Saturday, 29 December 2007

Gillingham 3 Nottingham Forest 0

Match 42/07/659 - Saturday, 29th December 2007 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Mulligan 49 Miller 61 Griffiths 81
Nottingham Forest (0) 0
Att. 7,712

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,649

Match Report

Brian Clough, Peter Taylor, John McGovern, Roy Dwight, Kenny Burns, Kenneth Clarke, Larry Lloyd, Trevor Francis, Ian Storey-Moore, Robin Hood, Maid Marion, Colin Calderwood . . . your lads took one hell of a beating.

Oh My God, just where did this Gillingham appear from? On the pitch this afternoon were players that grafted, players that showed no shortage of ability, courageous performances, they were a TEAM.

I hold my hands up, I feared an embarrassment and the Boxing Day version of Gillingham had given me no reason to think otherwise. Perhaps Forest turned up with the complacency of their fans who had peppered the message boards with foul-mouthed exultations that they were to visit our piss-pot of a ground for the very last time before they rise to their rightful place among football’s elite, after all they are a giant of a club, erstwhile European Champions, but of another century and to coin the ditty, your not famous anymore.

At half-time and 0-0 Gillingham had ridden their luck to a certain extent with Simon Royce as usual making important saves, but doubtless there was an improvement in the performance that gave a fragment of hope that a point might yet be gleaned from this no chance fixture.

As the home side attacked the Rainham End, from the beginning of the second half it was Nottingham Forest that appeared vulnerable at the back and when keeper Paul Smith spilled a good strike from Andrew Crofts, the recalled Gary Mulligan was on hand to tap home the rebound. The home crowd were now rising to the occasion and after Crofts had spurned an opportunity, a ball broke on the edge of the box to Adam Miller and this time there was no fluke as his well hit 20-yarder screamed past the helpless Smith.

Mulligan made way for Leroy Griffiths, useless muttered the author of this blog, and ten minutes later he latched onto a dreadful back pass and smashed an unstoppable shot past Smith to send Priestfield into absolute ecstasy and the away end emptying as fast as they could get down those piss-pot steps.

Three games without a win had left the Gillingham faithful questioning the wisdom of bringing in players from outside of the Football League, today they stepped up to the plate. Let’s get the jokes of having a Nutter in the dressing room out of the way as John Nutter made his first start and proved an accomplished full back and had Simon King not had such an outstanding game would have been a contender for man of the match.

Wonderful match, superb entertainment, and if those Forest fans are proven correct then they will want to forget their final visit to that piss pot ground in the Medway Towns.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Gillingham 1 Southend United 1

Match 41/07/658 - Wednesday, 26th December 2007 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Miller 89
Southend United (0) 1 P. Clarke 54
Att. 8,268

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,604

Match Report

Gillingham got a fair old roasting but somehow managed to avoid a Christmas stuffing in this Boxing Day encounter and in keeping with the festive season were gifted a fluke 89th minute goal when Adam Miller saw his cross deceive everybody to nestle into the bottom corner.

To say that Gillingham were second best implies there was two runners, in truth for much of this match there was only one team in it and if Southend had capitalised on half of their chances they would have been home and hosed by half time. But if chances are not taken then the dominant side is open to the type of unfortunate finish that befell Southend this time and has certainly happened to Gillingham in the past.

Southend are a decent side, sitting on the edge of a play-off spot, looking perfectly capable of breaking into the top six. Tommy Black showed exactly what we are missing having failed to secure his signature after a successful loan spell last term. Craig Armstrong is not exactly having the best spell of his career and Black had him tied in knots and chasing shadows for much of his time on the pitch.

Gillingham lacked any invention in midfield, changed plans midway through the first half to add some width, but Plan B looked as largely ineffective as Plan A. Despite shipping a fair few chances, King and his stand-in partner Bentley coped manfully with the intimidating challenge of Leon Clarke and Charlie McDonald and when they managed to get a shot on target England’s Number One, Simon Royce was equal to the task. If I haven’t mentioned it before, the voting for the Player of the Year should be cancelled and the trophy given to Royce immediately.

After finally going in front, Southend strangely gave up their initiative and embarked on a time-wasting mission that wound up everybody and eventually was their undoing with the final freak finish. In the time added on Stuart Thurgood committed the type of foul that has to be eradicated from the game and deservedly saw red.

