Tuesday night’s trip was opened up to Twitter over the weekend for my followers to decide where I went. The choices were both in the National League South at Hungerford Town and Tonbridge Angels, the former boasting some fantastic looking burgers inside a deal of ‘4 for a score’ and the latter a chance to catch up with Angels boss Steve McKimm and a return to the county where I grew up in.
Tonbridge won with 56% of the vote, so I was off to the Halcyon Wealth Longmead Stadium and Hungerford’s burgers were on the back burner as so to speak. My last visit to Tonbridge was around 3 or 4 years ago as Adam Hinshelwood’s Worthing were on course to complete their great escape that year, the two sides played pre-season this year on the South Coast and a depleted Angels went down 4-1 in the Sussex sunshine.
Their visitors on Tuesday evening were Havant & Waterlooville, arriving 3 days after an FA Cup 1st round exit to League One Charlton Athletic and possibly a big leggy after that game I expected the home side to maybe have the slight edge to proceedings.
And it was the home side who began the brighter exerting a lot of pressure onto the Havant back line but not testing Will Mannion too often. The visitors grew into the game and there was no sign of tired legs either, dangerous on the counter attack with James Roberts and Aboulai Baggie behind Scott Rendell constantly trying to run at the Angels defence.
The visitors were forced into an early chance just five minutes in Paul Rooney replacing Jamie Collins who pulled up after just five minutes. Both Ibrahim Olutade and Aaron Smith-Joseph were at the heart of most of the attacking play for Tonbridge although the latter faded away as the half wore on.
The best chance of the opening moments fell to the visitors, Baggie racing clean through only to be denied by Angels keeper Jonny Henly to keep the scores level. The visitors then had to make a second enforced change, Rendell groggily leaving the pitch after a hard challenge from a free kick into the host’s penalty area.
Tonbridge thought they’d opened the scoring on 25 minutes, but Mannion was equal to the shot tipping over the bar. A yellow card for Jerry O’Sullivan just after the half hour mark following a bad challenge right in front of the dugout’s prompted a few confrontations before the game continued.
Moments after that the visitors were in front, Roberts capitalising on a loose ball from midfield and ran through to dink the ball over Henly and into the net for the opening goal.
Another tasty challenge between the sides right on the stroke of half time saw another melee between the players but resulted in Hawks boss Paul Doswell being red carded by the referee, presumably for something he said and after things had calmed down the visitors went into the break in front.
The beginning of the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, the Angels providing the prompting, the Hawks always looking likely to cause problems on the counter.
Olutade had the best effort the home side just before the hour, a smart turn but unable to hit the target. The Angels striker was certainly much better marshalled in the second period and eventually was withdrawn for Tommy Wood as the home side tried to find a way through.
Despite a flurry of corners and one effort cleared off the line for the Angels, Havant did just enough to ensure the points went back to Hampshire to move themselves up to 7th in the table and right in the play-off/promotion mix.
For the home side there was plenty of endeavour as first team coach James Scott stated in the post-match interview but just no end product, if you look at a lot of the Angels results there are games there where one goal takes a point or all three, it’s very fine margins in what is a very competitive South division.
Olutade was the bright spark for the home side but struggled to get into the game in the second period compared to the first, the changes with both Wood and Jake Hutchinson coming on did add something more for the Angels but still not quite enough.
With the visitors boasting a few in their ranks with a lot of National League and Football League appearances, they seemed to have a little more in the tank and managed the game well enough to not let Tonbridge create too many opportunities.
Ironically, Hungerford finished with a 1-0 home defeat to Hemel Hempstead as well so I wouldn’t have seen a home win either way! Good to catch up briefly with Steve McKimm before the game and to finally meet Welling Utd coach Hugo Langton who was there prior to the Angels heading to Welling’s Park View Road ground this coming weekend which promises to be another tough battle in this fledgling season.