Proud showing in Essex
Despite going down to a 2-1 defeat, Tonbridge Angels left their supporters with a feeling of pride.
Tonbridge emerged from the Lion’s Den, or at least Billericay’s temporary version, with their heads held high despite going down to a 2-1 defeat.
The Tonbridge support, who had made their way through the Tunnel to Aveley’s spanking new Parkside Stadium, showed their appreciation for a great effort in the face of a Billericay side with far more creation with the inclusion of Sam Deering and Ricky Modeste, both of whom were missing from the reverse fixture a fortnight ago.
The opening 15 minutes were fairly cagey with Xavier Vidal shooting wide for the Angels and Jake Robinson bringing a comfortable save after Jonny Henly’s headed clearance only found the prolific striker.
Tonbridge suffered a setback after just 13 minutes when Craig Stone needed to be replaced following a recurrence of his thigh injury. Luke Blewden slotted into the right back position with the onerous task of defending against the lightning pace of Modeste.
A superb move involving Deering, Billy Bricknell ended with Modeste’s shot hitting the right hand post.
Tonbridge responded immediately with Joe Turner’s effort going narrowly wide.
The Angels were forced into a second substitution before the break when Tashi-Jay Kwayie was unable to continue after treatment and was replaced by Nathan Elder.
The home side were denied a half-time lead when Liam Smith cleared from the line following a corner.
Billericay made the breakthrough in the 53rd minute when some clever play down the right from Robinson opened up the Angels and set up Deering to score from close range.
Billericay had a spell when they were in full flow and only the crossbar saved the Angels from going two down following Robinson’s effort.
From being under the cosh, Tonbridge found an equaliser on 67 minutes when a corner was poorly dealt with by Alan Julian leading to a scramble in which Elder had two attempts blocked before Smith poked the ball home.
The Angels’ delight lasted just a minute when Modeste’s cross found the head of substitute Liam Hughes to restore the Essex side’s lead.
Henly made good saves from Modeste, Hughes and Inman to keep ‘Riccay sweating into the last five minutes when Tonbridge threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser and it so very nearly came when Sam Bantick was sent clear by Turner but he took a heavy touch and Julian was able to smother at his feet.
Steve McKimm graciously accepted that his side had been beaten by the better side whose quality players, Deering, Modeste and Jamie O’Hara benefitted from the 3G surface but was rightly proud of his team’s effort.
“It wasn’t a disgrace but you can’t tell the players that, they are devastated. I’m proud of the boys, as I have been for the past 8-10 weeks ... with just a bare 14 (with the reshuffling following the injuries). We did the best we could and the boys gave everything they had.”
Tonbridge go into Saturday’s game at Tooting with McKimm having George Beavan back from suspension and hopeful Jack Parter could return but was doubtful that Craig Stone would be available.