Tunbridge Wells 1-1 Croydon - I thought we could get something out of it today, says Croydon boss Dickson Gill

Saturday 29th August 2015
Tunbridge Wells 1 – 1 Croydon
Location Culverden Stadium, Culverden Down, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9SG
Kickoff 29/08/2015 15:00

The FA Cup Preliminary Round (Sponsored by Emirates)
Saturday 29th August 2015
Stephen McCartney reports from Culverden Stadium

CROYDON head coach/chairman Dickson Gill says he felt his side could get something out of their FA Cup Preliminary Round tie away to their league rivals.



Tunbridge Wells broke the stalemate during a dull first half through a fine finish from returning striker Chris Seenan, back following a short spell in the Ryman League Division One South with basement side Whitstable Town.

Croydon played like a team sitting at the foot of the Southern Counties East Football League table with no points from four games with a direct style up to their lone striker during the first half.

But when Gill threw away those unimpressive tactics, Croydon played some neat football during the second half and they deservedly claimed a draw courtesy of a brilliant curling free-kick from left-back Ashley Henry-Brown.

Tunbridge Wells stalwart, assistant manager Jason Bourne, was in charge as former Cray Wanderers boss Keith Bird returns from his three week cruise in a couple of days’ time.

“Obviously naturally a little bit disappointed at home to draw,” said Bourne.

“We set out today to be nice and attacking and positive and I thought we done that in the first half.

“As the half went on we started to control things a little bit more. It was quite a direct game for the first half-an-hour and it was a little bit scrappy, but as the half went on I thought we were gaining control of the game which was important – but we never really got out of the dressing room.”

“We’re very much a work in progress so we’ll go to Croydon and hopefully go through to the next round.”

Gill said: “Well I thought we should’ve nicked it but then again they could’ve nicked it at the death. They hit the post didn’t they, but I think we had more chances than them.

“We’ve always concede a soft goal but we’ve got a lot of youngsters and they’re learning and unfortunately that’s what happens when they’re learning.”

A crowd of 255 at Culverden Stadium witnessed a disappointing first half with both sides playing a long-ball game, which didn’t work!

Gill defended his long-ball tactics in the first half.

He said: “Ok, that’s the beauty of football, everyone has an opinion. That’s fine, nothing wrong with that. As a coach I think we upped it a little bit second half. We had lots of the possession in their half, but we just failed to hit the target.”

Tunbridge Wells went into the game sitting in tenth-place in the table, having won one, drawn two and lost one of their league games, while Croydon thrashed Sutton Common Rovers 5-1 in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, which was their only win of the season to date.

Tunbridge Wells created their first chance inside the opening four minutes.

Winger Lee Radford used his pace to beat his man down the right to whip in a cross which was headed away by George Ede to Jason Barton, whose left-footed drive bounced across the keeper and past the far post.

Croydon’s lone striker Tristan Toney should have done better when he was created an opening through Michael Craveiro’s through ball, but he sliced his left-footed shot straight at Steve Lawrence, who picked up the rolling ball with ease.

Gill said: “Left-footed sliced. He didn’t really size it up really. He just swung at it, a wild swing and no more than that.”

There was very little quality between the two league rivals for the majority of the first half.

A big kick down the middle by Lawrence was knocked down by Seenan and Brett Ince sliced his speculative 30-yarder bouncing across the keeper and past the far post.

Kieron Tarbie hurled a long throw into the Croydon penalty box which was helped on by Joe Fuller’s acrobatic overhead kick but Radford looped his header into the hands of Croydon keeper Francis Ameyaw.

But Tunbridge Wells lifted the gloom when they took the lead after 23 minutes.

Radford was congratulated by left-back Luke Mathias by playing a sublime defensive splitting pass down the line into Seenan, who cut in from the left and curled a beautiful left-footed looping shot into the near corner.

Bourne is delighted that Seenan has returned to the club following a short spell on the Kent coast.

“It was a really nice finish, it was a nice move,” he said.

“Radders has worked so hard for us, he always does. He always delivers. It was a really nice move. He was the one that cut it back into us and it’s great to have the quality centre forward like Chris about. He gives us another dimension, he’s a focal point and it was a nice finish.

