The Clarets travel from Essex to neighbouring county Kent this weekend to face Tonbridge Angels, as Robbie Simpson’s side will look to extend their unbeaten run in the National League South to five games.
Jay Saunders’ team head into Saturday’s game in a mixed run of form, having recorded two wins, two draws, and two losses in their last six league matches. If the Angels are able to end our recent unbeaten streak, they will move level on points with City in the tight Vanarama National League South table.
Tonbridge Angels are currently enjoying their fifth consecutive season in the National League South. The Angels earned promotion back to the second tier of Non-League Football after beating Metropolitan Police FC in a Step 3 Super Play Off final in the 18/19 season.
Jay Saunders was appointed as Tonbridge manager in May 2022 and guided the club to a 9th place finish in his first season in the dugout at Longmead Stadium, marking the club’s best finish since returning to the National League South.
Saunders’ side have experienced a mixed 23/24 campaign so far. They were disappointingly eliminated from the FA Cup in the second qualifying round to Isthmian League side Haringey Borough. In the league, the Angels are currently occupying 15th place in the tight table, sitting 5 points clear of the relegation zone but 6 points behind the play-off places.
Looking at Tonbridge’s current squad, AFC Wimbledon loanee Ethan Sutcliffe made his full debut for the Angels in their 2-1 win away at Truro last weekend. The 19-year-old centre back featured for the Dons in both league and EFL Trophy matches earlier this season, before joining National League North side Kings Lynn on a one-month loan transfer in September. Sutcliffe made the move to the Longmead Stadium last month in a similar loan move, and will be hoping to make his home debut in Saturday’s game.
In midfield, Jay Saunders’ side have the experienced Scott Wagstaff amongst their ranks; the 33-year-old was named as Tonbridge’s player of the year for the 22/23 campaign and has continued to impress in his second season for the club. Wagstaff has won 87 defensive duels so far this season, the third highest out of any player in the National League South.
The Clarets will need to be aware of in-form Angels man Lewis Gard, who was named in the most recent National League South team of the week. The midfielder converted a penalty in his side’s 2-1 win against Truro last weekend. This marked Gard’s 6th league goal of the season, further cementing his place as Tonbridge’s top scorer so far this campaign.
Most recent meeting:
City and Tonbridge last met on a cold night in February at the Melbourne Community Stadium, in a game which was won in dramatic fashion by the Clarets in the 96th minute.
The visitors had the game’s better chances in the first half, with the best opportunities of the opening 45 minutes falling to Tommie Fagg and Jordan Greendige, both of whom put their efforts just wide of Eddie Beach’s goal.
City improved in the second half and dominated proceedings, but struggled to find a way through Tonbridge who defended resiliently by limiting the Clarets to mostly long-range strikes.
Ultimately, it was a long-range effort from Liam Trotter which proved to make all the difference. The Clarets midfielder sweetly struck a volley around 30-yards from goal, which beat Tonbridge keeper Henly and found its way into the bottom corner of the net.
Trotter’s first Clarets goal sparked pandemonium around the Melbourne Community Stadium, providing City with an important three points on the night.
Ipswich Town loanee Finley Barbrook will be hoping to secure his first Clarets start after producing a Player of the Match performance from the bench on his debut against Taunton Town last week.
Barbrook replaced Callum Watts in the 39th minute of last week’s game after the midfielder was forced off with an injury, which the Clarets medical team will continue to assess in the build-up to this weekend’s game.
Robbie Simpson’s options at centre back will be bolstered by the return of Luke Jenkins, who served a one game ban against Taunton after picking up two yellow cards against Slough Town.
Clarets captain Dave Winfield continues to work hard on his recovery as he edges closer to a return to action.
Ticket prices online:
Adult – £16Concession/Senior (65+) – £13 Youth (12-17) – £7 Under-12s – Free
Children under 15 only admitted if with an adult.
Supporters can also buy tickets on the day at the turnstiles at Longmead Stadium for the same prices. Turnstiles open at 12:30pm on match day.
It takes around an hour and 15 minutes to travel from the Melbourne Community Stadium to Longmead Stadium by car. Supporters making the journey from Essex into Kent will use the Dartford Crossing enroute and should remember to pay the Dart Charge. At Longmead Stadium, there is a large free car park.
The sold out Chelmsford City Supporters Club coach will leave Melbourne Park at 12:30pm on Saturday.
How to follow the game:
Clarets fans can find pre-match coverage of Saturday’s game, and live updates of proceedings at Longmead Stadium by following the club’s X (formerly known as Twitter) page: @OfficialClarets and Instagram page: chelmsfordcityfc.
Radio Clarets will be providing live audio commentary of Saturday’s match at Longmead Stadium.
Post-match reaction will be found on the club’s website, official social media channels and on ClaretsTV following the game.
Words by Jake Dixon