Angels sunk at the Sussex Coast with three penalties against
McKimm: "I'm proud of my players given the circumstances"
The Angels spent a thoroughly miserable New Year’s Eve afternoon on the South Coast in their Ryman Premier encounter with improving Worthing. Not that the Rebels had much of an opportunity to show off their skills. Refereeing decisions basically determined the outcome of this game with no less than three penalties awarded to the hosts and 4 red cards brandished, with all but one shown to the visitors. Debate will of course rage over some of those decisions, but the fact is it’s another three points lost for the Angels as their playoff challenge becomes increasingly difficult. The results of this month’s run of home games are going to be very crucial.
The strange thing about the game was that there wasn’t a single vicious challenge throughout the 90 minutes but with only nine men for the entire second half it was always going to be a struggle for the visitors, despite the fact that Worthing could only find the net through penalties.
It was a pity that refereeing decisions became the main talking point because the match itself had started in promising fashion as chances were created at both ends in the early minutes with perhaps the best of these when Aaron Hopkinson shot straight at Anthony Di Bernardo in the Tonbridge goal when through after just five minutes.
On 16 minutes Angels skipper Tom Parkinson saw his header from Nick Wheeler’s corner go just wide and with the first quarter of an hour completed with some entertaining attacking football from both sides, the large crowd of 752 settled back to enjoy some festive football.
It was sadly not to be. On 25 minutes Omar Bugiel bore down on the Angels goal but at the vital moment he appeared to push the ball slightly too far forward into the arms of the grateful Di Bernardo. Chance gone or so it was thought. Suddenly, however, the referee is pointing to the spot and then worse still from a Tonbridge perspective showing Ugo Udogi a red card. The penalty seemed soft the sending off, under new FA rules, extremely harsh. That said Worthing were not going to miss an opportunity to get their noses in front and Bugiel stepped up to slam the ball past Di Bernardo.
Two minutes later Mitchell Nelson had a good chance to level things up but it was a good save from Rebels keeper Jack Fagan.
On 36 minutes the game really did start to slip away from Tonbridge as an off the ball incident between Wheeler and Hopkinson eventually resulted in Wheeler being shown a straight red and Hopkinson receiving a caution. The altercation took place just in front of the dugouts with the result that officials became embroiled and the referee’s overused red card was shown twice more to Angels boss Steve McKimm and Worthing substitute Brannon O’Neill.
As the half neared its end and with just nine men Tonbridge almost equalised with Will Hendon clearing off his own line following a mistake from Matt Boiling.
With seven minutes of first half stoppage time, the break was eventually reached and spectators could draw breath and perhaps anticipate a more ordered second half.
As a spectacle, however, it was predictably disappointing. With only nine men, Tonbridge defended in numbers hoping for a miracle on the break, while Worthing had to be content with loads of possession but not able to penetrate the heart of the Angels back line. The game might well have drifted to a 1-0 conclusion but for the referees almost inevitable interventions.
Strangely, while the Rebels struggled to create much in front of goal, it was the 9 man Angels who fashioned out the clearest chances mainly by using the electric pace of Alex Akrofi against a defence who clearly thought they could have the luxury of playing a high line given their numerical superiority.
In the space of a minute there were two chances for the visitors following successive corners with perhaps George Beavan’s header in the 62nd minute being the closest.
The points were pretty much wrapped up in the 80th minute when Luke Blewden brought down Will Hendon in the area with something of a striker’s tackle perhaps brought on through sheer exhaustion – he had covered every inch of the 3g pitch. Bugiel scored his second and that was that one might have thought. Commendably, Tonbridge kept plugging away and refused to throw in the towel and to be honest you had to feel for the players when in the 80th minute the referee pointed to the spot for the third time after an innocuous coming together in the area involving Parkinson and Zack Newton . Even the Worthing players appeared surprised and certainly there were no appeals. Up stepped Bugiel for what might have been the easiest hat trick he would ever score, but this time Di Bernardo saved the shot only for Newton to score from close in. It pretty much summed up Tonbridge’s day.
Afterwards, Angels Boss Steve McKimm admitted that he thought that probably the second penalty award was correct but there must be serious doubts over the first and last decisions. He continued: “However, rather than discuss the performance of the referee and I know everyone will, I would rather concentrate on the performance of the players who I thought were magnificent this afternoon in particular after we had gone down to nine men. The fact that we managed to create some clear cut chances and restricted Worthing to strikes thought penalty awards speaks volumes for the character and determination of my players.”