Tunbridge Wells 3-2 Erith Town - It's my job to make our team not spineless, says furious Erith Town boss Adam Woodward

Tuesday 30th November 2021
Tunbridge Wells 3 – 2 Erith Town
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 30/11/2021 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Tuesday 30 November 2021
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

FURIOUS Erith Town manager Adam Woodward says his players were "spineless" after throwing away a two-goal lead and questioned their heart and desire and have told them to report to cancel their plans and to report for training on Wednesday night.

The Dockers were on course to leapfrog over Chatham Town into third-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table after left-wing-back Tolulope Jonah and striker Michael Power, 38, scored at Culverden Stadium, but the home side fought back and clinically scored three goals inside the final 25 minutes to move into seventh-place.

Left-back James Nurden started the comeback before substitute striker Euan Sahadow came off the bench to finish off a well-worked move before striker Matthew Gething notched his 15th goal of the season with an emphatic penalty with three minutes remaining.

“Spineless. Spineless. Embarrassing, not good enough and yes there’s not many more words I can say,” fumed Woodward.

“We melted, completely melted.  They put a bit of pressure on us, a few people starting shouting from the crowd and they just fell apart and we conceded.

“There’s too many people just making excuses and to be honest I’m fed up with it and I can’t accept that. 

“I defend these players to the f******, oh sorry, excuse me, I defend these players to the hilt with everyone within this football club. I can’t defend what I’ve seen tonight.

“We should be winning tonight. You’re 2-0 up, we shouldn’t be letting in three goals, simple as.  We haven’t kept a clean-sheet in seven games now, so we were on a run of keeping loads of clean-sheets and we haven’t now and we’ve let in five (in two games). 

“A few people need to take, not just the defence, across the whole team, a look in the mirror because there were some poor performances again tonight.”

“Holmesdale won’t be easy, that won’t be easy. We’ll be in tomorrow now. We were going to have the night off but they’ll be in tomorrow and we’ll be going through what we went through tonight.  We’ll be in because we’ve just pressed the self-destruct button. If they want to waste my time, then I’ll waste theirs.”

Reflecting on the performance of Tom Ash, who played on the left-hand-side of his three-man defence, Woodward said: “Tom Ash was exceptional. The only one who had a pair of b******* really if I’m honest. He played like an absolute man really and he’s got people around him in that changing room and think if a 17-year-old can lead this team then there’s a problem.  I also think we’ve got a good bunch of kids here that are showing that they’ve got more heart and desire than some people who have played over 200 games at this level.”

Tunbridge Wells manager Richard Styles added: “You get what you deserve. You get what you work for, you get what you earn, I’m a big believe in that.  You get, not every game, if you work hard enough and play the way you want to play, you get what you deserve more often than not and today is a prime example.

“Credit to my boys for their mentality and never say die attitudes.  They gave us everything and more. They gave me everything that I believe they have. We were not happy drawing the game after being 2-0 down but to have that desire and that belief to get us over the line. We’ve turned that corner recently exceptionally well.

“I was not happy (being 2-0 down), they thought they had won it at that point, you could see it.  Their players, their dug-out, they thought that was it, you could see the celebration. I looked on the clock, 63 minutes I turned round to Paul Emerson in the dug-out and he said there’s 27 minutes left, there’s a long way to go. If we can get one, funnily enough James Nurden scored.”

Erith Town were profligate in front of goal when good chances came their way, the first coming after 173 seconds into the game.

Central midfielder Jason Goodchild played the ball inside to Malik Nosike and the holding midfielder travelled over the halfway line with the ball before splitting open Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Jack Hope with a through ball along the deck but Harry Gamble wasted the chance when his left-footed shot was blocked by the advancing Aaron Lee-Wharton.

“Pass back, it’s a pass back. It was a comfortable save. It weren’t even hard really, but yet again it’s another chance that we haven’t scored,” said Woodward.

Styles added: “He should score. Poor marking from the midfield, we switched off too early and the lad has got in and luckily it was probably on his left-foot and not his right.”

Erith Town goalkeeper Jack Moore then pulled off a fine save to prevent the home side taking the lead just 147 seconds later.

A side who like to take short corners with wingers Regan Corke and Kyron Lightfoot, the ball was cleared out to Connor Pring, who played a one-two with Johnny Phillips before drilling a right-footed shot towards the top near corner from 20-yards, only for Moore to palm the ball over his crossbar by using both of his outstretched hands.

Styles said: “I said to their dug-out and Woody and said that should’ve been one-all because they should’ve scored theirs and we should’ve scored that one and that sort of nullified that really.”

