Today our U16's Kent Youth League team welcomed Tonbridge Angels to Greatness Park. This game was going to be a big test for Toby and his team, in order for him to see how far the Oaks had progressed since last season. Our opponents have not been beaten in the league for a couple of seasons and boast a large number of district players. This was always going to be a close game, where a single goal could be the ultimate winner.
The game commenced at a frenetic pace with the ball spending most of its time in the air. Both teams looked to dominate the centre of the park , however the Oaks were guilty of giving away a number of free kicks just outside of our penalty area. This was putting pressure on our defence and on the 15th minute Angels rattled our cross bar, when one of their players headed the ball completely unchallenged from a set piece.
The Oaks immediately went on the attack and McCarthy hit the back of the Angels net, only for it to be ruled out for offside. Then Burden hit one of his trademark shots that went just over the bar, with the goalkeeper well beaten. Suddenly a long ball was floated over our centre backs and our opponent’s striker was clean through on goal. Harry Earls sprinted out from his goal and threw himself onto the ball to thwart the attack. Earl's bravery earned himself an injury from going in for a fifty fifty ball, but one that was not serious enough for him to leave the field of play.
Then on the 40th minute, Hathway picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and hit a spectacular shot that was destined for the corner of our opponent's net. However, the Angels goalkeeper dived at full stretch and was just able to push the ball away to safety.
During the interval Dave and Sam Wilkins supplied the supporters with a selection of snacks which Dave claimed he had baked that morning. They were enjoyed by all and were very tasty.
The second half commenced with both sides attacking at will. Darren Cooper lifted the Oaks with his energy and running and was to be a thorn in the side of our opponents all afternoon. Then on the 48th minute Angels were awarded a rather soft free kick on the edge of our penalty area, which saw the Angels score with a free header at the front post. 0-1
On the 49th minute Chambers hit the back of the net with a superb volley, only for it to be surprisingly ruled off for offside. Toby reshuffled the team and sent Travers to play up front alongside McCarthy. Suddenly Earls was called upon to make a super one-handed save from our opponents striker who had broken through our defence.
The Oaks keeper Earls had been superb all afternoon even though he had been clattered at every opportunity. Our boys took the fight to Angels in an effort to get something from the game. Travers had a header from a free kick saved on the line by the goalkeeper, as did Della Valle who headed a fabulous cross from our captain Watkins. However, the score was to remain 0-1 to our visitors.
I believe that a draw would have been a fair result for this game but football is all about taking your chances and our opponents certainly converted their best opportunity. This was a strong team performance against a top team but our lads need to learn not to panic and to try and get the ball onto the ground and to play our own brand of football.
There were periods when the Oaks' slick passing carved open our opponents. However, on too many occasions we let Tonbridge Angels be first to the ball and were often guilty of conceding needless free kicks in dangerous areas. Yet we defended well and probably had the better chances in front of goal.
Angels are the best team that we have played against this season and I am sure that we have learnt a lot and Toby and the lads will look forward to our next game with the Angels in a month’s time.
Chirnside was injured during this encounter and we wish him a speedy recovery. Finally, it was great to see Max Della Valle back on the pitch having recovered from his knee injury.