Prior to the Christmas holiday, Mr Scally pushed through his restructuring plans at a EGM and the ownership of Priestfield Stadium will pass to the chairman’s Priestfield Developments in the near future. History will now record whether this was the club’s salvation or its demise.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Staines Town 1 Tonbridge 1

Match 40/07/657 - Saturday, 22nd December 2007 - Ryman Premier

Staines Town (1) 1 Nwokeji 5
Tonbridge (0) 1 Westcott 86
Att. 270

Entrance: £9
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 136/3,559
New Ground: 221

Match Report

Tonbridge looked to be suffering a hangover from their famous victory on Tuesday as Staines sliced through their defence with a beautifully crafted opening goal within five minutes of the start. For 15 minutes from the beginning Staines looked every bit a side amongst the pacesetters of the division. Their passing and movement was good to watch, albeit it is your side that is being given the runaround. But following this first quarter hour Tonbridge gained a foothold on the game and whilst their style might not have been so pleasing on the eye, slowly but surely the effectiveness of Staines was being eroded. By half time Staines deserved their lead, but the feeling was that Tonbridge were far from out of it.

The referee decided to take centre stage in the second half. I’ve refrained from using these postings to criticise referees, but this one was a real shocker, and a “homer” to boot. Tonbridge were generally on the wrong side of some very poor decisions, no more so than when Richard Harris scored with a powerful header but was penalised for shirt pulling or pushing, neither of which was apparent from my viewpoint, which was unobstructed. From that same viewpoint a second disallowed goal for offside from Carl Rook looked a more justifiable decision, but you got the distinct impression that is was not to be the Angels’ day. These fears proved unfounded with four minutes to go when Staines failed to deal with a long throw-in that eventually fell to John Westcott to slot home a deserved equaliser. A one-on-one opportunity for new signing Luke Fontana went begging as Tonbridge could so easily have come away with all the points.

My first time to Staines’ Wheatsheaf Park and a nice set-up it is once you have negotiated the town centre one way system and complex roundabouts. The main stand is the rear of a leisure centre which houses a very nice bar with just about the biggest television I’ve seen. Opposite is full length covered terracing and behind one of the goals there are some strange shaped houses whose windows seem very vulnerable to the mishit shot.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Tonbridge 1 Oxford United 0

Match 39/07/656 - Tuesday, 19th December 2007 - FA Trophy 1st Rd Replay

Tonbridge (1) 1 Barr 30
Oxford United (0) 0
Att. 642

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,423

Match Report

A magical night a Longmead. A Conference (in old money) team beaten and over the two games it was no more than Tonbridge deserved. A Hamid Barr goal after half an hour ultimately settled the game that produced a tense and dramatic conclusion.

Tonbridge were further weakened by the suspensions of Ray Powell and Anthony Storey to add to the cup-tied Rook, Edusei and Westcott. Oxford themselves had the experienced keeper, Billy Turley suspended to be replaced by a 16-year-old, who in fairness did OK.

The game itself followed a similar pattern to the first encounter at the Kassam on Saturday. Tonbridge having the best of the first half, but this time having a goal to reward their efforts. Barr driving in from the edge of the box. Second half was a different story with Oxford exerting even more pressure than they were able to in the first match. Chance after chance went begging as Tonbridge rode their luck and the time slowly ebbed away. The small contingent of Oxford supporters were becoming more irate with their forwards profligacy.

Time was moving towards the 90 when Tonbridge seemingly decided that it might just be the moment to either self-destruct or, at the very least, ratchet up the tension. First, Scott Kinch, who had been a man on a mission in the centre of midfield, got involved in a pushing and shoving match with an opponent and the resultant yellow saw him sent off, having been booked earlier. If that was bad enough, Hamid Barr needlessly rounded the keeper after the whistle had blown for offside and was also sent off for a second yellow. Now down to nine men, thankfully Tonbridge had to survive for no more than a minute to seal a memorable victory.

Tonbridge’s message board hummed until well after midnight with celebrating fans all wanting to add their opinions and congratulations.

Singling players out on the night is not entirely fair, but special mentions should go to John Beales, nobody would wish him to leave Longmead but the lad deserves to be playing at a much higher level. He has trialled at Gillingham and seemingly nothing has come of it. Also worthy of mention is goalkeeper Matt Reed, who endured a shaky spell a couple of months ago but is now developing into a fine prospect.

Tommy Warrilow is being hailed as something of a Messiah and he is certainly doing everything right at this moment in time. One defeat in eleven since he arrived is impressive in itself and now he has perhaps the greatest giant-killing in Tonbridge’s history to put on his CV.

The disappointment on the night, apart from the sending-offs, was the 642 attendance. There was very little support from Oxford, reported at only 57, but my guess is that was about 30 short, but on a night when it wasn’t particularly cold and there was no Champions League football on the television, I think the club deserved a better turn-out. For those that could not be bothered to exit their armchairs, you missed a historic night at the Longmead Stadium.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Oxford United 0 Tonbridge 0

Match 38/07/655 - Saturday, 15th December 2007 - FA Trophy 1st Rd

Oxford United (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 1,504

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 223/3,397

Oxford Match Report kentishfootball report

Professionally, half job done. A Conference side is brought back to Longmead and the potential for a giant killing was there for all to see. Oxford United are a big fish in the non league pond. Twenty years ago they were a First Division side and Milk Cup winners and nobody has fallen from a loftier perch into non league in recent years. It is somewhat ironic that having moved out of their old, rather ramshackle surroundings at the Manor Ground into a modern stadium in 2001 with a new chairman, after whom the stadium is named, and a seemingly brighter future, they continued to fall from grace until in 2006 they were relegated into the Nationwide Conference.This season they began as the bookies favourites but find themselves mid table, 23 points behind the leaders and with the Bald Eagle, Jim Smith moved to one side. But none of this should detract from the enormity of Tonbridge’s achievement at the Kassam.

