Tonbridge Angels

Saturday 29th January -Ryman Premier
Tonbridge Angels 3 v Lowestoft Town 3
Gate : £10
Atten: 621  
Ground:Very tidy ground.One of the best in this league 6/10
Food: Cheese burger with onions £2.60, and a cup of tomato soup 80p & Coffee 80p
Match Enjoyment: match of the day in this league, two strong teams, decent end to end game with a good standard of skill. 7/10.

Vid of Tonbridge's 1st goal ..

I had been to Longmead Stadium a few years ago but not with my camera. I remember it as quite a decent little stadium for the level they are playing in. Today it was The Angels v The Trawlermen.

I dont mean the Trawlermen from TV fame , these ones are from Lowestoft and by all acounts they were a pretty decent outfit. Having run away with last seasons Ryman North Division i was very much looking forward to seeing them in the flesh. Having only conceded before today only nine league goals all season they was obviously  decent.

A healthy crowd had formed for this Ryman Match of the day. Lowestoft had a good following as well.
The game started and was an even affair for the first 15 minutes and they suddenly Tonbridge were presented with a soft goal, suprising considering Lowestoft's proud defensive record. Then within a 20 minute spell they were 3-0 down ! Tonbride were blowing them away with quick movement and very well taken goals. Movements and patterns of play obviously practiced on the training pitch. It was all one way traffic, a twenty minute spell of wave after wave of blue attacks and the Trawler men were all at Sea !!

Then just before half time Lowestoft scored a bizarre goal from 45 yards !. They had a free kick , as they took it every Tonbridge player pushed up trying to play them offside - but the ball went over every ones head , including the goalies into the back of the net ! . Suddenly the whole ground went silent as a linesman's flag was half expected but it didnt come and it was now 3-1. It had been a very good first half and i needed some refreshment .... Sweet Chilli flavour nuts 

 Lowestoft came out in the second half and started well. Decent build up play with no end product until seven minutes from time a well taken headed goal after some decent wing play by the new signing from Corby.
Then Tonbridge started to panic and some bad tackles were a result of this. Then two minutes from time a corner came over and Lowestoft scored a headed equaliser and the comeback was complete.

Longmead Stadium - nice ground

Herne Bay

Saturday 22nd January - FA Vase 4th Round
Herne Bay 1 v Whitley Bay 2
Gate : £6 superb value !
Atten: 655
Ground: Excellent ground, three decent covered stands with lots of charachter ,very scenic and i loved it. 9/10
Food: I had a Fry up with 'Bubble and  Squeek' in town near the sea front - 7/10
Match Enjoyment: Excellent match, great atmosphere, both sides really going for it, a draw probably a fair result but the sting in the tale was decisive 10/10

When i was choosing my 3rd Round tie to visit Herne Bay was the choice, for reasons i know not. But on seeing who the winners could end up playing i decided to wait for today. My decision paid off in more ways than one. For some reason I was really looking forward to this game except when I looked out the bedroom window early this morning. The decision was another 'quick' ten minutes under the duvet (goose feather !) then I thought of the 800 mile round trip for fans of Whitley Bay had to endure made my journey look a short one , which it was not. But to spend a couple of hours with Linda (my sat nav) was too good to resist.
As i made my way to the south-east corner of England i was welcomed by mist and cold rain, Linda as always had done a beautiful job and i was very proud of her. I parked up and asked a local lady where the nearest bank was , her reply was " million and one banks daaan there darlin' as she gesticulated with her nicotine stained fingers whilst patting her pregnant belly. When i also enquired as to the location of an eating establishment she replied "omg darlin' you're in the back 'n' beyond 'ere". I didnt learn much from this lady except that Herne Bay had over a million banks in the town centre !

Fry Up in Herne Bay

After my Full English (with Bubble and Squeek) i made my way back to see Linda and find Winch's Field , Home of Herne Bay FC ... todays game was the Battle of the Bays ....North v South .... Herne v Whitley.

Linda told me within seconds ... "turn left in 50 yards and you have arrived at your destination". Linda was not wrong , i suddenly found myself surrounded by stewards in bright yellow bibs, obviously more than the usual amount on duty for home games. I did a u-turn and parked in the nearby street.
From the outside the ground did not look much, but to be fair as you could not see inside just yet due to the metal fencing it was too early to judge.

Once inside you could notice what a gem of a non league ground this was.
A perfect ground for any ground hopper.Three sides of covered stands and the other side with the Clubhouse bar, catering and well stocked shop.

I decided to venture for the bar and on entrance was welcomed by a bar full of Whitley Bay fans already in full flow.
It was here i met Whitley Bay loyal fans , Big Louis, Mickey T, Jeff, and more and great banter was had. The passion they all had for their team was wonderful to see and there was no way they were not going to be here today.

I was aware that Herne Bay had themselves been on a very decent unbeaten run of games until the previous weekend. With Whitley Bays 20 match unbeaten Vase run , either way this was going to be a cracker !
The ground was now filling up and the teams were warming up.

Team Sheet
Whitley Team warm up
The game started and Herne Bay came out very strongly with quick passing football.During matches i tend to wonder around the ground and today i bumped into a very pleasant Herne Bay local Angelo, he had admitted whilst in the middle of decorating at home, he threw his paint brush down as the lure of the FA Vase was too much to resist.  Whitley were restricted to a few break aways for the first 25 minutes but slowly begun to impose themselves on the game. It was an excellent game so far, so good infact that i couldn't believe what i had heard ... the half time whistle !

Vase Fever
The queue for the bar and tea hut were very long so no chance of half time refeshment but it was no big deal as the teams returned to the pitch after only ten minutes. I decided to stand behind the goal with the Whitley bay fans and was approached by  'meeks' from the forum "are you Onion bag ?" he enquired .. "yes i am" came the answer and a wry smile covered his happy face.
Whitley Bay started the second half very strongly and within a few minutes scored the first goal.
Whitley Players celebrate first goal.

It was at this point i thought the Herne Bay heads would drop, but no ! it only in fact made them more determined. They attacked with force and scored a well deserved equaliser within three minutes of going behind ... game on !!
It was now Herne who were on top and Whitley Bay were hanging on , you could tell from the groans of their fans that they were under heavy pressure and were about to lose their proud long unbeaten Vase run in Kent.
It was thrilling end to end stuff chances galore for both teams. The two Whitley forwards Chow and Kerr were an impressive partnership. The Herne goalie made two outstanding saves. Then Whitley Bay had a succession of corners , Herne bay held firm. The ball came out to the far corner and the Herne defender was beaten for skill through sheer fatigue, the ball was chipped in the box and Chow took the ball down well, dropped his shoulder and fired home the winner in the 93rd minute !. The sheer deleight shown by the Whitley fans was clearly evident - some fans were dancing on the pitch !
It was a very cruel blow to Herne Bay as extra time was seconds away. They had fought so hard and bravely but you could feel the cruel sting in the tail of this cracking cup tie was down to the experience of Whitley Bays Vase history in recent years.

Die Hard Whitley Bay fan celebrates winner !
But as a neutral i was kind of sad for two reasons. Missing out on an extra half hour of cracking football and the chances of a replay and experiencing the company of these great fans.
The celebrations continued long after the final whistle. I also celebrated ! they were celebrations of a cracking game, gem of a ground, meeting wonderful people, being part of FA Vase history and a day that will live long in the memory. What more could a ground hopper want ?