Academy U19s lose unbeaten league record
By Jim Rowe
Performance to be proud of despite defeat
Tonbridge Angels Academy surrendered their unbeaten league record but their performance against the reigning champions, and champions-elect, Dover Athletic was one of which they can be rightly proud.
Dover have swept all before them this season with the only blot on their copybook being the point that the Angels took away from the Crabble on the opening day of the season.
We are at that point in the winter when a good game of football needs to unfold before you to distract from the fact that your extremities are about to drop off due to the bitter cold. Fortunately, a highly competitive match commanded full attention.
Tonbridge had an early opportunity when Harry Hudson headed over following a corner but it was the visitors who went closest in the opening minutes with the Dover left winger pulling a shot narrowly wide and Hudson managing a goal line clearance to deny Ryan Kingsford.
A great left wing cross from Ned Snowden-Lewis narrowly evaded the head of Saul Musengeyi before Dover went ahead after 23 minutes. A through ball exposed a gaping hole in the Tonbridge defence which was clinically exploited by Kingsford who buried his shot into the bottom corner.
After a foul on the edge of the box that should have brought a booking for the perpetrator, Rhys Bartlett’s free kick was met by central defender Harrison Mayhew, who stabbed the ball agonisingly wide.
After seeking the warmth of the King’s Hill sports bar during the break, the second half resumed competitively but devoid of chances.
Tonbridge made a double substitution just past the hour mark with Jacob Lambert and Leo Deere replacing Musengeyi and Nick Ithier.
Angels’ goalkeeper, Tommy Taylor, made a good stop to deny Kingsford whilst good combination work between Snowden-Lewis and Deere almost brought reward.
However the game was put beyond the Angels reach after 80 minutes when Josh Stirman brought down a Dover player on virtually the same square of 3G as Bartlett had been brought down in the first half. Then it was judged to have been millimetres outside, this time after consultation with the linesman, the referee pointed to the spot.
Paldon Bepe’s spot kick into the roof of the net wasn’t going to be saved by any goalkeeper in the world and Dover’s march to another title was not going to be stopped in its tracks at King’s Hill.
A consolation goal would have been a justifiable reward for the home side’s efforts but Hudson’s header over, a fine save denying Snowden-Lewis and a final shot over from Stirman meant that the Angels drew a blank for only the second time this season.
Manager Tom Parkinson commented after the game that he “thought the boys tried really hard and made it very difficult for Dover today. Two lapses in concentration resulted in the two goals but there wasn’t a lot between the sides today. We had two or three good chances which unfortunately we didn’t take, but the boys did themselves proud today against a very strong Dover side who have a lot of 2nd/3rd year students in their team. There were lots of positives to be taken from the game, we just lacked a little bit of quality at times but we cannot fault anyone’s work rate or effort today.”