Preview: Tonbridge Angels

Keeping it in Kent, the Fleet make their second journey of pre-season to former National South rivals Tonbridge Angels this Friday evening, with Jay Saunders’ side having enjoyed a busy summer of activity in the transfer market.

It’s fair to say the Angels have proven to be a sometimes difficult obstacle for the Fleet in recent years, winning 1-0 at the Kuflink Stadium in 2020/21 and ending our unbeaten run last season when triumphing 2-1 in October. And the Angels then grabbed a late equaliser in the rematch at Longmead a few months ago to deny Dennis Kutrieb’s side the maximum points on our way to the title.

Now having gone our separate ways as a result of that title win, pre-season pits the teams together once more and Fleet fans can enjoy another trip to Longmead.

After a 6-0 win at Punjab last Saturday, the friendly schedule will step things up a level now that the Fleet side have another full week’s training behind them.

Omari Sterling-James has finished his international stint after Saint Kitts & Nevis ended their group-stage commitments in the Gold Cup while Chris Haigh has headed to Oxford City on a season-long loan.

The Fleet will no doubt take the opportunity to field as many of the squad as possible this early into pre-season so expect the usual two teams across two halves against the Angels.

The home side are looking to build on an impressive first season under Saunders that saw them claim a number of scalps of the so-called bigger boys in the league last season. They came up just short in the hunt for the play-offs but player recruitment and the appointment of a new chairman in the close season suggests they have a mind to go one better in 2023/24.

Newcomers include defender Kodi Lyons-Foster (Aldershot Town), midfielders Jordan Higgs (Dover Athletic), Gianni Crichlow (Havant & Waterlooville) and Johl Powell (Dulwich Hamlet) plus strikers Joe Boachie (Hungerford Town) and Stefan Payne (Welling United). Together with some important retentions, it’s an evolving squad under Jay Saunders that will no doubt include a few trialists on Friday night.

One familiar but now absent face is Alex Finney who had agreed a move to Tonbridge earlier in the summer but who instead opted to move on to Eastbourne Borough alongside Jack Paxman for the forthcoming season.

A couple of notable exits include skipper Sonny Miles, ex-Fleet full-back Craig Braham-Barrett and former Dover winger Ricky Modeste.

Josh Wright scored his first goal for the Fleet at Longmead in March

Tonbridge were one of only four sides (along with Dartford, Welling and Hemel) to go unbeaten against the Fleet in last season’s league encounters so a friendly it may be but it will surely be a competitive one.

The Angels have two games under their belt already this month having won 3-0 away at nearby Rusthall and then travelled to Folkestone in midweek, securing a 1-0 victory courtesy of Ruben Soares-Junior.

Tickets for the game are priced at £10 (adults), £8 (over 65s), £5 (youths 13-18) and free for U12s if accompanied by an adult. You can buy online here or at the gate on the night. Turnstiles are open at 6pm and kick-off is 7.45pm.


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