Saturday, 27 September 2008

Gillingham 1 Port Vale 0

Match 15/08/699 - Saturday, 27th September 2008 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 1 McCombe (o.g.) 30
Port Vale (0) 0
Att. 4,986

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,987

Match Report

After a torrid couple of weeks on the road which has yielded no points and nothing in the way of good fortune, Gillingham returned to home, sweet home with a scrappy win over Port Vale.

The glorious autumn sunshine was clearly cricket weather but sadly whilst our county side were surrendering their championship status down the road at Canterbury, Kent’s football league club were labouring their way to a welcome three points. I, along with more than a few others, of that I’m sure, muttered the words walking along Gordon Road, a win is a win. But in truth this was a poor performance in a lousy game of football.

It is somewhat fitting that a match that was littered with both sides failing to string together more than a couple of accurate passes in any one move, that a own goal would be ultimately prove to be the decider. A free kick from John Nutter travelled a long way towards the far post without any intervention until defender John McCombe turned a header into his own net. It was a lead the home side barely deserved.

Andrew Barcham, the latest Gillingham loanee from Tottenham’s stiffs made a man-of-the-match debut and impressed with his running into the channels and good link-up play. This was the reputation he arrived with, his goals per game ratio obviously not his greatest strength. Very similar in height to Simeon Jackson, my first thoughts are that this might not be a partnership that is going to be profitable away from Priestfield where the front two a forced to play with their backs to the goal for longer periods. But at home, where in theory we should be playing the ball out of defence to wingers who are going to take on defenders and get in crosses, the speed and mobility of Barcham and Jackson could be a fruitful combination.

A ten minute cameo performance from fellow debutant Albert Jarrett, whose whipped-in crosses had caught the eye in the reserve team, showed that he can provide the necessary service to the front two. Jarrett’s appearance lifted the crowd after a previously subdued 80 minutes.

Port Vale arrived at Gillingham managerless having ended Lee Sinnott’s relatively short tenure at Vale Park. There had been a similarity with our own Mark Stimson with Sinnott having served a successful non league apprenticeship at Farsley Celtic, but subsequently failing to keep his club in League One. While Stimson plundered his non league roots for players, Sinnott blooded youngsters from Port Vale’s very successful youth side. Sadly a ordinary start to the new season was not enough to satisfy a board that from the outside would appear to be a little trigger happy.

Having been down on our luck for the last couple of weeks, lets draw on the positives, a couple of good debuts, a clean sheet and as they say, a win is a win.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Aldershot Town 2 Gillingham 1

Match 14/08/698 - Saturday, 20th September 2008 - League Two

Aldershot Town (0) 2 Hudston 75, Davies 86
Gillingham (0) 1 Jackson 84
Att. 4,198

Entrance: £18
Programme: £3
Mileage: 149/1,942

Match Report

Football showed its ugly side inside and outside Aldershot’s Recreation Ground yesterday. As we passed the ground on our way to finding a parking place, we witnessed groups of thugs clashing outside the Beehive Pub in a disturbing confrontation. It was a serious incident and a throwback to the bad old days.

A statement from Aldershot’s chairman regarding incidents at Aldershot’s previous game at Luton suggests that there is a real problem with a minority group of their followers. They were a club that gathered a very poor reputation in non-league football and it seems they are ready to carry this forward into the Football League. Gillingham’s minority cannot be blameless and from reports it seems there were some people in Aldershot purely for non-footballing reasons.

On the pitch, Gillingham had a lot of repair work to do following last week’s mauling at Shrewsbury and their cause was not helped by a 13th minute red card for Mark McCammon. Opinion is going to be divided on whether it was a straight red offence. I’ve not seen the incident on television and thus might edit this post should I be proved wrong. But, to use the word again, it was an ugly looking challenge from McCammon. A lofted cross from Bentley was too close to the keeper, who was always going to collect the ball. McCammon has made a genuine attempt to challenge for the ball but his challenge is late, and being the size he is, combined with his momentum, has clattered the keeper.

My initial thought was yellow and was shocked to see a red brandished. I’m convinced it was not malicious and only merited the booking. But I have to make the point, that had the offence happened at the other end on Simon Royce, we would have been similarly outraged.

Despite their disadvantage, Gillingham went on to make a good fist of the first half. Royce was forced to make a couple of good saves and Simon King produced some heroic defending but in general the visitors looked comfortable and carved out a couple of chances of their own.

