18 March 2012

That'll be the day - an extended match report from aTonbridge fan

Source: Thatbetheday Blog Photos by Vicky Clark

Match 55/11/942 - Saturday, 17 March 2012 - Conference South

Tonbridge (1) 3 Collin 40 Suarez 50 Browning 85
Truro City (0) 0
Att. 639

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/4,186

Match Report

That’ll be the Day usually focuses on my day at football, but because of the unique nature of this fixture, today this blog becomes That’ll be their Day. As Truro City’s supporters embarked on their 600 mile-plus round trip to Longmead for a first-ever time, Tonbridge fans had already made the reverse visit back in November when they descended on the Cornish town in numbers, many making a weekend of it. For them it carried a novelty factor, for the Truro travelling support today was no novelty, it happens every other week.
Dedicated TCFC fans at Tonbridge
To put into perspective their geographical isolation, their local derby is against Weston-super-Mare, a round trip of over 200 miles. Next Saturday, Tonbridge visit Havant and Waterlooville, which is roughly an equivalent distance, could we imagine that fixture as local, I think not.

I met up with a group of Truro supporters in the George and Dragon before the game to talk with them about their experiences in this, as it is for Tonbridge, their first season in Blue Square South. My opening question was met with some laughter, though it was simple enough, how has your season been? Where do you want to start, the threat of liquidation, a transfer embargo, a date at the High Court, and some football thrown in for good measure, it has had it all, this was the reason for their laughter.
Steve Clark and Ivor
Not being a proper journalist, I explained that it was more the personal experiences that I was looking for, and to this Steve relates that it has been a blast. He recounted that every trip has been an experience, everywhere they have pitched up they have been treated with kindness and friendships have been forged along the way with tales of bangers and mash at Chelmsford and drinking the clubhouse dry at Welling. It is what football should be about, it is what non-league football is about.

Their stories might have been about famous victories and more than a few beers along the way, but sadly it is a season that will ultimately be clouded by a tragic accident. On the return journey from their encounter with Dover, a car carrying three Truro supporters was involved in an accident and one of the club’s most stalwart supporters, Gillian Alderman, lost her life. It was with tears welling in his eyes that Steve commented that the sadness put into perspective the wins and the losses, or the financial problems of the club, Truro City will always live to fight another day. The news that the other two people in the car, Bob Fagan and John Salisbury, who had left hospital in the week was at least reason to be cheerful.

JP’s day had started when they left Truro at 7 a.m. He and six others have negotiated a deal with a local car hire company whereby they hire a seven-seater car for just £50, a very friendly car hire company I would have to say! The seven of them throw £20 each into the kitty for the hire and the petrol and if there is any excess then it goes into a pot for the Truro Independent Supporters Association (TISA). In the wake of the financial problems, it might be that sometime in the future, TISA’s funds will be called upon and when I touched on Kevin Heaney’s chairmanship of the club, it was apparent that there is a divergence of opinion of the man.

From a completely outsider’s point of view collected from the many column inches that have been written about Truro’s plight and Heaney’s courtship with Plymouth Argyle, personally I would have felt a little betrayed by his pursuit of the League Two club. Steve gave a far more conciliatory viewpoint although his friend, JP appeared to differ.

Steve felt that Heaney always had Truro’s future at heart when he negotiated with the administrator for the purchase of Argyle. The rules of the Football League do not allow for one person to be in ownership of two clubs, even if one is outside of the Football League. It is Steve’s contention that their chairman never wanted to own the footballing side of the Plymouth Argyle, his intention was the purchase of Home Park and then to lease it back to the club, therefore earning money that could be put into the coffers of Truro City. It was a purely business interest, but once again from an outsider’s view, business deals of this nature in football are universally greeted with scepticism from the fans.

We touched on the envy, jealousy, call it what you will, that has followed Truro’s rise through the lower reaches of the football pyramid to their position within the Conference set up today. These Truro supporters readily accept that as it has been funded by a wealthy man that sort of animosity was inevitable and, to a degree, understandable. A point that was strongly made was that while rivals might point at expensive signings that have won Truro titles, Barry Hayles apart, a player that is on significant wages according to rumour, the team is entirely made up of West Country players. Once again their geographic isolation makes it difficult to recruit players from anywhere else.

Steve also made the remark that this season the fans have also had to make an adjustment and that was to losing football matches something they had not been used to in recent years. They had started the season with the same success as previous terms with three straight victories, two of which against clubs that have subsequently been part of the group chasing champions-elect Woking, Chelmsford City and Dover Athletic. Four straight defeats followed, leaving those fans staring at the reality that this season would probably be one of consolidation, and once the financial difficulties surfaced they were looking into a far greater abyss. Thankfully the tax man was ultimately paid off at the eleventh hour and whilst the transfer embargo remains in place, it appears that the club has stabilised. For us, as Tonbridge fans, consolidation in Blue Square South was always the ambition, but when you’ve had the success that Truro have had in recent years, it is understandable that JP’s expectations were much higher.

Travel and cash fatigue unfortunately cut Truro’s numbers at Longmead, but those that made the trip proved to be an enthusiastic bunch that loudly showed their support despite their side producing a tired looking performance. Their right back, Barry McConnell, perhaps summed up their travel weariness when having launched a clearance out of the ground answered a heckle with the comment, “Give us break mate, I’ve been up since five”!

The game itself proved to be a rather one-sided affair. Tonbridge’s recent good run of form has now lifted them to a lofty eighth place in the table, whilst the Truro supporters will be looking just a little anxiously over their shoulders sitting six points above the dreaded dotted line.

The home side dominated the first half albeit that it took most of it to find the opening goal. Rory Hill, who was a constant thorn in the side of the visitors, threaded a delightful pass through to Frannie Collin, and the Division’s leading goalscorer doesn’t pass up chances of this nature, slotting the ball past the Truro ‘keeper Oliver Chenoweth.

The goal bred confidence in the Tonbridge ranks and their passing became a delight to watch. After five minutes of the second half, one such move opened up another scoring attempt for Collin, whose goalbound effort was parried by Chenoweth but only into the path of Miguel Suarez who side-footed home from close range. With the game now completely in their control, the home side showed a level of performance that hasn’t been witnessed, at least by me, this season. A wonderful build up involving Chris Piper, Lee Browning and Hill opened up an opportunity for Nathan Korantheng who blasted inches over the top as Tonbridge threatened to run riot.

Barry Hayles, who, one has to say, looked as if he has enjoyed a few Cornish pasties in his time at Treyew Road and the towering Aaron Pugh, were introduced to rescue at least a consolation for the Truro faithful. The game was wrapped up five minutes from time when Browning and Collin interchanged passes before the former was left with a tap in for the third.

So the Cornishmen (and women) were left to trudge their way home, at least comforted by the knowledge that this would be their last journey this season to Kent and that their next trip to Staines is a mere 240-odd miles. Thanks to Steve and his wife, JP and Ivor for their indulgence in the George and Dragon, they have given me the impetus to make the trek to Cornwall next season to renew their acquaintance; perhaps I can persuade the wife to revisit the county of our honeymoon for a romantic weekend to Treyew Road!

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