Playoff hopes end in Wiltshire
The Angels faint hopes of making the National League South play-offs were finally extinguished in the watery Wiltshire sunshine when, despite earning a spirited point at Chippenham Town, results elsewhere determined their fate.
Jay Saunders made two changes from the side that took a point from last Saturday’s home game against Hemel Hempstead with Ben Swift and Jordan Greenidge rested to the bench with Tariq Hinds and Tommy Wood returning to the starting XI.
Tonbridge were kicking up the not inconsiderable slope at Hardenhuish Park and the opening 25 minutes certainly had the hallmarks of a middle of the table, end of season game as neither side got off to a fast start.
The first chance of the match fell to Jack Wood who fired over the bar after good work from Joe Turner and this was quickly followed by a chance for the home side when Caine Bradbury shot straight at Jonny Henly.
The game sprang to life on 26 minutes when the Angels took the lead when a well worked move from the right opened up a shooting opportunity for Joe Turner who struck a low shot into the far corner from an acute angle after cutting in from the left touchline.
But the good work was quickly undone as the hosts equalised on the half-hour. A left wing cross from Ed Williams was allowed to find its way to the far post from where Owen Windsor had a close range tap-in.
The game now had a lot more life and Jeremy Santos brought a good save out of Will Henry and Chippenham created a decent chance that Craig Fasanmade blazed over the bar. Just before half-time, a Santos run was brought to an end by a terrific challenge just as he was about to break clear.
An early second half shot from Hinds was narrowly wide, but, after 56 minutes, it was the hosts that took the lead when Bradbury struck a free kick from around 20 yards past a stranded Henly.
The better of the chances fell to the home side before Saunders rang the changes introducing Greenidge on 57 minutes; Bailey Akehurst on 65 minutes and this brought a dividend on 74 minutes when the Angels equalised. A corner, taken by Akehurst was met with a header from Jamie Fielding at the near post and directed toward the far. Henry got his fingertips to the ball but could only help it on its way into the net.
Tonbridge produced the final chance of the game with Jack Wood shooting agonisingly wide in the final minute but it was points shared. At any other time in the season it would have been considered valuable, but it wasn’t enough and even the mathematical optimists have to accept that the playoffs is not to be this season.
There was a touching moment as the game entered time added as Chippenham introduced Pablo Martinez as a substitute. Pablo suffered a cardiac arrest at Chelmsford City on that ridiculously hot day back in August. 252 days later, he returned to the pitch to a rousing reception and we wish him well.