“He’s had a short spell with Whitstable. His head was turned by I think it must’ve been finances because he lives around the corner from the club. He left begrudge(ly) on both parties. He said he’ll give it a go. I think they’ve given him an offer he couldn’t refuse so we haven’t got a problem with that.

“But like we said to him when he left the door’s always open. This is his club really and we thought he’d be back. We wasn’t sure it would be this soon!”

Gill said: I thought it was a good goal but from my side I thought it was soft because he had two-v-one there and he curled the ball around the keeper.  He should’ve been shut down nice and quickly. That’s how football is, all mistakes. It happens and that’s it.”
Quick thinking from the highly-rated Croydon keeper Ameyaw thwarted Tunbridge Wells in the 29th minute.

Pacy winger Ehis Izokun released Ince down the right but the Croydon keeper came off his line to block the striker’s dinked shot just inside the right-hand corner of the penalty area.

Gill said: “Good save, excellent. I’ll keep saying he’s one of the better goalkeeper’s in the league and he earns his money today!”

But Croydon really should have equalised with a great chance in the 38th minute of a first half that had a derby feel to it – frenetic and cagey.

Ede clipped a long ball out of defence which sent Toney through on goal and with Lawrence advancing off his line the striker played the ball inside to an unmarked Karl Douglin, who was playing behind him.

But faced with an open goal, Croydon’s best player on the day, somehow drilled his right-footed shot past the far post from 25-yards.

Gill said: “Unfortunately Karl’s usually a good finisher and he’s not taken it! At the moment he’s got four goals already so you can’t grumble with that!”

Tunbridge Wells created the last chance of the first half but Seenan’s effort was caught by Ameyaw.

Referee Paul Greenfield had, like the rest of the crowd, seen enough of the first half by not having a second of stoppage time and the fans hoped for a more exciting second half.

Both camps were asked their thoughts at the break – you could hear Bourne’s words coming through the walls of the home dressing room!

“We’re trying to base our team on structure and discipline,” he said during the interview.

“We’ve got a pattern of play we want to work on but most importantly it’s winning the areas that we want them to win and that we can build from there.

“We’ve defended well all the way throughout the season in fact. We haven’t conceded more than one goal in a particular game so it speaks for itself.”

Gill added: “I thought we could get something out of it today and we gone to attack a bit more and I thought we still had a chance.

“It was tight but I still believe we gave away a soft goal. We had two or three good chances.”

When asked what he told his troops, the Croydon boss replied: “You’ve got to put that ball in the back of the net and get forward, put balls in and get shots in which we did second half. We had lots of shots second half.”

Thankfully, Croydon ditched their boring long-ball tactics up to Toney and their attacking players, Lauris Chin, Toney, Douglin and Al-Hassan Oshilaja started to give the home side’s back four something to think about.

“Because we created more space, we opened the game up and once we opened the game up you can play a bit but you can’t play when it’s all tight,” added Gill.”

Douglin cut a corner back to Henry-Brown, who was given time and space outside the box to float in a  cross towards the far post but the ball skimmed off Andy Mott’s head and sailed wide after 51 minutes.

Good skilful play from Douglin gave Croydon their best chance soon after as Oshilaja cut in and unleashed a stinging right-footed drive from 18-yards, which was beaten away by Lawrence.

Bourne said: “They’ve got two or three very mobile players in there. They didn’t really get them on the ball in the first half, they were too busy being direct so we won the second phase when they were being direct so they didn’t really get on the ball, but once they started establishing play a little bit more and managed to get into there, they caused us other problems. It took us a little while to get our shape back together and go again.”

The Trams were now enjoying their best spell of the game but they resulted to route-one again in the 57th minute.

A big kick down the middle by Ameyaw sailed over a flat Tunbridge Wells defence and dropped into the penalty area but Douglin watched the ball drop over his right shoulder and stabbed his shot just past the right-hand post.

Croydon were to be denied an equaliser in the 64th minute, courtesy of a fine diving save from Lawrence.

Douglin fed Oshilaja, who attempted to sweep his curler into the bottom far corner from 18-yards, but was denied by Lawrence, pulling off a great save diving to his left to push the shot around the post.

