By Adam May
Chelmsford City 7, Tonbridge Angels 1
CHANTS of joy and sighs of relief echoed around Melbourne Stadium after Chelmsford City recorded a comprehensive victory over Tonbridge Angels, which subsequently confirmed relegation for the Kent outfit, ending their four-year spell in the Conference South.
A Luke Callander brace and four goals from Michael Cheek City on to an impressive and comfortable victory which eases the pressure going into Wednesday’s game with FA Trophy finalists Gosport Borough.
Chris Piper netted a consolation when he fired in his second-half free-kick, but it was too little too late to save Tonbridge’s Skrill South status as Cheek secured the win with two late strikes.
City are still not mathematically safe however as Maidenhead, who sit four points behind City, were victorious against promotion-chasing Ebbsfleet United, and have two games remaining, just like the Clarets.
City chief Mark Hawkes’ was rightly delighted with the way in which his side saw off Tonbridge, and paid a particular tribute to his strike force. He commented: “It was an impressive performance and I believe we are a different side at home. We started with a high tempo and scored an early goal after ten-minutes and, unlike other games where we got off to a good start, we’ve scored goals two and three which settled us down and there was no way back [for Tonbridge].
“We’re disappointed to just concede one goal but to be fair it was a good free-kick and you couldn’t do a lot about it.
“Second half was a little bit flat but being 4-0 up like we were, and being in that position myself as a player, it’s difficult to keep going. We still scored three goals in the second half, but the damage was done in the first half an hour when we were really on the front foot.”
It was a nervy exchange in the opening minutes, but City almost caught out Tonbridge on the counter. Mark Hughes cut-out Danny Walder’s long throw, allowing Luke Callander to pick out Michael Cheek on the right flank.
The City forward held the ball up and laid-in the under-lapping full-back Sam Long who advanced forwards after turning his man before shooting narrowly wide.
Moments after, the home side took the lead. Christian Smith’s free-kick from inside his own half was nodded on by Matthew Lock, allowing Luke Callander to sweep up and prod home from close-range to give his side a crucial goal.
And it was Callander who almost added to his tally five minutes later when he latched onto Mark Hughes’ long-range clearance but failed to test the Angels ‘keeper.
He made amends for his weak effort however when he took advantage of Tonbridge’s inept defending after just 17-minutes.
Nicky Nicolau’s tame cross was poorly dealt with, and Callander pounced and watched with delight as his effort was deflected into the net by Mark Lovell.
A superb start and with City in the ascendancy, Angels looked rattled as they failed to deal with the pace and threat of Chelmsford’s Callander and Michael Cheek.
The former shot inches wide after 20-minutes and had another chance soon after as Nicky Nicolau played in the frontman, only for him to arch his shot over the bar.
It was soon 3-0 to the hosts as they made an emphatic start, and this time Luke Callander turned provider. He controlled Mark Hughes’ knock-down and crossed in for Michael Cheek who fought off a couple of blue shirts to head in past Lewis Carey.
Chelmsford had to withstand some pressure from the visitors when former-Claret Michael Bakare dragged his shot just wide of an upright but, in truth, the Angels lacked any real confidence and conviction at both ends of the pitch.
Clarets’ centre-back Christian Smith tried his luck when he turned inside and shot narrowly wide of the post, much to the surprise of the City faithful, as Tonbridge were put under the test once again.
Mark Hughes then watched as his diving header rebounded off the post but it was soon 4-0 after Matthew Lock dispossessed Nathan Green on the wing. The City midfielder then directed a superbly weighted cross-field ball into the path of Michael Cheek who took one touch before firing low and hard past Lewis Carey and into the bottom corner as the first-half action came to an end.
The second-half was much the same and the Clarets profited from another Tonbridge error. Angels keeper Lewis Carey came out of his area to head clear but it fell into the path of Luke Callander who lofted the ball into the net to increase City’s lead, and net his second of the game.
Tonbridge did pull one back through winger Chris Piper midway through the second-half when his free-kick beat Pentney, but it was a mere consolation as Tonbridge confirmed their relegation.
Four minutes from time, City sealed the win as Michael Cheek netted his hat-trick, forcing a shot under the body of Lewis Carey to make it six.
Cheek added his fourth of the afternoon when Rob Edmans demonstrated good footwork before presenting the forward with an easy tap-in.
A comfortable victory in the end and the Clarets enter Wednesday night’s showdown with Gosport Borough high on confidence.
1. Carl Pentney
2. Sam Long
3. Leon Redwood
4. Matthew Lock
5. Mark Haines
6. Christian Smith
7. Joe Ward
8. Mark Hughes (C)
9. Luke Callander
10. Michael Cheek
11. Nicky Nicolau