Woodward added: “Good save. To be fair, we were under the cosh for about 15-20 minutes. It was a good save from Jack.  They had a lot of possession and we went and scored against-the-run-of-play really.”

Tunbridge Wells then started to dominate possession and played the game at a very high tempo for the first 25 minutes, pleasing Styles.

“The first 25 minutes, I thought we were very good, very, very good. We were good on the ball, we were sharp, we were moving it and we were creating chances and there was only one thing missing and obviously that was a goal.”

Hitting Erith Town on the counter-attack, Phillips released Corke, who found a pocket of space in behind the Dockers’ back three but he dragged his right-footed shot across Moore and past the foot of the far post from 18-yards.

Tunbridge Wells were patient and calmly played their way out of a sticky hole close to their own by-line before Pring played the ball up to Phillips, who swept a first time pass out to Nurden and he played the ball inside for Phillips, who sliced his left-footed shot past the near post when put through on goal.

However, Erith Town grabbed the lead, totally against-the-run-of-play in the 19th minute from a well-worked set-piece.

Right-wing-back Daniel Nash raised both his arms before taking the left-wing corner, which Power tried to score from an overhead kick.  However, Daniel Palfrey knocked the ball across the face of goal for Jonah to flick his header underneath the crossbar from inches from the goal-line at the back post.

“I thought to be honest with you, if anyone came out with any credit tonight it’s probably Michael Power and Tom Ash,” said Woodward.

“It’s alright scoring goals, if you don’t defend then it don’t matter. I was pleased, it was a little bit against-the-run-of-play but they had a lot of possession and a lot of chances and other than Jack making that save, it was f*** all else.”

Styles added: “We’re fully aware what their like from set-pieces and corners and we wanted to limit that as much as we possibly could.

“Jack Hope knows he probably should’ve not tried to see it out and he should’ve cleared his lines and he doesn’t and then you get punished.

“We didn’t need to react, we didn’t need to panic and we had to get the ball and go again because I thought we were completely on top.”

Power and his 12-goal strike partner Steadman Callender linked up well and Callender was tackled by Hope inside the penalty area and the ball ran through to an unmarked Nash, who drilled his first-time shot past the foot of the near post from 15-yards.

Nosike then had two bites of the cherry to score, his left-footed shot was blocked inside the box and his right-footed effort brought a flying save from Lee-Wharton, high to his left to push the ball over the crossbar for the away side’s second and final corner of the night in the 29th minute.

Woodward added that his side “didn’t capitalise on that,” and “we didn’t take our chances,” which was a theme during the game.

Styles added: “A great save from Aaron, like I say, the best keeper in this league and when he’s called upon he does that.  You get points from that over the course of the season. I thought it was a good strike but Aaron was comfortable-ish getting it.  I wasn’t happy about we’ve given the ball away at that point, which was the disappointing thing but the main thing was they didn’t score.”

The game then turned into an end-to-end game of basketball with Tunbridge Wells going close from a set-piece from the right.

Corke whipped the ball in towards the near post for Gething to find a pocket of space to glance his header across the keeper and just past the far post.

“It’s another chance and there’s been plenty and plenty of them. It was another chance and on another day Geth scores that and he knows that,” added Styles.

Moore’s resulting goal-kick ended in Erith Town being wasteful again as just 45 seconds later Callender swept a weak right-footed shot across Lee-Wharton from the edge of the box which was comfortably smothered low to the keeper’s right.

Tunbridge Wells suffered similar fate inside the final five minutes after Erith Town lost the ball and Corke fed Phillips with a through ball but his left-footed shot rolled into Moore’s gloves.

Both managers were asked their thoughts at the interval.

Styles said: “I didn’t have to say a lot.  I think it was pretty self-explanatory. The boys knew we’ve been on top, we were playing well and we’ve created chances. There was one thing missing and that was goals. Unfortunately, we didn’t get one before half-time.

“We knew coming out second half if we can get into their half we can get some joy.  I Always believe we will create chances and that we will score goals and our record this season shows that.”

Woodward added: “We were 1-0 up really against-the-run-of-play but if you just listen and follow instructions we’ll see this game out quite comfortably and I thought after that first 15 minutes of the second half we (didn’t).

The pace of the game during the second half died down but Erith Town wasted a glorious chance to change the outcome of the game just two and a half minutes in.

Callender’s pacey run saw the striker run towards the penalty area before he played the ball through to an unmarked Goodchild, who slipped at the wrong time and sliced his right-footed shot wide of the right-hand post with only the goalkeeper to beat.