Tonbridge more than deserved their second shot at Longmead on Tuesday. In the very first minute Tommy Tyne spurned a clear opportunity and before the match got to the half hour mark a couple more half chances had come and gone and a rasping drive from Scott Kinch had somehow been deflected over the bar by an Oxford defender. Oxford did come into the game in the last 15 minutes and had a great chance to break the deadlock when top scorer, Odubade got between the central defenders but put the ball wide.

Words were probably passed in the home dressing room as they came out in the second half with a much greater purpose than that which had left them with boos ringing in their ears at the end of the first 45. Tonbridge stood firm, Reed made a couple of good saves, but in general Oxford were not making really clear cut chances. A feature of the first half had been the Angels’ wingers, Logan and Watts both giving their opposing full backs a tough time, but with the increased pressure they were much less threatening as Tonbridge were struggling to retain the ball. Entering into the last 15, it would not have taken Fabio Capello’s salary to recognise that the full time status of the home side would be a telling factor, but it was the part-timers that finished the game on the front foot, and had Hamid Barr’s 77th minute effort found the bottom corner rather than the post, only the most rabid of Oxford supporters would have denied their worthiness.

Tonbridge brought 227 supporters from Kent which, when you remember that only 294 attended the midweek match at Longmead, is a great effort. It was the away support in a sparse 1,504 attendance that made the atmosphere.

It's gonna be Fab

Fabio Capello has been appointed as the new England coach on a four and a half year contract with a break clause after the 2010 World Cup.

Capello comes into the job with a CV that only spells success, with national championships and Champions League titles at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Roma. He also has the reputation of being a coach with no respect for celebrity status and somebody that suffers fools lightly, all of which should come as a wake-up call for the huge egos that made up McClaren's failures.

Mostly the appointment has been greeted by the Press positively. There are minor reservations about his lack of, or reluctance to use, English and, of course, these days there will always be an inquest regarding the salary of the man in charge. But the most polarising of viewpoints with press and public alike is the lack of an Englishman, firstly at the helm itself and secondly within the coaching set up that Capello brings with him. There is a large number of englandfans members that despite the abject qualifying campaign still believing that England should only be managed by an Englishman. I would love this in an ideal world, but there is literally nobody of the quality of Capello, or indeed Lippi or Mourinho, who were considered or perhaps even offered the opportunity.

It is thought that somebody like Stuart Pearce could be added to the coaching team, but with all due respect, it smacks of tokenism.

My reservation with the appointment falls within the FA's statement following McClaren's dismissal that there would be a "root and branch review" of English football. Only three weeks have elapsed since then and I cannot imagine that any such review has decided that Capello is the cure all. I have no idea whether Capello had any influence in the structure below the first team of the clubs where he has had his success, but somehow I cannot see him turning up for the next schoolboy international to watch the players that might be donning the Three Lions directly after the Italian's contract has ended. But, I suppose legacy will be furthest from the mind as the World Cup is being lifted in Johannesburg.

FA statement

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Tonbridge 2 Billericay Town 2

Match 37/07/654 - Tuesday, 11th December 2007 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 2 Powell (pen) 50 Barr (pen) 89
Billericay Town (2) 2 Boot (pen) 35 Garness 44
Att. 294

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,174

On the coldest night of the season so far, an entertaining game of three penalties. First blood went to Billericay via the spot after John Beales had been harshly adjudged to bring down an attacker, from my unobstructed view he clearly took the ball. Billericay then went further ahead before half time with a well taken goal, but some very poor defensive work contributed to the opportunity.

At the beginning of the second half the referee decided that it was time to even up his decisions when he awarded Tonbridge a penalty as equally dubious as the one he had given earlier. Ray Powell cut the deficit from the spot. Throughout the second half Tonbridge made and spurned chances until, with the clock ticking towards the 90, Akwasi Edusei got clear and was brought down by the goalkeeper, this time there was no doubt. Hamid Barr, as always, kept his nerve to equalise from the spot and give Tonbridge a deserved share of the points.

Tonbridge introduced new signing Carl Rook, a striker, from Tommy Warrilow's old club Horsham. He has signed for an undisclosed amount, but it is understood to have made a dent in the money received for Jon Main and Scott Gooding. Rook, despite missing a couple of chances, had a good debut. He held the ball up well and generally did a good job in line leadership.

