Tonbridge Angels Ladies reached their second successive tournament final on Sunday – but were once again cruelly denied top honours by the ‘lottery’ of penalty kicks.
A fortnight earlier, an Angels squad were beaten finalists against Burgess Hill Town, in the tournament at Tunbridge Wells. Here at Vinters Park, Maidstone, an entirely different squad of eight players matched that achievement, demonstrating the range of talent that the club can now boast.
Goals were at a premium in the group stage, with no side in Group A conceding more than a single goal over the four games, but Tonbridge’s team looked confident throughout with two wins and a draw confirming they would top the group with a game to spare. Only a literal slip up on the field saw the defence breached in the final group game but this was academic as the team already knew they would be facing Kent Football Utd Yellow in the Quarter Finals.
With a lengthy delay before the knockout stage the team practiced penalties and this would prove to be key. After a goalless opening match Ellie Brett, skipper Kelly Moran and Becky Janes scored all their kicks with goalkeeper Tracy Edwards stopping one to her right to set up a semi-final with Swale.
This was a much tougher experience but the Angels defence remained firm and another goalless draw meant more spot kicks. Swale saw two of their three kicks saved by Edwards, with Janes again scoring the crucial penalty.
The impressive Kent Football Utd Blue awaited in the Final and controlled the match with their typically strong passing game, but again Tonbridge defended superbly while looking threatening on the counter attack. In extra time Janes unleashed a screamer of a shot from distance to give the Angels the lead with just over a minute remaining. But there was still time for an equaliser and it came in heartbreaking fashion with a speculative shot taking a wicked deflection into the net.
Both sides scored two kicks to take the shoot-out into sudden death. Kent Football scored their fourth penalty but Maisie Gibb saw her kick diverted onto the post.
Nevertheless it was an impressive day’s work for the Ladies, who now return to pre-season training for a fortnight before their opening friendly, at Burgess Hill Town’s Leylands Park stadium on Thursday, July 27th.
Updated 15:39 - 10 Jul 2017 by Jim Rowe