Tuesday 4th February 2014 ko 19.45
Southern Counties East League
TUNBRIDGE WELLS 2 (Davey 37 Parsons 42)
CORINTHIAN 4 (Wilson 21p Ascheri 64 Gayle 73 Marsh 76)
I’m beginning to think that the Kentish town of Tunbridge Wells has something of an image problem. You tend to think of the place as being the epitome of a brand of blue-rinse conservatism that manifests itself in the form of an acerbic letter to the newspaper signed by “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.”
The town, and let’s use its full name just the once, is ROYAL Tunbridge Wells, the prefix was awarded in 1909 by King Edward VII to celebrate its popularity over the years among members of the royal family as a spa town. The Wells suffix refers to the chalybeate springs in the Pantiles, the Georgian colonnade where the iron-infused waters are to be found. I visited nearby Rusthall earlier in the season and found the same air of gentility there too.
The league is, of course the competition formerly known as the Kent League. The change of name was very much to reflect the league’s expansion beyond county boundaries. Surrey-based Whyteleafe were relegated into the league in 2012 and the FA tried to switch Crowborough FC and Rye United from the Sussex County League for this season. That last gambit failed but the runes tell me the FA will try once more in the close-season.
The faithful at the Culverden Stadium seem to enjoy playing on that stuffy image. Even the infamous, “Oh (name of town) is wonderful,” song has been altered here to reflect the locale. Here’s the 3rd line is “Its full of Lawyers, Doctors and Architects,” rather than the more, er risqué version you normally hear!
There’s plenty of the ground to explore with the large terrace at the near end the stand-out feature, elsewhere there’s a curious temporary terrace, and a low-slung main stand whilst full of character offers rather restricted views due the large number of supporting posts. The vast majority of the fans used the near terrace, but it’s at the far end where the intrigue lies.
Behind the goal there is just enough room to squeeze behind the goal under the supports of the net to catch the stray shots. Nevertheless the area has been secured with fencing and scaffolding which is a sure sign of a club with promotion ambitions, they’ll need that and more for participation in Isthmian League. That’s a marker for their ambition and the team can’t be that far away either.
They made last season’s FA Vase final, and although they were bested by a Spennymoor side that if it wasn’t for the fact that they’re in the Northern League wouldn’t have even been eligible, its clear that Tunbridge are a club on the up. Except on this damp evening it didn’t happen for them.
The club would like to replace the pitch with a 3 or 4G version, and judging by the amount of sand in the near goalmouth it would benefit the players as well as the coffers of the club. It started badly as Wells keeper Mikelle Czanner hauled down Adam Marsh, and captain Ben Wilson made no mistake from the penalty spot. Czanner was booked by referee Stephen Brown when others may not have been as lenient.
Wells responded in style with Tom Davey’s curling free kick equalising, and when Ian Parsons finished at close range just before half time, even the visiting officials expected Wells to win handsomely.
But Corinthian’s Justin Ascheri was first to a free kick to equalise and when Denzel Gayle raced down the left channel to fire past Czanner into the bottom right corner Wells heads dropped. All that remained as the winds and rain returned ,was for Adam Marsh’s corner to catch the wind and drift into the net inside the back post.
It was clear that Corinthian (based in Fawkham, around 7 miles south of Gravesend) have the Indian sign over their hosts, with 6 straight wins over them, but I suspect that sooner rather than later that Tunbridge Wells will have rather different clubs to play against.