Tunbridge Wells P-P Bearsted - It's been quite a long season but we've still got almost a third of it to play, says frustrated Tunbridge Wells boss Steve Ives

Tuesday 26th March 2024
Tunbridge Wells Bearsted
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 26/03/2024 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 26 March 2024
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Steve Ives says it has been a frustrating last couple of games after tonight’s Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division clash against play-off chasing Bearsted was postponed at around 80 minutes before the scheduled kick-off.

The club secretary was contacted by this website at one o’clock this afternoon to ask whether there will be a pitch inspection but there were no issues with the playing surface at Culverden Stadium.

Despite the groundsman forking the pitch, match referee Howard Collins inspected the surface upon his arrival and deemed it to be waterlogged and the League will have to re-arrange the fixture ahead of the final day of the season on Saturday 27 April.

Tunbridge Wells still have 11 games left to play, while Bearsted have seven.

“I think it’s the second time we’ve tried to get this game on, in fairness, the rain didn’t really start until about four o’clock, so you can’t call the game off until the pitch is unfit and when it’s happened so last minute like that, what can you do,” said Ives.

Bearsted manager Kevin Stevens added: “It’s always horrible travelling, getting all the way here but in the groundsman’s defence he said it wasn’t like it at half three ish but there’s two horrible areas that not only does the ball not bounce, for players’ safety, I don’t think you can play it, so right call by the referee.”

Tunbridge Wells’ game away to Snodland Town on Saturday was postponed after the 90th minute after the home side had four players sent-off.

Jack Bath, Francis Babalola, Jordan Wells and substitute Tariq Ibraham (listed in alphabetical and not chronological order) were all sent-off and Rob Bissett was sin-binned during the fixture at Potyn’s.

The score was 0-0 at the time and Ives is keen for a swift decision to be made by the League as to the final outcome.  Snodland Town are likely to be fined heavily by The Football Association.

“I think it ain’t really my place to comment too much on that. I don’t think it was a particular bad game.  We’ve only had two yellow cards throughout the duration,” recalled Ives.

“We get on well with a lot of the Snodland players.  A lot of them played here last season. We were all drinking in the bar afterwards, so it wasn’t a war but it’s probably more a question for Snodland. I can’t really represent them on that.

“But from my point of view, I’m just frustrated because at the very least it looked like we were going to get a point and now there’s a bit of talk we may have to replay it, which I think will be a joke personally.

“I think we played three minutes of stoppage time, plus whatever the referee would’ve added on for the red cards.

“I definitely don’t want to replay it, not with our fixture congestion!

“Before the game, I probably would’ve taken an away point. I think we would consider that acceptable with the situation as it was.

“Bare in mind, they (the match officials) indicated there was going to be eight minutes of stoppage time. We only played three of them and the additional red cards, I would’ve thought would have added at least a couple or three minutes onto that, so we’ve potentially lost the opportunity to play seven or eight or maybe 10 minutes against seven men.  Obviously, that’s quite disappointing.

“If they said to me we can go back there and play 10 minutes against seven men, I’d take that right now, yes.”

Tunbridge Wells travel to Lydd Town on Saturday, before travelling to bottom-of-the-table Welling Town on Easter Monday.  Both games kicking off at 15:00.

“We’ve really had a tough run really.  We drew with Lydd here so I think we’re capable of being competitive against anyone,” said Ives.

“We’re going to end up with a hell of a lot of games in a very short space of time.

“It’s going to be a squad game, that’s the one thing I’ve been saying to the boys.

“I was going to rotate a little bit after Saturday, so I think we’re probably going to have two weeks where we’re going to play three games, so between our squad, which is pretty much fit and healthy – Jack Walder got injured on Saturday - but other than that we’re fit and healthy.”

Ives revealed he will dip into the under 23 squad and give them minutes in the ninth-tier of English football.

“I’ve got a matchday 16 players, probably another four, so that’s 20 (players), plus the good thing the under 23’s are all starting to knock on the door.

“I went to watch them in their Kent Intermediate Cup Semi-Final last night at Sheppey United (a 4-1 defeat) and Ned Lewis’s been playing for us recently.  Jack Gallagher has been in our squad.  There’s another two or three of the boys that are registered for us as well, so it might well be they will get a little bit more action.

“I guess that’s the beauty of our situation. We can blood some of the boys.”

Tunbridge Wells are in sixteenth-place in the pecking order, having picked up 39 points (eight wins, seven draws and 14 defeats) this season.

“Just to wind back to the Lordswood game, at that point we had 42 points to play for and we were optimistically looking at eleventh or twelfth.  I think the jump to (12th placed) Fisher, we’d have to really have to go for it to take Fisher, they seem to be in very good form as well.

“We just want to finish as high as we can. It’s been a bit of a disappointing season. A lot of stuff going on, which is outside of our control and as a group, we want to finish as strong as we can.”

When asked when his club will replace the clubhouse, Ives replied: “That’s above my pay-grade.  I believe it’s still awaiting the Council to sign off the new lease but you probably need to speak to a club official.

“I just think it effects the whole running of the club, at the end of the day.  Everything costs money doesn’t it, from lights to water to refurbing the changing rooms to refurbing the pitch.

“Without having a clubhouse on match days – look at us, we’re standing out here in the rain. We’d be in there if it was there.  The club used to hire it out for functions, obviously we’ve lost that revenue stream.

“Supporters who might have come to the game an hour before (kick-off) are now coming maybe 10 minutes before and then they’re quite quick to get away, rightly so.  Why would you want to stand in the rain?

