Tonbridge Angels 3-3 Slough Town - Three-nil up, you shouldn't be drawing games, especially at home, says livid Tonbridge Angels boss Jay Saunders

Saturday 07th January 2023
Tonbridge Angels 3 – 3 Slough Town
Location Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3JF
Kickoff 07/01/2023 15:00

Vanarama National League South
Saturday 7 January 2023
Stephen McCartney reports from Longmead Stadium

TONBRIDGE ANGELS manager Jay Saunders says his side’s poor defending needs addressing after throwing away a three-goal interval lead against Slough Town at a windy Longmead Stadium.

The Angels went into this Vanarama National League South game on the back of three defeats, having lost to Weymouth (0-5) and Welling United (0-1 and 1-2), while Scott Davies’ side gained four festive points from their local rivals Oxford City.

With only one win in their last seven games, clinical Tonbridge Angels were in a commanding position at the break.

On-loan striker Jordan Greenidge notched a brace, taking his tally up to seven goals for the club, sandwiched by a volley from central midfielder Devonte Aransibia, his fourth goal for the club.

However, the outstanding Matthew Lench, 30, pulled a goal back for Slough Town with a sublime 35-yarder, before the dominant visitors’ levelled with 14 minutes remaining through Johnny Goddard’s fourth goal of the season, before Aldershot Town loanee, striker Francis Amartey drilled in a deserved equaliser.

“Livid, to be honest, (to be) 3-0 up, I think conditions played a part if you’re looking at probably two of their goals but it’s no excuse.  Three-nil up, you shouldn’t be drawing games especially at home,” said Saunders.

“I think defensively that sums us up over the course of the season, not good enough!  People letting themselves down, so I’m very, very disappointed.

“Look, let’s get it right, defensively all afternoon we were poor and I’ve really got to look at it.  They could’ve been 2-0 up after five minutes and then we get ourselves into a good position, go 3-0 up but at the end of the day defensively all season people individually have not been good enough  and it’s something that needs to be addressed!”

Tonbridge Angels have slipped down a place into eleventh with 34 points from 26 games – eight points adrift of the play-off zone – while the Rebels remain in 18th position with 25 points from 25 games, two points clear of the relegation zone that contains Concord Rangers, Cheshunt, Weymouth and Hungerford Town.

Slough Town lined up with a 5-3-2 formation during the first half and Tonbridge Angels created their first opening after only 73 seconds when Aransibia cracked a left-footed half-volley screaming past the far post when found in space some 35-yards from goal.

However, Slough Town started to dominate proceedings with Davies’ pulling the strings while sitting in front of their three central defenders of Luca Woodhouse (left), Lee Togwell (central) and Matt Hall (right).

Davies was inside his half when his sublime through ball split open Tonbridge Angels’ two central defenders of Sonny Miles and the recalled Ben Swift to put through striker Ogo Obi but goalkeeper Jonathan Henly narrowed the angle and stuck out his leg to make a vital save with only 234 seconds into the game.

Saunders said:  “It’s poor! We had to make a change in the defensive line-up with Tariq Hinds coming in for Craig Braham-Barrett (at left-back) for personal reasons but our two centre-halves (Ben Swift and Sonny Miles) have played together enough this year and that was embarrassing! The ball straight down the middle and they’ve both miss-read it.  Johnny’s made a couple of good saves.  Defensively, all afternoon, we weren’t good enough!”

Tonbridge Angels failed to heed the warning as Slough Town created another one-v-one chance just 115 seconds later.

This time Hall clipped a long ball out of defence and Swift failed to cut out and let Obi through on goal but the angle was tight and Henly narrowed the angle to make another vital block at his near post.

Armartey twisted and turned Aransibia on the right and played the ball inside to Lench, whose first time swept shot from 25-yards took a deflection and Henly made a comfortable collection as Slough Town dominated the early proceedings.

Tonbridge Angels three midfielders of Lewis Gard, Aransibia and Scott Wagstaff were overrun in the key battleground as no one pressed Davies as he ran through the heart of the pitch before releasing Obi on the outside but the goal-less striker’s attempt on goal was poor and dropped over the top of the far post from a tight angle.

But Tonbridge Angels grabbed the lead – totally against the run of play – with a clinical finish from Greenidge with 19 minutes and 37 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Tariq Hinds played the ball into Wagstaff, who fed Gard, who rolled the ball on the outside over to Jamie Fielding.

The right-back took a touch before floated a cross towards the near post where targetman Greenidge nipped in front of Togwell to bury his downward header into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards.

