Tonbridge Angels 1-2 Bath City - Unfortunately we never really got to the levels we expect, the boys expect and sometimes that happens and I can't be too hard on them, says Tonbridge Angels boss Jay Saunders

Saturday 05th November 2022
Tonbridge Angels 1 – 2 Bath City
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 05/11/2022 15:00

Vanarama National League South
Saturday 5 November 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS manager Jay Saunders says too many of his players were just off it during their defeat to Bath City.


After picking up back-to-back wins over Chippenham Town (2-0) and Chelmsford City (1-0), Saunders’ men have now picked up back-to-back defeats, having suffered a 4-1 defeat at Taunton Town last weekend and against Jerry Gill’s side on a wet day at Longmead Stadium.

Tonbridge Angels took the lead seven minutes before the break through striker Louis Collins’ fourth goal of the season before Bath City hit back through central midfielder Dan Hayfield’s drilled finish and Alex Fletcher notching his ninth goal of the season.

“I thought Bath were the better side today and probably deserved the three points but obviously when you’re 1-0 up in the game, even really if you’re not at your best you’ve got to find ways to win games and we haven’t done that today and fair play to them,” said Saunders.

“We’ve just got to keep looking to improve and move on.  We probably weren’t at it enough today.  There was too many of the players just off it today and didn’t pass the ball well enough and the basics, we didn’t do well enough.”

Tonbridge Angels remain in tenth-place in the Vanarama National League South table with 23 points from 16 games, while Bath City climb up one place into sixth-place with 28 points from their 17 league outings.

Saunders explained he lost right-back Jamie Fielding to an injury during the warm-up and central midfielder Jeremy Santos-Hurado pulled up with a hamstring injury on the stroke of half-time to join the likes of Doug Loft, Tommie Fagg, James Taylor, Jamie Turner on the treatment table at present.

Saunders said: “Jamie Fielding’s had an ankle injury, he’s been out for a few weeks, trained fine so we put him in.  I thought they were going to be a threat from set-pieces today so with the extra height we put him in and he’s pulled up in the warm-up, so I’m not sure what he’s done so I’ll find out from the physio but I think he’s aggravated it.

“Jeremy Santos, unfortunately, looks like he’s pulled his hamstring, which is a massive blow because he’s been a good player for us.  I’m not saying it would’ve changed the result but I felt that affected us certainly because we obviously had to move people about. We moved Louis Collins deeper and it did affect us so he will be a big blow to us, he’s been excellent for us.”

Bath City arrived here on the back of three winless games against Havant & Waterlooville (2-2) before losing 1-0 to both Dover Athletic and Chelmsford City, but they started the game on the front foot and were a side that played out from the back.

However, it was Tonbridge Angels that created the first opening of the game inside the opening 13 minutes.

Goalkeeper Jonathan Henly’s kick was flicked on by a rising Ruben Soares-Junior and this released Collins down the left. He held the ball up before switching the play to right-winger Solomon Kofi Tetteh-Quay Addy, who hit a low left-footed drive towards the bottom right-hand corner from 25-yards, forcing Ryan Clarke to dive to his left and use a strong left hand to push towards safety.

“It was something that we looked at and we deliberately played TQ that side and coming in off the line and getting his shots off.  It’s a chance but it’s a half-chance really,” admitted the former Margate manager.

Tonbridge Angels’ second chance of the game arrived in the 28th minute.

Centre-half Sonny Miles advanced and played the ball into Addy, who drove forward before playing the ball into Lewis Gard, who poked the ball inside and back to Addy, who cut inside and onto his left-foot.

The rasping drive forced the 40-year-old goalkeeper to raise both of his hands above his head to gather at the second attempt.

“When we moved the ball into wide areas and did it quickly, we looked a threat and I felt we could hurt them but I don’t think we did it enough today,” said Saunders.

“These chances were probably half-chances rather than gilt-edged chances but it was another sighter. At least the boys were trying to do what we asked them, so there was a positive in that.”

Both teams then cancelled each other out before Henly was called into action by making three saves around the half-hour mark.

