Tonbridge Angels 1 Maidstone 0

Tonbridge Angels 1 Maidstone United 0 (12/03/2011)

Kicking off a spring non-league travel was a trip to Tonbridge, deep in the Kent commuter belt. The opulence of some of the housing on the roads to Tonbridge wasn’t matched by Tonbridge’s Longmead Stadium, but it’s a place that’s on the cusp of looking like a proper ground as fans of the professional game would recognise one.

Most impressive is a full length stand down one side with five rows of seats, and a somewhat oversized pitched roof. While it’d be a bit small by even League Two standards, it’s a veritable monster at Rymans League level. Behind both goals are reasonably deep covered terraces, which would be at home in League Two if only they stretched the whole width of the pitch, rather than being only about as wide as the penalty area.

The other side is definitely non-league though. A jumble of buildings including a large club bar and a tiny stand for directors and the press (containing just 29 seats) and an unstable looking camera gantry perched between two of the buildings.

The almost “proper” feel of this game was aided by it being a local derby with short-time league club Maidstone United, at the time on a downward slope of their roller-coaster bid to regain league status – or at least get back to their former non-league level. The boost to the crowd saw over 800 turn up, giving the game and edge and some genuine atmosphere. All too often non-league games can feel like they have a smattering of observers than a crowd, so it was good to hear a bit of singing under the tin roofs at either end.

Not that this meant the eccentrics had been forced out. One guy cut a fine figure, wearing what looked like a 1940s pinstriped de-mob suit and multicoloured scarf that would have suited Tom Baker. A Christmas jumper and white trainers set off the ensemble. Another thought a football match was the ideal place to take his dog for a walk. Each to his own, I suppose.

As for the game, it was closer than the league table suggested it ought to have been, but Tonbridge did get the win to nudge them nearer promotion, and Maidstone nearer the drop.

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