“We scored three decent goals today but that’s not my concern.  They’ve done their job at that end of the pitch,” said Saunders.

“I’ve said for the last few weeks we were good against Welling without taking our chances.  We’ve taken our chances today but the other end you’ve got to keep a clean sheet.  You shouldn’t need three goals at home to get a point.”

The way that grey-shirted Slough Town were getting in was concerning Saunders and Henly made another smart save in the 22nd minute, only for referee Callum Walchester to award the home side a goal-kick rather than a corner for the visitors’.

Goddard’s ball along the deck released Amartey in behind and his swept shot was touched behind by Henly, who was very good at coming out and narrowing the angle during the first-half after Slough Town’s balls were often played in behind Hinds and Swift.

Tonbridge Angels should have snatched a second goal, however, in the 29th minute.

A quality delivery came in from Gard’s right-footed set-piece delivery down the left towards a crowded back post where Greenidge guided his header just past the far post.

Woodhouse had his pocket picked by Jack Wood inside his own defensive third and the Tonbridge Angels wide-right striker ran into the box but his one-v-one shot was saved by the onrushing Rhys Forster, who grabbed hold of the ball at the second attempt.

“I thought that was Woody’s quietest game for us to be honest. He worked hard but his end product wasn’t there today,” admitted Saunders.

“Look, that’s not my concern, that end of the pitch we’ve done our jobs today. We’ve worked on things this week that we felt we could hurt them, that’s worked but the other end, you’ve got to keep clean-sheets and that’s my big thing.”

Slough Town once again cut open Miles and Swift in the 40th minute but Obi cut the ball onto his left-foot and his 25-yarder from a central position took a deflection and looped just over the crossbar.

But clinical Tonbridge Angels grabbed a second goal with 43 minutes and 56 seconds on the clock on the counter-attack.

Aransibia clipped a long ball up to Greenidge, whose first time hook was played out to otherwise quiet Joe Turner out on the left and he whipped in a great cross into the six-yard box for Aransibia to prod his left-footed volley across the keeper to find the bottom far corner.

“Look, Devonte broke it up and he’s drove and he’s done well,” said Saunders.

“First half we probably could’ve scored another couple on top of that but we didn’t do that.  We shouldn’t have to score four goals to win a game at home!”

Tonbridge Angels snatched their third goal on the counter-attack just 41 seconds into time added on.

Gard swept the ball out to Turner, who played a low 20-yard pass into the left-channel back to Gard, whose great movement was not tracked by the Slough Town defence.

Gard put in on a plate from close to the left by-line for Greenidge to nip in front of Togwell to poke his first-time shot into the bottom left-hand corner from inside the six-yard box.

Saunders said: “It was a great goal. We knew in wide areas we could hurt them and we’ve done that, that’s pleasing.  That side, we’ve worked a lot on this week but it’s the defensive side we’ve really got to look at.”

Davies pulled off a tactical masterstroke at the interval and sacrificed right-wing-back Gabriel George and switched formation to 4-1-2-3 with Josh Jackman switching to right-back with Hall and Togwell in the heart of defence and Woodhouse slotting in at left-back.

Elliot Benyon came off the bench to play in the heart of a front three with Obi (left) and Amartey (right).

“We kind of said (at half-time) they were going to put us under pressure,” said Saunders.

“We knew they were 2-0 down against Oxford last week and came back to two-all. We knew with the conditions what they were going to do.  They changed shape and went three up front and went a bit more direct and it worked for them.”

Lench took the game by the scruff of the neck and dominated the middle of the park for Slough Town and the central midfielder put in a vastly impressive performance.

Jackman played the ball into Lench, whose left-footed drive was destined for the bottom near corner from 25-yards, only for Henly to make a comfortable pick-up beside the foot of the post after only 99 seconds.

Tonbridge Angels only created a couple of goalscoring chances during a lacklustre second half performance.

Wood escaped from within a crowd of three Slough Town players close to the centre-circle before racing into the penalty area before dragging his left-footed shot across keeper Forster and past the far post shortly afterwards.

“I said to him when he came off, he didn’t need to take that shot and I felt he could’ve kept going and they’re key moments. At that point you go 4-0 and it’s game over, it’s done, but we didn’t,” added Saunders.

Slough Town started their salvage act by pulling a goal back with five minutes and three seconds on the clock.

Obi played a short pass in from the left wing to Lench, who was not pressed and had time and space to unleash a sublime right-footed drive screaming into the top right-hand corner from 35-yards, past Henly’s despairing dive.

