Tonbridge Angels Ladies were beaten but not disgraced on their FA Womens Cup debut.
Although they came out on the wrong end of an 11-0 defeat, they showed signs of class that will show they will relish the challenge of a higher division next season, and every single player has every right to feel proud of their performance.
The game was played at one of the best stadiums the team has played at, Princes Park, Dartford. Opponents London Kent Football United are now under the unofficial banner of Dartford Ladies, (only a deadline prevented a name change for this match), and as a result they were able to use Dartford's first team pitch for the game. In heavy rain and with a mens first team match the next day, Dartford had made tentative inquiries about moving the game to the 3G pitch behind the main stand, but it was booked out most of the afternoon, maintaining the game was played at the stadium.
London Kent Football United play two divisions higher than the Angels, but for the first ten to fifteen minutes the Tonbridge defence were equal to everything their opponents threw at them. Central defenders Samantha Burton and Courtney Smith dealt with everything that came into the box, but special mention has to go to defender Helena Fothergill, who was forced to play in goal for the game, and made a bright start, dealing with crosses, and keeping out a close range shot after just three minutes.
At the other end Tonbridge were starting to put some moves together too. Megan Akehurst shot just past the right hand post on ten minutes, and a minute later teenager Maisie Gibb did well to get free of her opponent and almost found striker Becky Janes in an even better position.
On 13 minutes London KFU took the lead. Strong build-up play resulted in the number 7 firing high to the left, past Fothergill's reach. The Angels lost confidence, struggled to keep possession particularly just outside their own penalty area and within the next nine minutes found themselves 5-0 down.
However, Tonbridge improved for the remainder of the first half. They conceded just one more goal before half-time (to make it 6-0) but were unlucky not to have a reward of their own. Maisie Gibb shot wide after good work from Janes, Gibb got herself in a good position from a cross from the right hand side only to be flagged offside, and Kelly Moran curled a free kick wide.
Manager Dan Couldridge made one change at half-time, introducing the fresh Becky Jarvis on the right hand side, but within two minutes of the restart London KFU headed in goal number seven with further goals coming on 55, 56 and 63 to make it 10-0. But Tonbridge were determined to score, and it looked as if one would come. Becky Janes tried an ambitious lob over the keeper on 67 which was just saved, and Becky Jarvis did well to find good space on the right hand side of the penalty area and forced a good save from the goalkeeper.
Tonbridge conceded the 11th and final goal on 82 minutes when Fothergill got a hand to a high cross from the right and it drifted under the cross-bar, but throughout the game Tonbridge never stopped chasing lost causes, never gave up, and never stopped enjoying the occasion.
Manager Dan Couldridge said: "It was very tough, but everyone keeps going. We have a lot of players missing, we had to make the best of what we can. The season starts properly in two weeks, this is part of pre-season for us."
Midfielder Alex Weston added: "It was a really good experience, we were up for the challenge, and you can't deny our spirit."
Tonbridge Ladies start their league campaign on September 9th.
TEAM: Fothergill; Moran, Burton, Smith, Coulter (Foster); Anastasiou, Povey (Rabbitt), Weston, Gibb; Akehurst (Jarvis); Janes.
Updated 21:14 - 26 Aug 2018 by Matt Davison