Football: Tonbridge Angels sneak past Carshalton into play-offs

Football: Tonbridge Angels sneak past Carshalton into play-offs
BREAK THE DEADLOCK: Craig Stone heads in the winner PHOTO: Wes Filtness/KLM Sports Photography

TONBRIDGE ANGELS confirmed their place in the Bostik League Premier play-offs with a late winner against the team who had leapfrogged above them three days before.

It is the second time that Angels manager Steve McKimm has achieved this feat during his five-season tenure at Longmead.

All that remains is to secure a home tie for the semi-finals by finishing in second or third place.

Tonbridge are currently third with Haringey Borough one point ahead of them.

The final fixtures on Saturday could see Merstham overtake the Angels.

Crucially Carshalton have to play Bishop’s Stortford; they the only other two sides who are capable of moving above 70 points – thereby guaranteeing Tonbridge’s play-off berth.

McKimm picked the same starting XI that earned a crucial point in the draw at Worthing – yet another play-off hopeful in this tight division.

The first period saw the Angels enjoy the majority of possession but they created very few clear-cut opportunities.

In the eighth minute Sonny Miles was unable to convert a chance at the back post from a corner.

Miles set up Joe Turner on 24 minutes but his pile-driver flew just wide of the left-hand post.

The Robins defence stood firm and seemed content to soak up the pressure.

Carshalton emerged for the second half with more intent but the Angels defence was also in a mean mood and there were no clear-cut chances.

‘I am so pleased for the players, and indeed everyone who backed me earlier in the season’

On 53 minutes, Turner’s free kick provided openings for Tom Derry and Chinedu McKenzie but the strikers could not take advantage.

Gradually the home side seemed to gain control with corners and other set-pieces, and were urged on by the impressive holiday crowd of 861.

The breakthrough finally came in the 79th minute when an excellently delivered Turner corner was headed on across goal by Miles.

Defensive midfielder Craig Stone had arrived unnoticed at the back post and he was able to head the ball into the top right-hand corner.

The home side had to hang on for the remaining 11 minutes plus stoppage time. But the Robins seemed to have largely run out of ideas in the face of the Angels’ sensible game management.

Derry could have made the game safe late on when he was put through but he was muscled off the ball by a defender.

Tonbridge hung on for a plucky victory. McKimm said: “I’m so pleased for the players, and indeed everyone who backed me earlier in the season when following a defeat at, ironically, Carshalton I questioned my own future with the club.

“We’ve won nothing yet and the first thing to do is concentrate and plan how to get maximum points at Potters Bar Town next Saturday.”

The Angels secured a valuable draw at Worthing on Good Friday but they saw the chance of three points snatched away by a late equaliser.

With third taking on fifth, there was a large attendance of 1,322 at Woodside Road, which included Bostik League’s Chairman Nick Robinson.

It turned out to be a highly entertaining game in which both sides went for the win.

The first half was goalless but then Tonbridge found more space and began to create chances.

In the 63rd minute Derry was put through but unselfishly passed to the unmarked Turner, who drilled the ball into the net.

With nine minutes left Worthing’s David Ajiboye jinked his way past three Angels defenders and scored with a shot from 10 yards out.

The visitors had to work hard to prevent a home winner at the death but they kept their hosts a crucial three points below them.

The Angels travel to Potters Bar Town on Saturday [April 27, kick-off 3pm] for the last league match.

The play-off semi-finals are on Thursday May 2.

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