager Dan Morrin added: “Disappointed really, really disappointed.  Now only it’s a local derby but it’s a game against a team in the bottom third in the table and their the games we’ve really got to be getting points from regardless, no matter who they are in terms of locality, so we should be winning and getting points.

“All round the park we weren’t good enough in any position and we said it after the game and they all held their hands up and apologised.

“It’s a local derby, albeit probably only Robbie Bisset, Connor Pring and Regan Corke as well, we only have a handful of local lads but even so it’s just disappointing, the manner of how we lost.

“We played Lordswood on Tuesday night, who are in a not too dissimilar position and we beat them very, very comfortably 5-1, so they should not have been complacent.

“I just think everything didn’t fall into place today. I’m not meaning decisions against us, just our own performances. Nothing seemed to come off and everything that we worked on didn’t seem to come to plan today.”

Tunbridge Wells created the first opening after 102 seconds when lethargic looking striker Matthew Gething played the ball out to left-winger Kyron Lightfoot, who cut in from the left wing and drilled a right-footed shot just past the foot of the near post from 30-yards.

Rusthall’s right-winger Armondo Luismyro Pires Costa collected the ball from Louis Anderson’s throw-in but his speculative effort from wide on the right sailed harmlessly wide of the target shortly afterwards.

Tunbridge Wells went route-one in the 16th minute when a big kick from goalkeeper Aaron Lee-Wharton sailed over Ryan Styles’ head and Gething ghosted in to hook his volley across the keeper and past the far post from 10-yards.

However, Tunbridge Wells’ talisman 13-goal striker Gething appeared to be struggling as his partnership with Miles Cornwell failed to work and the pair were often too isolated and failed to link up too much.

“Matt’s been in a real great purple patch goals wise and that’s the first game that he hasn’t scored in for a while and it would have been lovely for him to carry on with that run,” said Morrin.

“One thing we did say was the fact that Rusthall have been very vocal on social media leading up to the game so we knew they would come out and get at us for the first 10-15 minutes.

“If we can go and get a goal that changes the whole dynamic and perspective of the game but that wasn’t to be.”

Tunbridge Wells were the more dominant force during a cagey first-half and produced a good move down the right.

Defensive midfielder Connor Pring played the ball into Jordan Wells, who fed the ball over to right-back Jack Hope.

Jordan Wells took a touch and whipped in a cross with his right-foot and Cornwell’s free-header from just inside the box was comfortably grabbed hold off by Wealands.

Despite Rusthall winning the corner-count 6-2, Tunbridge Wells created a decent opening in the 24th minute.

Lightfoot floated a corner in from the right and Gething rose above his marker and glanced his header past the far post.

Lightfoot’s pace saw him storm down the left flank before Cornwell clipped the ball up to Jordan Wells, who brought the ball down inside the final third, before Regan Corke strode forward and dragged his shot across the keeper and past the far post from the edge of the Rusthall box.

Right-winger Corke failed to impress against his former club as Rusthall’s left-back Rory Salter slammed the door shut, as Tunbridge Wells lacked creativity and pace in the final third.

“Regan will be disappointed with that by his own admission really. He was in a really good position that he got into,” said Morrin.

“We’ve worked on Regan with getting in those positions. When he’s running at someone there’s few people who can keep up with him with that pace so if he can get a shot away, that was a really good opportunity for us.

“On another day that goes in and nestles into the far corner and we’re leading the game and we can manage it so we were disappointed that didn’t go in.”

Anderson said: “I thought Rory done really well.  They know each other, they’re both local.  Regan used to play for this club. Rory can have the bragging rights tonight, I’m sure, when they’re in Tunbridge Wells (socialising) together.”

Rusthall created just the one chance during the first half and they should have snatched the lead in the 37th minute.

Salter floated in a deep free-kick from the half-way line towards the far post for centre-half Ryan Styles to knock his header across the face of goal and his centre-half partner James White steered his header over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy from just three yards out.

Anderson said: “We were slightly disappointed on that. In a game like this there’s not many chances, considering the chances we have against other teams and we don’t put them away.  Today was always going to be you have to take your chance and Whitey said at half-time it was just slightly behind him and he was stretching so he couldn’t get over it.”