The second half was one of continual rearguard action for the Gills. The spirit that had been so lacking at Shrewsbury was clearly evident as the pressure built. Despite the valiant effort it was inevitable that eventually a well worked move ended with Kirk Hudson giving Aldershot the lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Luis Cumbers came on to partner Simeon Jackson, who had been left with the thankless task of leading the line alone since McCammon’s departure. Only five minutes remained when Jackson got on the end of some desperately poor defending and a welcome, surprising point looked on its way to Priestfield.

Unfortunately the joy was shortlived when a half hit shot from Scott Davies took a heavy deflection to seal the points for the home side. It had been a sterling effort from the Gills backline and one that deserved a point for valour.

The Recreation Ground, these days known as the EBB Stadium is little changed since we last visited in 1992. In truth, it was a dump then and still is. But having criticised the blandness of the new stadiums at Darlington and Shrewsbury, the Rec is a traditional old football ground that has a bit of character with its less than symmetrical enclosures that are 75% terracing and an end that is only inhabited by trees. It also has to be said that their fans also produce a vibrant atmosphere, both noisy and colourful with their flags. It’s a great shame that their minority element tarnish the club when they are being so well supported inside the stadium.

The walk from the front of the stadium to the away supporters entrance is a long hike uphill and could be beyond the capabilities of the elderly, but hopefully Aldershot make provision for this. Following the pre-match trouble it was with a little trepidation that we made our way back towards the town to retrieve the car, but thankfully it was all quiet as both sets of supporters mixed amicably.

The Binman's take.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Shrewsbury Town 7 Gillingham 0

Match 13/08/697 - Saturday, 13th September 2008 - League Two

Shrewsbury Town (4) 7 Jackson 27, Hibbert 30, Davies 42, 87, Coughlan 45, Cansdell-Sherfiff 52, Holt 58 (pen)
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 5,319

Entrance: £16
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 450/1,793
New Ground: 226

Match Report

I chose not to go to Croatia on Wednesday and I made the choice to go to Shrewsbury today and at this point the imaginary gun is pointed at my head.

I’ve never witnessed anything like this before (and hope I never will again) and I’m not sure what reaction I might have expected, but whether it was shock, we, as a threesome, just had to laugh. It was either that or cry and we had all suffered enough embarrassment for one day.

This was just a strange day, for 25 minutes we were in fact the better side. Comfortably containing the home side and after just four minutes a sweetly struck effort from Curtis Weston was well saved by the home keeper. There was absolutely nothing to suggest the carnage that was about to unfold. A straightforward corner to the far post was met by Michael Jackson and the wheels just fell off. A fine effort made it 2-0 with the stadium announcer exclaiming that was the best goal we’ve ever seen. Well, no actually, Maradona’s goal against England was a tad better.

With Gary Richards off the pitch getting his head stitched back together we shipped another couple of goals, neither of which covered our defence with any glory. By this time we were getting run completely ragged and a couple of saves from Royce and a goal line clearance thwarted the home side from running up half a dozen before the break. Poor decision from Stimson not to substitute Richards and play with ten men? . . . possibly.

The result was no longer in any doubt, so there was nothing left to play for but pride and respectability. None of the aforementioned were in evidence as in front of the assembled 350 Gills fans, two more pieces of shambolic defending left us six goals in arrears. At this point, with half-an-hour to go, it was anybody’s guess just how many the final total might amount to. A trickle of disenchanted, resigned to their fate, Gillingham fans started to head for the exit.

Whether Shrewsbury took pity, perhaps they slightly ran out of steam on a warm afternoon, but the home side took their foot off the pedal and started showboating, playing keep ball, but for the first time since the 27th minute they were no longer hurting us. A couple of minutes before the end another free kick curled in for a seventh and with that came my own exit. Quite frankly, I wanted out of the place before the final whistle. Whatever the players did at the end, it would not have been good enough. If they had slunk away, heads bowed without acknowledging the support, they would have been ridiculed, if they had faced us up, they would have been derided. Whatever action they took, I wasn’t going to be a part of it.

The day had started so well. There were none of the traffic tribulations of Bournemouth or the sheer mileage involved with Darlington. Three hours driving saw us into Shrewsbury and beginning our search for the park and ride. Shrewsbury looked a pretty town, but when you’ve seen the same column and same bridge half a dozen times it became tiresome. If you have to have a park and ride Shrewsbury, make sure it is properly signposted, one sign leading nowhere does not constitute directions. It’s all a bit of a rip off anyway, £2.50 per person means for a four person car a tenner to park the car, that’s airport charges.

