FA Vase 1st Round
Addlestone Moor, Addlestone
Admission including Programme: £6.00
When this round of the FA Vase was drawn, there was no doubt that I would be heading here today. It provided me with the rare opportunity these days to watch my local club when I was growing up at a ground I had not previously visited, and Addlestone Moor was the only ground I had not visited previously in the Combined Counties League Premier Division.
Addlestone Moor is about a 20 minute walk from Addlestone train station, and spectators enter to the ground by paying admission at a booth behind one of the goals. To the right of the entrance and behind one of the goals is situated the spacious and well laid out clubhouse, with a patio area and some overhang at the front. A tea bar hatch as well as a bar are both located inside this building. Along one length there is a small modern metallic stand and a small covered area either side of the dugouts, whilst the remaining two sides are accessible but with no hard standing. Situated on a fairly large expanse of playing fields, with the feel that this is a place of a work in process and with some industrial buildings in the background, this would presumably be a pretty bleak place on a cold or wet winter's day, but was not too bad today, with some colourful trees behind one length. There was a friendly feel to the place, as well as a feel that this is a club that is sensibly building its foundations as it establishes itself in senior football. The 40 page programme, which was free with admission, was really excellent, with more than enough stats to digest and some interesting articles to read.
In their first ever season at Step 5 level following back to back promotions, Abbey Rangers were in 16th place in the 23 team Combined Counties League Premier Division, with four wins and two draws from their 16 league games so far. In previous rounds, they win 2-3 at Shrivenham and then 1-0 at home to Badshot Lea. Sadly, Tunbridge Wells have failed to build on their glorious FA Vase run in which they reached the final in, after flirting with relegation last season, they are currently in 17th place in the 20 team Southern Counties East League Premier Division. Their form has picked since August though, losing just once in their last eight league and Cup games. To reach this round of the FA Vase, they have beaten Steyning Town 4-1 at home, and then East Preston 1-4 away. I had witnessed both of Tunbridge Wells' most recent exits from FA competition in dismal fashion, losing 3-0 away at Knaphill in last season's FA Vase, and 1-2 away at Eastbourne United in this FA Cup, when the scoreline masked how poorly they played. So, I was hoping for much improvement today.
On a sunny and relatively mild afternoon, this was an even game for large parts although Abbey Rangers always seemed to have the slight edge and gradually managed to pull clear to progress to the next round. On 15 minutes the home side saw a shot from outside the box hit the post and a follow-up shot was comfortably gathered. But on 25 minutes they did take the lead when a goalbound shot by Patrick Ruzicka took a deflection before landing in the net. Tunbridge Wells came closest to scoring on 38 minutes when a shot from the edge of the area forced a good diving save, but all was still to play for at half time with a narrow lead to the home side.
Tunbridge Wells struggled to create opportunities in the second half as the game seemed to meander towards an uneventful conclusion, however on 72 minutes, Abbey Rangers doubled their lead. A gliding run through the defence presented the chance to Paul Hodges deep inside the area and he struck the ball home. It was hard to see Tunbridge Wells getting back into the game, and after coming very close on a couple of occasions, the home side made absolutely certain of progression three minutes from time with a very good goal on the break. A galloping run down the right wing ended with a low cross into the box with two unmarked forwards waiting to tap the ball home – Hodges obliged with his second of the match. So it was Abbey Rangers who comfortably progressed into the next round, and the Tunbridge Wells fans, who barely stopped singing and chanting throughout the match, went home disappointed.