Even the best songwriters hit a bum note once in a while and today was Tonbridge Angels “Frog Chorus” moment, with Margate singing much the same tune. The preceding day had been nice weather for frogs, so perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised.
The pitch was in remarkably good condition considering the monsoon rains of the week, which was a testimony to the work of groundsman Peter Elves. A couple of years ago and we’d have been having a few blank Saturdays, which is not good for the team, supporters, or club finances, so the all round value of such a club stalwart should never be underestimated.
What followed was no classic, as much due to the strong wind and the inevitable bumpiness which developed underfoot, as the soft top surface was pounded down by the payers. Tonbridge generally had the better of the first half, and took the lead when Swift responded to a corner as if it was a SIx Nations line out, flipping it over the Tonbridge attackers with his hands. An easy penalty call for the referee. A couple of Margate players petulantly delayed the spot kick by wandering into the box, and scuffing the penalty spot, momentarily forgetting that they were English 7th Division has-beens, not Primera Liga wannabees, but it made no difference to the outcome. Turner stepped up and hit a customary poor Tonbridge penalty straight at Wells, but it was hit hard enough for the keeper to obligingly throw it over his body as he dived out of the way.
Margate’s new signing Kadell Daniel was the brightest player on the pitch, which restricted Angels livewire Ramadan to more defensive duties, so the home team’s main outlet was through Parter and Turner down the left, but the two teams mostly cancelled each other out for the rest of the half, with Henly being called on to make one telling save in the Tonbridge goal.
The second half followed a similar pattern with both defences largely in control. Tonbridge looked short of ideas as the ball went from side to side or over players heads too often, and Margate were now playing with the strong wind at their backs which was a definite advantage to their high ball bombardment strategy. It was also a huge relief to the Tonbridge fans, as the screeching wail of the Margate banshee was whipped away over the stands, to confuse the residents of nearby towns into thinking that the end of the world was nigh. She must either have extremely tolerant neighbours, or live on one of those World War Two forts in the Thames Estuary, from where she could still order a Dominoes without the use of a phone.
Margate’s unsubtle tactics eventually paid off when Swift made amends for his first half blunder by heading home the equaliser in the 83rd minute. The game perked up for the last 10 minutes as the referee, who had been suitably anonymous, decided to get in on the action with a series of inconsistent decisions which infuriated players and fans alike, and he nearly lost control as Margate saw the opportunity to defend their hard earned point with some agricultural defending which went mostly unpunished.
In the end the 1-1 result was about right, with both teams getting dragged in to a scruffy game by the conditions. Margate’s new manager Jay Saunders could be glass half full with a point on his debut, or glass half empty on an 11th game without a win. Expect the Margate cheque book to take a bit of a pounding in the coming weeks. Equally, Steve McKimm could rue a point dropped as Tonbridge settle in to 9th place in the table, with his thin squad starting to look tired, or feel good about staying unbeaten in 2019, well supported by home fans who were in good voice, even though this frog of a game never turned in to a dashing prince.
Walk-off music, for those lucky enough not to be in the 530 crowd, remind yourself of just how disappointing Paul McCartney can be, and you’ll have a good mental image of the game……
Post match interviews courtesy of Angels TV