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Match Report - Tunbridge Wells




On a wet and windy afternoon Uxbridge travelled to Royal Tunbridge Wells to take part in the Extra Preliminary of the FA Cup for the first time since 1948. On that occasion, the first game at their Cleveland Road ground, it took two replays to progress against local rivals Yiewsley. With this game three minutes into injury time, Uxbridge would have snatched the chance of a replay with both hands. At this point The Royals were leading 2-1 and seemingly heading towards a Preliminary Round tie at Corinthian-Casuals. However, The Reds were not about to give up on a run in this season’s competition.

Following last season’s disappointing league form, manager Danny Edwards had been busy in the summer re-shaping his squad and gave debuts to six players in the starting eleven. After a bright start the hosts took the lead in the 5th minute. Trevor McCreadie shooting into an empty net after robbing the ball from goalkeeper Fin Purcell. At this point Uxbridge were fortunate not to be two behind as a minute earlier centre-half Tommy Smith had headed wide from six yards following a free kick. Maybe it was the conditions, maybe it was the unfamiliarity of the players, but the first half was full of sloppy passes and despite lots of effort and endeavour Uxbridge struggled to create chances. A last-ditch tackle from Bryan Taylor denied the home side in the 19th minute in what was a rare chance for either side. At this point the persistent rain became heavier, brollies were raised and supporters who hadn’t come so prepared, made for the stand. The visitors only effort on goal in the opening forty-five minutes came from the lively Brad Pagliaroli. Linking up with Dean Morgan he unleashed a shot across the face off goal – Kensley Maloney, making his 50th appearance for The Reds, just failing to connect at the far-post. With the half-time tea beaconing Tunbridge Wells doubled their lead. A poor clearance was sized upon, and Dominic Wynter-Stephens found Billy Lewins unmarked in the box, and he made no mistake with a cool finish. With less than 47 minutes on the clock referee Ed Smith called the first-half proceedings to a halt, obviously he hadn’t got the memo from the F.A. regarding adding more stoppage time. HALF-TIME TUNBRIDGE WELLS 2 UXBRIDGE 0

With both teams ready to go for the second half there was no sign of the officials (maybe the memo had finally arrived – more on that later), and it was a good five minutes before play got underway. Maybe it was the arrival of the sun and the end of the persistent rain, but there was definitely a more determined edge to Uxbridge’s play. Anuar Ceesay reduced the arrears in the 53rd minute – latching onto Morgan’s slide rule pass and calmly placing the ball wide of Jacob Bennett in The Royals goal. Uxbridge were now enjoying more possession and although still not creating the clear-cut chances required to draw level, they were taking the game to their opponents. Maloney tried his luck from just outside the box with a fierce right-footed shot that Bennett failed to gather, but no player in a blue shirt had followed up and the keeper gratefully gathered at the second attempt. The Royals were not sitting on their lead and looked to counterattack at every opportunity. Luke Leppard found himself unmarked in the box and only the fingertips of Purcell denied the midfielder. With just over ten minutes to go Edwards made his first changes, bringing on Michael Bryan and Bernard Mensah for Alex Witham and Morgan respectively. These changes, along with the introduction of Mal Thomas for Pagliaroli with 5 minutes to go, gave The Reds renewed energy, but the search for that elusive equaliser was growing short of time. Ceesay’s header lacked the power to trouble Bennett, and as the clocked ticked past the 90-minute mark, Luke Paris was sent forward in an attempt to snatch a replay, and a Wednesday night trip to Uxbridge’s temporary home at Arbour Park. Mr Smith, now fully aware of the FA’s wish to make games longer than back-to-back episodes of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, was in no hurry to blow the full-time whistle. In the 94th minute Ceesay was unceremoniously sent crashing to the ground. Bryan Taylor stepped up and sent a peach of a cross into the box. Mensah and Shaun Preddie both rose at the far post, and somehow Preddie got a touch that sent the ball over the line, sending the Uxbridge fans into raptures of delight. Surely, a replay at Arbour Park was now going to be the outcome. However, The Royals weren’t finished! Josh Andrew’s attempted clearance was charged down and after the cross into the box was only half cleared, substitute Jolly Phillips left fly with a pile-driver that looked for the world destined for the bottom corner. Taylor had other ideas and flung himself at full stretch to break Phillips and The Royals hearts. The ball broke to the other end and Mensah crossed and Ceesay’s touch was agonisingly just wide. “Come on ref blow your whistle, the bars open” were the cries from behind the barriers, desperate for another 90 (plus) minutes of FA Cup action on Wednesday night. Although technically the bar wasn’t open, having unfortunately burnt down in an electrical fire at the beginning of the year. Refreshments now being diligently served from the window of a portacabin. Mr Smith however was enjoying himself. On we went. Into the 98th minute and Bennett pushed Thomas’s low shot away for a corner. One last chance! Bryan floated the ball to the far-post, where Preddie and Paris both challenged. Mensah, lurking just yards away, watched as the sphere fell from the sky and sent a superb volley into the net. 97 minutes, 40 seconds on the clock, thank goodness that memo arrived at half-time! Mr Smith finally said enough was enough and blew the final whistle on exactly 101 minutes.

A heartbreaking end to the game for Tunbridge Wells who gave they all, and if truth be told probably deserved at least another crack at a place in the Preliminary Round. If they play like they did today I’m sure they will have plenty of success this season. As for Uxbridge, nine players in total made their debuts and there is defiantly plenty of talent in the squad. Getting them to knit together is the task for the manager and his coaching staff over the coming weeks. I’m sure with more and more games under their belts this squad will be challenging for honours came the end of April.

Attendance: 186


Fin Purcell, Josh Andrew, Bryan Taylor, Luke Paris, Shaun Preddie, Alan Hedley, Anuar Ceesay, Kensley Maloney, Alex Witham, Dean Morgan, Brad Pagliaroli. Subs Used: Michael Bryan for Witham, Bernard Mensah for Morgan, Mal Thomas for Pagliaroli. Not Used: Sean McGuinness, Lewis Patrick, Ezra Ndukuba and Shaka Mughal.


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