“Another chance. It needs to go in the back of the net, simple as,” came Woodward’s short reply.

Styles admitted: “He sliced it at the right time for us and the wrong time for them but they punished us straight after that.”

The game then turned into a scrappy midfield battle before Erith Town doubled their lead in the 59th minute.

Nosike was in a central position inside the Tunbridge Wells half and he played the ball out to Nash, in space on the right touchline close to the half-way-line.

He floated in a cross towards the near post, which was superbly brought under control by Callender, who turned and swept a low shot across the keeper and watched the ball kiss the base of the far post and Power drilled his first-time shot into the bottom left-hand corner to score his eighth goal of the season.

“A good goal from Shags (Power).  I thought he was really good tonight. He lead the line well, did really well,” said Woodward.

“I still thought we were under the cosh a little bit and I was still a bit worried about the way we were playing but we had a few more chances at 2-0 to bury the game – we just didn’t.”

Styles added: “Steadman’s done well, he’s got the ball, he’s a very good player and I’m a big fan of Steadman. He’s got the ball, he’s turned on a six-pence, like he does, he’s hit it. My only criticism, my two centre-halves haven’t followed it in but if you asked them they probably thought it was going in.

“Michael Power, doing what he does and doing what he’s made a career out of, he's taken a gamble that it comes back out to him and it did and Aaron nearly saved it but it’s gone in and it’s a very disappointing moment.”

Tunbridge Wells found belief and character and fought back with Nurden hitting a low 35-yard drive, which deflected through a crowd of players and flashing just past the foot of the far post.

However, it was from the resulting corner that Tunbridge Wells pulled a goal back in the 65th minute, after Erith Town cleared their lines.

Nurden was some 35-yards from goal and he easily beat Goodchild to the ball and raced into the penalty area before his left-footed shot from 16-yards looped over the stretching Moore, who got his fingertips to the shot as he dived high to his left but the ball sailed into the top far corner of the goal.

Styles said: “We didn’t really test their keeper up until that point in the second half, which I was a bit disappointed with and you could probably see me on the side and I was getting a little bit frustrated.

“That goal came at the right time. The minute that went in they went a certain way and we went a certain way.  One thing I did say at half-time if we can get one goal, then we’ll get three because it’s how I viewed the first half.  I felt we could go and get it.”

Woodward added: “No one engaged the ball, no one wants to take charge, no one wants to be a man and get hit in the face. They would rather stand off and let him have a shot, it takes a deflection and it goes in.”

A good penalty-box tackle from Palfrey stopped Sahadow in his tracks but Sahadow worked hard to latch onto the loose ball and his wide-left effort curled around the far post.

Tunbridge Wells produced a well-worked move to force a deserved equaliser with 74 minutes on the clock.

Centre-half Danny Keyte threaded the ball out to Corke on the left wing and he played the ball to Lightfoot, who was close to him within the left-channel and he put it on a plate for Sahadow, who placed his first-time shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from the corner of the six-yard box.

“A good goal – I was right behind it and saw the move and the quick touch passing and the moving we did was very, very good,” said Styles, who revealed Sahadow turned his ankle towards the end of the game.

“Absolutely delighted for Euan to score. We’ve done a lot of work with Euan this year, he’s worked really, really hard and he’s got himself back in tonight off the bench and scored. He’s been so good during the last couple of years for us.  He took a really bad injury before lockdown but he’s coking back and he’s a good boy and that will do him the world of good tonight.”

Woodward admitted: “We had a lot of chances, we were quite comfortable but for some reason we just pressed the self-destruct button again.

“We’ve stopped. We’ve put our hands up for offside. You play to the referee’s whistle, whether it’s offside or not, we’ve just stopped again and it’s just another excuse. We just look to someone else to make another excuse, other than just blaming ourselves really.”

Erith Town striker Power missed a chance to snatch the three points for Woodward’s men inside the final five minutes.

Callender and Power linked up in the final third before the ball was cut back to substitute Alfie Eldridge, who played behind the front two.

Eldridge played in a low cross from the right-hand side of the penalty area towards the near post and Power flicked his shot straight at Lee-Wharton, who made a comfortable low save.

Tunbridge Wells claimed the victory as Gething held his nerve from the penalty spot, the winning goal coming with 41:39 on the clock.

The home side ditched their short-corner routine and were rewarded as Corke swung in their seventh corner, from the left, and the ball bounced up and struck Jonah’s left arm inside the box and referee Michael Butcher had no option but to point to the spot.

Gething drilled an emphatic right-footed penalty into the roof of the net (top left-hand corner) sending Moore the wrong way (going down low to his left) to make it four wins in a row in all competitions for Tunbridge Wells.

