Academy do Double over Stones
By Jim Rowe
Fourth place assured for Under-19s
The Academy’s first Longmead appearance of the season ended with a victory that ensures that they will finish no lower than fourth in their debut season in the National League Under-19 Alliance. A win in their final game against Sutton United would leave their opponents needing a big win against Burgess Hill to relieve the Angels of third place.
On a warm Wednesday lunchtime, with Longmead barely showing the scars of a long season, Tonbridge and Maidstone served up a competitive encounter that was ultimately won with two second half goals in the space of three minutes.
After a season spent mainly on 3G surfaces, it appeared that both sides needed time to adapt to the grass surface and despite much endeavour the opening 20 minutes passed without anything in the way of goalmouth incident.
Eventually, the Angels at least produced some attempts on goal but efforts from Josh Stirman and Rhys Bartlett failed to test the Stones goalkeeper, Ethan Collen. After 26 minutes a surging run from Bartlett ended with a shot that took a deflection to see it go wide of the post.
Both sides had now warmed to their task and Maidstone’s Matt Weller brought a comfortable save for Tommy Taylor before Ned Snowden-Lewis turned deftly in the box before firing a shot into the side netting.
After being largely dominated during the first half, the visitors had a spell towards the end of the half in which a fine run from Jayden Yusuf was brought to a timely end and a header from Jamie Sherlock was narrowly wide. But the closest either side came to breaking the first half deadlock was after 40 minutes when Maidstone’s Charlie Deininger’s free kick was clawed out of the top corner by Taylor to preserve the half-time parity.
The game was just over an hour old when Bartlett collected a pass from Leo Deere to crash a shot against the crossbar.
The breakthrough for the Angels finally came on 78 minutes when the ball was fed to Tom Barton whose firmly struck shot from 25 yards crept under the body of Collen.
One quickly became two when firstly a shot from Barton was charged down with the rebound picked up by Stirman whose initial shot was blocked but fastening onto the second rebound, showing good feet, he skipped past a challenge before burying the ball past Collen.
The game was comfortably managed through to the final whistle by the Angels with Collen saving well to deny Bartlett in time added.
Manager Tom Parkinson was naturally delighted to have done the double this season over a well-established Academy set-up and a team that was physically strong and containing second and third year students.