Saturday, 26 January 2008

AFC Wimbledon 2 Tonbridge 2

Match 49/07/666 - Saturday, 26th January 2008 - Ryman Premier

AFC Wimbledon (2) 2 Main 4,39
Tonbridge (0) 2 Rook 47, 63
Att. 2,732

Entrance: £9
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 128/4,080

Match Report

A game of the inevitable, the unforgivable and the unlikely. This is the third AFC Wimbledon v Tonbridge game this season, each time from the start AFC have looked to be superior but on two of these occasions they have failed to convert that superiority into three points. The exception being the Trophy tie when a weakened Tonbridge were simply not competitive on the day.

It was, of course, inevitable that Jon Main would score against his old employers but within four minutes and in front of the fans who had adored him for so long? Credit to the man that there was no celebration to rub salt into the wound, but rubbing salt he was 25 minutes later when he sharply turned in a cross to double the Dons advantage.

At this point another drubbing looked the likely outcome, despite Beales hitting a post, Tonbridge were probably glad to hear the half time whistle with just a two goal deficit. But like the first game in November a different set of Angels emerged for the second half. They quickly got a goal back through a Carl Rook header after good wing play from Kirk Watts. The ability to get the ball to the wingers Watts and Westcott that had been lacking in the first half was now reaping rich dividends as Watts in particular was running his full back ragged. It was probably the frustration of the chasing he was getting that led to an unforgivable tackle from the defender that clattered his tormentor into the advertising hoardings. It was an absolutely disgraceful challenge that has no place on a football pitch. It was equally unforgivable that the referee saw only fit to issue a yellow card.

In fairness Watts recovered to continue his tormenting and it was from his cross in the 63rd minute that Rook converted to draw the Angels level. Tonbridge were now the team calling the tune and going into time added on had an effort cleared off the line to deny them another famous victory at Kingsmeadow.

It was unfortunate that Jon Main needed to be substituted midway through the second half with a suspected broken metatarsal. Good luck to him, his respect for the Tonbridge faithful after his goals is noted and well received.

First time at Kingsmeadow for a AFC Wimbledon game, but have been on a couple of occasions for Kingstonian fixtures. It is a functional rather than attractive stadium that is obviously good quality for Ryman Premier level and plans are in the pipeline for it to be improved in the coming months.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

It was 50 years ago today

The old memory plays tricks and assumes the romantic. Actually there is nothing remotely romantic about one of my first recollections of childhood. I remember waiting on the path leading to my house on the 6th February 1958 for my Dad to return home from work. I had news, that most probably he had heard already, but I wanted to be the one to deliver the devastating lines. Why? I don’t know. “Dad, United are dead.”

Just days before, he had been witness to one of the greatest League games ever. He swears to this day that I was also present, but I’m afraid much though I would love it to be true, his memory is playing tricks. Manchester United had won a thriller at Highbury 5-4

The club had been returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade the night before that had ended in a 3-3 draw with United progressing 5-4 on aggregate. Such was air travel 50 years ago that the trip necessitated a fateful stop in snow-bound Munich for refuelling. A third take-off attempt was made after two aborted tries and ultimately slush build-up on the runway was given as the cause for the crash. Eight United players were among the 23 killed in the crash.

In 2008, Manchester United are a much different club to that of 50 years ago. They are the most successful, on and off the pitch, and this has engendered a much different attitude than the sympathy that surrounded them in 1958. These days there are very few grey areas between love and hate for Manchester United. Some of this is self-inflicted, much of the commercialisation of football that is not liked by the every day fan is laid at the door of United, they managed to alienate a section of their own support with the purchase of the club by the Glazers and then there is, of course, sheer jealousy of success.

It is therefore disappointing, but not surprising that leading up to the anniversary decisions had to be made to safeguard the respecting of the occasion. The fixture list managed to schedule a Manchester derby as the first match following February 6th. Manchester City supporters groups have asked that a minutes applause replace the silence for fear that it would be broken by City fans, this has been refused and on this occasion applause does not seem at all appropriate. England also play Switzerland on February 6 and it was deemed that England fans could not be trusted to observe the silence, but the FA about turned and the silence will be observed at Wembley. Whether this proves the correct decision only the passing of the moment will tell, but it would have been regrettable that Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards, David Pegg and Tommy Taylor the English internationals among the eight had not been remembered by a respectful tribute.

