Worthing 3 Tonbridge Angels 0
TONBRIDGE Angels spent a miserable New Year’s Eve on the south coast in their Ryman Premier encounter with improving Worthing.
Not that the Rebels had much of an opportunity to show off their skills. Refereeing decisions basically determined the outcome with three penalties awarded to the hosts and four red cards brandished – three of them for the visitors.
Debate will rage over some of those decisions, but Angels’ hopes of reaching the play-offs become increasingly far-fetched. The results of this month’s run of home games will be crucial.
There wasn’t a single vicious challenge during the match but with only nine men for the entire second half it was always going to be a struggle for the visitors, despite the fact that Worthing could only find the net from the spot.
In the early exchanges there were chances at both ends – Aaron Hopkinson shot straight at Anthony Di Bernardo in the Tonbridge goal when through after just five minutes.
And on 16 minutes Angels skipper Tom Parkinson saw his header from Nick Wheeler’s corner go just wide. A large crowd of 752 settled back to enjoy some festive football.
It was not to be. On 25 minutes Omar Bugiel bore down on the Angels goal but he appeared to push the ball slightly too far forward into the arms of the grateful Di Bernardo.
But the referee pointed to the spot and showed Ugo Udogi a red card. He had made a challenge but the sending-off, under new FA rules, was harsh since he seemed to make a genuine attempt to play the ball – a yellow card at worst. Bugiel stepped up to slam the ball past Di Bernardo.
Two minutes later Mitchell Nelson had a decent chance to level the scores but produced a good save from Rebels keeper Jack Fagan.
On 36 minutes an off-the-ball incident between Wheeler and Hopkinson eventually resulted in Wheeler being shown a straight red and Hopkinson receiving a caution.
The altercation took place in front of the dugouts, the officials became embroiled and the referee showed his red to Angels boss Steve McKimm and Worthing sub Brannon O’Neill.
Despite having only nine men Tonbridge almost equalised with Will Hendon clearing off his own line after a mistake by Matt Boiling. There were then seven minutes of first-half stoppage time.
As a spectacle, the second half was predictably disappointing. Tonbridge defended in numbers, hoping for a miracle on the break, while Worthing had a lot of possession but could not penetrate the Angels back line. The game might well have drifted to a 1-0 conclusion but for the referee’s further interventions.
Depleted Angels fashioned the clearest chances, mainly by using the electric pace of Alex Akrofi against a defence who seemingly thought they could enjoy the luxury of playing a high line given their numerical superiority.
In the space of a minute there were two chances for the visitors from corners, George Beavan’s header in the 62nd minute being the closest.
But Luke Blewden brought down Hendon in the area for another Worthing penalty – his striker’s tackle perhaps brought on by sheer exhaustion – and Bugiel duly stepped up to score his second.
Then in the 80th minute the referee pointed to the spot for the third time after an innocuous coming together in the area involving Parkinson and Zack Newton.
Up stepped Bugiel for what should have been the easiest hat-trick he will ever score, but this time Di Bernardo saved the penality, only for Newton to score from close in.
Angels Boss Steve McKimm said: “Rather than discuss the performance of the referee – I know everyone will – I would rather concentrate on the players, who I thought were magnificent, in particular after we had gone down to nine men.”
He added: “The fact that we managed to create some clear-cut chances and we restricted Worthing to strikes through penalty awards speaks volumes for the character and determination of my players.”