Tunbridge Wells 4-3 Rusthall - I'm sorry that we couldn't get the result that you all deserve but the boys did their best, says Rusthall boss Jimmy Anderson
Tunbridge Wells 4 – 3 Rusthall
|Location||Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG|
TUNBRIDGE WELLS 4-3 RUSTHALL
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Easter Monday 18 April 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium
RUSTHALL manager Jimmy Anderson issued an apology to his supporters after his goalkeeper threw away vital points in their big local derby at Tunbridge Wells which has the clubs Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division status hanging by a thread.
A crowd of 806 witnessed a seven-goal thriller at Culverden Stadium, which saw Tunbridge Wells claim the local bragging rights and leave Rusthall with a one-game shoot-out with Lordswood to see whom will suffer the drop alongside Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets were thrashed 7-0 at home to Fisher today and have collected 12 points from their 37 games.
Lordswood remain the relegation zone on 23 points after losing 3-2 at Kennington, while Rusthall are outside the drop zone on 23 points but they do have the luxury of having a far superior goal-difference (13) on Richard Dimmock’s side.
Rusthall host sixth-placed Erith & Belvedere next Saturday, while Lordswood play 12th placed Holmesdale at North Dane Way as the relegation dog-fight comes down to the final 90 minutes of the season.
Eighth-placed Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, have collected 57 points, while the title-race will also go down to the wire with Sheppey United (99 points) two points clear of Chatham Town, with those two big hitters playing Tower Hamlets (home) and Erith Town (away) respectively on the final day of the season.
Rusthall drew first blood with centre-half Callum Adonis-Taylor heading home his fourth goal of the season but visiting goalkeeper Charlie Wealands gifted Tunbridge Wells the equaliser on the stroke of half time through Kyron Lightfoot’s free-kick, to score his tenth goal of the season.
Tunbridge Wells striker Matthew Gething slotted in his 35th goal of the campaign to give his side the lead just 79 seconds into the second half, but Rusthall showed character to bounce back, with striker Luke Adams tucking home a penalty for his 11th goal of the season.
Rusthall substitute Charlie Clover drilled home to give Anderson’s side the lead in the 65th minute.
Tunbridge Wells restored parity through Harry Hudson’s finish before visiting goalkeeper Charlie Wealands dropped a cross and was punished by Fjord Rogers, who smashed in the late winner, leaving four Rusthall players down on their knees at the final whistle.
Tunbridge Wells manager Richard Styles was overjoyed with their derby day win.
“A great advert for the league, a great advert for local football in this area, absolutely delighted to get the three points and to give the fans a good send-off in our last home game as well as having the bragging rights. A big three points. We certainly owed them one after the previous game (a 1-0 defeat at Jockey Farm on 13 November 2021).
“The boys had guts, spirit and we’re a very resilient team and we’re never down and out ever. There were mistakes and errors but the nature of the game and the size of the crowd, players make mistakes. Look at their goalkeeper for the fourth goal but you’ve got to ride the waves, you’ve got to be in it and you’ve got to battle and fight for every inch and the boys have done that today and I’m absolutely delighted for them to get the three points because as staff, as a club and as a team we wanted to win today, so I’m really, really pleased.
“I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to give the fans their day and win the derby. In the reverse fixture I didn’t feel we played well there and I feel that we let ourselves down and the club down and the great support that we have so we knew we owed them a performance.
“Obviously all the stuff put on Twitter after the away game carried on for about a week. I’m just glad that Tunbridge Wells have won the game and we’ve won the three points and I’m glad the Rocks Derby is with Tunbridge Wells.”
Rusthall have lost 14 league games at home and the same number away and are staring relegation in the face.
“Extremely disappointing because I felt we gave them all four goals. I felt like I know it sounds stupid and some professional managers have said it before in the past but I felt the best team lost today, unfortunately from our point,” said Anderson.
“I would like to say thanks to our fans and their fans. It was a really good atmosphere. It was a great game to be involved in. It’s a derby that is respectful but obviously there is a huge rivalry within fans. It’s funny because I don’t think it is actually on the pitch as well. There were no feisty challenges, which is probably most of the Tunbridge Wells players don’t live near Tunbridge Wells, similar to my players, so it’s a good derby to have and it’s great.
