It’s a red hot, double bubble, Bank Holiday weekend for Tonbridge Angels, against rivals Worthing and Carshalton, for one of those cherished, nerve shredding play off spots.
First up, pack your bucket and spade for a sunny Good Friday trip to the seaside, and the refereeing Banana Republic of Worthing. A place where they make their own rules, as they certainly aren’t the ones applied elsewhere, given the ridiculous tally of red cards and penalties against Tonbridge on their last two league visits. Curiously enough neither of those two games was filmed as evidence of the unusual goings on, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The Worthing pitch is one of those made of old Pirelli tyres, which spray black muck everywhere, and give a very artificial feel to the game. It must be a weird surface for the Angels to play on, given the green sward they are accustomed to at home. Indeed, Tonbridge are the only team in the current Top 5 who play at home on grass, which says all you need to know about where non league football is going.
Tonbridge tend not to pick up many wins playing on these recycled pollutants, which must be a bit worrying given their coughing and spluttering performances in the last two games. The midfield has lost its way due to injuries at just the wrong moment, and the manager’s covering signings have failed to materialise as yet, because they’ve been walking the dog or doing the shopping. One hopes that they at least get allowed out on Good Friday and Bank Holiday Monday like the rest of us, so they might put in a belated appearance.
Worthing are also wheezing up the hill towards the finishing line, leaning on the occasional fence post for a rest. They are only 14th in the “home” table, although five games at the start of the season were actually played at Bognor, ironically because of the poor condition of their toxic pitch. They have also had arguably worse performances than Tonbridge in the last two games, with back to back 3-0 defeats, which may offer the visitors some encouragement.
Given the form, nerves, and playing surface, don’t be surprised if this is a scrappy game, where the least bad team takes the spoils, subject to the referee’s permission.
The sting in the tail of this game, if it is not a draw, might be the swing in goal difference towards the winning team, if the reckoning on the final day comes to this. Tonbridge at +13 and Worthing at +11 would both benefit hugely from a two goal win, relative to each other and the chasing pack.
After a weekend of chocolate and enforced family jollity, Bank Holiday Monday brings the Angels back to Longmead for the last home game of the season against Carshalton Athletic.
Carshalton are the surprise package in the Top 5. They secured promotion last season with a mighty 102 points, and took the momentum forward into this season. Having scored 21 goals in their last 8 games at the time of writing (not including their other Easter weekend game against Burgess Hill), they seem to be finishing at a canter, so won’t be shy about attacking if they need a win. However, their league position is largely built on home form, on their rock hard version of an artificial pitch, so they may be less bold on their travels.
The last time Tonbridge approached the end of season in a similar position, they froze at Folkestone, as did the rest of us watching, although for us it was because of the weather, not nerves. It will be interesting to see if the Angels manager can coax a more settled and less panicky approach from the players on the pitch than they showed last weekend, at home against Dorking, especially as Carshalton may be more relaxed under stress, channelling positive memories of how they smashed it last season.
It is a hugely pressurised time of the season, and for the managers in particular it can be one of extremes. On Bank Holiday Monday Steve McKimm could be helping to build his case to be one of Tonbridge Angels most successful managers, or he could even be leading his team out at Longmead for the last time. There’s that much at stake.
As Forrest Gump’s momma said, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know which one you’re going to get. Will the Easter Bunny be giving Steve a luxury salted caramel chocolate treat, or will he be left with the last unloved chewy Turkish Delight at the bottom of the box. That’s the mystery to be solved this weekend……