Unfortunately, for the upcoming trip to Oxford United, Rook, Westcott and Edusei are cup-tied.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Gillingham 1 Port Vale 2

Match 36/07/653 - Saturday, 8th December 2007 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Dickson 32
Port Vale (2) 2 Willock 34 King o.g. 45
Att. 7,001

Entrance: Season ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,148

Match Report

In atrocious conditions, a surprising defeat to end a week where time is going to be the arbiter on how momentous these few days have been in the history of Gillingham Football Club.

On the field, at Crewe on Tuesday, a first away win of the season after seven defeats out of eight, raised spirits and expectation to new heights, only for them to be dampened in the driving rain at Priestfield by bottom of the table Port Vale. In fairness to Gillingham, it wasn’t a game they deserved to lose, they had the majority of the possession throughout the whole game, created several half-chances, but could not conjure up the equaliser.

The scoring was condensed into a 13 minute spell. Gills went one up when Chris Dickson finished after a superb through ball from Adam Miller, who was heart and soul all afternoon. But lack of concentration (and rank poor defending) let Vale back almost immediately and when Simon King turned a half-hit shot into his own net, a comfortable afternoon had turned into an uphill struggle.

To their credit, the home side drove on during the second half as relentlessly as the rain fell, and whilst there were a few boos at the final whistle, the majority probably appreciated and to a certain extent were reassured by the endeavour that had been shown in awful conditions. A disappointing end to a 10 game run unbeaten at home.

Off the field, shareholders and supporters alike were finally privy to the restructuring of the Club's debt that has supposedly met with the Bank's approval. The bare bones of a complex financial document are that Priestfield Stadium is to be sold to Priestfield Developments for £9.8 million, thereby reducing the Club's debt to a more manageable £3 million and interest payments from £800K to £200K per annum. That is the easy bit. Where the issue becomes clouded is the 100 per cent ownership of Priestfield Developments by the chairman of Gillingham Football Club, Mr Paul Scally.

The modern day equivalent of the letters page in the local paper, the internet message board is full to the rafters with differing viewpoints from Scally the Saviour to Scally the Swagman. So diverse are the opinions it is impossible to form any consensus, there is the obvious anti-Scally faction, over the years the chairman has managed to piss off enough people that whatever he did on this issue was going to be wrong. At the other end of the scale he has supporters that are going to take him and his plan at face value and run with it. I find this difficult to do because there are more than a few unanswered questions.

Firstly, where has PDPS found the £9.8 million to "buy" Priestfield. Of course, I and any other person with an interest, have no idea as to the state of his bank account, but I very much doubt that an amount of that magnitude is coming out of his personal wealth. So, if we assume that the majority of the money is borrowed, who is going to be paying the interest on that particular loan in the coming years whilst football continues to be played at our home ground?

The published terms see the Club given a 10 year lease, with the first three years rent-free, and thereafter for a fee to be negotiated in relation to the club’s divisional status. So far so good, but what if somebody comes in with a silly money offer for the site? Ultimately, Mr Scally is a businessman and would sentimentality overcome a hard-headed business decision, I fear not.

There is an easy logic that shows that the deal is a good one for Mr Scally. It may not be worth it now, but valuations have been put on the ground as high as £14 million. Whilst the housing market might be a little slow right now, that is not going to last for ever and it is reasonable to assume that within the tenure of the lease the £14m figure will be equalled if not surpassed. Just using those figures available, a £4.2 million (or virtually 50%) return on his investment would appear to be fairly healthy, even if it went to the full term, and who is to say what the value might be in 2017.

We need to see a new ground firmly in our sights with all the planning permissions and finance in place for the spectre of Gillingham Football Club following in the footsteps of Brighton & Hove Albion and their nemesis, Bill Archer, to be dispelled.

The chairman explains.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Tonbridge 0 East Thurrock 0

Match 35/07/652 - Saturday, 1st December 2007 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 0
East Thurrock (0) 0
Att. 426

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,103

A first goalless day this season and a short posting will unfortunately reflect this. After 34 games on this blog and Tonbridge themselves having set a new club record of scoring in 32 consecutive matches whilst cruising to a 4-0 midweek win at Ashford in the Kent Senior Cup, a double blank had to happen.

East Thurrock deservedly survived a late onslaught from Tonbridge, who had been punchless up front for much of the match. Goalkeeper Matt Reed was easily man of the match and thereby tells the tale.

Tickets for the forthcoming Trophy match at Oxford United went on sale after the match, a ticket for a Tonbridge match, am I dreaming? I think I might well have been the first to hand over my tenner, legged it back to the car, and the rain that had threatened all afternoon finally began to fall, justice for the Yeovil soaking!