“You can’t always be successful. I’m young and this team is young. This (relegation dog-fight) will do me the world of good. I’ve learnt so much this season in a way. I can’t wait for it to all be over and then we can go again.
“Our fans were superb. I’m sorry that we couldn’t get the result that you all deserve but the boys did their best.”
Rusthall created their first opening on the counter-attack after only 168 seconds.
Right-winger Armando Luismyro Pires Costa impressed during the first half and split Tunbridge Wells’ centre-half Robbie Bissett to play in striker Louie Clarke, who cut onto his left-foot and stroked his shot across the outstretched right arm of Lee-Wharton, only for the ball to bounce off the foot of the far post.
An unmarked Lewis Unwin lacked composure and blazed the rebound over the crossbar when he should have given Rusthall the lead.
Anderson said: “We set off really well, started the game on the front foot. I felt we should’ve taken the lead when Clark went through on goal and it comes off the post and comes out to Lewis Unwin and he puts it over the bar. I felt he should’ve scored that.
“Maybe some people say ‘you scored too early.’ I felt when we missed that chance we kept on playing, we kept on trying to build. We knew their threats but we knew where we could punish them. We knew what areas we could hit.”
Styles added: “Before that, it was all us pretty much. I thought we put them in their box and we kept them in their half and I think we started alright. They’ve broke away and Clarke has dug it out quite well and he’s hit the post. Just thankfully for us, it hasn’t gone in.”
Tunbridge Wells’ first opening came in the fifth minute when Gething’s hooked pass released right-winger Regan Corke, who unleased a low right-footed drive from 16-yards on the angle, the ball bouncing off the bobbly surface and striking Wealands in the face before gathering at the second attempt at his near post.
Styles said: “Regan’s done his bit. He’s taken a dodgy bounce on our carpet and you’ve got to follow it in and who knows if you do.”
Anderson added: “In all honesty, I can’t really remember them having many chances. I wasn’t really thinking ‘we’ve started bad here.’ I felt the better team lost, unfortunately.”
Tunbridge Wells strikers Gething and Fjord Rogers were big units and Rogers had his head in his hands in despair after putting Lightfoot’s left-wing corner over the crossbar with a free-header at the back post from eight-yards out.
Tunbridge Wells’ right-back Frank Griffin opened the gate and Clarke cut the ball back from the left wing to Unwin, who scuffed a weak right-footed shot on the angle from 25-yards, which rolled into Lee-Wharton’s gloves.
Anderson said: “He cut in, a bit of a tame shot and it was easy for the keeper to save.”
Styles said: “We knew they were going to come out of the blocks, they had it all to fight for. We knew they were going to give us everything but I’m glad at that point to restrict them and keep them at 1-0 going in before we scored.”
Rusthall’s survival bid was given a shot in the arm when they took a deserved lead with 14 minutes and 39 seconds on the clock, following their fourth of eight corners.
Tom Lawrence swung the ball in from the left and Griffin hooked the ball away from inside the penalty area.
Costa cut the ball onto his left-boot and whipped in a great cross from the right towards the far post for Adonis-Taylor to bury his free header into the top-left hand corner from eight-yards.
The former Tonbridge Angels defender ran up the other end of the pitch and took the acclaim from the celebrating Rusthall supporters.
Anderson said: “A good header, a great ball from Myro and all three of those boys played really well today, put in a shift.
“Callum had to come off at half-time because he received an elbow to the face in the first half. For some reason the referee didn’t want to give anything, but he was concussed so he had to come off at half-time.”
Styles said: “We’ve cleared the corner, Gething’s come out to shut the ball but we haven’t really defended that well in terms of coming out and that’s what the main thing is. When the corner comes out of the box and you clear it, it is making sure you’ve got your man when they put it back in. He’s put it back in and Frankie’s with him, he lost the header and it’s gone in the goal.”
Rusthall were full of heart, desire and commitment and dealt with Griffin’s second long throw well enough and the ball came out to Connor Pring, who stroked a left-footed drive bobbling past the right-post from 30-yards.