Morrin added: “It was a good opportuning for them. One thing we said at half-time, we said if we give them opportunities like that they will knock on the door and they will convert, so we had to be better defensively from those positions and ensure a repeat of that didn’t happen.”

Anderson added: “I said to them (at half-time) that’s the best half of football they’ve done! To come in at nil-nil, to work hard to win the second and first balls, I’ve said you’ve done the hard work now, now go out and enjoy it and if we get a chance, take it and play off of that and that’s what we did.”

Morrin added: “We were a bit disappointed at the break really. We just felt we weren’t winning enough second balls in the midfield area. We weren’t getting our wide players into the game enough and we were going a bit too direct.

“We felt we could play a bit more and play through the thirds. We just didn’t seem to do that and we couldn’t get our game going. We went long and panicked.  You have to pick up and win the second balls and we just didn’t do that and we gave ourselves a challenge really by not doing those fundamentals.”

Tunbridge Wells manager Richard Styles sent his side out early but desire levels were just not there for the second half as Rusthall were the better side and played more on the front foot.

Salter was whipping in some great deliveries with his left-foot from right-wing corners but White allowed the ball to sail over his head at the far post as the ball curled past the far post, just asking someone to put their head on the ball to score.

Tunbridge Wells created an opening in the seventh minute as Gething flicked the ball on for Cornwell to lay the ball off to right-back Jack Hope, who cracked a right-footed drive sailing just over the crossbar from the right-hand side some 35-yards from goal.

Morrin said: “Matt will be disappointed. He came off with a head injury. Matt set himself some really high standards in the last month with the goals he scored.  We looked last night and he’s fifth in the scoring charts in the league and he’s set himself a high bar and when he’s not quite at that level and he’s a big player for us and we notice it.

“Miles Cornwell started on Tuesday for the first time in a while and was really good, scored a great goal and more than earned his start today but at times they were a little bit too isolated.”

White floated a free-kick towards the Tunbridge Wells box from the half-way line and Costa fed Callum Adonis-Taylor down the right-hand side of the penalty area and the holding midfielder took a touch and his shot was heading wide of the near post but Lee-Wharton made sure and pushed the ball behind for a Rusthall corner.

Manager Anderson was full of praise for Adonis-Taylor, who sat in front of the back four and protected them superbly.

“I thought Callum Taylor done his job extremely well and was everywhere, especially in the first half.  If I had to pick a man-of-the-match it’s probably, all the 11.”

Costa put in a much improved performance during the second half and started to get into the game in an attacking sense for Rusthall.

Right-back Louis Anderson released Costa down the right and he fed Sheppard inside the box but a last-man sliding tackle from Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Ryan Cheek ensured the stalemate would continue.

An example of Tunbridge Wells’ lack of creativity came in the 66th minute when Pring was forced to play the ball inside to centre-half Cheek, who was in space some 40-yards from goal but his speculative effort sailed high, high, over the Rusthall crossbar.

Tunbridge Wells’ best chance of the game, however, came at the halfway mark when Lightfoot cracked a right-footed free-kick around the wall and towards the bottom right-hand corner from 35-yards, which brought a comfortable save from Wealands, dropping down to his knees and comfortably gathering the ball within his midriff.

“Kyron can hit those,” said Morrin. “Kyron and Connor Pring were almost playing rock, paper scissors to decide who was going to take it because they both fancied it and both are more than capable of taking that and slotting it away.

“Kyron has high standards from a dead ball situation. He would have hoped to have done better with that, it was quite a comfortable save from the goalkeeper.”

Anderson added: “He just hit it down the middle and their bench were saying ‘follow it up, he’s going to parry it’, but Charlie’s got extremely good hands and he saved it comfortably.

“The clean-sheet is massive especially against these. Charlie has come in, he’s a 19-year-old boy and he’s just been a breath of fresh air in the group as well. The back four done extremely well.”

