Hermitage double seals win at Eastbourne
The Academy edged ever closer to retaining their National League Under-19 Alliance title with a workmanlike performance against a resilient Eastbourne Borough side that battled to the final whistle despite playing for 55 minutes with 10 men.
Chatham Town maintained their relentless pursuit with a 5-0 win at VCD but this could come to an end after the Easter break should the Angels also beat VCD and the Chats lose to Maidstone United.
Whilst Eastbourne gave Tommy Parkinson’s lads a much sterner challenge than they did at Longmead back in December when the Angels ran out 8-2 winners, for much of the game they were well in control.
Tonbridge should have been in front within the first two minutes when Hayden Velvick set up Ben Hermitage for a tap-in at the far post, but the striker who came into the game with 34 goals to his credit, steered his close range effort wide of the post.
Hermitage atoned for his miss on 19 minutes when he was on hand to open the scoring after firstly a Fyn Rutherford effort came back off the bar to Ashton Thomas whose shot was parried by goalkeeper, Finlay Tarrant, but only into the path of Hermitage who made no mistake.
Eastbourne worked hard to get themselves back in the game with Ollie Peterson proving a handful but their cause was not helped when Shea Brennan was brought down on the edge of the box as the Tonbridge midfielder was about to break through. The referee decided that the defender had been the last man and issued a red card, in fairness, it seemed a harsh decision.
Into the second period and with their man advantage, Tonbridge sought to capitalise but found a hardworking Eastbourne defence a tough nut to crack. Early in the half, after Kian Austin had sent Hermitage clear, penalty appeals were turned away as he was brought down and from a free kick Austin saw a header drift wide.
After 57 minutes, Chester Smith rescued a tricky situation with an interception to deny Peterson but the threat to the Angels goal was rarity.
Chances for the Angels, the keeper saving at the feet of Rutherford and a header over from Tom Green, came and went before they doubled their lead from the penalty spot after 72 minutes when Hermitage converted after Josh McArthur had been brought down.
Smith had a heart stopping moment when his clearing header narrowly went the right side of his own post and with nine minutes remaining, at the other end, McArthur rattled the bar after robbing a defender of the ball.
Tommy Parkinson commented that his side had not been at their best “by a long way” with decision making and quality letting them down. But he also gave credit to their hosts who had defended well and worked tirelessly despite going down to 10 men.