Rusthall were fully deserved of their lead at the break but a couple of players made costly mistakes at a key part of the game.
Rusthall right-back Louis Anderson gifted the home side a free-kick when he gave away a soft free-kick on James Nurden beside the corner flag.
Lightfoot whipped in a right-footed free-kick from the left by-line which he curled over Wealands and over the head of a jumping Rory Salter on the line to find the top far corner, just 11 seconds into injury time.
A third green flare was thrown onto the pitch at this moment in the game and Tunbridge Wells accepted their lifeline.
“I mean, it was the first bit of football we played because that’s actually came from our keeper and we’ve gone down the left side,” said Styles.
“James Nurden has got down to the corner and got fouled and he’s won something in a good area.
“The way Kyron wraps the ball and the way he delivers a ball, (scoring) was always a possibility, that will happen. We’re either going to attack it and score or he’ll try and score himself.
“It was a great time to score and it made my half-time team-talk a hell off a lot easier.
“Did he mean it? He’ll tell you he did, knowing Kyron the way I do, he probably did, yes.”
Anderson added: “Whether he’s meant it or not, basically near the corner flag he's put it over Charlie’s head and it’s gone in at the back post.
“Charlie hasn’t spoken to me. I had a go at him after the game, not for that goal but the other two in the second half.
“He’s been exceptional for me this season. We’ve been down the bottom and he’s made some really good saves and he’s performed really well. He’s had to take a lot of grief but today he’ll be disappointed in his performance, especially in the second half.”
Both managers were asked their thoughts at the interval.
Styles said: “I didn’t feel we played well first-half. We didn’t move the ball anywhere as we can and we hadn’t got into areas the way I know we can.
“I felt we were too straight and too direct, which isn’t us at all. I’ve been on the other end of it when they’ve scored just before half-time and it’s horrible. We scored and we were on a high so it was making sure now we nip the things in the bud and we go out and do the right things. I wanted to restrict them and keep them camped in their own half as much as possible and to try to dominate them.”
Anderson added: “In all honesty, I gave my brother Louis Anderson, who plays right-back, I gave him a bit of grief because he gave away the free-kick but then it was all positive chat. We were the better team in the first half so it was like ‘come on boys, we can go and win this’. I always believe we can win games.”
Tunbridge Wells raced into the lead with just 79 seconds on the clock.
Griffin played a long ball up field and the ball was brought under control by Fjord Rogers and Lightfoot’s sublime dinked pass played in Gething, who easily cut inside Louis Anderson before easily placing his right-footed shot across the keeper to find the bottom far corner from 12-yards.
“The minute he’s in the box, it’s danger. As soon as he’s come inside and put the defender on the floor, we knew he was going to score and he’s done what he's done all season,” said Styles.
Chatham Town striker Dan Bradshaw has scored 55 goals in all competitions this season, Glebe’s Jamie Philpot has scored 46 goals and Sheppey United striker Warren Mfula has scored 31 and Styles is delighted with Gething’s 35 goal haul.
“Tremendous, absolutely brilliant, a fantastic player and a fantastic person and he's been a credit to this club all season.”
Anderson blamed his brother for the equaliser, adding, “Really poor, really poor. He’s basically walked it in. For 10 minutes of the game I felt like Louis Anderson at right-back, the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half, I felt like he lost his head. He was out of position and that’s how he scored. He basically just walked past him and tapped it in the net and I don’t know, it’s such a soft goal. It’s another goal we’ve given them.”
Rusthall, however, showed great character and they were level with four minutes and 13 seconds on the clock.
Centre-half James White hit a long ball out of defence and Bissett brought down Clarke within the left-hand side of the box and referee Joseph Turnpenny swiftly blew and pointed to the spot.
There were 58 seconds from the whistle to the moment when Adams held his nerve and drilled his right-footed penalty just right of centre from the resulting penalty, sending Lee-Wharton diving to his right.
Anderson said: “Luke’s good at penalties. I questioned the ref as to why, he was last man so I don’t know why it wasn’t a red card? Not that I’m after someone getting a red card but I don’t know why? It’s a yellow card in a situation like that.