Rusthall produced a good move when Ryan Styles played the ball over to Louis Anderson, who released Costa down the right wing and the winger cut inside and wasn’t pressed and ran inside the D and his shot from 20-yards deflected past the right-hand post.

Tunbridge Wells immediately hit Rusthall on the counter-attack down the right as Corke and Lightfoot linked up a couple of times before Lightfoot lashed his shot over the crossbar from 20-yards.

Lee-Wharton pulled off a world-class save in the 71st minutes when he got down swiftly low to his right to push behind Costa’s left-footed shot, which was destined to nestle into the bottom far corner, after the Rusthall winger cut into the box from the right-wing on a penetrating solo run.

“I thought Myro came alive in the second half and I thought he was a threat and he done really well.  He grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and took it upon himself,” Anderson said of his winger.

Morrin added: “I think he (Costa) was their best player if I’m honest. He was certainly a threat and lively and got himself in good positions and that was a really good save.

“I thought it was in but Aaron just about did enough and Aaron seems to pull off these saves when you think the balls going to nestle in the back of the net.”

Sheppard issued a warning when he cut in from the left wing and his low drive was comfortably gathered by Lee-Wharton at his near post.

However, Sheppard’s fourth goal of the season was to settle this local derby, the goal coming with 26 minutes and 55 seconds on the clock.

Tunbridge Wells cleared Rusthall’s sixth corner of the game and substitute left-winger Taylor Robinson cut the ball back from the left by-line towards the edge of the box.

Sheppard took a touch before rifling a stunning right-footed drive in off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net (aiming for the top left-hand corner) from 20-yards, to spark wild celebratory scenes both on-the-pitch and on the terraces.

“It was a special goal and he deserves that because he’s been brilliant since he’s joined and that’s what I’m saying, it’s a tight game, it needs a bit of magic like that to separate the two teams and it was a great goal, a great goal,” hailed Anderson.

Morrin added: “I think there was a couple of little phase in the build-up.  Previous to that they had a corner and we cleared it. Two of our players went for the ball and didn’t do enough to clear it and got mixed up and allowed Robinson to nick the ball – and it should have been cleared!

“We should have got tighter to Sheppard on the edge of our box and we should have got out to him quicker and close that down.

“Take nothing away from the lad – what a strike!  It was a goal to win the derby, that’s got to be right up there and it’s absolutely rocketed in off the underside of the bar.

“As good as Aaron is and the world-class saves Aaron pulls off, I don’t think anyone was saving that one!”

Tunbridge Wells huffed and puffed for the rest of the game but failed to break down a resilient Rusthall defence, well marshalled by Ryan Styles.

Tunbridge Wells centre-half Robbie Bissett – playing against his old club – floated in a cross from the left but Euan Sahadow – who came off the bench to replace the struggling Gething – to partner Cornwell up front – glanced his header across the keeper and sailing past the far post.

“It just wasn’t our day really,” admitted Morrin.

“We did huff and puff, we were getting no joy really and that was the closest we really had in those latter stages.  We threw everything at it at the end but it wasn’t to be our day, it wasn’t our day, it wasn’t our derby day.”

Tunbridge Wells’ left-back James Nurden’s pacey run took him past Costa and fed Sahadow down the left-channel but his deflected cross was gobbled up by Wealands.

The final whistle ensured Rusthall claimed the local bragging rights but more importantly they travel to Tower Hamlets next Saturday with the confidence booster that they are now outside the relegation zone after bagging their third league win in 15 games.

Tower Hamlets have collected four points from 16 games, while Lordswood slipped into relegation trouble after suffering a 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Chatham Town, who have the largest budget in the division and are in third-place, two points adrift of leaders Glebe but with a game in hand. 

Neil Hunter’s side have eight points from 15 games and his own personal record now sits at only five wins from 36 games in all competitions since the start of last season.

Welling Town are now in the bottom three with eight points from 14 games, while Rusthall have enhanced their survival bid and are now in the bottom four with 10 points from 15 games.

Now, the question that needs answering is can Rusthall raise themselves for an even bigger game at Tower Hamlets next weekend, as it’s so easy to raise yourselves when you’re playing Tunbridge Wells?