Set-piece specialist Chris Lines played the ball into left-back Danny Greenslade who found Hayfield in acres of space and his right-footed drive from 30-yards bounced in front of the goalkeeper who made a comfortable save.

Bath City then produced a well-worked move in the 32nd minute when Greenslade and Scott Wilson linked up down the left before Hayfield switched the play over to right-back Joe Raynes, who took a touch and whipped in a deep cross, which was half-cleared out to an unmarked Luke Spokes, whose stinging right-footed drive from 12-yards was superbly pushed over the crossbar by Henly, diving to his right.

“I thought Jon Henly was good today.  I thought he kept us to a clean-sheet at half-time,” praised Saunders.

“I think if you asked Jon he’s more disappointed with the goal, the first one, maybe looking back at it, he could’ve done better.  I might be wrong but certainly the saves he made first half looked harder. I was pleased with him.  He made some good saves at key times.”

The 28-year-old goalkeeper was forced into making another good save from the resulting corner, Bath City’s second of five corners.

Lines cut the ball back along the slick artificial pitch from the right and Spokes hit a first-time drive from 20-yards which screamed through a crowd of players and was beaten away by Henly.

Tonbridge Angels grabbed the lead, however, with 37:44 on the clock, with a well-worked move of their own.

Miles fed the ball into Addy, who dropped deep inside the Bath City half before rolling the ball out to right-back Tariq Hinds. He played the ball inside to Santos-Hurado, whose right-footed drive was beaten away by Clarke and Collins pounced on the rebound and clinically found the bottom far corner with a right-footed angled drive from 10-yards.

“He done well. Like all good strikers should do. It was a good build-up, a good strike from Santos and then he done what all good strikers should do and that’s follow it in,” said Saunders.

“It was something that we’ve asked. It was something that we noticed with the keeper that he kind of parries a few things.

“It was a good time that we’ve scored so I’m pleased with Louis. He’s been left out for the last couple but he came back with a positive response.”

Saunders revealed why the former Sevenoaks Town striker has been left out of the starting line-up recently.

“We don’t need reminding, we know Louis’ a good player. I just feel that you forget with Louis because he’s been playing for his dad (Micky) when he was about 13, so he’s been playing for so long, you forget how young he is. He’s 21 years old and he’s still got to learn and there were certain games where we all feel that we’ll pull him out for and there’s certain games we’ll leave him in and he's got to understand that.

“But all you can do as a forward or any other player that gets left out is when you get your chance again, you give a positive performance and I think today he did that for large parts and unfortunately for him we had to change things after losing Santos and he’s ended up deeper, which doesn’t suit Louis and he’s done it for the team and that’s what it’s all about.”

Bath City finished the half on the front foot and found Henly in inspired form making another fine save with the last kick of the half.

Lines floated a free-kick in from the left, the ball was cleared towards the edge of the box where 12-goal striker Cody Cooke hit a right-footed half-volley towards the top left-hand corner, only for Henly to beat the ball away.

Saunders wanted more from his men during the second half.

He said: “Just to sharpen up all over the pitch, be better in possession. We’re not a side, you look at us size wise, we’re not a side that can just crash it up the pitch and win seconds because it’s not what we’re about. We haven’t got the players to do that.

“We’ve got a lot of experience out, a lot of our bigger players out so against some teams we need to be brighter and better on the ball.

“There were too many off it and when I mean off it, I mean doing the basics well, five-to-10-yard passes. We turned it over too much and against sides like Bath, you’ve got to be better and at half-time it was like ‘come on, we need to be better than what we’re being,’ and unfortunately we never really got to the levels we expect and the boys expect. Sometimes that happens and I can’t be too hard on them, they’re a young group that are learning.”

Bath City had a spell of playing out from the back and inside the opening 10 minutes, centre-half Kieran Parselle joined the attack within the final third before Cooke cut along the edge of the penalty area before his attempted curler towards the bottom far corner was comfortably gathered by the Tonbridge Angels keeper.

The introductions of Elliott Frear (59 minutes) and Rex Mannings (61) ensured Bath City controlled the vast majority of the second half.