The new Meadow, positioned in what appeared to be a greenfield site, is functional, but uninspiring. Everything is perfectly symmetrical and it suits the purpose of a League Two club that is not going to attract attendances of greater than 10,000 in the immediate future. But I have to make the same comment that I made about the Darlington Arena, it is utterly soulless. These stadiums look like they have been put together by the same designers and builders that erect B&Q superstores, but instead of buying screws and nails, here you buy a ticket and get nailed.

Leaving early to make the first park and ride back, not surprisingly the bus was largely filled with Gillingham fans anxious to get away from the scene of their discomfort. The bus leaves when it is full and this one left before the final whistle sounded.

And as the elderly lady, a Shrewsbury supporter, that sat next to me on the bus said, the weather was nice and at least we saw some goals. Pass me that imaginary gun again, last time I missed.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Gillingham Reserves 1 Southampton Reserves 2

Match 12/08/696 - Wednesday, 10th September 2008 - Football Combination

Gillingham Res (0) 1 Benjamin 69
Southampon Res (1) 2 Davies 7 Paterson 62
Att. 350

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Free Team Sheet
Mileage: 45/1,343

Match Report

I like Reserve Team games, you can pretend being a scout or an unemployed manager. Today, amongst our midst was Mickey Adams, Welling manager Andy Ford and quite a few others who I did not recognise judging by the number of men making notes. You also get a first look at the newest bunch of triallists and we saw one making an outstanding case for a contract, Albert Jarrett. Late of Watford and MK Dons, young Albert was a box of tricks with very good spacial awareness. Doubtless the watching representatives from other clubs would have come to the same conclusion, today he played in Gillingham's colours, it would be nice to think he might do so again.

Other triallists were Marcus Haber, a Canadian U21 international recommended by Simeon Jackson, who despite missing a couple of good chances did enough to warrant at least another look in training and a loanee of a previous time, Trevor Benjamin, who despite his goal, looked heavy and slow. We've seen too many of his type recently.

Tyron Amory made up the quartet and probably didn't do enough to warrant further interest.

Southampton had only Rudi Skacel and Nathan Dyer, a real handful, whose names were recognisable. Gillingham matched their Championship counterparts in all but finishing and it made for an entertaining afternoon.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tonbridge Angels 3 Billericay Town 2

Match 11/08/695 - Tuesday, 9th September 2008 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge Angels (2) 3 OG 18, Cade 33, Rook 55 (pen)
Billericay Town (2) 2 Bricknell 36, Shave 45
Att. 344

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/1,298

First trip to Longmead for a league game this season and was rewarded on a damp night with an entertaining game that was highlighted by some naïve defending from both sides in the first half.

Tonbridge have made a reasonable, but inconsistent start to the season. From two down they were 3-2 victors at Ramsgate and a week later experienced the exact opposite at Canvey Island. A good home win against Harlow was countered by what was by all accounts an horrendous display against Tooting. Consistently inconsistent.

Last Saturday saw the Angels win the grudge derby at Maidstone with an injury time winner. They took this result into tonight’s game against a club that have proved a bogey side too often.

Tonbridge went ahead in the 20th minute when Billericay's central defender turned a cross from Fraser Logan into his own net. Logan was also instrumental for the second goal when a cross eventually found its way to Jamie Cade to finish comfortably.

But two pieces of crass defending allowed Billericay back into the game before half time. Although ex-AFC Wimbledon man Steve Ferguson and Billy Bricknell were a handful, there was no accounting for an awful attempt to play offside from a free kick that left no fewer than four white shirts onside before it was side-footed home with ease.

The second half was defensively tighter but Tonbridge edged in front when on-loan striker Chamal Fenelon was hauled down by the goalkeeper for a penalty. Carl Rook drove home the kick straight down the middle. Fenelon looked a useful acquisition all evening and with Ade Olurunda out for up to six weeks, Tommy Warrilow must be hoping to extend his stay from Lewes beyond one month.

On the night, Tonbridge just about deserved to edge the game and now look forward to the big FA Cup tie against Andy Hessenthaler’s Dover Athletic, who tonight sit proudly at the top of the Ryman Premier and have just enlisted Gillingham’s Nicky Southall on loan. It is somewhat surprising that Gillingham have given permission for him to play in the cup tie.