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Tonbridge Angels boss Jay Saunders reacts to 2-1 National League South derby win at basement boys Dover Athletic

Jay Saunders felt Tonbridge’s National League South derby win at Dover on Tuesday shows why they are where they are in the table.

Saunders’ side responded after back-to-back defeats, as a goal in either half from ex-Dover midfielder Jordan Higgs and winger Francis Mampolo saw them to a 2-1 success in wet and windy conditions.

Tonbridge boss Jay Saunders – was disappointed his team weren’t more clinical in Tuesday’s 2-1 derby win at Dover. Picture: David Couldridge
Tonbridge boss Jay Saunders – was disappointed his team weren’t more clinical in Tuesday’s 2-1 derby win at Dover. Picture: David Couldridge

Angels dominated for most of the match at Crabble. They are 11th, four points off the play-off places, but have played more league fixtures than most above them.

Saunders thinks Tonbridge would now be right in the mix for a top-seven finish if they had been more clinical in front of goal.

Saunders, whose side lost 1-0 at home to second-placed Worthing as midfielder Lewis Gard missed a penalty on Saturday, reflected: “I’m disappointed.

“I’m not disappointed with the performance because I thought, at times, we were good. First half, I felt we should have been out of sight.

“The goal we concede is very scrappy. No disrespect to Dover, but I felt we should have had the game wrapped up, really, by half-time.

Report: Dover 1-2 Tonbridge

“We didn’t do that and it’s probably why we are where we are in the league and not in and amongst the play-off places.

“This year, defensively, in general, we have been better - even though we have had constant changes there. But in forward areas, for whatever reason, we’ve not been able to kill teams off when we have had chances.

“Even on Saturday against Worthing, we probably could have gone in three up at half-time. We didn’t do that and ended up losing the game.

“It’s something we need to address but, all in all, it was about bouncing back.

“It’s a Kent derby, we have got three points and we move on.”

Defender Jamie Fielding and midfielder Ansu Janneh pulled out on the day of the Dover match, which left Angels’ management team to reshuffle their pack.

But second-half scorer Mampolo and on-loan young AFC Wimbledon winger Paris Lock - with Whites earlier in the campaign - shone.

Saunders said: “Paris has come in and he’s getting better with each game. Francis was called back.

“I just felt at the weekend that we lacked an option in wide areas. When Jamie Fielding pulled out - and Ansu as well - it meant Mo Dabre had to go left-back with Liam (Vincent) inside.

“I think that’s about our ninth centre-back partnership this year so it’s difficult. But to be fair, they have come in and done well.

“Francis has got his goal. He had a couple of good games down at Margate, we kept an eye on it, called him back and he’s got the winner.

“I’m pleased for him.”

Saunders also thought the performances of experienced midfield trio Scott Wagstaff, Higgs and Gard proved key in their derby win in front of a crowd of 455.

“We were looking at making changes, getting some fresh legs on - but I didn’t want to change the three in midfield,” said the Tonbridge boss, who also praised recently-signed Ebbsfleet loanee forward Nathan Odokonyero.

“You could see what Dover did. I think they went young and with legs in there.

“But I thought Jordan Higgs was outstanding. He has got his goal, coming back to his old club. In front of a new back four if you like, I thought he was excellent in there and Waggy (Wagstaff) and Gardy have got that energy and quality.

“I said before the game, having watched Dover’s last couple of games, I honestly felt - if we dominated that area - we could go on and win the game.

“I’m just disappointed for a couple of them. Nathan deserved a goal.

“He has been excellent since he’s come in, in the last two games and he’s been unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet. The same for Paris, as well.

“We had some good chances but I honestly believe that’s why we are where we are in the league.”

Angels travel to Weston-super-Mare this weekend.

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