Tonbridge Angels 0-3 Dartford
By Neill Barston
Tonbridge Angels manager Steve McKimm has expressed ‘disappointment’ that his team were unable to end a four-decade wait to make the first round of the FA Cup.
Despite having home advantage, the side were beaten 3-0 by a well-drilled Dartford outfit, whose higher league experience proved the difference on Saturday.
However, it could well have been a different story, as the Angels looked the more determined of the two sides early on in this Kentish clash.
Not since the early 1970’s had Tonbridge made the first round of the FA Cup, and after dispatching Hereford decisively in the third qualifying tie, their prospects had looked promising.
They started brightly at the Longmead Stadium, with a testing Tom Parkinson shot from outside the box striking Dartford’s left post inside the first 10 minutes.
However, when the influential Tonbridge midfielder was substituted after taking a knock midway through a first half, the visitors’ confidence grew and they responded with several dangerous counter-attacks.
Dartford’s Alex Brown broke the deadlock by latching on to a rebounded shot from outside the penalty area to slot home the opening goal on 35 minutes.
When the Darts gained a free-kick just before half-time, the resulting attempt nearly made it two.
After the interval, as heavy rain began to fall, Dartford picked up from where they left off by scoring twice in quick succession.
The first strike came courtesy of Andy Pugh on 47 minutes, and just four minutes later Elliot Bradbrook’s looping header sailed past Angels goalkeeper Anthony Di Bernardo to ensure that Dartford progressed into the next round.
Following the surprising substitution of Tonbridge playmaker Damian Scannell just before the 60-minute mark, the home side struggled to regain a foothold.
While Angels spent much of the second period camped out in the visitors’ half, they were unable to respond to a stronger and more disciplined Dartford side.
Manager McKimm admitted some defensive lapses had cost them after initially having the upper hand.
He said: “Dartford scoring their goals when they did just killed the game, and they deserved their win.
“I just told the team to play their natural game and we had five corners in the first 12 minutes. They were playing a lot of long balls that we were dealing with. They only had one shot in the first half and they scored with it.
“We’d lost Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson in the warm-up to the match, and then Tom Parkinson was off in the first half, which we will have to assess. But we had Tom Phipp on, and Jerrome Sobers came in and did well.
“There are other cups including the FA Trophy and Ryman Cup, but we have now got to concentrate on the league. We’ve a lot of games ahead of us and we’re now fifth in the table and don’t want other teams to overtake us.”