Sunday, 14 April 2013

Tunbridge Wells 2 v 1 Lordswood

Sunday 14th April 2013
Kent Senior Trophy Final
Longmead, Tonbridge
Admission: £7.00
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 736
Match Rating: 3

A rare Sundays fixture for me this season was the latest grand event in the fantasy football that is Tunbridge Wells' season this year, watching my local team making an appearance in the first of two cup finals for them this season.. Having watched Tunbridge Wells twice lose out in this competition's final in recent years, it was a case of hoping for third time lucky.

Whilst recent Kent Senior Trophy finals have been staged at Welling United's Park View Road ground, this year the final was to be hosted at Longmead, home of Conference South club Tonbridge Angels, so it was rather fortunate that Tunbridge Wells qualified for the final, with only six miles separating the two towns. Longmead is about a half hour walk from Tonbridge rail station, but plentiful car parking is available at the ground. There haven't been any noticeable improvemtnds to the ground isthe couple of years since I last visited Longmead, not that any were needed. Along one length is a clubhouse together with various other small buildings such as club shop, refreshment van and announcers hut. Only hard standing is available along this length, with a small all-seater stand for club officials. Along almost the entire length on the other side is a stand consisting of six rows of seating., whilst behind both goals are identical fairly small stands covering terrace steps. Although the programme had an professional and attractive cover and was printed on glossy paper, it was far overpriced with 12 pages, four of which were advertising, containing penpics and a message from both clubs, but with no information, for example, of how both clubs reached the final.

To reach the final, FA Vase finalists Tunbridge Wells have defeated Kent Football United 3-2 at home, Ashford United by the same scoreline away, Canterbury City 3-1 at home, before beating Kent League leaders Erith and Belvedere 3-0 in the semi final which was switched to Erith's ground due to the poor condition of the pitch at Tunbridge Wells. Lordswood set off on their road to the final with a 0-5 win at Crockenhill, with further away wins following at Woodstock Park (0-7), Woodstock Sports (1-2) and Deal Town (1-2). In the Kent League, Tunbridge Wells are one place and three points above Lordswood having played three games less. When the two teams met at Lordswood in the league in January, Tunbridge Wells won 1-4, although when they met in the quarter final of the league cup, Lordswood won 5-2 over two legs.

In contrast to yesterday's wet and dreary conditions - which had put this game in slight doubt - today conditions were sunny but rather windy. Perhaps unsurprisingly the vast majority of the crowd were supporting Tunbridge Wells, however they were to be disappointed in the first half when Tunbridge Wells struggled to get any kind of foothold in the game as Lordswood dominated proceedings and they deservedly took the lead on 9 minutes. John Wells hit the woodwork from a free kick but the ball hit the Tunbridge Wells keeper Chris Oladogba and went into the net for an own goal. Lordswood continued to dominate but couldn't score a crucial second. Tunbridge Wells came back into the game as half time approached, without ever really looking like they could score and worrying signs were there that this might be a bridge too far for Tunbridge Wells.

The second half continued much as the first had ended - even but with few signs of Tunbridge Wells scoring an equaliser.  However on 58 minutes they did just that when Jon Pilbeam drove into the box from wide, past a defender and drilled the ball into the six yard box. The Lordswood keeper managed to save the ball but the ball hit the Lordswood defender Gary Cook and rolled into the net for a second own goal of the game. The game could have gone either way now but still Lordswood looked more likely to get the winner, missing a couple of presentable chances. However Tunbridge Wells have achieved so much by digging deep this season, and it was they who scored what turned out to be the winner six minutes from time. Pilbeam took control the ball on the edge of the penalty area and was allowed time to curl a glorious shot into the far top corner beyond the reach of the keeper's despairing drive. Tunbridge Wells held on fairly comfortably to claim their first piece of silverware in 25 years, the first time they have lifted the Kent Senior Trophy at the fifth time of asking, and would be another confidence booster going into their much tougher assignment in their next cup final, against big spending Spennymoor Town in the FA Vase final at Wembley next month. Defeat was harsh on Lordswood who were the better side on the day, but cup finals are usually decided by who has that winning mentality and always by who takes more of their chances.

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