“The referee said that the five (Freeman Rogers) was covering but I don’t know if that is possible while Louie is about to get his shot off. Louie played on the shoulder all day long and was a real threat and he’s unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet.”
Styles said: “I couldn’t clearly see if it was or wasn’t a penalty but he (Bissett) put his head in that position by letting it bounce and letting someone come in the box and them going down in a derby you’re always asking for t rouble, so no major complaints. I wished he missed it but it is what it is.”
Tunbridge Wells produced a sweeping move in the 64th minute when Nurden fed Gething and Lightfoot’s first-time pass was laid off first-time by Gething into Fjord Rogers, whose right-footed shot on the turn flashed past the far post from 10-yards.
Rusthall grabbed the lead with 19 minutes and 52 seconds on the clock.
Adams threw eight long throws into the Tunbridge Wells penalty area and his fifth had the desired effect.
The ball was cleared out to White, who recycled the ball back into the box and Clover drilled a right-footed volley across the diving keeper and into the bottom far corner from 16-yards.
Anderson said: “We brought Louis Anderson off and put Lewis Unwin at right-back to shore up there. We knew their wingers were their threat today and we knew they would get it out wide and then get the ball into the two big men up front.
“We felt the longer the game was going, there was an opportunity to get past their full-backs and Louie Clark playing on the shoulder, we know what Robbie Bissett is about. He was with me for two seasons. The other guy (Freeman Rogers) was a little bit slow on the turn so we’re trying to get a one-on-one situation.
“Charlie came on and he did exactly what we wanted him to do and then topped it off by scoring a wonder goal.”
Styles added: “He’s hit it well, don’t get me wrong, it was a good strike. I felt we could’ve won a header beforehand and we could’ve won the ball but bad from our point by not being able to get that second ball and clear it and he’s had an opportunity and thrown a foot at it and it’s a great strike.”
However, play was to be held up for six minutes and 40 seconds after a green flare was thrown onto the pitch (the fourth green flare to be let off) immediately after the ball nestled into the back of the net; Tunbridge Wells’ goalkeeper Lee-Wharton allegedly threw it back into the crowd and was then confronted by a spectator, who had jumped over the red perimeter fencing.
Letting off pyrotechnics (flares, smokebombs, fireworks etc) within a football stadium is a criminal offence under the Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985 – even in the ninth-tier of English football.
Tunbridge Wells were fined £1,000 after a red flare was let off during a FA Vase tie at Bridgwater United - and today's incidents will go in the referee’s report.
Referee Joseph Turnpenny had no option but to send off Sam Groombridge (Rusthall coach) and Louie Lawlor (Tunbridge Wells’ goalkeeping coach) after they both left their technical areas.
Styles said: “We’ve got an issue with flares because we had a flare in one of our Vase games that our fans brought and there was a lot of disciplinary action upon it so to bring four and even the minute we walked out for the first minute a flare was going so they were packed and they knew what they were doing in terms of the flares.
“I didn’t see it (Lee-Wharton’s reaction) because I was watching the ball like I do but it’s come on the pitch and I think Aaron’s shifted it or put it over the barrier and then there was an altercation or words exchanged.
“First things first, we don’t want a flare on the pitch. Secondly, a fan shouldn’t come on the pitch and enter the field of play to stand up to one of my players but Aaron’s dealt with it really well to be fair to him and he’s been calm.
“I don’t know what happened with the flare. I don’t know whether it was put over, thrown, I don’t know but obviously it escalated from there. To be honest, I wanted it over as quickly as possible so we could get on with the football because that’s all I care about.
“All the fans are safe. I know the guy that came over has come over to my goalkeeper and they’ve shook hands so that’s good to see.
“Their coach and Louie (Lawlor) have gone down (to that end of the pitch), Louie is going to protect his own, so he’s gone down to protect his goalkeeper so he was straight down there and his heart is on his sleeve.
“Sam (Groombridge) obviously is a little bit upset and he’s had words with Alan (Kibbey). Louie and the coach can’t do that in a match in terms of where they were on the pitch. They should be in the dug-out so they knew full well what was going to happen in terms of them getting sent-off and I thought the ref did the right thing really.”
