Sunday, 30 September 2007

Gillingham 1 Leeds United 1

Match 19/07/636 - Saturday, 29th September 2007 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Cox 90
Leeds United (1) 1 Carole 28
Att. 8,719

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,393

Match Report

In years to come I might look back on this fixture and wonder why they were even playing each other at this time. The mighty Leeds, Champions League semi-finalists just six years ago, in the third tier of English football. Seven straight wins at the start of the season, but still sitting in the bottom half-down with only six points is also going to take some working-out when the memory has dimmed*. These were the strange circumstances that preceded this Priestfield encounter and the game that unfolded also beggared belief.

Gillingham, probably in the last throes of the Onuora/Docherty caretakership, started quite brightly and it was slightly against the run of the play when Leeds went in front. At this point everybody in the 8,000-odd crowd would have suspected that Leeds would go on to win at a canter, nobody would have guessed the indiscipline that followed that would eventually cost them their 100% record.

As a player Dennis Wise was an irritating little sod and as a manager his team performed on the day as a mirror image of himself. First, just before half time, Tresor Kandol was yellow carded for a second time after sarcastically applauding the referee upon getting a free kick for a foul against himself. Then early in the second half Jermaine Beckford, Leeds second striker, was also sent off for two yellows for a foul that came just a couple of minutes after receiving his first card for kicking the ball into the net long after the whistle had gone for offside. Both senseless, needless red cards.

Ultimately Leeds were lucky to end the match with nine men. Hughes had previously been booked for a poor challenge was substituted undoubtedly to protect him from a red and goalkeeper Ankergren was lucky that none of the officials noticed him kicking the ball out of the ground in annoyance at Beckford’s sending off and was then later booked for time wasting.

Just to prove that nothing really changes in football, Wise himself was sent to the stands during half time after a confrontation with the referee. Leeds are probably a cut above most in this division and if they are to make up the points disparity then their indiscipline might just be a telling factor come May.

Gillingham themselves made a much better fist of the day than of late but still could not break down Leeds in a game that became attack against defence once Leeds had gone down to nine. Countless crosses (especially from Clohessey) never beat the first man and we had entered the last couple of minutes before Ankergren was forced to make his first real save. But just when hope had turned to despair, Ian Cox powered in a header to send Priestfield into rapture. Such are the emotions when you hold mighty Leeds to even a draw.

Sadly the end saw scenes that we are not used to at Priestfield. Firstly the sight of Gus Poyet, assistant to Wise, stopping any of his players shaking the hand of the referee and then the Leeds fans pelting the officials with coins as they left the pitch. As I noted earlier, nothing really changes.

*For historical purposes and everybody knows the facts in 2007, Leeds were deducted 15 points at the start of the season for financial irregularities surrounding their administration.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Tonbridge 3 Ashford Town (Middx) 0

Match 18/07/635 - Tuesday, 25th September 2007 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 3 Tyne 38 Logan 68 Main 90
Ashford Town (Middx) (0) 0
Att. 281

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/1,348

Tonbridge eased the pressure on manager Tony Dolby with a comprehensive victory over Ashford Town (Middx). This is one small step on the road to recovery but I suspect that Dolby cannot afford to see his side slip out of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Tonbridge supporters (barring the hard-core) are a fickle bunch and the 281 attendance is a long way down from the 432 that watched the last Tuesday league game against Folkestone, granted Folkestone brought a few more than the six Ashford supporters that stood behind the goal.

Three goals from three different players is something that will please the manager and fans alike. For far too long it has appeared that if Jon Main doesn’t score, neither do Tonbridge. Main did score but not before Tommy Tyne and Fraser Logan had put the Angels in control. Tyne’s goal in particular an absolute corker. Logan was the man of the match giving the opposition defence problems throughout , giving merit to his recall at Ryan Martin’s expense.

So Tony Dolby can breathe slightly easier, but when somebody sang Tony Dolby’s Blue and White Army, the response was “There’s only one person singing“, prove positive that very few have been won over by this one victory.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Maidstone United 2 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 17/07/634 - Saturday, 22nd September 2007 - Ryman Premier

Maidstone United (1) 2 Hegley 8 Cumbers 84
Tonbridge (0) 1 Main 81
Att. 528

Entrance: £9
Programme: £2
Mileage: 44/1,322
New ground: 219

Match Report
Whether you are a Spurs supporter losing at Arsenal or a City fan losing at United there is no worse game to lose than the derby fixture. League positions hardly count, these are the grudge matches that give you the bragging rights even if you are propping up the table.