Gill said: “I thought it was one of the better saves you’ll see! It was an excellent save on the goalkeeper’s left. He palmed it round and if he dropped it we’d finish it because we had Jemelle (Hudson) coming in from the other side.”

Bourne said: “Great save! Stevie’s done really well for us in terms of shot stopping and bits like that. He’s a young keeper, he’s 19 or 20 and there’s areas of the game we’ve been working on but his shot stopping, you can’t call that into question. He made great saves all throughout the season but that was probably the turning point.”

Croydon deservedly equalised in the 68th minute through a beautiful free-kick from Henry-Brown.

Chin was released down the right channel and Wells keeper Lawrence was spotted picking up the ball outside his penalty area and was booked by the referee for the offence.

The ball was positioned just a couple of yards outside the very corner of the penalty area on the right-hand side and Henry-Brown took a stride and curled his left-footed free-kick high over Lawrence’s right shoulder, the ball sailing into the top far corner of the net.

Gill hailed the strike by saying, “Chinny was through and they’ve just done enough to get him and he got booked for it.

“I thought it was an excellent finish! If you take the surroundings of Tunbridge Wells and put a Premier League ground round it, you think what a goal! It was like a Premier League one, excellent finish! You won’t get one better than that one at this level. 

“It was deserved because we was in their box for ages weren’t we, one and off, so you’ve got to get a finisher.”

Bourne said: “Their goal was one of those things, keeper came out and handled it and the guy hits a worldy into the top corner!

“It was a bit of a freak goal. I don’t think he can hit another one like that again but either way, it was a great finish!

“I think they deserve the equaliser. They were on top. Stevie’s made a bad judgement and he’s come out and handled it and they’ve punished us.”

That goal was a wake-up call for Tunbridge Wells and substitute Brian Bell whipped in a cross from the right touchline but Barton rose to plant his header over the crossbar.

Both sides could have won the game inside the final thirteen minutes.

Tunbridge Wells’ central defender Tom Bryant trotted over to take a corner from the right but Izokun continued with his corner taking responsibilities and sent his team-mate away.

It was almost the right decision as he swung the ball in with his right-foot towards the far post and Seenan rose through a crowd of players to plant his header agonisingly against the left-hand post.

Croydon immediately broke and Chin’s last action of the game was to steer a low angled shot towards goal, which forced Lawrence to dive low to his left to save.

Bourne said: “I think we’re a danger a few times from set-pieces. We’ve got big boys, we attack the ball well. We’ve got people who put the ball into decent areas and two or three times we probably should’ve done a bit better.

“It was a good effort by Chris, it’s unfortunate. We could’ve nicked it from a set-piece but a draw is probably about fair.”

Gill admitted: “Very lucky and we’re very grateful for the post so that’s how football is. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they go for you, which is good!”

Croydon could have won it inside the final three minutes when Mott cracked a right-footed drive from 20-yards towards the far corner, but once again Lawrence dived to his left to make the save.

Gill said: “Andy’s a very good player. He’s a very committed player as well. He’s already scored a goal in the Cup so he’s done well for us.

“I think we still had a chance and I thought we could’ve nicked it a couple of times near the end. Last three minutes we left ourselves a bit open and I don’t think we’ll be doing that anymore!”

Tunbridge Wells’ pacy left-winger, substitute Khalil McFarlane sped past Croydon right-back Craveiro and cut into the box where his shot was blocked by the advancing Ameyaw.  The loose ball seemed destined to find the bottom right-hand corner from Bell’s follow-up shot, but Jamie Lyndon saved Croydon’s bacon by making a goal-line block.

Gill said: “Well, you could say we got a bit lucky – or we done a good bit of defending for clearing off the line. That means it’s a good bit of work and a superb game for Francis.”

Bourne said: “KJ’s a real exciting prospect, I really like him. He gets his head down, it’s raw pace. He’s decent on the ball. He’ll probably be more of an impact player at the first half of the season. When he gets at people he’s a real handful, He’s done well. He got himself in a position I think he was going to score directly with it and then Bell, just couldn’t get enough contact on it from the follow-up so we’re a little bit unfortunate.”