Anderson said: “So basically my thoughts are that one it’s not a flare by the way, it’s a smoke bomb, I’m lead to believe, so it’s not hot or anything like that.
“So basically, the smoke bomb’s coming on to the pitch, I’m lead to believe they were side of the pitch, they didn’t come on to the pitch. If one has come on to the pitch after we’ve scored, it’s a local derby, the fans haven’t been searched on the way in so that’s partly Tunbridge Wells’ fault.
“I don’t agree with the fact that they should be on the pitch but then if the keeper decides to not, I asked the ref as well. I said to the referee if the keeper has thrown it back into the crowd, whether it’s come from a Tunbridge Wells fan or a Rusthall fan, he’s still thrown it at a person, so his reaction has caused the problem and that’s why we’ve had a six minute delay in the game.
“My question being is, yes he’s conceded a goal but he could’ve so easily thrown it to the side of the pitch.
“If you say, four you counted, so three have been fine and one, he’s decided to act upon and the referee doesn’t stand up to the action.
“I don’t agree with it but like I said don’t know what you can do to the keeper? Send him off? Do you get a yellow card? It’s not an incident that normally happens at this level. I wouldn’t have a clue but it’s happened.
“Did it effect the game? No because we made our own mistakes today.”
Lee-Wharton may have been sent off by the referee had he struck the pitch intruder but he did very well to keep his composure. Players should not pick up pyro when they are thrown on the pitch. It is a stewards job to deal with that.
However, these kind of incidents rarely occur at this level of football and tarnished a thrilling game of derby day football.
Once order was restored, Tunbridge Wells struck the underside of the crossbar with 27:29 on the clock, following their first of three corners.
Lightfoot swung the ball in from the right and Freeman Rogers came up from the back and headed a free-header into the hard ground and the ball bounced up and hit the underside of the crossbar before the ball was hoofed to safety.
Styles said: “A little bit unlucky. I’ve seen him do it a million times and they go in. You’re thinking is it going to be our day at that point?”
Anderson added: “I thought we were going on and win. I felt we deserved (the lead). I felt like the way we played, we controlled the game. We gave them the two goals. We were 3-2 up. We came back into the game and we fought our way back from 2-1 down and I had warriors playing today and then incidents happen.”
However, Tonbridge resident Hudson smashed in an equaliser with 27 minutes and 56 seconds to add more drama.
Griffin threw the ball in from the left, Freeman Rogers (who had stayed up following the earlier set-piece) hooked the ball in from the by-line and Hudson smashed the ball into the bottom far corner from four-yards.
“Harry’s got that, he naturally gets himself in great positions. It meant a lot to him scoring today as well in a local derby so I’m really, really pleased for him. It brings us back in the game,” said Styles.
“We needed to settle down a little bit then and started to play. It was interesting to see how they were going to react because they’ve been ahead and they’re back behind and you question whether they’ve got enough about hem to go and win the game in terms of Rusthall – or have we? Are we going to have a chance or is it going to be three-all and we take a draw.”
Anderson said: “My keeper said ‘see it out,’ he’s got a toe to it. My players, some of them think it went over the line. It’s the other side of the goal so the referee is never going to give it. It’s fair enough. I’m not blaming anyone but it’s a call from Charlie to say leave it, they’ve got a toe, cuts it back, six yards out, you can’t miss – three-all.”
With the game on the knife-edge, Rusthall’s goalkeeper Wealands gifted Tunbridge Wells the winning goal, with 43 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock.
Griffin looped in a cross from within the right-channel and Wealands wasn’t under pressure – at the quieter end of the stadium – but he held both of his hands above his head and inexplicably dropped the ball and Fjord Rogers pounced and smashed in his right-footed half-volley into the right-corner from eight-yards.
Styles said: “Fjord has done his job. The keeper drops the ball. I want a red shirt on it and it was a mistake. I wouldn’t have liked it if my goalkeeper did that, especially at that stage of the game but absolutely delighted that Fjord was there, so I’m well pleased with that.”
Anderson was clearly not impressed with Wealands’ poor handling, especially as he was not put under any pressure – and he didn’t have any fans behind his goal.