Over the years Maidstone United have been my grudge team. There has never been any love lost with them and Tonbridge fans and when they had their brief time in the Football League they became the arch rivals of Gillingham as well. Never to be forgotten was the Kent Senior Cup victory in 1975 at the old London Road ground and then there is also the bitter memories of Gillingham being knocked out of the FA Cup by the Stones when they were still a non-league side.

Both sides have endured a poor start to the season with Maidstone bottom with just a win to their credit and Tonbridge a couple of points better off. Maidstone were quicker out of the blocks, scored an early goal and generally bossed the first half. Whatever Tony Dolby said at half time it was short and probably not sweet, but he was back in the dugout long before the break had finished. The Angels did show a greater purpose in the second half but the quality was sorely lacking and Maidstone’s well marshalled defence was holding out with no real scares. Tonbridge got a lucky break ten minutes from time when a Jon Main shot found the bottom corner with the aid of a deflection. But the parity was short-lived and following a great save from Matt Reed, Luis Cumbers, on loan from Gillingham (oh the irony), finished from close range.

During the week a new investor has put £100,000 into the club for a 50 per cent share. Nick Sullivan has already made clear his displeasure at the club’s present position. If this new investor is much of the same opinion (and how can he not be?) then Tony Dolby’s tenure could well be entering its last phase. Derby games and the FA Cup can produce emotive results. We’ve lost the derby , a FA Cup exit next Saturday could prove the final straw.

Today’s game was played at Bourne Park, Sittingbourne where Maidstone are lodging with Sittingbourne. The ground is in the shadow of Central Park. Fifteen years ago (perhaps more) this was a state-of-the-art stadium built on the proceeds of a huge sale of Sittingbourne’s town centre ground. Sadly the money was frittered away, allegations of misappropriation, and now the ground has literally gone to the dogs as only greyhound racing now takes place inside the walls. Both clubs now play on the old training ground on a cabbage patch of a pitch with one small stand and a club house. Maidstone have purchased land and are reported to be returning to their home town next season. I regularly pass the site and there is absolutely no progress and with financial problems they may have to stay in Sittingbourne for a while longer.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Tonbridge 4 Croydon Athletic 2

Match 16/07/633 - Tuesday, 18th September 2007 -
FA Cup 1QR Replay

Tonbridge (0) 4 Main 85 Powell 90 Beales 95 Storey 105
Croydon Athletic (1) 2 Duke 39 Savage 79
AET (90 minutues: 2-2)
Att. 259

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/1,278

Tonbridge were just 20 seconds away from falling at their first hurdle in this year’s FA Cup. Ten minutes from time Croydon had gone two goals clear and that had been enough for many in the sparse crowd to depart for home. Jon Main squeezed a shot under the keeper to pull one back and set up a frantic finish. Tonbridge literally threw the kitchen sink at Croydon but somehow they looked to have survived the onslaught until Ray Powell kept his cool and equalised with those 20 seconds left to play. The higher division side then made fairly easy work of extra time and when a John Beales header put the Angels in front for the first time they were comfortably in control.

At 2-0 down once again noises were made to suggest that Tony Dolby should find his employment elsewhere. Nick Sullivan's comments in the match day programme that he was not happy with the side’s start to the season suggested that Dolby’s position would have been less than secure had they not turned this game around.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Gillingham 1 Brighton 0

Match 15/07/632 - Saturday, 15th September 2007 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Facey 82
Brighton & HA (0) 0
Att. 6,118

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,252

Match Report

Gillingham’s turbulent week at least came to a successful conclusion with a hard fought win over former tenants Brighton and Hove Albion. Whether this will terminate the Mick Docherty/Iffy Onuora caretakership with a 100 percent record the coming week will tell and the innuendo coming from the chairman is that they will not be offered the job long-term. Not that him or anybody else from the club is giving much away. A fans forum on Thursday offered nothing more than Mr Scally commenting that the new manager should be “experienced” which is where Iffy/Mick seem to be ruled out. So the message board posters are left with scraps with which to put two and two together and largely come up with a 100. All the old favourites are in the message board frame, from the two Sir Keiths (Peacock and Burkinshaw) through to a man that would be as welcome at Priestfield as foot and mouth, Neil Warnock. At the top of most people’s wish list is Micky Adams and Martin Allen. Both seems likely candidates, but another comment from the forum had Mr Scally calling Allen a bit mad, which does suggest that this might be an unlikely marriage.

