Tonbridge Angels manager Steve McKimm has been reflecting on a 2019/20 campaign of ‘two distinct parts’.
At the time of the season suspension last month, his side were a point and a place outside the relegation zone, but they had games in hand on every team in the division, including four on Braintree Town in the position below, and two on bottom side Hungerford Town.
It was Angels’ first season back in the division after promotion last year, which McKimm reflected upon to the club’s website:
“Looking back I see the season in two distinct parts. Up to the turn of the year the experience was slightly frustrating. We learnt that, unlike the Isthmian League, even though the overall performance might be good enough, the tendency to make a mistake could prove costly and that it was far more difficult to get yourself back in the game. Opposing sides were better at managing games and sometimes possessed the quality of striker that could suddenly turn a match in their favour. That said our home form was reasonably satisfactory once we had claimed our first win against Concord Rangers.
The real worry was our desperately poor away form despite an early encouraging draw at Bath City in August. We were to have to wait until late November for another away point although it was a good one at play off candidates Slough Town. Perhaps the tide was turning, as the following month we came seconds from defeating Hemel Hempstead Town away but in the end had to settle for a point.
And so we approached Christmas unable to move out of those bottom four or five places although fortunately never cut adrift from the pack. It was around now that problems started to emerge with the pitch drainage system which combined with the heavy rains was resulting in home match postponements. The situation worsened to such an extent that only two further home games were possible before the season ended in mid March.
It was to the great credit of my payers that they succeeded in turning around that poor away form and as a result there was just one defeat in 2020, away at Chelmsford City. We’d learnt from our experiences in the first half of the season and suddenly we became a hard team to beat with a mean defence and the ability to come up with goals sometimes against the run of play.
Of course the serial postponement of home games meant that we were regularly playing competitively only every two weeks which isn’t great for a semi-professional player and whilst we were able to arrange some friendlies to maintain fitness levels it’s never the same as a league game. Again, credit the players who seemed to take it all in their stride and just got on with the job of collecting as many points as possible to ensure we escaped the drop.
You will have noticed that I haven’t picked out any particular players for praise as hopefully once we are able to come together again we will be able to bestow our normal set of awards to the lucky recipients. This gives me the opportunity of saying in this piece that the entire squad warrants huge congratulations for the way they responded over the entire season but in particular during that second half. If they won they would celebrate wholeheartedly, if they lost they would be really down and certainly their own worst critics. In defeat I often didn’t have to say too much, they said it all for me, but the togetherness within the group was amazing and they really were a pleasure to work with.”
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Main Photo Credit: David Couldridge