However, Tonbridge Angels did create a couple of chances with Soares-Junior unleashing a right-footed angled drive while left in space some 30-yards out, which was comfortably held by Clarke at his near post.

Soares-Junior then played the ball out to left-back Craig Braham-Barrett, who cut into the Bath City penalty area but his shot was from a tight angle and Clarke fisted the ball towards safety at his near post.

“Ruben is a half-chance. He has hit it and he has got those distances in his locker,” added Saunders.

“If you actually look at Craig’s one, it’s a cross-come-shot. I think he’s caught in two minds and then they break on us and score.

“The disappointing thing for me is we’re in a good position, Craig’s in a great area and we made the wrong decision or execution and then they break on us and score and we spoke about being good behind the ball when we were in possession and we weren’t that today.”

Bath City deserved equalised with 17:58 on the clock, with a well-worked move after Gard was robbed off the ball down the left and the ball was worked towards the halfway line.

Greenslade played the ball into Alex Fletcher, who was in the centre of the pitch some 35-yards from goal and he fed the ball into the feet of Mannings.

Braham-Barrett slid in but was left out of position as Mannings stabbed his left-footed pass some six yards over to Hayfield, who was in space (as Braham-Barrett was out of position), who drilled his right-footed drive past the diving Henly into the bottom near corner from 18-yards.

Henly was beaten at his near-post for both of Bath City’s goals.

Saunders said: “Look, the boy struck it well. I thought it caught Johnny by surprise that he did shoot, I think he was expecting a cross but he struck it well.  Could Johnny have done better? I don’t know. I don’t want to be harsh on him because he had a good game.

“But at that point then you need a response and I felt for the next 10 minutes we went into our shell a bit and invited them on.

“They’re a good side. I’ll quite happily say they’re one of the best sides we’ve played. They’ve gone away from home and lost once this season so they’ve got a good away record.

“They’re two or three years really, if you’re looking at building sides, they’re probably ahead of us. They’ve got lads who have been there a few years.  They’ve got lads that know the level. We’ve got lads, if you’re really looking at it, we’ve probably got six or seven that haven’t played the level and are getting used to the level that are young lads who haven’t really played men’s football, so we’re at different stages and sometimes you come unstuck and today we’ve done that.

“I don’t want to batter the boys because they’ve been great for us this season and at half-time we were sitting seventh in the league when we were winning so it’s fine margins in this league.

“Today we’ve come up against a good side and got punished.  In league’s below you can get away with being off and not get punished.”

Bath City claimed the victory with 25:47 on the clock, following their fifth and final corner of the game.

Lines swung the ball in from the right and Tonbridge Angels failed to clear their lines at the near post and there was a posse of players and Fletcher stabbed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner and Saunders claimed there was a foul on his centre-half Ben Swift.

“I thought it was a foul on Swifty. I have to see it back.  I felt the initial contact was a foul on Swifty but then after that someone switched off and you can’t do that,” said Saunders.

“I’ll have to see it and if it’s not, it’s not, but we’ve got to be better. I said at half-time, (be first to the ball at) first and second phases (of set-pieces) and if you look at that, that’s the second phase and we haven’t been good enough. 

“If we hadn’t have done that then you don’t know, we could come in here (manager’s office) sitting with a point but we have switched off and they have scored.”

Lines floated a deep free-kick in from the right towards the back post where Parselle knocked the ball down from a tight angle and Henly spilt the ball but he managed to push the ball towards safety as winger-turned-central striker Scott Wilson flicked the ball towards goal.

Bath City were a threat down the right during the second half and Tonbridge Angels lacked quality in the attacking third, despite bringing on former Cheshunt striker Dajon Golding for his debut for the final 23 minutes.

“I thought he done alright.  It’s difficult coming in, in those circumstances at 2-1 down,” said Saunders.

“He is someone I’ve always quite liked and he’s always been a handful and we spoke about him pre-season and it never quite happened and he went to Cheshunt and when I heard that he had left I just thought he had something different to us up there.  He can play right across the front three but we quite like him centrally.

