Staines Town 1 Tonbridge Angels 1
TONBRIDGE ANGELS had to dig deep to pick up what may yet prove to be a vital point at Staines Town that keeps them in fourth place in the Ryman Premier.
Three players, Jack Parter, James Folkes and Tom Parkinson, had to go off because of injury, while Ugo Udoji finished the game with damaged ankle ligaments.
Such was the injury crisis that has befallen the Angels, they had to play out the last 15 minutes of the game with only 10 players as all the substitutions had been made.
Melvin Slight, the Tonbridge physio, was so busy that the final minutes saw the Staines physio having to come on and treat Tonbridge players.
Yet this was not a dirty game, just a case of the injury curse that has affected Tonbridge all season continuing to make its presence felt.
From an Angels perspective the first half was instantly forgettable aside from the heroics of loanee keeper Jonny Henly, who was making his second appearance for the club.
But for his efforts, the Swans could and perhaps should have been out of sight by half-time.
The Hemel Hempstead-based player was forced into saves in the fourth, eighth, 26th and 29th minutes.
He was finally been beaten on the half-hour when good work by Mohammed Bettamer saw the Tonbridge defence split open once more and Jonathan Hippolyte scored from 10 yards.
In Angels boss Steve McKimm’s words: “The paint peeled off the walls of our dressing room at half-time.”
It seemed to have the right effect as Tonbridge came out for the second half in much more determined mood.
They started to win the 50-50s, the passing was crisper and the tackling stronger. Crucially, Nicky Wheeler had switched to the left flank, his preferred position.
When Nathan Elder fed the ball out to Wheeler in the 52nd minute there didn’t appear be much on apart from perhaps a trademark cross from the Tonbridge winger.
He had other ideas. Cutting in from the left he cleverly made space for himself for the shot and let fly from 25 yards, giving Jack Turner in the Staines goal no chance.
For the next 20 minutes there looked to be only one winner, the team from Kent. On 55 minutes a Parkinson header either side of Turner would have doubled the score, and three minutes later Andre McCollin beat the offside trap but his shot was turned away.
While Wheeler continued to terrorise the Staines defence, the hosts did come close on the hour-mark with the goalscorer Hippolyte just wide from the edge of the area.
With 20 minutes left, substitute Folkes – who had already come on for Parter – was himself substituted due to injury.
Worse was to follow on 76 minutes when skipper Tom Parkinson was stretchered off with a suspected fractured ankle and no further substitutes available on the bench.
A Sonny Miles goalline clearance in the 85th minute typified the resistance in the Tonbridge ranks because of the numerical disadvantage, and despite the Swans’ pressure the Angels goal remained unscathed.
Manager McKimm was very pleased with the point, saying: “This is not an easy place to come to and they hadn’t conceded in five matches.
“We sorted a few things out at half-time and it was a very different game in the second half.
“Sonny has come through 90 minutes, Jonny’s kept us in at times, and it was a great strike by Nicky.”