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Tonbridge Angels U18 1
Puffette (56')
2 Cray Valley PM

U18's fall to defeat to title chasers

Tonbridge Angels Under-18’s home campaign concluded in defeat at the hands of Cray Valley PM, for whom consecutive title wins is in their hands but they face a gruelling backlog of fixtures to make up the ground on leaders Welling United.

A highly competitive game hinged on a brilliant penalty save from Cray Valley’s Aiden Wicks and some steadfast defending after going down to 10 men when Stanley Flockton was sent off.

The opening 15 minutes saw equal possession but the visitors created the early chances before taking a 12th minute lead when a cross from the left found Riley Boyle at the far post for a tap in from close range.

Tonbridge might have found a quick response when a well worked move involving Noah Millis and Felix Waring ended with Cameron Honarvar shooting narrowly wide.

The game ebbed and flowed with a good tempo with chances at both ends. Boyle brought a good save out of Toby Edwards and Cray Valley had the ball in the net on 24 minutes only to be ruled offside and, for the Angels, Adam Larkin headed wide from a Waring corner.

An already excellent game that had unfolded in the first half was set to get even better in the second as the Angels took the game to the champions. Millis shot wide before, on 56 minutes, a free kick into the box from Reuben Etherington found the head of Ben Martin-Coward to direct across the face of goal for skipper Will Puffette to tuck home.

Tonbridge were awarded a penalty kick in the 66th minute when a through ball from Etherington saw Honavar bundled to the ground. In the arguments that followed, Flockton received a yellow card. Etherington was made to wait a long time before his spot kick that was well struck but Wicks made a brilliant low save.

Two minutes later, Flockton launched into a reckless challenge on Honarvar and was shown a second yellow.

An unnecessary loss of possession in midfield was costly on 78 minutes with Obi Igwe breaking down the left to cross for Arinze Chukwujekwu to score from close range and restore the visitors lead.

With the man advantage, the Angels pressed hard to retrieve the game but Cray Valley stood firm with Wicks excelling. 

In time added the bar was struck and the rebound that fell to Fin McLeod was kept out by Wick.

Cray Valley have long been the Angels U18’s nemesis, heavy defeats of the past have been reduced to frustratingly narrow losses but Cray Valley remain the team to beat in the division.

Dom Welsh said after the game: “Tough one to take tonight as a fantastic performance goes unrewarded. One of our best performances of the season in long periods. Small margins in football create big moments and unfortunately we were on the wrong side of those tonight.”

Published Tuesday 5th March 2024