“At that point you’ve got to manage the game well. You’ve got to be better on the ball, we went sloppy on the ball and we kept turning over possession and they started picking up seconds and then the lad’s hit a great strike and that changed the game, I suppose,” admitted Saunders.

“Matthew Lench is a good player. I thought he was good today. I thought first half we controlled the midfield. I thought second half they got on top of it and whether again that’s the conditions, I don’t know, but it’s not an excuse but second half certainly midfield wise they got a grip of it better than we did.

“It was a great strike but you’ve got to get out to the ball quicker and I think if you look at their second goal it’s very similar, different sort of finish but we haven’t put pressure on the ball.”

Goddard and Lench linked up well inside the Tonbridge half and the angle was too tight for Amartey, who drove his shot into the base of the side netting, just before the hour-mark.

But the momentum was with Slough Town and after Tonbridge Angels’ cleared their lines, the loose ball came out to Togwell, who cracked a right-footed drive screaming just past the right-hand post from 40-yards.

Lench ran at the home side’s defence before hitting a right-footed drive which was gathered by Henly at the second attempt at the halfway point, as Tonbridge Angels struggled to create anything at the other end with first-half threat Greenidge now isolated.

“At 3-1, you kind of know it (their first goal) gives them a leg up but at that point then you’ve got to get control of the ball again and be better in possession and we didn’t.  We went sloppy, and we didn’t deal well enough and it gave them a leg up,” added the former Margate boss.

With Davies now slotting in at left-back after Woodhouse pulled up with an injury inside the final 20 minutes, Slough Town were the more likely side to score the next goal.

It arrived with 30 minutes and 33 seconds on the clock when an unmarked Lench hit a long ball up towards the edge of the Tonbridge penalty area and no one pressed Goddard, who took a sublime first touch before drilling a right-footed shot into the bottom far corner from 22-yards.

“Really poor! I think out of all three goals that was probably the most disappointing one because he’s on the edge of our box, he’s allowed to turn and literally pick his spot. I think he side-footed it,” said Saunders.

“It’s embarrassing that the lad was allowed to do that. I always say how often do teams allow us to do that at the other end and the facts are not very often.  We’ve hard to work for our three goals today and we’ve handed theirs on a plate.”

Dominant Slough Town kept knocking on the door and Lench rolled a free-kick over to substitute Louis Walsh, who whipped in a left-footed cross from the left which sailed over Henly’s left-shoulder and the ball kissed the top of the crossbar and Tonbridge Angels survived the scare.

Saunders wanted leadership out on the pitch, adding, “You need to have strong characters.  You need to sort to settle down and get back on the ball, pass it and do what we’re good at and do what was causing them problems – and we didn’t.

“We went into our shell – too many of them – and that’s something that disappoints me because I felt we were better characters.

“Maybe the fact we’re on the back of three defeats, I think, maybe doesn’t help. If we’re winning games I think you kind of find it a little bit easier to deal with but we didn’t and at that point at 3-2 you half expect what’s coming.

“I’ve been involved in games over the years as a manager and as a player when the tide turns like that, it gives them that little bit of hunger to go and win it and on the day where we wasn’t good enough defensively, they always had that chance.”

However, Slough Town deservedly completed their comeback with the sixth goal of the game, timed at 34:32 on the clock.

Amartey latched onto Greenidge’s give-away and drove through the heart of the pitch before drilling a right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 22-yards, leaving Henly rooted to the spot.

“It was poor from Swifty. He gets dragged into the hole. If you’re going to go in there you can’t allow the lad to turn and that happened two or three times today, not just Swifty and once he runs you’ve got to narrow up.  The full-backs have got to narrow in and the other centre-half has got to narrow up and we didn’t and he runs through and then he picks his spot.

“It’s a poor goal, it’s a poor goal. The first goal I can half give the lad credit and I can half say to the boys ‘ok, it’s happened, it’s a great strike,’ but the second and third goal was not acceptable and you can’t win games of football conceding goals like that!”

The home fans rallied their battered troops at this stage of the game and Saunders’ men offered a late rally.

Two players whom were playing Isthmian League South East Division football for Ashford United (Tommie Fagg) and Sevenoaks Town (Louis Collins) last season, came off the bench for late cameos.

Fagg swept the ball out to Greenidge on the right, who cut inside and played the ball back to Fagg, who lacked quality on the edge of the box and lashed his left-footed drive high over the crossbar.

