TONBRIDGE ANGELS put in a much better display than they had in a crushing defeat at Hendon. But the winner only came four minutes from the end – and it was mired in controversy.
The Greens are facing their first ever relegation in their long and illustrious history and this was a huge game for them, while the Angels were desperate to get back in the play-off mix.
Tonbridge went behind after 14 minutes when a penalty was awarded for a push in the box and Matt Ball sent the keeper Jonny Henly the wrong way.
Loan signing Vas Karagiannis, who had gone straight into the first team, forced a good save from Hendon keeper Tom Lovelock round the post.
Nicky Wheeler made a fine run but his cross deserved a better outcome, and four minutes later he produced another excellent ball into the box which was well defended.
Khale da Costa’s run and pull back was met by Kezie Ibe only for Henly to pull off a smart save.
At the start of the second half, Dave Diedhiou almost doubled Hendon’s advantage but was foiled by Henly. A minute later it was Alex Akrofi’s turn to force a good save from Lovelock.
As the half progressed the wing play of Wheeler and Karagiannis stretched the Hendon defence.
Tonbridge’s equaliser eventually came in the 68th minute with Karagiannis’s low cross diverted past Lovelock by Angels’ leading scorer, Nathan Elder.
With a draw not much use to either side the contest opened up. The decisive goal came in the 86th minute courtesy of Tonbridge’s three substitutes.
Luke Blewden and Dan Thompson combined for Andre McCollin to poke the ball past Lovelock – but there were claims that it did not cross the line.
Angels manager Steve McKimm said: “The players have done well, they’ve worked hard, kept their concentration and constantly pressed the play.
“We have Havant next Saturday which is a huge game for both clubs. I’m looking forward to it.”
The win sees the Angels climb from sixth to fourth and into a play-off slot. Whilst Bognor and Havant battle it out for the title, eight other clubs including Tonbridge are playing for the remaining three play-off places in the Ryman Premier League.