Today’s game ultimately presented the rarity of a Gillingham clean sheet and both defences were largely on top throughout. Cox and Sodje managed to keep the ex-Gills pair Savage and Forster quiet, in Forster’s case only in terms of goal opportunities. What a whinger he is. If he wasn’t whining to the officials he was berating his own team mates. Certainly never been forgiven by myself for his walk-out on the club in 1994 and the home crowd’s reaction to him on this and every other occasion my opinion is not alone. Fans are not stupid and they recognise when a player has left a club in the right manner and today’s reception for Guy Butters is a case in point.

A first goal for Delroy Facey eight minutes from time was enough for one of those sweet victories over local rivals. Truth is they probably didn’t deserve the points, but given the circumstances, who cares.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

England 3 Russia 0

Match 14/07/631 - Wednesday, 12th September 2007 -
Euro Qualifying Group E

England (2) 3 Owen 7, 31 Ferdinand 84
Russia (0) 0
Att. 86,106

Entrance: £45
Programme: £6
Mileage: 100/1,207

Match Report

A memorable Wembley night. Defeat would have almost certainly consigned England to a summer watching Euro 2008 from their own front rooms and even a draw would have left an Austrian/Swiss mountain to climb. Buoyed by Saturday’s comfortable win over Israel, the Wembley crowd at last produced an atmosphere that was worthy of the occasion and England rose to the task with a magnificent victory.

Nothing will ever come completely easy with our national team and they rode their luck at times. After an early Michael Owen strike the Russians had a goal ruled out for handball. I certainly didn’t see it at the time and television pictures proved that the visitors were hard done by. The Russians enjoyed a spell of superiority in terms of possession until a second piece of catastrophic defending saw Owen once again given the freedom of the 18-yard box to drive home. It was amazing having seen the two goals to remember that Russia had gone the previous eight games in this group conceding just a solitary goal. England continued to make and fail to take chances throughout the rest of an exhilarating first half with the Russians showing pace and very good movement in some fine counter-attacks, but overall their finishing was woeful.

The second half started in much the same attacking vein but it was Russia that forced the pace early on but once again their finishing was no match for their creative play. Slowly but surely England took the heat out of the game and eventually Rio Ferdinand of all people lashed home a third to make the game safe.

There was some fine individual performances throughout the England side. Emile Heskey was substituted to a deserved standing ovation. OK the balls launched towards Heskey never made for pretty viewing but the Russians never, at any time, came to terms with the tactic. Gareth Barry has added so much balance to the midfield and then there is Michael Owen. Given that he has only about 10 games under his belt since returning from long-term injury he probably still has something to come in terms of sharpness, but his two goals showed that he remains a world-class striker.

The group is left with everything in England’s hands and a draw in Moscow will almost certainly be enough to take them through to the finals. But, Russia showed more than enough to guard against any sort of tub thumping, something that the stadium announcer was very guilty of last night. Sorry Sir, but we are a long way from booking our tickets for Austria/Switzerland and fate need not have been tempted.

More than anything else I didn't want our Moscow visit to become a purely sightseeing trip, thankfully the last four days have assured a pivotal match in the group barring a disaster against Estonia.

Our search for the perfect seat took a step forward. Eight rows further forward made a significant difference and for next month’s Estonia game we move another 16 rows on and from there I reckon we will have found our ideal viewing position.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Ronnie Jepson resigns

It was Claire Tomlinson on Sky Sports with Steve Lomas as her guest that broke the news on Sunday morning that Ronnie Jepson had left Gillingham Football Club. Asked to comment, Lomas said that results had not been good and that the chairman was trigger happy, remarks I would guess that will not go down well with Paul Scally. Subsequent information from the club stated that Jepson had resigned, not before being told he was going to be pushed, I would further guess.

Ronnie's time has not been great. He took over at a particularly difficult time with performances having reached rock-bottom with the FA Cup defeat at Burscough in November 2005. Neale Cooper was sacked and Ronnie who had previously been assistant to both Cooper and Stan Ternant took the reins. Results were mixed but the ship was steered to safety. Summer of 2006 saw very little money available to shape a side that would suggest a massive improvement and this viewpoint proved correct as Gillingham flirted with relegation for the best part of the season.

But summer 2007 saw money available and as the catchline to this blog reads, optimism was high that having stripped out some of the deadwood, the new intake of players, some with known pedigree, would take the club forward. Five defeats in the first six games have snuffed out the expectation and whilst it caught us by surprise nobody can be shocked at today's decision.

Scally's (and the bank's) ambition will be tested with the new appointment. If they take their time then Iffy Onoura will probably be placed temporarily and it will be up to him to make an impression quickly and then let results be the governing factor. But many will see Iffy as the cheap option and with the likes of Martin Allen available it would be a statement of intent for somebody of his reputation to be appointed quickly.

