Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Gillingham 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Match 35/08/719 - Sunday, 28th December 2008 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 1 Weston 84
Wycombe Wanderers (1) 1 Lewis o.g. 31
Att. 5,979

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,885

Match Report

So Father Christmas came and went and the child Gillingham Football Club was left slightly disappointed with the contents of her Christmas stocking.

In times of credit crunch and recession that children do not understand, she had high expectations. She had done her bit, her behaviour had improved prior to the big day, putting behind her a bit of contrary temperament from a few months earlier.

Unfortunately Santa has a long memory and punished said child for her misdemeanours. It was not that he left her socking entirely empty it just didn’t hold the goodies for which she had hoped and thought she deserved.

Her first present from an old auntie in West London came in the shape of woolly jumper. It was of a nice style, not tacky in the time ordered Christmas fashion, but unfortunately it just did not fit. Auntie, being a bit absent of mind, had not offered the receipt and the present could not be returned, our child would just have to grin and bear it.

Plunging her hand back in the stocking she came across something that was badly wrapped and, to be quite honest, smelled absolutely shocking. On further examination she found some fruit that had long since passed its sell-by date. What on earth had she done to receive such a present and who could of sent it, was it a joke? Retrieving the badly written tag she saw that it was from a cousin from the East End of London, one that she had not visited for many years. His Dad had a vegetable stall in the market and a warped sense of humour.

By now she is in despair, but there is one small package from a rich Uncle in leafy Buckinghamshire. Uncle Peter was close and had always been good to the family. She found that the package contained a small jewel. It was beautiful, it looked a pure diamond. But unfortunately even Uncle Peter was touched by the downturn and on closer inspection the diamond was flawed and while far from worthless, once again it was not quite what she hoped.

So she has been quietly disappointed, but there was a silver lining on the horizon. One of her mega-rich aunts from the Midlands is coming down to spend New Year. Her present has been kept under wraps, could it be that 2009 might be the start of something much better. The lessons have to be learned, to get the presents for which you crave, you have to be good all year long.

And the game on the day:

The official site gave the possession as Gills 44% WW 56%, which I find quite frankly bemusing. I thought the first half was fairly even and we certainly didn't deserve to go in a goal down. Second half was one way traffic with Wycombe showing why they are top of the table, a team that manages to pick up a point after taking such a pounding will inevitably be top or near top come the end of the season.

Thankfully some sort of justice prevailed with an excellent Weston strike. I thought Adam Miller took the captain's armband and performed both admirably and responsibly, Weston was back to his best and Trigger showed that he is wasted at full back. Sadly Miller still polarises opinions and there are still people who are on his back, it appears that this is not going to change.

The Wycombe back four were far too strong for Jackson, who I thought resorted to going down far too easily.

Hundred per cent better than Boxing Day and a good game to boot.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Dagenham 2 Gillingham 0

Match 34/08/718 - Friday, 26th December 2008 - League Two

Dagenham and Redbridge (1) 2 Strevens 1 Benson 50
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 2,844

Entrance: £16
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 88/3,840

Match Report

Over 1,100 Gillingham fans gave up the comfort of their armchairs in their centrally heated sitting rooms to brave a six mile crawl to the Dartford Tunnel, freezing temperatures and poor viewing conditions only to be rewarded with a display as inept as those suffered in the larger defeats at Shrewsbury and Exeter.

Take your choice of adjective, woeful, wretched, appalling or just plain lousy, because they all perfectly describe Gillingham’s performance at Victoria Road this afternoon.

Things could not have started worse, a goal conceded in just 20 seconds and it failed to improve from that low point. I’m going to struggle to describe the goal such was the poor vantage point that I had, but firstly how do you manage to concede so quickly given that you have the ball from the kick off? Having lost it, the ball was pumped forward, Garry Richards and Alan Julian dithered and Ben Strevens got in between them to roll the ball in, off a post. Strevens and his partner Paul Benson have scored plenty this season, but this was pure charity.

Gillingham went on to have an equal share of possession in the first half. This is not a compliment, Dagenham were awful and for Gillingham to fashion just one shot on goal, a weak effort from Albert Jarrett is a testament to the pathetic 45 minutes put in by the visitors. They did have the ball in the net from a Adam Miller header, but the flag had long since been shown by the linesman. It had been a half when as a spectator you were aware that it was getting colder and colder because there was nothing happening on the pitch to divert your attention.

Surely the second half could not be any worse. Wrong. Five minutes into the half and Benson added a second. He picked the ball up deep into Gillingham’s half on he right hand side, unchallenged he shot across the face of Julian’s goal into the bottom right corner. Once again the angle of my view wasn’t great, but it certainly looked that the keeper could have done a whole lot better. Julian’s inclusion had been a surprise, Simon Royce was on the bench, so it didn’t appear to be an enforced selection.

After 52 minutes another of Stimson contentious selections was finally substituted. Albert Jarrett produced another performance of stunning nothingness. Misplaced passes, the odd run into the inevitable cul-de-sac and the lack of understanding of the winger’s role in supporting his full back, turns his selection into a team playing with ten men from the first whistle.