“He’s just different to Louis Collins, who is very much an in-behind striker and makes great runs.  We felt we need someone that really makes it stick and Dajon’s a really strong boy who can do that and he’s got a good goal return in general.  I think he had three in eight games for Cheshunt in a team that were right down there so he was just something different and when he became available I don’t think we could miss out on him, plus with all the injuries that we’ve got we needed to add.”

Bath City were resilient in defence, however, with centre-halves Parselle and Jordan Dyer slamming the door firmly shut.

Bath City were almost gifted a third goal at the death when Tonbridge Angels’ centre-halves Miles and Ben Swift exchanged passes on the half-way line but gave the ball away and Wilson’s attempted 40-yard chip was blocked by Henly’s chest while he was positioned just outside his penalty area inside the D.

Bath left 10 men behind the ball as Tonbridge Angels lacked desire to get on the end of Hinds’ superb delivery from the right, which was allowed to bounce inside the box before flashing behind for a goal-kick as Gill’s side came away with a deserved victory.

“Tariq put a ball in right at the end and it’s gone across and there’s three or four on the edge of the box, rather than gambling but I think that was us all day, just off it, just off it,” admitted Saunders.

“You’ve got to be better but we learn. We move on. It’s football. We can’t be too down and we’ve got a quick turnaround on Tuesday night.  My concern is making sure we’ve got enough bodies to get through it.”

Saunders takes his side over to Essex on Tuesday night to play bottom-four side Concord Rangers, inside relegation trouble with 14 points from their 15 games.  They suffered four league defeats without scoring but have since beaten Dover Athletic (3-0) and Chippenham Town (3-1).

Saunders said: “A tough place to go, always a tough place to go.  They’ve won two of their last three, they’ll be a big, strong team. I know Rob Small really well from when he was at Bowers & Pitsea and he’ll have them organised and they’ll be tough.

“They’ve got some good players, some ex-players, Ricky Modeste is down there so it will be tough but I can’t worry about the other team while we have to work out where we go and making sure that we’ve prepared right and look to bounce back.”

Alan Dowson’s Dartford sit proudly at the summit tonight with 40 points from 18 games, while the six play-off places are currently occupied by Ebbsfleet United (39 points from 15 games), Havant & Waterlooville (36 points from 16), Chelmsford City (33 points from 15), Braintree Town (29 points from 16), Bath City (28 points from 17) and St Albans City (26 points from 17).

Tonbridge Angels are only three points adrift of the Saints going into Tuesday night’s outing to Concord Rangers, who are inside the drop zone along with Hungerford Town (nine points from 17), Cheshunt (nine from 16) and Weymouth (five from 14).

“Look, I’m happy where we’ve been this season. If you count all the injuries we’ve had and everything we’ve had going against us, to be three points outside the play-offs, isn’t bad.

“The boys have been excellent, we’ve played some good football. We’re a new group and each week we’re a new side with the injuries.  There’s loads of positives and you’re always have to take the positives out of football.  There were some today.

“It’s easy to stand here and batter them, they weren’t good enough. We got beat by a better side today and you hold your hands up sometimes but you move on.”

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Tariq Hinds, Craig Braham-Barrett, Scott Wagstaff, Sonny Miles, Ben Swift, Ruben Soares-Junior (Dylan Gavin 84), Jeremy Santos-Hurado (Nathan Wood 45), Louis Collins, Lewis Gard, Solomon Kofi Tetteh-Quay Addy (Dajon Golding 67).
Subs: Jamie Fielding, Joe Tyrie

Goal: Louis Collins 38

Booked: Lewis Gard 79

Bath City: Ryan Clarke, Joe Raynes, Danny Greenslade, Chris Lines, Jordan Dyer, Kieran Parselle, Scott Wilson, Dan Hayfield, Cody Cooke (Elliott Frear 59), Luke Spokes (Rex Mannings 61), Alex Fletcher.
Subs: Jack Batten, James Morton, Jacob Jones

Goals: Dan Hayfield 63, Alex Fletcher 71

Booked: Joe Raynes 20, Chris Lines 69

Attendance: 988
Referee:  Mr Michael Robertson-Tant
Assistants: Mr Louis Dawson & Mr Paul Burnham