“Shocking! Shocking! Shocking! It’s a ball in the area. Charlie can go and claim it. He hasn’t claimed it. He’s dropped it. It’s fallen to him six-yards out and he’s tapped it in and they win the game. It’s a mistake.
“If you wanted to ask me how the season’s been, today would describe the season in a nutshell. It’s been like that all season. We’ve played well, worked hard, our own mistakes have cost us all throughout the season.”
Due to the earlier incidents, there was to be 15 minutes and 45 seconds of time added on.
Rusthall striker Adams unleashed a right-footed angled drive, which was pushed towards safety by Lee-Wharton, diving low to his right with 47:11 on the clock.
Styles added: “I was right behind it and I always fancied Aaron to save that but it was a good effort from Luke. Don’t get me wrong, if he parries it, one of the Rusthall players could’ve come and got on it but Aaron’s parried it out the right way and away from danger and that’s probably as close as they’ve come.”
Nurden floated a free-kick from the half-way line into the box and Freeman Rogers’ free-header flashed across a flat-footed White and Wealands and Fjord Rogers poked his shot past the far post from four-yards out.
Lee-Wharton also dropped the ball, this time from Salter’s deep free-kick but Clarke’s shot on the turn deflected over the Tunbridge Wells crossbar.
Jimmy Anderson, meanwhile, has a big job on his hands to raise his troops for a must-win battle against Luke Rooney’s Erith & Belvedere or have a second relegation on his CV.
Rusthall have won seven league games this season and MUST win at home next Saturday – or replicate Lordswood’s result to stay in the division on goal-difference.
Anderson said: “We’ve got to win our last game. We are where we are. My thoughts on the Erith & Belvedere game is it will be very hard. They beat us away this season. You came and witnessed the game (a 2-0 defeat on 16 February), similar scenario to this. We played really well. We had chances, we didn’t take our chances that day and they took their chances and won it. It will be another tough game.
“We’ve got to try to beat Erith & Belvedere. We’ve got to try to win. We try to win every game, so nothing changes. What will be, will be, as they say.”
Rusthall have won only two of their last seven games and go into the final game on a run of four straight defeats.
Lordswood, meanwhile, have won three, drawn one and lost three of their last seven outings.
Styles, meanwhile, takes his side to fifteenth-placed Welling Town (at Kent Football United’s ground in Dartford) on the final day.
“There was a carnival atmosphere so it’s almost as if the season ended today and we’ve seen the fans’ off and we’ve had a big day but we’ve got one more to do. We’ll enjoy it, do our bits in the week and to and win the game and finish the season on a high and finish the season right and with three points,” said Styles.
“We’ve underachieved this season. The plan is to recruit right and recruit in a way that strengthens us and have a good pre-season and start next season well and positively.”
Tunbridge Wells: Aaron Lee-Wharton, Frank Griffin, James Nurden, Connor Pring (Danny Keyte 79), Freeman Rogers, Robbie Bissett, Kyron Lightfoot, Harry Hudson, Matthew Gething, Fjord Rogers (Kane Butler 90), Regan Corke (Johnny Phillips 90).
Subs: Cameron Wootton, Jonathan Shea
Goals: Kyron Lightfoot 45, Matthew Gething 47, Harry Hudson 73, Fjord Rogers 89
Booked: Connor Pring 38, James Nurden 90
Sent Off: Louie Lawlor 71 (coach)
Rusthall: Charlie Wealands, Louis Anderson (Charlie Clover 57), Rory Salter (Josh Biddlecombe 90), Jack Smith, James White, Callum Adonis-Taylor (Jake Hampson 46), Lewis Unwin, Tommy Lawrence, Louie Clarke, Luke Adams, Armando Luismyro Pires Costa.
Subs: Conor Johnson, Joe Newman
Goals: Callum Adonis-Taylor 15, Luke Adams 50 (penalty), Charlie Clover 65
Booked: Louie Clarke 59, Lewis Unwin 83, Armando Luismyro Pires Costa 90
Sent off: Sam Groombridge 71 (coach)
Referee: Mr Joseph Turnpenny
Assistants: Mr Stephen Gorman & Mr Ashley Rodi