TONBRIDGE ANGELS Ladies’ hearts were broken in their opening league match of the season as hosts Herne Bay grabbed the winner two minutes from the end.
It was their first outing in Division One East of the South East Counties League after securing promotion at the end of the last campaign.
The goal came from a well-worked corner routine with the Herne Bay skipper Kate Foster beating the offside trap to score with a free header from close range.
It was a particularly crushing way to end a second half during which the Angels had looked the more likely of the two teams to score.
Tonbridge started poorly and went behind after five minutes to Jemma Barton’s header.
A quick recovery was needed and with the manager Dan Couldridge making some positional changes the Angels began to make their own mark on the match.
Parity was restored on 29 minutes when Flo Anastasiou’s corner was met by Sam Burton who crashed a thunderous shot against the crossbar. The rebound fell straight back to Burton, who headed it into the net.
Promotion-chasing Herne Bay had significant chances to regain the lead, twice hitting the woodwork and being thwarted by the Angels goalkeeper Sam Wright.
The Angels delivered a controlled second-half performance but struggled to find a cutting edge.
A free kick from Kelly Moran almost found Megan Akehurst at the far post but she was unable to get a touch on the cross.
Then a long clearance by Burton found Becky Mackley through on goal with just the keeper to beat but her first-time shot fizzed just wide.
The game continued at a high tempo with both teams looking for a winner, but Herne Bay who ended the match the strongest and denied Tonbridge the point they deserved.
Manager Dan Couldridge praised his side, saying: “Of course we are all disheartened after the effort that everyone put in today.
“We knew that fine margins on the day would make the difference in this division and that has certainly been the case here.
“Herne Bay have had some phenomenal pre-season results and will be challenging to win this division so to come here with players missing or not quite at their best and still almost come away with at least a draw gives us huge positives to take away.”