Dagenham now had the game in their control, sadly for the home support they were far from good enough to inflict on their visitors a far bigger humiliation. Benson wasted a better chance than the one from which he scored and Nicky Southall forced Tony Roberts into his only meaningful save of the game, comfortably catching an on target free kick.

A train of thought is that Gillingham’s minds are elsewhere with the upcoming FA Cup tie, could it be that no bookings show a lack of application that could be said to have been apparent. League leaders Wycombe are the last opponents of this Christmas period and if the one point gained against Brentford is to be our sum total, then the Villa game might be seen as a costly distraction.

The mouthful that is the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium is typical of football grounds of clubs recently promoted from non-league. I last visited this stadium forty years ago on an equally cold, in fact snowbound, first round FA Cup day. Since then they have added a functional grandstand in that prefabricated style seen all too often. We were housed in the terracing behind the goal that had not enough height to make viewing pleasurable. Opposite the new stand is a length of covered terracing that has survived from that 1968 visit.

Back home the left over turkey was accompanied with a dollop of piccallili, how ironic that our turkeys also left a sour taste.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Gillingham 1 Brentford 1

Match 33/08/717 - Saturday, 20th December 2008 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 1 Jackson 60
Brentford (1) 1 McDonald 28
Att. 5,521

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,752

Match Report

Gillingham extended their unbeaten home sequence to 10 games with a stirring second half performance to earn a well-deserved point.

Brentford went into the break a goal to the good following a defensive nightmare for the Gillingham central defensive pairing. First a poor backward header from Garry Richards saw Simon Royce charging from his goal but failing to get to the ball before it was put across the face of the goal. Simon King appeared to be in a position to clear the ball, but he somehow could not adjust his feet and the ball rolled to Charlie McDonald who had the easiest of tap ins. To be fair, despite the nature of the goal, Brentford were good value for their lead. The Gillingham faithful had to endure rather than enjoy a first half in which they were second best and by quite some margin.

A very different Gillingham emerged from the dressing room for the second half. Attacking the Rainham End a couple of chances were forged for Simeon Jackson before the top scorer got onto the score sheet with a stooping header following a Mark Bentley flick on. The home side were now very much the dominant side and Andy Barcham was inches wide when a ball rebounded off him.

Brentford were reduced to ten men with 20 minutes to go after a mass brawl erupted, which from a distance was seemingly out of nothing. A couple of players seem to tangle on the ground and within seconds it was all kicking off. Nathan Elder was eventually shown the red card, but in the melee the referee did well to pick out a perpetrator, or did he guess?

With the man advantage Gillingham took the game to their visitors, who then had their keeper Ben Hamer to thank for safeguarding their point with a couple of excellent saves.

Late in the game Gillingham skipper Barry Fuller was also red carded for an innocuous challenge that he had no real reason to make. Perhaps the red mist was still down from the brawl in which he picked up a yellow card. Whatever the reason it was a foul that has cost him a suspension ruling him out of the Aston Villa cup tie.

Whilst the FA Cup game is money-making and prestigious, this Christmas period could be pivotal in the quest for promotion. Today was the first of three games against opposition in a similar or better position than ourselves, I hope that the players’ focus is going to be on the game in front of them, not one in the future.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Gillingham Reserves 2 QPR Reserves 2

Match 32/08/716 - Wednesday, 17th December 2008 -
Football Combination

Gillingham Reserves (0) 2 Cahill 64, Rooney 70
QPR Reserves (2) 2 Di Carmine 9, Ledesma 30
Att. 200 approx

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Free
Mileage: 45/3,707

Match Report

Good afternoon's entertainment in bright sunshine that left the linesman on the Medway Stand side wearing a cap.

Dennis Oli returned and played well, looking sharp and enthusiastic. He put so much into the first half I was guessing that he was only going to play 45, but he went on to play 75, a good shift put in.

Of the triallists, the Aussie Cahill scored a brilliant free kick and showed a bit more than Micah Hyde, who I thought was "no better than what we've got!". The full back, Joe Howe, presently non-contract at Fisher Athletic, looked better going forward than backwards, but did OK.

Whether any of them a worth a second look, I have my doubts.

Early in the game, QPR cut through the Gills back line with some neat passing and a last gasp challenge from Connor Essam saved a certain scoring chance, but the ball broke to the QPR forwards and from here Alan Julian made two superb stops.

QPR controlled the first half and despite Andy Pugh hitting a post with a header, the West Londoners could have been more than two goals to the good come half time.

But credit to our Ressies as they came back strongly. Following Cahill's strike, Stuart Lewis made a good interception and slotted a pass to Luke Rooney who finished with the composure of his more illustrious namesake.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Barnet 2 Gillingham 2

Match 31/08/715 - Saturday, 13th December 2008 - League Two

Barnet (0) 2 Leary 46, O'Flynn 70
Gillingham (0) 2 Barcham 68, Jackson 90
Att. 2,248

Entrance: £15
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 156/3,662

Match Report

Just over one year on from an FA Cup defeat at Underhill that was met with angry derision from their own supporters, Gillingham produced a far better performance but a just as disappointing result from this afternoon’s League Two encounter. Gillingham’s away form is such that no result can ever be taken as a given, but Barnet’s dreadful home record, just one win from nine home games, left the Gills in the unusual position of bookies favourites.

