Tunbridge Wells 1 VCD Athletic 1 aet - VCD Athletic win 3-1 on penalties - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
TUNBRIDGE WELLS 1
Joe Fuller 72 (pen)
VCD ATHLETIC 1
Danny Penny 76
After extra time - VCD Athletic won 3-1 on penalties
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road
Kent Senior Trophy Final
VCD Athletic goalkeeper Grant Wallis was the hero as Martin Ford’s side clinched the Kent Senior Trophy for the very first time in their history at Park View Road today.
The raven haired 23-year-old saved penalties from Dave Hassett, Joe Fuller and Andy Garrett to complete one half of their possible cup double.
But Wallis paid tribute to his opposite number John Whitehouse, who made a string of fine saves and the former Ashford Town goalkeeper deserved his man-of-the-match accolade.
Tunbridge Wells stole the lead after 72 minutes in a thrilling game, watched by a crowd of 507.
Ginger haired striker Hassett latched onto Sam Phillips’ through ball but was tripped by Chris Whitehouse (who was booked for the challenge) just inside the penalty area.
Joe Fuller, meanwhile, kept his composure from the penalty spot, placing his right-footed penalty under the diving Wallis, to score his tenth goal of the season.
However, their lead was short lived as VCD Athletic equalised just four minutes later.
Striker Danny Penny was given too much space in the six-yard box and was allowed to bury his sixth goal of the season following Stuart Abbott’s corner kick.
Having been goaded by the Wells supporters sitting in the Wings main stand throughout about his burly size, the black haired striker celebrated by rubbing his stomach as he raced in front of them with a big smile on his face.
Earlier on in the game it was Tunbridge Wells that should have broken the deadlock after just 70 seconds.
Fuller’s cross from the right was brought under control by Hassett but the striker’s shot flew over the bar from ten-yards.
Wells goalkeeper Whitehouse, who should be playing at a higher level, made his first fine save of the afternoon in the eighth minute when he parried Kevin Winchcombe’s angled drive after Paul Foley’s knock down.
VCD Athletic’s Chris Whitehouse - John’s cousin - crossed from the right, which was met by a firm header by Stuart Abbott, who was unmarked inside the area, but his header sailed just wide of the right upright.
Hassett’s second chance of the half came after 28 minutes but after the ball dropped to him after Adrian Hatcher’s looping header, his lob dropped just past the far post.
Moments after Hassett and VCD’s Paul Foley were both booked, Chris Whitehouse’s free kick was met by a glancing header from James Brown, who was also unmarked, but the Wells goalkeeper saved well.
Tunbridge Wells had their third attempt on goal late in the half when Aaron O’Leary kept his composure to square the ball to Garrett, whose 30-yard left-footed shot sailed just over.
Then at the other end, after Mark Greatorex cut in from the right, Whitehouse beat out Brown’s fierce drive from 16-yards.
VCD Athletic created many chances early in the second half. Ashley Probets’ corner was headed back across goal by Brown to Lee Coburn who directed his header wide.
Abbott, who cut in from the left, blazed his 20-yard shot over and a minute later he turned provider as his free kick on the left was met by Penny who planted his header wide.
But Tunbridge Wells came closest to breaking the deadlock after 66 minutes. It all started in their own half when Hassett showed good skill to backheel the ball to substitute Brad Mortimer.
Fuller then played in Alex Rich, and as their fans leaped off their seats ready to celebrate, his shot was cleared off the line by Coburn.
Fuller lost his footing just two minutes later, which gifted VCD possession just outside his penalty area and Winchcombe squared to Ashley Probets, whose 30-yard shot was brilliantly tipped over by Whitehouse.
Although there were two goals in the space of four minutes there weren’t any more goalscoring chances but Wells squandered four excellent chances in the first period of extra time to end their 18-year trophy drought.
Phillips drove forward down the middle before playing the ball through the Vickers defence for Hassett but his fierce shot from 16-yards agonisingly crashed against the top of the near upright.
Then Mortimer blasted just over the bar and following Ben Hilden’s cross from the left touchline, Fuller’s glancing header at the near post, went straight at Wallis.
And their last chance fell to Hatcher, who headed O’Leary’s corner into Wallis’ arms.
Probets, Mark Horan and Anthony Hogg converted their penalties for VCD, with Ricky Bennett the only Vickers man to miss from the spot - producing a good save from Whitehouse.
Hatcher was the only Tunbridge Wells player to keep his composure from the spot, with Hassett, Fuller and Garrett all missing theirs.
Reflecting on the game, Vickers’ hero Wallis said: “It’s lovely. Brilliant. Well proud. Brilliant - that’s all I can say really.
Once he got his thought’s together he added: “I think it was quite an even game. They got a lucky penalty but I would say that because I’m quite biased, but we got the goal back.
“We were under the cosh a bit during the first half of extra time, the second half was ours. Penalty shootouts are 50/50.”
Unbeaten since going out of the FA Vase in the fifth round in February, Wallis and his team-mates have five league games left to play before playing Maidstone United in the Kent League Cup Final at Folkestone Invicta on 29th April.
“We’re having a brilliant season,” he said. “The form that we’re on I suppose who would right us off?”
“We haven’t lost since Cammell Laird so confidence is high at the moment in the squad. Everyone’s best mates in the team so I think that’s the important thing.”
* We shall bring you EXCLUSIVE interviews with Martin Ford and Martin Farnie on Monday.
* www.kentishfootball.co.uk would like to praise the match officials, who took their part in an excellent game - a good advert for Kent League football.
Tunbridge Wells: John Whitehouse, Jason Bourne, Shane Hickmott (Brad Mortimer 54), Adrian Hatcher, Ben Hilden, Aaron O’Leary, Andy Garrett, Alex Rich (Matt Nicholl 90), Dave Hassett, Joe Fuller, Sam Phillips (Abdul El-Ferdi 102).
Subs: Nick McKeown, Wayne Balmer.
VCD Athletic: Grant Wallis, Chris Whitehouse (Ricky Bennett 108), David Hunt, Paul Foley (Capt), Kevin Winchcombe (Steve Hogg 86), Lee Corburn, Stuart Abbott (Mark Horan 77), James Brown, Danny Penny, Mark Greatorex, Ashley Probets.
Subs: Clayton Probets, Alan Owen
Referee: Mr Lee Venamore
Assistants: Mr Ian Regan & Mr Daniel Wyatt
Fourth Official: Mr Nolan White