“On top of that, the pitch. It’s been a really wet winter and just losing the momentum of not having those home games, the home games are where you get your revenue and it’s a double whammy really.

“There’s no point crying about it. It’s been quite a long season but we’ve still almost got a third of it to play, so we’ve just got to keep on going.

“The one thing I will say, the boys have been fantastic.  They’re frustrated, who wouldn’t be frustrated at turning up to a ground to be told the game’s off. It’s happened to all of us but that’s frustrating but the spirit still remains good.  The group is close.

“I think the boys’ know what a big club this is. They’ve got good affiliation with the supporters’, which is massive and I think everyone wants to do well for the football club but there are certain things which make it a little bit harder than it perhaps it could be.

“We ain’t a million miles away. We’ve just had a rut from late September to November where my whole first choice midfield, which at the time was Jack Walder, Luke Leppard and Billy Lewins were injured.  Goalkeeper George Bentley broke his hand, a couple of them had a few things going on off the pitch.  We just lost our momentum and that’s sort of frustrated us really.”

Both managers were asked about today’s news that Glebe chairman Rocky McMillan has parted company with joint-managers Craig Nelson and Danny Oakins after 68 games in charge at Foxbury Avenue.

The Chislehurst outfit lost their top-of-the-table clash at Deal Town 4-2 at the weekend and Steve King’s side reached the summit following their 1-0 win over Welling Town tonight.

Billy Munday notched his 17th goal of the season to ensure Welling Town remain in the sole relegation berth going into their final seven games, two points adrift of Rusthall, with a game in hand.

Ives said: “I don’t know the ins and outs but non-league is a crazy place. We’ve all got our stories that we make public. We’ve all got our stories that we keep in house and the one thing it never is, is dull, I suppose.

“I know how much we all put in as manager’s and I feel desperately for anyone who gets relieved of their job and I also know sometimes getting relieved of your job is a relief because it puts you through the mental ringer but we all do it because we love it.

“I’m sure the Glebe guys will be back because they were fantastic and they were playing a really good brand of football, so I’m sure they won’t be out of the game for long.”

Stevens, who has been in charge of 426 Bearsted games, added: “That’s a tough one.  I know Rocky well.  I’ve got all of the respect for Rocky, he does what he does.

“A bit of a shock today.  They were top and I think personally Glebe were a very good side. We played them twice in quick succession and were really good, definitely will be in the play-offs, 100%. It’s a little bit of a shock but that’s football, I suppose.”

When asked how he has lasted so long in football management, Stevens replied: “Do you know what, you’ve got to enjoy it. I think the expectations, we’re seen as little old Bearsted, so expectations are never that high.  Although me particularly and then the management team, we want to do well every season and get better and better.

“We’ve achieved that already this season, breaking our points total.

“You’ve just got to enjoy it and get players in. I feel we build a good team every year and we compete every year.

“We play decent football, it’s not like how some like to do it but I like to play the style we play in and all the time you enjoy it, the players’ will enjoy it.”

Bearsted sit in eighth-place in the table, having picked up 56 points (16 wins, eight draws and nine defeats) and they travel to Snodland Town on Easter Monday on a six match winless run.

Luke Wallond’s side are a place beneath the Bears on 55 points from 31 games and will be without the quartet that were sent off against Tunbridge Wells last weekend because suspensions kick in seven days after the offence.

“It will be a tough one. They’re a good side, obviously going for play-offs as well, so it will be a tough game,” warned Stevens.

“They play their pitch well, got some decent players. I like the way they play.

“Listen we’re full of confidence. We’ve had three draws the last three games but actually have been the better side in my opinion, in all three of those games.  We just haven’t put the ball in the back of the net, so hopefully that will change on Monday when we play Snodland.”

Deal Town are top of the pile with 73 points from 30 games, with 10 league games remaining and with six games in hand on Glebe.

Managerless Glebe have slipped down to second-place with 73 points from 36 games and are in the play-off zone along with Corinthian (70 points from 34 games), Faversham Town (65 points from 34 games) and Erith Town (62 points from 33 games).

Adam Woodward’s side claimed a 2-1 home win over Holmesdale at Bayliss Avenue tonight.

Whitstable Town (58 points from 34 games), Lydd Town (56 points from 32 games), Bearsted (56 points from 33 games), Snodland Town (55 points from 31 games) and Punjab United (52 points from 30 games) are all in the play-off picture going into Easter and the business end of the season.

Stevens said: “We’ve got seven games to go, if we win them, I think you’ll probably get in to the play-offs but there’s other teams that will be thinking that.  Some good sides, really good sides, who are fighting for that place. I’m just hoping it’s going to be us.

“It will be a great achievement for us. We’re ahead of ourselves where we want to be but that’s taking nothing away from the management and the boys, who have put an awful lot in to get us in and around the play-offs.

“It will be a great achievement for the club but it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t happen.

“We’ve been building for next season. This season was building for next season. Looking forward to seeing what happens but it’s not the end of the world.”

Stevens was asked about the planned ground improvements at Honey Lane.

“It’s going to happen. We’re just waiting to get things finalised from the Football Foundation but it will be happening.

“Everything’s moving in the right direction. A new 3G pitch, a new clubhouse will happen, probably season 2025, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Tunbridge Wells:






Referee: Mr Howard Collins
Assistants: Mr Stephen Luke & Mr Alan King
Observer:  Mr John Paton