TONBRIDGE ANGELS lifted some richly deserved silverware after winning the Bostik League Premier play-off final in front of a passionate crowd at Longmead on Bank Holiday Monday [May 6].
But their promotion to National League South is still not assured despite taking the runners-up slot behind champions Dorking Wanderers.
So the Angels now enter uncharted territory by qualifying for a ‘super play-off’ away to Metropolitan Police of the Southern Premier South to find out who goes up because of the FA’s restructuring of the non-League pyramid.
It meant there was no winner-takes-all outcome to this game, but it was a moment to be savoured by the home side’s supporters.
Getting the large crowd of 2,268 into the ground was something of a logistical challenge and meant a 15-minute delay to the kick-off.
‘The pity of it is that despite lifting a trophy, if this was a normal season we would have been promoted by now’
The Moatsiders soon took hold of possession with their No 9 Walter Figueira looking like the danger man.
As the half-hour approached, Sonny Miles expertly cleared his lines following a dangerous looking Merstham attack.
Yet despite Merstham’s dominance, it was the Angels who drew first blood. A Turner attack down the left in the 34th minute produced a good cross which Tom Derry tapped to the unmarked Chinedu McKenzie and he finished clinically from close range.
Just before half-time an altercation between Sonny Miles and Oliver Cook resulted in referee Michael Ryan sending both players off.
The second half saw a similar pattern to the game with Merstham prepared to play their short passing game and Tonbridge more content to hit with pace on the break.
Figueira made space for a shot in the 49th minute and Jonny Henly was forced to dive quickly to his right to avoid the ball sneaking in at his near post.
The game began to move into the Angels’ favour. In the 67th minute a fabulous move initiated by D’Sean Theobalds saw McKenzie find Turner’s run in from the left but his shot went agonisingly wide.
With four minutes left, Parter capped a fine game with a run deep into the penalty area that was only stopped by a brave block from Moatsiders keeper Amadou Tangara.
On 90 minutes the excellent Theobalds was tripped in the box and Michael Ryan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Turner went for power straight down the middle with his penalty kick to send the mass of Angels supporters behind the goal into ecstasy.
The delighted Angels manager Steve McKimm said: “I can’t praise my players enough for their efforts this afternoon.
“The pity of it is that despite lifting a trophy, if this was a normal season we would have been promoted by now.
“We will take a couple of days to enjoy this achievement and then start to prepare for Saturday’s game at Met Police.”
The Angels had reached the play-off final after beating second-placed Haringey Borough away from home on Thursday night [May 2].
They scored when Adem Ramadan’s shot-cum-cross deceived keeper Valery Pajetat and curled into the top right-hand corner on 35 minutes.
Eight minutes later Derry broke and Ramadan whipped in a cross that fell to McKenzie, who fired a fine shot into the net.
The Londoners were awarded a penalty after 52 minutes for a trip by Turner. Kudus Oyenuga scored, but then the Angels defence held firm.
Tonbridge travel to Metropolitan Police at Imber Court in Surrey on Saturday [May 11, kick-off 3pm].