Tunbridge Wells’ central midfielder Joe Fuller almost capped a solid performance with a last-gasp winner, cracking his right-footed drive just over the bar after the ball came out to him after Tarbie’s corner from the left.

Tunbridge Wells have decided to play Corinthian at home in the league on Monday afternoon, ahead of travelling to Croydon Sports Arena for Wednesday night’s replay.

“The main reason with that decision has been made because we spoke to the chairman and he gave us the option not to play but if I’m being honest we know how important that Bank Holiday revenue is to the club so we’ve sort of taken one for the team a little bit,” said Bourne.

“We feel like that we’ve got a squad big enough (with 22 players) and capable enough to go and do the business on Monday and Wednesday.

“It was the club’s finances we’re more concerned with and we feel the players can go and do the business both days. The squad’s deep enough, we trust everyone so yes we’ll take the fixture.”

The winners of Wednesday night’s replay shall be at home to Molesey in The FA Cup First Qualifying Round on 12 September after they thrashed their Ryman League Division One South rivals East Grinstead Town 7-1.

Bourne said: “We know how Croydon play, they know how they play, we’ll both have a look at each other trying to exploit the weaknesses. If we play well, do what we want to do, then we’ll go through. If we don’t, it will be a tough old night.

“We’ll worry about Croydon first. We’ll worry about getting through before we talk about (Molesey), but it’s a nice draw.”

Putting his chairman’s hat on, Gill wants his side to scoop the £1,925 in prize money to go with the £1,500 that they collected for their Surrey derby victory.

He said: “If we can play like that it will be a very enjoyable game to watch again.

“At every level of football you’ll get patches where people won’t play so well and then pop up and do something good all of a sudden so the whole 90 minutes wasn’t boring. It was quite exciting and you won’t get 90 minutes of excitement at this level of football, their fitness won’t allow it.

“I really want that (prize money). If we can get it I’ll be very grateful.  As you know at the Arena we always have to pay the council a lot of money so this year we’ve only got one (round’s worth of prize money) so if we can the other one I’ll be happy.

“They had good supporters. I’m sure most of them will come up. We’ll probably have our 50 so maybe we can reach the 300 mark.”

Gill is confident his side will start picking up points when inspirational players like Ben Mankelow get back to fitness.

He said: “You can’t worry about the four (games) gone. We’ve got people missing. We’re slowly getting some back and if we can magic two weeks earlier than we would. In another two weeks’ time we’ll be at full strength.”

Molesey were promoted from the Combined Counties League last season and Gill added: “I don’t think there’s a lot between Ryman and this level, that’s my opinion, unless you’ve got a very good team at the top. 

“We played Burgess Hill last year and we didn’t even have a goalie and we lost 4-3 and they won the (Ryman League Division One South) league so there’s not a lot in between this level but this is a very strong league compared to the Combined Counties League so it’s hard.”

Tunbridge Wells: Steve Lawrence, Kieron Tarbie, Luke Mathias, Jason Barton, Andy Boyle, Tom Bryant, Ehis Izokun (Ian Parsons 88), Joe Fuller, Chris Seenan, Brett Ince (Brian Bell 70), Lee Radford (Khalil McFarlane 56).
Subs: Gary Beckett, Michal Czanner

Goals: Chris Seenan 23

Booked: Andy Boyle 50, Steve Lawrence 68

Croydon: Francis Ameyaw, Michael Craveiro, Ashley Henry-Brown, Harry Brockman, Jamie Lyndon, George Ede, Lauris Chin (Jemelle Hudson 79), Andy Mott, Tristan Toney, Karl Douglin, Al-Hassan Oshilaja.
Subs: Zach Beedon, Ben Mankelow, Dwayne Campbell, Barry Tyson Gooden, Victor Donkar, Danny Carpanini

Goal: Ashley Henry-Brown 68

Booked: Al-Hassan Oshilaja 63, Ashley Henry-Brown 80

Attendance: 255
Referee: Mr Paul Greenfield (Eltham, London SE9)
Assistants: Mr Bradley Lonergan (Longfield) & Mr Joshua Howard (Catford, London SE6)