“The ref was in a good position and he gave it pretty quickly and you fancy your top scorer striker when he’s on a penalty, like we always do,” said Styles.

“I never watch penalties so I couldn’t tell you where he put it because I always turn my back to it.  I never look at them, I’m just thankful to hear that he scored.  Geth’s picked the ball up, there’s pressure on him, we’re back to two-all with about three minutes left and to stick it home shows how strong his mentality is.”

Woodward added: “It’s a pen all day long, there’s no arguments from me, it’s a penalty all day long. It’s hit his arm in the box, it’s a penalty, whether he’s meant it or not, it’s a penalty. I would’ve been screaming if he hadn’t given it.”

There was still time for Erith Town to salvage a point when Nash put in another great delivery from the right but Gamble steered his header harmlessly wide, leaving Woodward furious, having suffered back-to-back defeats after losing 2-0 at Hollands & Blair in the Kent Senior Trophy at the weekend.

Tunbridge Wells welcome Scott Porter’s Hollands & Blair to Culverden Stadium on Saturday.  The Gillingham-based side are in the bottom seven with 17 points from as many games.

Unbeaten Sheppey United are back on the summit with 43 points from 15 games after coming away from Lordswood with a 1-0 win tonight which puts Neil Hunter’s side back in the drop zone with nine points from 18 games.

Jamie Philpot’s 31st goal of the season couldn’t prevent Glebe slipping to a shock 2-1 defeat at relegation threatened side Welling Town tonight, which puts Darren Manning’s side fourth-from-bottom with 11 points from 16.

Glebe are in second-place with 41 points from 17 games, while Chatham Town are in third-place with 39 points from 15 games. 

Erith Town remain in fourth with 37 points from 18 games, while Deal Town (31 points from 15), Erith & Belvedere (29 points from 15), Tunbridge Wells (28 points from 16) and Holmesdale (28 points from 18) follow in the pecking order.

Woodward demands a reaction at home to Lee Roots’ Holmesdale on Saturday.

“They (my players) were spineless on Saturday and they were spinless again today and it’s not good enough and it’s my job for me to make our team not spineless,” said Woodward.

“They’ve got to take responsibility themselves and they haven’t tonight and they’ve lost the game, they’ve lost the three points tonight and maybe we were papering over the cracks a little bit being fourth ion the league.  We were just not good enough tonight and Tunbridge Wells fully deserved the game.”

Styles, meanwhile, knows Tunbridge Wells should be higher than seventh in the table and thanked the Culverden Stadium faithful for their support on a wet and windy night.

“The fans always help, listen, we love our fans. The one thing we’ve done since me and Dan Morrin have been here, we’re trying to create that closeness between the players, the staff and the fans.  We want that and I feel that we’ve really got that.

“Look, it’s a cold night, they’ve all come out tonight. It was a freezing cold day on Saturday and they’ve come out. We love every one of our fans and we show that at the end of every game.

“I can’t speak highly enough of what the boys gave me today and I’m just really pleased that they’ve got the three points and the win that they deserved.

“We’ve won the last four in all competitions, which sets up confidence. Seventh is good but we don’t want to finish there but we are what we are.  There’s hell of enough points to play for.

“I don’t think Hollands & Blair will be too dissimilar to Erith today in terms of the way they set-up and how they try to do it.  We’ll have to manage that and set-up and be at our best and we’ll work on things as the week progresses and come up with a plan and see what we can do.”

Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Frank Griffin, James Nurden, Connor Pring (Jonathan Shea 28), Jack Hope, Danny Keyte, Kyron Lightfoot (Josh Froggatt 75), Jordan Wells, Matthew Gething, Johnny Phillips (Euan Sahadow 60), Regan Corke.
Subs: Frankie Leonard, Zac Wolvey

Goals: James Nurden 65, Euan Sahadow 74, Matthew Gething 87 (penalty)

Booked: Josh Froggatt 87

Erith Town: Jack Moore, Daniel Nash, Tolulope Jonah, Harry Gamble, Tom Ash, Taylor McDonagh, Jason Goodchild (Fred Obasa 89), Malik Nosike (Alfie Eldridge 67), Steadman Callender, Michael Power, Daniel Palfrey.
Subs: Jude Jeffery, Ali Ozcelik, Jude Jeffery, Ronnie McClean

Goals: Tolulope Jonah 19, Michael Power 59

Booked: Jason Goodchild 34

Attendance: 183
Referee: Mr Michael Butcher
Assistants: Ms Bethany Archer & Mr Stephen Luke