Journalists whose day job it is write the words that may fail the humble blogger will have many different viewpoints on both the disaster, its effects and the way the day was remembered and below are links to some of the articles that have been written about this most solemn of days.

Factual information from Wikipedia.
Paul Hayward, Daily Mail on the issue of the minute silence.
The Times feature
Kenny Morgans story (Independent)
Duncan Edwards' Mum remembers
Victims and Survivors (pictures)
Harry Gregg (Observer)

Gillingham 0 Oldham Athletic 0

Match 48/07/665 - Tuesday, 22nd January 2008 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Oldham Athletic (0) 0
Att. 4,402

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,952

Match Report

A referee is the making or breaking of any game and all too often at League One level the man in the middle is found wanting. On Saturday Andy D’Urso showed exactly why he is no longer a Premiership referee, but last night we saw a performance from Ian Williamson that made D’Urso look ready for the Champions League.

Simon Royce was sent off on 42 minutes for deliberate handball. These decisions are always controversial and from a spectator’s viewpoint it is hard to judge whereabouts on the body the ball made contact. I felt at the time that the ball had probably brushed Royce’s arms on the way through to rebounding off his chest, is that handball, was it deliberate? The referee made his decision and once he has decided that it was handball a sending off is the only option left open to him.

Gillingham had already been denied a first minute penalty when even from a distance handball seemed to have been committed and a second half challenge on debutant Luis Cumbers clearly warranted a spot kick. All over the pitch Mr Williamson’s decisions were either petty or blatantly wrong. Stuart Thurgood ended the game with his head bandaged having taken a leading elbow from Craig Davies which went unpunished.

The man advantage meant that Oldham had the best of the chances. They are the best side in the Division away from home and Davies and Lee Hughes are a handful for the best of defences. But on the night chances came and went for the tangerine-clad side. Three times they hit the woodwork and an equal amount of opportunities were blazed over the top by the wasteful Davies.

Given the circumstances, I’m readily in agreement with Mark Stimson’s assertion that this was a point gained rather than two lost. They showed great strength of character to overcome the handicap of the loss of a man and there was sterling performances in defence from young Adam Bygrave and John Nutter. The work ethic that Stimson has installed saw Gillingham to a considered successful conclusion to this encounter.

The Priestfield faithful, that were rather sparse on the night with only 4,402 in attendance, responded to the effort and made a noise that befitted far greater numbers, in adversity everybody pulling together. Just a little more consistency is needed, with this applying to both the men in blue and the men in the black.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Gillingham 0 Northampton Town 1

Match 47/07/664 - Saturday, 19th January 2008 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Northampton Town (1) 1 Jones 3
Att. 5,570

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,907

Gillingham have created a new jinx. After months of waiting for an away win, two come along in the space of little more than a month and this is followed by a disappointing home defeat to teams from the lower reaches of the Division. The victory at Crewe was undone with a home defeat to then bottom-of-the-table Port Vale and a away defeat at Bournemouth, who had taken over Vale’s place at the foot.

Last Saturday saw an impressive victory at Huddersfield, that by all accounts was thoroughly deserved, but today they failed to overturn a Northampton side in poor form.

It might have been guessed that fate was going to play its part. A Radio Northamptonshire commentator spelt out the Cobblers form and problems on Radio Kent prior to the game. No clean sheet in 17 games, two wins in 14, top scorer Andy Kirk had departed during the week, major injury problems, there can be only one winner of this game and they won’t come from Northants he lamented. The type of game Gillingham conspire to lose I thought.

Three minutes in, a doubtful free kick conceded and Danny Jones curled it beautifully into the top right hand corner, leaving Royce motionless. For the next 87 minutes Gillingham had a lot of pressure, and the ball failed to drop invitingly but Northampton’s keeper was not forced to make a meaningful save during the entire game. Corner after corner, cross after cross fell straight into his hands as the home side struggled to make an impression on the game. What the radio man had got it right was upfront as Northampton spurned four chances to put the game to bed, catching Gillingham on the break and carving them open with disturbing ease.