Tonbridge 1 Harlow Town 2

Match 13/07/630 - Saturday, 8th September 2007 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 1 Kinch 15
Harlow Town (1) 2 Dunn 29 Taylor 89
Att. 352

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/1,107

This would have been a mundane blog entry, Tonbridge beaten at home, once more failing to capitalise in a game where they had much greater possession, better chances and overall appeared to be a far superior side. The fact that I missed the winning goal was down to an early departure to catch England’s qualifier against Israel on the box. Wembley was where we should have been, but a family occasion and a 5 o’clock kick-off took that game off the agenda and the weekend that developed will almost certainly shape the way this particular blog reads through the next eight months.

It all began at Roots Hall, Southend at 1 o’clock. Brother and sister-in-law were in attendance and reported later that Gillingham had been the better side in the first half but still left the field 2-0 down. Listening to the radio commentary in the second half, it all sounded dire and a 3-0 defeat could have been a whole lot worse given that Southend hit the woodwork three times.

Radio Kent informed me on the way home of my missed viewing of the winning goal at Longmead and with two defeats in the bin, I looked forward to the England match with a little nervousness. At least this proved unfounded. Goals from Wright-Phillips, Owen and Richards kept Euro 2008 hopes alive and restored a little faith in the national team.

Whilst at the party in the evening, talking about Gillingham’s latest demise, nobody guessed we would wake up on Sunday morning to the news that Ronnie Jepson had resigned.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Tonbridge 1 Folkestone Invicta 2

Match 12/07/629 - Tuesday, 4th September 2007 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 1 Kinch 84
Folkestone Invicta (1) 2 Watson 26 (pen) Edge 85
Att. 432

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/1,081

Match Report

Tonbridge compounded an indifferent start to the season by surrendering their unbeaten home record to a Folkestone side with enough ex-Gillingham players to start a Gillingham old boys side. Suffice to say that one of these, Roland Edge supplied the coup de grace with a well taken free kick within a minute of Tonbridge finally equalising. Also appearing for Invicta were Jimmy Corbett, once a £500K purchase by Blackburn Rovers from the Gills, that old warhorse Mark Saunders plus ex-Gills youngsters Frankie Chappell and Leigh Bremner, who led the Tonbridge defence a tidy dance all night, but especially in the first half when Folkestone held sway by the proverbial mile.

Tonbridge took the game to their opponents in a much better second half showing and it was perhaps slightly unjust that the point they had earned was snatched away so quickly. Manager Tony Dolby has not enjoyed universal support at Longmead and I fear that if this season doesn't turn around pretty soon he will come under some pressure. I hope not, he did a good job last term and whilst I appreciate that funds have been made available during the summer, at present he deserves the opportunity to see this job through.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Gillingham 2 Walsall 1

Match 11/07/628 - Saturday, 1st September 2007 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Mulligan 14, 35
Walsall (1) 1 Fox 20
Att. 4,806

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,045

Match Report
Far from the cynicism of middle age, the nine-year-old son of my niece, Jake, joined us as a season ticket holder at Priestfield for the first time. This wasn’t his first game, but his previous record, no goals scored, seven conceded didn’t auger too great for the future. But today his fortunes changed and likewise for Gillingham. So the family passion for this club that Ann and myself began in 1976 is passed down to yet another generation. Enjoy it Jake, there will be more downs than ups, but you will learn more handling disappointment than you will with the easy-come victories you will doubtless enjoy with Chelsea.

Lets firstly get a bit of perspective, we haven't turned into Super Gills or anything like a promotion side, but we've beaten the team that was put in front of us, albeit a not very good one. There was some real positives, I thought Crofts was excellent, he didn't manage to make Armstrong look good, but he did give him the protection that Brown has patently failed to do. The Southall/Clohessey partnership certainly looked the best right-hand side we've tried this season, once again not great, but a definite improvement. Bentley's the King of Priestfield for me, so consistent and perhaps today we saw a little of what Lomas is about. Upfront, we had Mullers being Mullers, when he chased a ball down in the first half to win a corner off the keeper it was so typical of his game and two goals on the scoresheet, the man's a goal machine!! Facey also showed a good deal of improvement. After last week's shocker when we seemed to be getting worse with every game, today we started to turn the corner, let's hope it's not into a cul-de-sac in Southend.

Elsewhere: Tonbridge lost on the road again at Margate and sadly for Steve Jupp, Frome Town's FA Cup road has reached its end for another year.