Tonbridge Give Kingstonian a Dose of the Blues
Logic might dictate that a team somewhere in the middle of a football league ought to beat the weaker teams below it, and lose to the superior teams above it.
Yet, in the real world of football, things rarely work out like that. For example in the Premier League, midtable strugglers Manchester United have managed to spring a couple of surprises with a win over high-flying Spurs and a point at league leaders Leicester, yet have lost to relegation threatened Sunderland. And Norwich. And Swansea. And Bournemouth.
And it's this unpredictability that makes it worth going to football because if you know the result beforehand then what's the point?
Yet for Kingstonian, things have settled into a strangely predictable pattern. Seven times in a row now, Tommy Williams' men have beaten teams below them in the league. Yet in that time they have also suffered chastening defeats to each of the top four, this one against Tonbridge showing the same gap in class that was evident against East Thurrock, Dulwich and Hampton.
Perhaps even more strangely, in each of those four games Ks took an early lead before finding 90 minutes too long to hold out against relentless opposition pressure.
Andre McCollin gave Ks the early lead, of course. It came on the counter in just the fifth minute, Dan Bennett turning neatly and playing a perfectly weighted ball in behind the Tonbridge defence. Such was McCollin's speed in accelerating clear that he could then afford to slow back down and pick his spot, low and hard into the corner past Anthony Di Bernardo.
McCollin stabbed a George Wells cross wide but most of the rest of the half involved Ks playing deep, seeing little of the ball and just about keeping Tonbridge at bay. In the two closest shaves Alan Inns had to head one off the line and Rob Tolfrey made a reflex save from a Jerome Sobers header that was incredible even by the lofty standards he's set so far this season. He was then helped out by his defence in clearing an almighty goalmouth scramble.
Ks made a brighter start to the second half, leading one fan to lament that we, "Didn't take our chances to score when we were on top." In truth though that 'being on top' only totalled a single chance that Peter Dean sliced after a nice move involving Pico Gomez and McCollin before Tonbridge dominance resumed. Tolfrey saved well from Luke Allen.
Ks were hoping to play on the counter and McCollin did break through the Tonbridge lines once more, only for Di Bernardo , realising he was stranded way out of his goal, to haul him down. He was the last man but given the distance and sharp angle from goal there was no question that the referee was correct to award a yellow card rather than a red.
Ks continued to soak up pressure but eventually 20 minutes from time their resolute defences were breached. It was simple when it came, Nick Wheeler crossing and an unmarked Nathan Elder heading past Tolfrey from close range.
Five minutes later Tonbridge were ahead, Tolfrey only able to parry out a long range shot for substitute Tommy Whitnell to turn in. Such quick goals having held out for so long were also a feature of the Hampton defeat.
Ks seemed broken and despite having 15 minutes left to save the game could muster nothing, eventually conceding a third in injury time when Wheeler finished off a counter attack.
With the vast majority of their remaining games coming against bottom half sides, Ks might well make the playoffs yet. But given recent results against most of their likely opponents should they get there, they might need a good result in the remaining league games against Hampton and Bognor to do so with any sort of confidence that they can hang with the best in the league.
Match report by Simon Grier.