The stale aroma of late February was replaced by a positively fragrant start to March as Town produced a fantastic display to claim victory in Kent. The pre-match form book was only looking at one winner, with the Angels, vying for the Play-Offs, having won four of their last five games whilst the Peacocks had gleaned just two points from 18. Hopes of a turnaround during the journey up the A303 were therefore subdued by those stats and the memories of the two successive home defeats witnessed in the past week at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium. How we were proved wrong as Town battled back superbly from a half time deficit to seal victory and secure their first ever National League double 😍
After the midweek reverse to Eastbourne, Head of Football Rob Dray made three changes, with Joe Guest, Cam Evans and Ross Stearn coming in for Lloyd James, Dylan Morgan and Nick McCootie and the Town boss, viewing affairs from the stand due to a one game touchline ban, would have been satisfied with the start his side made on the 3G surface as they pressed the hosts from the first whistle. It was the home side though who carved out the first opening, a low Tariq Hinds ball across goal being met by Devonte Aransibia who blazed a shot over the top. The first corner of the contest followed after eight minutes which saw Jamie Fielding’s soft header pass easily to Lloyd Irish, again donning the gloves in place of the injured Jack Bycroft.
The Peacocks’ produced their first attempt on the quarter hour, Jay Foulston’s cross being headed wide by Jake Wannell before Irish safely held a Tommy Wood drive as the hosts continued to probe for inlets through the visitors’ defence. Town though were holding their own with a Tonbridge side sitting nine places above them in the table and earned another corner when an Evans strike was deflected over. However Angels drew first blood after 21 minutes when a lofted ball over the top down the right flank was misjudged and latched onto by Jordan Greenidge who took a touch inside before lashing a shot past Irish into the far corner from the edge of the six yard box.
Undeterred, the Peacocks kept at it. They were showing a far better intensity than in recent games, with the energy from the midfield trio complementing the threat on either flank as they knocked on the door. Evans set up Ollie Chamberlain who volleyed wide and Stearn engineered a yard to fire a shot over from 18 yards before Town drew level on 37 minutes. And what an equaliser it was, Dave Sims-Burgess holding the ball up and laying back to Foulston who drilled a missile strike into the far corner from 20 yards, giving Angels’ keeper Jonathan Henly no chance whatsoever.
This stung Tonbridge into action as they pressurized for the final stages of the half although their second goal after 41 minutes seemed to take everyone by surprise, Aransibia collecting the ball just outside the box and his snapshot caught the wrong-footed Irish out as it looped over him into the net. Town escaped further damage when another break saw the powerful Greenidge outmuscle his man to find Wood at the far post but thankfully he fired wide of the target. Stearn had another shot kicked clear as the half ended with Town trailing but having shown enough that they could get something from the game.
And so it came to pass as a second half display of quality, tempo and passion showed what the Peacocks were capable of. They so nearly equalised again just four minutes in when Zac Smith’s low cross fizzed to Stearn who couldn’t keep his volley down as it sailed over. That missed opportunity did nothing to put Town off their stride as they took the game to their hosts, Stearn winning another corner which was recycled and ended with Chamberlain having a shot held by Henly. Irish gathered a shot from Ben Swift, but the momentum was definitely swinging in the Peacocks’ favour, culminating in the equaliser after 64 minutes. Aransibia brought down Smith as he moved in from the right side and Stearn sent Henly the wrong way from the penalty spot before celebrating with the small yet vocal band of Town fans behind the goal.
The equaliser was fully deserved but Town weren’t finished as they kept their foot on the pedal to take the lead four minutes later. Foulston’s cross was headed back across by Dan Ball, finding Stearn who leaped well to direct a header inside Henly’s post. The Angels’ keeper scooped the ball away although it had already clearly crossed the line, confirmed by photographic evidence. However, with no immediate clarity, Wannell made sure by ramming home the loose ball to prevent any miscarriage of justice.
The home side responded, Irish holding an Aransibia shot at the second attempt before Town made their first switch, Dylan Morgan replacing Sims-Burgess. A Chamberlain free kick from the right then saw the Angels contemplate their fate, Wannell’s header so nearly squeezing in at the far post but Henly managed to block. There was only one real moment of concern for Town as the match entered the final ten minutes. Lewis Gard’s free kick hit the wall, the hosts keeping possession and Hinds delivering a cross which Irish failed to hold and in his efforts to reclaim the ball a Tonbridge player went down. No offence committed said referee Norton who officiated well overall.
James and McCootie came on for Evans and Stearn in the final five minutes who had both done an excellent job in arguably Town’s gutsiest display of the season. Wood headed wide from Marcel Elva-Fountaine’s cross but that was it as the Peacocks safely managed five minutes of stoppage time to earn maximum points. A victory built on a terrific team performance in which everyone played a part. Man of the Match deservedly went to Joe Guest, in and out of the side in recent weeks, but back to what he does best. However, as boss Dray has stated many times, the side will not get too high as they know there are still 17 games to go and these 90 minutes will mean nothing if they don’t follow it up with the same commitment over the next two months.
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Jake Wannell, Ollie Chamberlain, Joe Guest, Ross Stearn (Nick McCootie 85), Zac Smith, Cameron Evans (Lloyd James 82), Dave Sims-Burgess (Dylan Morgan 72). Unused sub: Nat Jarvis
Tonbridge: Jonathan Henly, Jamie Fielding, Sonny Miles (captain), Ben Swift, Lewis Gard, Jordan Greenidge (Joe Turner 69), Tommy Wood, Tariq Hinds, Marcel Elva-Fountaine, Devonte Aransibia (Jack Wood 72), Scott Wagstaff. Unused subs: Tom Parkinson, George Bentley
Referee: Matthew Norton (Waltham Cross)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Simon Parbery (Beaconsfield)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Kieran Bailey (High Wycombe)
“I thought we were superb, every single man………” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match Highlights courtesy of Tonbridge Angels can be seen HERE
Match photos from Club Photographer Debbie Gould can be viewed HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Joe Guest receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Peacocks’ Team Coach driver Hayley Kerslake