So for my second game in one day, on the opening day of my 2022/23 season, I travelled about 15 miles from Epsom to arrive at the Whyteleafe Stadium, where I would see Jay Saunders’ National League South, Tonbridge Angel side play Sutton Common Rovers, of the Isthmian League (South Central Division).
The Church Road ground boasts a 3G pitch, as well as four covered stands. A refreshment stand was open and a decent sized crowd gathered for what would be Jay Saunders first match in charge of Tonbridge, since his move from Margate FC.
Sutton Common Rovers FC moved to the Whyteleafe ground for the start of this season, where they will ground share with AFC Whyteleafe, of the Southern Counties East Football League. The weather was bright and warm.
Tonbridge Angels team sheet showed this was a chance to run out some young players and triallists. Jay Saunders was keen to explore his options as he seeks to bring success to the Angels.
I couldn’t find a team list for the home side.
After just eight minutes of mostly Tonbridge pressure, their centre forward, Akinwande, finished neatly from the edge of the box, to put Tonbridge 0-1 up.
In the 20th minute Akinwande made it a brace, firing in from outside the box, to put the away side two goals clear.
As the first half progressed there was a greater cohesion in the Tonbridge approach play, with Saunders and his team coaching throughout from the touchline. it was no surprise when on 43 minutes Akinwande broke into the box from the left and fired home for his hat trick to make the score 0-3.
The best was saved till last with Femi Akinwande making it 0-4 and scoring his own fourth with a supreme finish, from range.
Immediately after the break Tonbridge won a penalty but Turner’s kick was well saved by the Sutton Common Rover’s keeper.
The game continued to see Tonbridge have 80% of the possession, despite the change of players at half time. Sutton Common Rovers defence looked better organised in the second half, which helped keep the Tonbridge front two from getting clear on goal.
On 76 minutes Sutton Common Rovers broke, against the run of play and their number 12, seeing the keeper off his line, lobbed him successfully from the right side of the box to claw a goal back.
With 5 minutes to play, Tonbridge Angels finally got a reward for all their second half pressure, when Gard stabbed home, from close range, to make it 1-5.
At the final whistle, Tonbridge Angel’s fans left with a sense of positivity, after a clinical 5-1 showing from their side, on a day when the lessons learned and experienced gained, was arguably more important than the result.