Ultimately it took a 93rd minute equaliser from Simeon Jackson to earn Gillingham a point from a game that they largely dominated, but so nearly lost.

High on confidence from their FA Cup victory at Stockport, Gillingham, and Adam Miller in particular tore into their opponents from the kick off. He surged deep into the opposing half but his pass was cut out, sadly when Barnet’s Michael Leary copied the move 45 minutes later his outcome was more successful.

Miller had set the tempo for the early stages of the first half. Andy Barcham was wreaking havoc down the left side, skinning his full back time and again. It could only be time before the visitors got their noses in front and from there go on to an easy victory. But it didn’t happen. Jackson had the ball in the net after 20 minutes but was ruled offside and five minutes before half time a inch perfect through ball from Miller saw him one-on-one with the keeper, but he failed to take the chance.

However, it was not all one-way traffic as Adomah missed with a close range header and long range shot that was deflected narrowly went wide.

Gillingham’s impressive away support, almost a thousand strong, were stunned within 12 seconds of the restart. Leary literally ran down the hill unchallenged, got to within 30 yards of the goal and let fly with a shot that had Simon Royce groping thin air.

A couple of chances came and went before Barcham, who had been quieter than in those first 20 minutes, collected in midfield and ran across the face of the goal, his first shot appeared to have been blocked with the hands of a Barnet defender but the ball broke to him and he drove home confidently.

The joy was short lived as Gillingham fell for the old sucker punch of a lack of concentration following their goal. A cross from the left was met by the unmarked John O’Flynn who headed in from close range. It was a terrible goal to concede.

As the clock ticked into injury time, the visitors fashioned an equaliser with the two substitutes instrumental in its making. Firstly Nicky Southall, on for Albert Jarrett, who for an hour was quite frankly awful, won a throw in with some determined play. Gary Richards threw it long, Mulligan (on for Bentley) nodded on and Jackson reacted quickly to turn it home from four yards. Cue a relieved celebration from team and support alike.

So a couple of points lost, or one gained, at a rain-soaked Underhill, that has housed Barnet for a over a 100 years and their relocation battle with the local council continues. This season has seen a minor ground improvement with a small temporary stand that housed 150 of the Gillingham support under a tarpaulin cover. The sloping pitch that had a lush look to it held a lot of water that had players splashing their way through the puddles.

Royce, King, Bentley and Southall are the only players that remain from the shameful FA Cup exit of last season and for them today’s cheers, albeit of relief, from the Gillingham support will erase some of the memories from that dark day.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Gillingham 2 Chesterfield 1

Match 30/08/714 - Saturday, 6th December 2008 - League Two

Gillingham (2) 2 Miller 18, Jackson 45
Chesterfield (0) 1 Lester 60
Att. 4,622

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,506

Match Report

What possesses a team to take the field and play and behave in manner that Chesterfield did at Priestfield yesterday. Was it a preconceived tactic to knock a Gillingham side with a fearsome home record out of their stride or was it a result of the run around that the home side had inflicted on their unwelcome visitors.

Whatever it was it was far from pretty as Chesterfield literally set about kicking lumps out of their opponents. Six bookings is not only a fair reflection of the way they set about their task, they were fortunate to get away with no worse. During the first half there appeared no way that Chesterfield could avoid finishing the game with ten men or even less, with the aid of a lenient (to the extreme) referee, they managed it.

They compounded their sins midway through the second half when Jamie Ward laid on the ground supposedly injured, Barry Fuller put their ball out of play so he could receive attention, upon which Ward promptly got to his feet without the trainer being necessary and from the resulting throw-in Kevin Austin refused to give the ball back to Gillingham. It was gross bad sportsmanship, but something that was only in keeping with the rest of their performance.

Priestfield echoed to the sounds of “Cheat” being directed at Austin, but this could have been aimed at any number of the Chesterfield side. Ward, with 12 goals to his credit this season, was far more adept at feigning injury than giving any problems to the Gillingham central defensive pairing of Simon King and Gary Richards, who shackled him to the point of obscurity.

At half time Gillingham were winning this game at a stroll. Adam Miller had given the home side the lead and then was instrumental in the build up to a sublime Simeon Jackson finish to put them two up. For all this, Miller seemingly cannot win over some of Gillingham’s support, who cheered when his number was put up for substitution, what more does the bloke have to do?

Lee Richardson sent his Chesterfield side out early for the second half and had obviously got into their heads during the break. As had been the case with Stockport the previous week, the visitors enjoyed a much improved second period, though their attitude to the beautiful game remained unchanged.

When Simon Royce inexplicably went walkabout on the hour, the Spirites were back in the game courtesy of a Jack Lester goal and the stroll was threatening to turn into a stumble. Had Royce not redeemed himself with an absolutely blinding save from a close range Lester volley then the Chesterfield bad boy tactics would have taken home a point. But justice prevailed and they returned to Derbyshire empty handed and for that football can be thankful.