Academy fight back to share the points
When third meets second and with either side having the opportunity of climbing to the top of their division a decent game of football should ensue and the Academies of Tonbridge Angels and Erith Town did not disappoint.
Ultimately, a point apiece was a fair result but helped neither side in their chase of Bromley Whites, who stretched their lead at the top of the National League Under-19 Alliance with a 3-0 win over Welling United.
From the outset, Erith Town looked to be the side that had brushed off its Christmas rustiness but the Angels worked their way into the game and the visiting goalkeeper, Ali Orcelik, needed to stretch his already tall frame to save from Luca Woodhouse’s free kick and a particularly fine save, clawing the ball out of the top corner to deny Finley Hartley.
From 20 minutes through to half-time, Erith took control of the game with Asanti Aroch proving difficult to contain as a left-sided wing back and from the middle of the field captain Tom Ash in the midst of much of what they were doing well.
Tonbridge’s goalkeeper, Nat Gibb, made a good low save from a shot by Lennie Barnes which took an awkward deflection and, after 22 minutes, made an even better save, tipping onto the bar and over a header from Joe Chalker.
After 26 minutes, Erith’s pressure brought them a deserved opening goal when a shot from Sachi Gibson found the bottom corner.
Erith’s dominance continued, although into first half injury time, Orcelik excelled to save with his feet from Hartley and from the resultant corner Will Saunders headed over.
Tommy Parkinson shuffled his pack during the break bringing on Shea Brennan and Billy Kent for Sam Grant and Luca Woodhouse and there was an immediate greater sense of urgency about their play.
Hartley was once more denied by the excellent Orcelik, touching his shot onto the post, within the opening two minutes but a few minutes later Tom Green produced a goal line clearance after a mix up in the Angels’ defence.
From a Ben Twist corner, Ben Hermitage saw his effort saved and from the corner, Joe Tyrie’s header only found the hands of the goalkeeper.
But, somewhat against the run of play, Erith doubled their advantage when Aroch curled in a beauty from the edge of the box into the top corner.
Tonbridge’s fightback began on 71 minutes when a shot from outside of the box by Hermitage was deflected in by skipper Tyrie and the search for an equaliser and, perhaps even a winner was on as the home side looked to be finishing much the stronger.
But they still needed to beat the redoubtable Orcelik, who brilliantly saved a 30 yard drive from Tyrie and came out on top once more in his battle with the Angels’ captain following a header.
But the Angels last 20 minutes of pressure was finally rewarded with seven minutes to go when, following a Ben Twist free kick, Hermitage was in the right place to nod home an equaliser.
Tommy Parkinson said after the game that it was “a great comeback from 2-0 after a very disappointing first half. First game back for three weeks and it showed in large parts today, but great character from the squad to come back against a very good Erith team.”