Tunbridge Wells held by Westfield in pre-season friendly

Tunbridge Wells continued their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw against Westfield FC at Culverden Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Wells went ahead after an own goal midway through the first half, after good work from new signings Ehis Izokun and Louis Hamilton, before Westfield hit back late in the second half; Khaya Nyathi turning the ball into the net after a slick passing move to deny the home side a third win of pre-season.

With no entry fee being charged for the game, an attendance of 165 watched as Wells gave their entire squad a run-out, rotating the team heavily in the second half. New signings Izokun and Hamilton both started the match, with Nick Graham playing in the second half.

The match started evenly, with both sides playing some neat, flowing football. Wells had an early penalty appeal turned down after Lee Radford took a tumble in the Westfield box, whilst the East Sussex side saw a shot blaze over the bar after an excellent move down their right wing.

The first real chance of the game came after 15 minutes, when Joe Fuller burst into the box, avoiding several challenges before sending the ball across the six yard box, only for the resulting shot to be blocked.

Wells continued to apply the pressure, with Hooley Cornell, Izokun and Radford combining well to force a succession of corners.

Eventually the breakthrough came. A turnover of possession in midfield saw Izokun release Hamilton midway through the Westfield half. The Wells forward whipped the ball into the box, only for a fortunate deflection off Westfield’s no.4 to send the ball rolling past the helpless goalkeeper and into the net.

The home side seemed buoyed by taking the lead, and soon after saw a free-kick scrambled clear. They were, however, given a wake-up call just before the half hour mark, as a long distance speculative effort from distance sailed just over Steve Laurence’s goal.

As the half drew to a close, Wells continued to dominate. On 40 minutes a long ball again released Hamilton down the right. The former Bromley man elected to cross when perhaps a shot would have been the better option, and the chance went begging.

Wells made several changes for the start of the second half, including swapping from their away strip into more traditional red attire. Hakim Griffiths and Reece Gallagher were both given a run out, although Gallagher lasted just 20 minutes before being replaced by Jason Hawes.

The half started slowly, as both sides traded possession and continued to make changes. Wells should have extended their lead just before the hour mark, when Tom O’Connor released Graham down the right. The new signing slipped the ball across for what ought to have been a simple-tap in for Cornell, only for the striker to hit the upright from only a few yards out.

Keith Bird’s side continued to threaten. O’Connor was dazzling opponents with his quick feet, whilst Tom Bryant forced a fine fingertip safe with a bullet header from a corner.

Griffiths was impressive in a deep lying midfield role, and his interception set O’Connor free again. The no.15 picked up the ball inside his own half and glided past several players on a dazzling solo run before shooting just wide.

However, Wells’ were punished for their failure to kill the game off on 84 minutes, as a sloppy piece of defending saw them surrender possession on the right flank. A lofted pass set the Westfield striker free in the box, and his skewed shot was turned home at the far post by the waiting Nyathi at the far post.

The home side fought back but could not create any meaningful chances thereafter, and were left to rue missed opportunities as the final whistle blew with the scores level.

Tunbridge Wells now face Hildenborough at home on August 4th in their final pre-season game, before beginning their Southern Counties East League campaign away to Crowborough on August 8th.

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