Vital win for Angels
Back up to 4th after McCollin's strike seals three points
Seven days is a long time in football and if last Saturdays encounter with Harlow Town produced a poor display then the effort the Angels put in today away at Hendon was in sharp contrast. Not that the hosts made it easy and why would they. The Greens are facing their first ever relegation in their long and illustrious history and this was a huge game for them as well as the Angels who were desperate to get back in the play off mix.
The 2-1 win for Tonbridge was just about deserved over the 90 minutes but it was a close run thing with the winner coming seven minutes from time.
New loan signing Vas Karagiannis went straight into the starting line up on the right flank while Alex Akrofi partnered Nathan Elder up front. The defence was unchanged from the Harlow game and in midfield Nicky Wheeler was left wing, Luke Allen centre and Damian Scannell in the holding role.
Tonbridge made the worst possible start going behind after just 14 minutes. The referee had no hesitation in making a penalty award for what appeared to be a push and Matt Ball made no mistake from the spot sending keeper Jonny Henly the wrong way.
On 18 minutes Karagiannis forced a good save from Hendon keeper Tom Lovelock round the post and from the resulting corner Sonny Miles unmarked at the back post had a clear sight of goal but he drove his effort into the side netting.
Tonbridge enjoyed a good spell of pressure around the half hour mark which concluded with the unmarked Nathan Elder facing goal with the ball but a saving tackle from a Hendon defender preserved their one goal advantage.
The 35th minute saw a brilliant run from Nicky Wheeler whose cross deserved a better outcome although the clearance was to fall to Scannell whose cross also was somehow smuggled away by the Hendon defence.
A heart stopping moment for the Angels came in the 37th minute when Khale da Costa's run and pull back was met by Kezie Ibe only for Henly to pull off a smart save. Four minutes later another excellent cross from Wheeler was well defended by Hendon and on the stroke of half time Allen's free kick was inches over the host's crossbar.
Almost from the kick off Dave Diedhiou almost managed to double Hendon's advantage but was foiled by Henly while a minute later it was Akrofi's turn to worry the hosts forcing a good save from Lovelock.
As the half progressed the wing play of Wheeler and Karagiannis was beginning to stretch the Hendon defence and with Scannell protecting the back line the Angels were starting to control proceedings. Chances fell to Karagiannis, Akrofi and Miles and it was perhaps not too much of a surprise when that Tonbridge equaliser eventually came in the 68th minute with Karagiannis's low cross diverted past Lovelock by the Angels leading scorer, Elder.
With a draw not much use to either side it was now very much game on. Reis Stanislaus for Hendon saw his shot just clear the bar while in the 77th minute Luke Blewden played Andre McCollin into a dangerous position with his shot agonisingly wide from a Tonbridge point of view. Luke Blewden had a chance himself two minutes later with a set up from Jack Parter, and then immediately after that Marcel Barrington for Hendon after a good run down the left created the space for the shot and which Henly was able to deal with.
The winning goal came in the 86th minute when Tonbridge substitutes, Blewden, and Dan Thompson combined for another substitute McCollin to poke the ball past Lovelock and just over the line. The visitors were able to fashion further chances for Thompson and Wheeler while Barrington tested Henly again at the other end but finally referee Neal Templey blew the whistle for the last time to mark the end of a hard fought game.
Afterwards, Angels manager Steve McKimm said: "All the players have done well today, they've worked hard, kept their concentration and constantly pressed the play. Vas has got through 90 minutes which is excellent and he's going to be important to us in the last few games. We shall train hard midweek and then we have Havant next Saturday which is a huge game for both clubs. I'm looking forward to it."
The win sees the Angels climb from 6th to 4th and back in a play off slot. Whilst Bognor and Havant battle it out for the title, eight other clubs including Tonbridge are playing for the remaining three play off places. It looks like being a very exciting and nail biting finale.