I guess we are going to have to put up with the inconsistency for the rest of the season as this team evolves. Thurgood, Oli, Giffiths, Nutter and Miller’s loans have all been made permanent. Stone, Bryant and Hamilton have all gone out on loan and there are bids in for three players, Fleetwood from Forest Green, Rushden’s Simeon Jackson and possibly, Jon Ashton from Grays. There was plenty of huff and puff this afternoon but with very little quality and once again raised expectations are dashed.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Tonbridge 0 AFC Wimbledon 4

Match 46/07/663 - Saturday, 12th January 2008 - FA Trophy 2nd Round

Tonbridge (0) 0
AFC Wimbledon (2) 4 Webb 13 De-Bolla 45, 58 Jolly 90
Att. 2,281

Entrance: £9
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,862

A record attendance at Longmead saw the majority going home happy with the result as AFC Wimbledon supplied the bulk of the crowd. Arriving for a Tonbridge home game more than an hour before kick off and finding the car park close to full and even a 15 minute delay in starting due to congestion at the turnstiles are all near novel experiences at Longmead. The 2,281 gathered exceeded the previous record for the play-off game against Dover by 400 or so.

The Tonbridge supporters in attendance will be disappointed with both the scoreline and the manner of the defeat. AFC Wimbledon are a good side, they have some big name players in non-league terms and played with a confidence befitting of their lofty league position and certainly did not need the help of three gift goals from the home side.

Tonbridge were shorn of half-a-dozen players cup tied, suspended or injured and threw a couple of new players into the fray. Unfortunately they were at fault for the three gift goals. Daniel Webb, son of Dave, the ex-Chelsea hardman, seized onto a poor clearance from Starkey and scored with a well hit shot and either side of the interval, a miss kick and a misjudgement from centre back Wilfort contributed to two Mark De Bolla goals. Previously De Bolla had seen a penalty saved by Matt Reed.

By the time Richard Jolly rounded off the scoring, Tonbridge’s run to the last 32 of the Trophy had been terminated unceremoniously. The victory over Oxford United in the previous round should not be forgotten and the club should have made a few bob today, but now their league form is of paramount concern and hopefully a more settled side will lead to more consistency.

AFCW obviously have the support base to go on to the higher echelons of non league and perhaps ultimately into the Football League, where they would consider to be in their rightful place as the true reincarnation of Wimbledon Football Club, unlike the impostors from Milton Keynes.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Gillingham 1 Milton Keynes Dons 1

Match 45/07/662 - Tuesday, 8th January 2008 - JPT Area SF

Gillingham (0) 1 Stone 84
Milton Keynes Dons (0) 1 Johnson 85
MK Dons win 5-4 on penalties
Att. 3,717

Entrance: £15
Programme: £1
Mileage: 45/3,836

Match Report

A semi-final tag was all that was needed to drag me along to Priestfield and stump up the £15 entrance for this Paint Pot match. In all its guises over the last 25 years this has never been a successful competition for Gillingham, a couple of area semi-finals being the most achieved. It has been a competition that I’ve mostly given a miss and when I’ve turned up there have been some truly awful performances and shocking results. Torquay turning us over to the tune of three goals at Priestfield and the disappointment of the golden goal at the New Den in an area semi final.

On a windy night with squally heavy showers and a entire midfield suspended hopes were not that high that a favourable result would be the outcome against a MK Dons side that had climbed to the top, and opened up a significant gap, of League Two.

MK Dons are not a side to be loved. Their entrance into the Football League in 2003 was met with opposition from football supporters nationwide. Chairman Pete Winkleman had purchased the old Wimbledon club and moved it to Milton Keynes with the unlikely authorisation of the FA. The club was dubbed Franchise FC and everybody hoped they would get their come-uppance in the fullness of time. This has not happened as the club has gone from strength to strength. They have a shiny new stadium, a solid fan base far in excess of the numbers at Selhurst Park and now a team that is on the up under the guidance of Paul Ince, a manager perhaps destined for even higher reaches.