Anderson, whose side haven't won away from home in the league, added: “I live in Orpington, I don’t know how much it means on a personal level to live locally and have friends say Tunbridge Wells is better than Rusthall but all I do know is every time I’ve played Tunbridge Wells as a Rusthall manager I’ve won and I like that feeling, so it’s going to continue.

“Next week’s game is huge, huge. It will be as hard as it was today, probably even harder because everyone expects you to go there and win. Everyone at this level you can beat each other baring the top three or four teams, they seem to win week-in-week-out but other than that you couldn’t pick who was going to win any given Saturday.

“We’re going there, I don’t know whether we’re favourites, they might be favourites because they’re at home. I don’t know because they’re bottom of the table.

“It’s a six-pointer and we’ve got to enjoy that game as well as we’ve enjoyed today. It’s a great feeling to win today.

“If we get beat next week against Tower Hamlets or we drop points then today for us in the changing room doesn’t mean anything. It’s huge. We need to win next week.

“Our fans have been brilliant all season – this win is for them – and whilst I’m here I might as well thank all the Tunbridge Wells fans for coming down and watching us beat them so thank you very much for turning up and everyone get home safely.”

Morrin added: “I’ve spoken to a few fans and apologised and they understand. Look, it was Rusthall’s cup final and their social media build-up during the week summed it up and nothing was really said when you looked at Tunbridge Wells’ official social media.

“They’ve had their day and they’ve come out on top in this one. The fans were great today, great noise and the noise around the ground from both sets of fans was really great to hear and a really great advert for non-league football in the west Kent area.

“We’re disappointed to a man. We were not good enough today and the players know that and we as the management team know that.

“Our fans know the highs and lows that we’ve given them over the last three years.  As gutted as they are, they realise we’re doing what we can. We’re transforming the football club and we’re getting it in the right direction and we’ve got a massive game next Saturday in The FA Vase.”

Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, have slipped down a place into ninth with 22 points from 14 games and a reaction is needed from Richard Styles’ side, who welcome Walton & Hersham to Culverden Stadium in next weekend’s FA Vase Second Round tie.

Walton & Hersham are two points clear of Badshot Lea at the top of the Combined Counties League Premier Division South table with just one defeat from their 14 league games.

“We’ve got to turn up next Saturday. We’ve lost the game today and we’ve got the heartbreak of losing the game and there’s no better way of changing that and going and winning your next game,” said Morrin.

“Tunbridge Wells Football Club have a real strong history in the competition (losing 2-1 to Spennymoor Town in the 2013 final at Wembley Stadium) and it’s one we’d love to continue.

“We played Walton & Hersham in The FA Cup earlier on in the season and narrowly lost 2-1 and we had a couple missing that day.

“We’d love to turn it on for the fans and repay today’s disaster result really by getting through to the next round.

“Don’t get me wrong, Walton & Hersham are an extremely strong side and every player will have to be at their very best to get something from the game.

“We’ve got to go and do what we do, we’re at home, which is an added advantage. We always want to be at home in front of our own fans and we’ll do everything in our power to get a result.”

Rusthall: Charlie Wealands, Louis Anderson, Rory Salter, Callum Adonis-Taylor, Ryan Styles, James White, Charlie Clover (Taylor Robinson 70), Jack Smith, Luke Adams, Ashley Sheppard, Armondo Luismyro Pires Costa.
Subs: Tommy Lawrence, Jake Hampson, Daniel Haastrup, Franck Ndouga

Goal: Ashley Sheppard 72

Booked: Charlie Clover 21, Louis Anderson 32, Luke Adams 36, Charlie Wealands 90, Armondo Luismyro Pires Costa 90

Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Jack Hope, James Nurden, Connor Pring, Ryan Cheek, Robbie Bissett, Kyron Lightfoot (John Roberts 73), Jordan Wells (Harry Hudson 60), Matthew Gething (Euan Sahadow 79), Miles Cornwell, Regan Corke.

Booked: Miles Cornwell 29, Connor Pring 90

Attendance: 679
Referee: Mr Teddy Osborn
Assistants: Ms Bethany Archer & Mr John Quirke