Angels U18s still in contention for league title
All square at the Gallagher
The two best teams in the Ryman Youth League emerged from this captivating encounter with their unbeaten records intact following a 2-2 draw at The Gallagher.
Jay Stubberfield has always maintained that his principle role at Tonbridge is to generate players for the senior side and with Liam Smith, Callum Taylor and Sid Sollis unavailable for the game as they are required by the first team at Needham Market on Tuesday, he can rightly feel he is fulfilling his mandate.
It is disappointing that a club of Maidstone United’s National League status cannot run to a team sheet, so largely, I can only refer to the Maidstone players by their position. Perhaps it is a credit to Tonbridge that there is always a team sheet available.
Two sides of similar quality largely cancelled each other out in a first half of very few clear cut chances. Maidstone’s centre forward was sent through after two minutes but horribly scuffed his shot wide. A minute later a great cross from Tommy Chapman was headed against a post.
Tonbridge marginally had the better of the opening 20 minutes that culminated with a long range effort from Chapman giving the Maidstone goalkeeper a nervous moment.
Henry Ikejie went into the referee’s book after 34 minutes and was given a stern talking-too a minute later following a foul.
The home side finished the half the stronger with a bustling run from the centre forward and a long ball into the box found the head of Sid Warden who headed over.
Tonbridge took the lead five minutes into the second period when a cross into the box was headed on by Ollie Baker into the path of Louis Pateman who swept the ball into the net from eight yards.
The lead was short-lived however as the hosts were level within two minutes. A swift counter-attack saw a through ball from the Maidstone right winger into Warden who drove it past the advancing Lewis Mitchell.
Tonbridge conceded a dreadful goal after 70 minutes to go 2-1 down. A long kick from the goalkeeper’s hands travelled the length of the pitch with the Maidstone substitute, Tom Barton, running unchallenged and slipping the ball past a hesitant Mitchell.
Barton may well have wrapped the game up a minute later when he once more ran clear but this time placed his shot narrowly wide of the left hand post.
If any fault lay at Mitchell’s feet for the second goal he redeemed himself with a brilliant save, clawing a shot from the inside left out of the top corner.
All credit though to the Angels who responded well in the last 15 minutes following the double substitution of Kunle Bakare and Guy Taylor for Jack Cussen and Chapman.
A cross-cum-shot from Ryan Gallifant looked overhit but required a tip over from Maidstone goalkeeper.
Tonbridge made their final substitution with six minutes remaining with Connor Watson replacing Jack Bray and the move immediately brought a dividend. Richard Frimpong laid the ball back from the edge of the box to Watson who took aim and drove a shot from 25 yards into the top corner with the goalkeeper getting a firm hand to the ball but failing to keep it out.
There was a heart-stopping moment in the final minutes when the home side hit a post but the Angels held out for a well-deserved point.
Jay Stubberfield breathed a sigh of relief and said that it had been a tough night with a whole squad of under-17s, so were much younger than the Maidstone side. His one criticism was that at 1-0 they lost concentration and he would have liked to have seen his side retain possession better in those final five minutes.
Thanks to Wink Tomkinson for report