Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Tunbridge Wells 3 v 2 Beckenham Town

Tuesday 5th March 2013
Kent League Premier Division
Culverden Stadium, Tunbridge Wells
Admission: £6.00 
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 102
Match rating: 4

For this week's midweek fare, I spurned the opportunity to sit at home and watch Manchester United against Real Madrid in the Champions League, instead I headed to my other local team, Tunbridge Wells. Whilst I did fear there may be something of "after the lord mayor's show" about this fixture, with Tunbridge Wells having heroically won their FA Vase Quarter Final game on Saturday, I still considered it worth a visit to see a team I have high affection for having managed such a fantastic achievement in reaching the FA Vase Semi Final.

There have been no changes to the ground from my previous visits in recent seasons.As for the programme, although it was certainly overpriced at £1.50, there was some interesting material to read with colour photographs, a fairly low quantity of advertising, contained 32 pages and the cover had an attractive painting of the ground, celebrating 50 years of playing there. 

Cup exploits and poor weather conditions have meant that league form would be difficult to judge for Tunbridge Wells, tonight being their first league game since 4th February and only their third in 2013. So the fact that Tunbridge Wells have not lost in the league since 20th October - when they went down 4-5 at tonight's opponents Beckenham - is not quite as impresive as it may at first sound - the run only spans four league games, all won. However, in all competitions, they are unbeaten in their last seven games and are unbeaten in their last 15 games, and as well as having a FA Vase semi final to look forward to in the next couple of weeks, they have also reached the Kent Senior Cup semi final which shall be played at the weekend. Although they went into this game down in ninth place, they have at least three games in hand against every other team - win all of their games in hand, and they would be joint second. As for Beckenham, one place below Tunbridge Wells, they have been on reasonable recent form too, having lost just once in their last six games, picking up 11 points. Tonight's two teams have also met in the FA Cup back in early August when Beckenham won 4-1 at home.

On a surprisingly mild evening, the game started at a lively pace, and on 12 minutes it was the visitors who opened the scoring when after a player was fouled out wide, the referee played advantage, the ball was then drilled across the penalty area before being fired in from close range by Danny Tipple. It didn't take long for Tunbridge Wells to get back on level terms though - less than a minute in fact. Virtually from the kick off Tunbridge Wells poured forward and eventually Jack Harris took possession of the ball, drove towards goal before unleashing a powerful shot past the Beckenham keeper at his near post despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball. The game maintained its high tempo for the rest of the first half and Tunbridge Wells would surely have kicked themselves for not taking a lead into half time, having spurned some very presentable chances.

The second half remained entertaining, although there were few goalscoring chances by now for the opening half of the second half. On 78 minutes, the home side took the lead though with a rather messy goal. A good ball was played forward and the keeper couldn't keep control of the ball and when the ball spilled away, Josh Stanford just managed to scramble to his feet to pass the ball into the net before a defender could get a block in. Four minutes later and it appeared that Tunbridge Wells had put the game to bed on 82 minutes when a free kick from outside the corner of the penalty area was curled not particularly powerfully over the wall, past the keeper's dive and into the net. However, similar to what Tunbridge Wells managed earlier, Beckenham took less than a minute to pull a goal back, when the ball was floated into the box from a corner, and after the ball bobbled around in the air, finally Elstrom Die glanced the ball delicately over the keeper's hand and into the net. A grandstand finish never materialised though as Tunbridge Wells held onto their lead fairly comfortably to claim the three points after a very entertaining game of football, even if less than a tenth of those present on Saturday for the FA Vase game were present tonight.

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