It’s a day trip to the Mole Valley this weekend, as Tonbridge Angels visit Leatherhead.
The Surrey town is remarkably similar to its Kentish counterpart. An old market town which is now mostly a dormitory town for London commuters, surrounded by plenty of old money, with a river running through it, and an ancient town centre that some twat in the Council thought would be improved by being largely demolished and replaced with concrete and breeze blocks.
It’s not a particularly showy place, which is why its most famous current resident is probably Batman’s butler Michael Caine. I’ll resist the obvious “not a lot of people know that”. Another less well known piece of Leatherhead trivia is that it was attacked by the Martians 10 days in to their invasion in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. They probably still managed to do less damage than the Town Planners in the 60’s and 70’s.
On the footballing front, their club is best known for its 1970’s FA Cup exploits, which they reprised briefly in 2017/18, reaching the second round again. However, in the league they haven’t really got out of second gear for years, being true stalwarts of the various guises of the Isthmian. They toyed with a bit of stardust by taking on Jimmy Bullard as manager, which gave them a PR boost, but no more on-field joy in the league. Now feeling less ‘ard they have Nikki Bull in charge.
Bull is well known to Angels fans as, when playing for Margate, he enabled them to tick off the “I saw a goalkeeper go up for a set piece and score in the 90th minute” from their I-spy Book of Football Cliches, worth 40 points. Bastard.
This season Leatherhead have not been ground-sharing with Kingstonian, so their pudding of a pitch will hopefully be in slightly better condition than usual. For once I don’t think the River Mole has diverted through it this winter either. Their ground will, however, no doubt still be a tip, which is a shame because I always think that its situation means it should be one of the most picturesque on the Southern non league circuit.
On the pudding, Leatherhead are hanging on to the coat tails of the play off contenders, in 7th place on 58 points at the time of writing. They are unbeaten in their last 4 matches, all with clean sheets, so present a very different proposition for Tonbridge from the bottom feeders the Angels have been dispatching easily in recent games.
Tonbridge also continue to be in a rich vein of form, now in 3rd place on 67 points, with only 1 defeat in 15 league games, and just 2 goals conceded in the last 8 games. However, the next four games of their run-in starts with this team in 7th, then the current 1st, 4th and 6th.
Thin squad, midfield injuries, players hovering on the 9 card cut-off, and Tonbridge are down to their last half a dozen first team coaches as Justin Luchford leaves.
Holy Pressure Cooker Batman – the season starts here.
Walk out music is, of course…..