“We suddenly spring to life again and start causing a few problems, without any real end product,” admitted Saunders, who was asked why Greenidge offered no threat at all during the second half.

“I think second half Slough kind of went a bit more direct, which you kind of expect because they were chasing the game but we’ve got to be brave enough to still get on the ball.

“The boys at the back went missing, they didn’t want to get on the ball from goal-kicks and we started going long and everything up to Jordan becomes a fight ball.  If you’re looking at balls into Jordan in the first half they were played in with quality and he’s able to deal with it.

“If you’re just going to boot things up to him it’s hard, no matter how big you are.  If you look at it, Jordan’s done his job today, he’s scored two goals. Can he be better? Yes, but he’s scored two goals.

“It’s the other end of the pitch that’s cost us.  We keep harping on about not being good enough in both boxes but the facts are we weren’t good enough in one box today.”

Tonbridge Angels welcome Tommy Warrilow back to Longmead Stadium for a friendly match on Tuesday night.  Ashford United are in fifth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division table with 35 points from 21 games and beat Burgess Hill Town 3-2 at Homelands Stadium today.

Saunders then takes his side to sixth-placed St Albans City on Saturday.  David Noble’s side have picked up 42 points from their 25 games and are in the play-off zone and lost 2-1 at Oxford City today.

When asked if Saunders can bring in new players, the Angels boss replied: “It’s something I’ll look at. I’ve used more players than I would’ve liked this year and that’s mainly because of injuries but if I feel that people can’t do what I’m asking them and there’s people that can, yes, I’ll look at it.”

Saunders revealed: “Louis Collins has been ill so he only kind of had probably about 10-15 minutes in him, he’s had a chest infection so it kind of limited us a little bit but we’ve got a game on Tuesday to get some minutes into some of these boys that need it.

“The likes of Tom Parkinson, Ruben Soares-Junior, Tommie Fagg, there’s loads of them that need minutes and it’s tough to get a competitive game so it will be good for them.”

The Angels, meanwhile, have scored 37 league goals this season but have leaked 44 and must improve defensively if they are to close the eight-point gap for a play-off grab in their final 20 league games of the season.

“Not defending the way we are.  I think you only have to look at stats. We’ve won one less game than Tonbridge got last season but the facts are we’ve conceded far too many goals this season.

“We should be sitting with more points but we give goals away every week and until that stops we’re not going to win.

“My thing has been to get to 45 points, know you’re safe (from relegation), you should be a bit nearer to the play-offs and then we’ll have a go from there.

“One win in eight, it does look cr*p but it’s a tough league and it can happen in this league. Look at Ebbsfleet, the side they’ve got and the budget and everything (now in third, 51 points, six points behind leaders Dartford but with three games in hand).

“It’s a tough league to get a run of results so when you’re 3-0 up in games like today, you have to take your chances and get your three points.”

Saunders’ side lost 2-1 at home to St Albans City back in glorious August and travel to Hertfordshire on a run of four without a win.

“Tough game, they’re a good side.  They had change of manager, David Noble’s gone in there and he’s done really well, so it’s going to be difficult but we’ve got to dust ourselves down, prepare this week and go again.”

Tonbridge Angels: Jonathan Henly, Jamie Fielding, Tariq Hinds, Scott Wagstaff, Sonny Miles, Ben Swift, Joe Turner, Devonte Aransibia, Jordan Greenidge (Louis Collins 89), Lewis Gard (Tommie Fagg 85), Jack Wood (Ruben Soares-Junior 65).
Subs: Craig Braham-Barrett, Tom Parkinson

Goals: Jordan Greenidge 20, 45, Devonte Aransibia 44

Booked: Ruben Soares-Junior 66

Slough Town: Rhys Forster, Josh Jackman, Gabriel George (Elliot Benyon 46), Lee Togwell, Matt Hall, Luca Woodhouse (George Hunt 71), Matthew Lench, Scott Davies, Ogo Obi (Louis Walsh 59), Francis Amartey, Johnny Goodard.
Subs: Nicky Gyimah, Imran Kayani

Goals: Matthew Lench 51, Johnny Goddard 76, Francis Amartey 80

Booked: Lee Togwell 29, Luca Woodhouse 53, Scott Davies 68, Matt Hall 85

Attendance: 853
Referee: Mr Callum Walchester
Assistants: Mr Christopher Poole & Mr Billy Woods

ARTICLE UPDATE:  09/01/2023

The proposed friendly match between Tonbridge Angels and Ashford United metioned above has now been cancelled and Faversham Town will be visiting Longmead Stadium instead.