The match itself was really poor and hardly befitting of its pseudo semi-final tag. After 80 lifeless minutes it exploded with two goals in a minute. Gillingham surprisingly taking the lead on 84 with a touch in by Craig Stone, only for the home side to concede 30 seconds later. A penalty shoot out provided the climax for the game and such is mine and Gillingham’s luck with these finishes that it just had to end in disappointment. I remember Gills winning one years ago at Brighton, but I haven’t witnessed another success and as for England, well we all know that they don’t win shoot-outs.

Ultimately it was young substitute Luis Cumbers that ended up the villain as his penalty hit a post after being delayed in taking it whilst the referee decided that after eight previously successful attempts the crowd behind the goal were becoming a invasion threat.

My banner headline to this blog hopes that the season will end back at Wembley with Gillingham. A truly unlikely run to the end of the season is now needed to push into a play off place, not impossible but highly implausible.

By a strange coincidence, the FA Trophy brings AFC Wimbledon to Tonbridge on Saturday. The breakaway club formed following the relocation of the old Dons are also doing very nicely thank you and one day the paths of these two will have to cross. Justice will be that AFC take the honours.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Tonbridge 2 Boreham Wood 2

Match 44/07/661 - Saturday, 5th January 2008 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (2) 2 Tyne 24 Westcott 45
Boreham Wood (1) 2 Bangura 40 Thomas 65
Att. 392

Entrance: £8
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,791

I said to my mate this afternoon, "I know that nobody is too good to go down, but we really are too good to go down". But it is the damned inconsistency at the moment that is going to drive us right to the edge if we are not careful. Look at the table before today's games, nine points separated Hastings next to bottom from Staines in 6th, in theory three straight wins. Tonbridge have had three straight wins twice this season but only one of the six games was a League match. Today we could not even be consistent for 90 minutes. The dominance we held and the chances that went begging should have had us home and hosed by half time. With both wingers, but Westcott in particular, causing havoc on the flanks and Tyne having an outstanding 45 minutes there should have been more than a goal between the sides. But where did we go in the second half? True enough we gave it a go in the last 10 minutes but by then the momentum had gone and the damage had been done. I hope Tommy Warrilow knows the answer to this one (inconsistency), because I sure as hell don't. But then he is paid to manage Tonbridge, I pay to get in!!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Leyton Orient 0 Gillingham 0

Match 43/07/660 - Tuesday, 1st January 2008 - League One

Leyton Orient (0) 0
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 5,369

Entrance: £20
Programme: £3
Mileage: 116/3,765

Match Report

As goalless draws go an entertaining encounter in which Gillingham confirmed their much improved form over the Christmas period. Five points from a possible nine is a good return against three teams all occupying lofty positions in the League One table.

Solid at the back, despite making a couple of good saves, Simon Royce was not called upon to produce one his heroic performances, and full of running in midfield, Gillingham had the game within their control for the most part. The downside at present is upfront where goals would appear to be hard-come-by. Mulligan and Facey worked hard enough but they do not seem have goals in them as a partnership. An increased bid for Forest Green Rovers striker Stuart Fleetwood has been reported.

Mark Stimson’s fitness regime seems to be bearing fruit as they finished the game at Brisbane Road the stronger of the sides and this has happened in all three of the Christmas fixtures.

A nice fixture to have on New Year’s Day attracted a substantial away following of nearly a thousand and they gave plenty of encouragement to their favourites. A second away win still eludes Gillingham but they are no longer the soft touch on the road of a couple of months ago.

The Olympics of 2012 may seem rather a long way off, but the site will become home to Leyton Orient following the Games. If nothing else it should afford some ease of parking which is a complete nightmare at Brisbane Road. The building of the blocks of apartments in each corner has afforded Orient the luxury of developing three of the sides and although the wooden seats are rather uncomfortable the old stand is functional. The main stand is rather an odd looking structure that looks better from the outside than in. What they do with that amount of office space is beyond my comprehension.

We enter 2008 with a bit of optimism that everything is moving in the right direction.