U19s make a point at Dover
By Jim Rowe
Brave display earns draw
It's probably fair to say that the newly formed Angels Academy U19s couldn't have been handed a much harder to start to life in the National Alliance than a trip to last season's champions Dover Athletic. Quite apart from the aura of playing in a National League stadium, there was the not so small matter of competing against a side that was older, more experienced and contained a few players who are on the fringes of Bostik Premier football.
The hosts dominated possession throughout most of the first half and the visitors could perhaps consider themselves fortunate to be only going in at the break one goal down and still therefore very much in the game. At times it seemed that wave after wave of Dover attacks would surely bring reward but with a mixture of good defending, wasteful finishing and honest good fortune the score line maintained respectability for Tonbridge and frustration for Athletic. In particular centre forward Dayne Kattah and left sided Marshall Wrattan were asking all sorts of questions of the Angels defence.
Eventually something had to give and in the 21st minute Tyler Richardson was penalized for bringing down Wrattan in the area and Ryan Kingsford slotted away the spot kick for the hosts. Angels however didn't let their heads drop and managed to reach the break without any further breach of their defence.
The visitors came out for the second period with a more competitive style and the match became an even affair with in particular striker Neil Snowdon-Lewis starting to impose himself on the game. It was his brilliant first touch and layoff to Samuel Babayale that resulted in the latter being fouled in the area and the subsequent award of a penalty to the Angels. Sam Slipper confidently converted in the 53rd minute with an effort that no goalkeeper would be saving.
Dover quickly reclaimed their lead 7 minutes later when the ever dangerous Kattah unleashed a glorious shot that Joe Roberts in the Tonbridge goal was never going to get near. Unbowed, the Angels continued to disrupt Athletic's attempts to put the game to bed and were at times able to provide a genuine threat to the home defence. That threat came to fruition in the 75th minute a header from skipper Harry Hudson rebounded from the woodwork only for Snowdon-Lewis to deservedly claim the equalizing goal.
Could the Angels hold on for a point or even grab an unlikely win. In an enteraining last quarter both teams went for the three points with Dover creating the majority of chances. Once again fortune seemed to favour the brave with great defensive work from the Angels including a couple of great saves from Roberts - what a game he had - and at the other end a cheeky lob from Rhys Bartlett that wasn't too far wide.
With six minutes of stoppage time played the referee called a halt to proceedings with both teams having to settle for an honourable draw.
Afterwards, Angels joint manager, Tom Parkinson said: "A hard earn point against a very good Dover Academy side. Lots of hard work and endeavour today, still lots to work on but a fantastic start to the league."
Picture by Wink Tomkinson