Larkin hails Wells' spirit
TUNBRIDGE Wells ended their campaign with the top-five finish they targeted all year after a lesson in attacking football finally confirmed the class of 2012 as the finest since 1986.
An inconsistent run of form threatened to derail ambitions, but the win over Canterbury moved Wells back up to fifth – where they sat for most of the season – after Beckenham Town could only manage a draw at new champions Herne Bay.
Martin Larkin's men had fallen behind within five minutes when Canterbury's Richard Senden shocked the Culverden with a fine 25-yard lob.
But after that it was all Wells. Ryan Rook, Tom Davey, and man-of-the-match Andy Irvine added the final touches to a thoroughly encouraging team performance as, by the end, rather than two league positions separating the Kent Premier outfits, it looked like the gap was two divisions.
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"When we conceded early, the guys responded well and got the job done," said Larkin.
"We just found out we got fifth – which is great. We got more points, more goals and less goals conceded than we have for a long time. The only team to outplay us this year were Beckenham.
"When you see some of the football we are capable of playing, even on a pitch like ours, it shows what we might have done if we had better home form."
Wells' Culverden experiences this year read seven wins and six losses, compared to nine wins and three losses away.
And Canterbury began sharply, working the ball quickly up to star man Senden, who, after just five minutes, turned and went at the heart of the defence. Spotting Dean Nash slightly off his line, he lifted it expertly beyond him from outside the box.
But Wells hit back through their two outstanding target men. Jack Harris collected the ball and picked out Irvine, who found his strike partner on the return as he galloped beyond the challenging defender with power. Harris was one-on-one with the keeper, but unselfishly faked a shot, squaring to Ryan Rook instead and handing his team-mate the simplest of goals.
On 42 minutes Wells grabbed the lead. Harris and Irvine combined again to earn a corner, and the Ryan Rook delivery was powered home courtesy of Tom Davey's head.
They begun enjoying plentiful possession in spite of the poor pitch – and Canterbury trudged in at half-time with the look of a team who knew they had met their match.
Shortly after the restart, a ball was only half-cleared to Andy McMath in the box. His shot forced a strong hand from Giga Zumatashvili to turn it around his left post.
As play ticked on, Wells grew only more fluid and incisive. Another lovely move up the right allowed Rook to find Irvine, who capped a powerful display with a tidy goal tucked neatly under the keeper from 10 yards out.
Considering the lack of minutes remaining in the season and the reachable two goal-cushion separating the sides, you might have expected Canterbury to begin pushing the Wells line backwards. But Larkin's men looked intent on proving a point – and only attacked more relentlessly until the referee finally blew his whistle.
If it was a boxing match, the man in the middle might have stopped it some time sooner.