First League Defeat of the Season for U18s
Sollis brace not enough
Tonbridge Angels Under-18s fell to their first defeat of the season on a contentious evening at the Moatside, home to Merstham Football Club.
If eyes were being cast towards the 10th April meeting with Maidstone as a title decider, Merstham are very much in what will be a very interesting end to the season with all fourof the leading clubs (Ashford being the fourth) having to play each other.
This was a night when poor officiating evened itself out as both sides fell victim to some bad decisions.
Jay Stubberfield was forced to reshuffle his pack with Henry Ikeije, Liam Smith and Will Jump all unavailable, Louis Pateman and Lewis Mitchell turning out just 24 hours after playing for the reserves.
Both sides set out their attacking intention within the first five minutes. Merstham’s impressive left back, Rhys Davies set up Ross Obazee who scooped the ball over the bar from close range after two minutes whilst Sid Sollis struck a post from a free kick after five minutes.
Merstham’s goalkeeper Lachlan Greenwood made a fine save from Sollis following a Tommy Chapman free kick before the hosts opened the scoring after 15 minutes. Jack Fenton conceded a foul on the edge of the box from which Anwar Transwest cracked a well placed shot past the despairing Lewis Mitchell.
Another free kick given away by the Angels led to Merstham’s second goal after 23 minutes. A well flighted free kick from Sam Johnson glanced off the head of Pateman into his own net.
Merstham’s tails were up and they went three ahead just past the half-hour mark following a dreadful decision by the referee. Nat Lofthouse would have been proud to seen Emmanuel Omlore bundle Mitchell into the goal as the keeper looked to collect a corner but the referee somehow saw it as a fair challenge.
Tonbridge immediately found a lifeline when Sollis struck a 20 yard free kick powerfully past the Merstham keeper and might have been right back in the game three minutes later when they were awarded a penalty for a foul on Ziyad Ghali. Sollis’s spot kick was too close to the keeper, who got down well to save low to his left.
Tonbridge made a half-time substitution with Guy Taylor replacing Harvey Killick and it paid dividends after just 24 seconds of the second half when Sollis picked up a rebound after Taylor’s initial shot was saved. The fact that Taylor was clearly offside showed the referee had no bias.
Tonbridge were pressing hard for the equaliser, Pateman fired in a shot from 25 yards and after 56 minutes had a goal chalked off as Taylor touched in from an offside position after Ghali’s shot was saved.
Mitchell saved well from Davies and Sollis had two efforts blocked in quick succession as the game swung from end to end.
Merstham restored their two goal advantage after 76 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty for handball against Ryan Gallifant, when the defender could hardly get out of the way of a ball driven at him. Obazee converted from the spot.
In the 82nd minute, the hosts were reduced to 10 men when they had Johnson sent off for a second yellow for talking back at the official.
Tonbridge continued to search for something out of the game and when a almighty scramble in the Merstham box was finally cleared, Obazee was laid injured on the goal-line. He was unable to continue leaving the hosts with nine men to see out the remaining seconds. Sollis sportingly helped the stricken Merstham man away. Two goals, a missed penalty, a booking and ending the night as a stretcher bearer, all in an evening’s work for the irrepressible Sid Sollis.
The Under-18s are next in action on Monday evening when they entertain Raynes Park Vale.
Thanks to Wink Tomkinson for report