Saturday, 26 December 2009

Gillingham 0 Brentford 1

Match 38/09/790 - Saturday, 26th December 2009 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Brentford (1) 1 Strevens 44
Att. 7,009

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/4,488

Match Report

Boxing Day is traditionally a day for left overs and it wouldn’t be hard to guess that come February 6th and the reverse fixture there could also be some left overs, not of the edible variety, on show at Griffin Park.

This fixture has become a contentious one over the last 12 months causing it to court controversy and sending-offs. A year ago at Priestfield, there was an unseemly brawl which saw Nathan Elder sent off with Barry Fuller also seeing red late in the game. The return fixture in March carried a hangover from the previous encounter and some verbal jousting between the managers. Today, another two saw red as Gillingham suffered defeat at Priestfield for the first time since August.

Neither player can have too many complaints. Josh Gowling’s challenge on Charlie MacDonald in the 50th minute didn’t look the best, albeit that it was viewed from a distance. It brought a second yellow to add to his first half booking for a tackle on Marcus Bean. MacDonald also saw red 15 minutes later for a rash challenge on Tom Wynter to add to his first half booking for simulation, a blatant piece of cheating.

Gillingham will feel hard-done-by to lose a game in which they dominated for almost the entire match. The first half saw Lewis Price make good saves from Febian Brandy on two occasions and Simeon Jackson with Brentford mustering nothing in return until a minute before half time when they snatched a undeserved lead. A left sided cross from Myles Weston was touched on by MacDonald for Ben Strevens to bundle the ball home.

In the second half, once the referee had evened the teams to 10-a-side, the home side went in desperate search of an equaliser but none of the chances that came their way were as clear cut as the three first half efforts until Curtis Weston had a lob cleared from the line by Danny Foster.

Ultimately, for all their territorial advantage, Gillingham failed to find the cutting edge necessary to breakdown a resolute Bees’ backline. This made the announcement of Jackson as the sponsors’ man of the match all the more bizarre. The Rainham End responded with a Oli, Oli chant and I don’t think they were too far off the mark.

Whilst referee Fred Graham had little alternative with either of the sending off decisions, his handling of the game was less than consistent. Pim Balkestein, who took a first half booking, could easily have seen red for a cynical foul on Dennis Oli, whilst Barry Fuller and Myles Weston both got bookings for little or nothing when both could have gone in the book minutes earlier. Mr Graham was also in charge of the Griffin Park game in March when he cancelled out a Simeon Jackson goal, the diminutive striker supposedly out muscling a 6’3” defender. Let us pray that the same official doesn’t turn up again in February.

From all accounts, Mark Stimson refused to shake the hand of Brentford manager Andy Scott at the end of the match, so time has not proved to be the healer of old scores. Scott comes across as an abrasive character and Stimson could have held the moral high ground with a cursory shake of the hand. Once again, eyes will be trained on a simple gesture of good sportsmanship in February.

The home support filed out of Priestfield like the child that had received some nice Christmas gifts but found that the present he really wanted was not in the stocking. Perhaps the surprise present will come in the form of an away win at Exeter on Monday, sadly it is not something you can actually buy in the sales.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Gillingham 3 Stockport County 1

Match 37/09/789 - Saturday, 19th December 2009 - League One

Gillingham (3) 1 Oli 8, Brandy 27, Nutter 34
Stockport County (0) 1 Rose 65
Att. 4,769

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/4,443

Match Report

Mark Stimson was unaware as to whether his players had a Christmas Party planned following this afternoon’s game, but if one was on the agenda then the first toast of the evening belonged to groundsman John Plummer and a doughty set of volunteers that cleared the pitch of a huge amount of snow.

Twenty-four hours ago I had endured a six hour journey home from my South London workplace following a night shift, a journey that would normally take a single hour and consequently I was not overly in favour of the great effort that was being made on my behalf. I watched the internet message boards during the morning absolutely convinced that the snow sweepers’ efforts were going to be futile. At 1 p.m., with no announcement made it was time to try my luck on the roads and head towards Gillingham.

En-route came the news, game on. Once parked up it became obvious that one of the criteria in these circumstances had been largely ignored in the decision to play the game. The walk down to Priestfield was a perilous one with the local roads and pavements compacted with ice. The gates to the Gordon Road Stand were not opened until 2.45 p.m., such was the lateness of the decision with the turnstile operators lending their hand to the snow clearing process.

Common sense prevailed and the small gathering of Stockport supporters were housed in the Gordon Road Stand, the Brian Moore Stand being deemed unsafe. Not that anybody knew they were there as Gillingham ripped apart the basement side with a hot first half display.

Febian Brandy was back from his rehabilitation at his parent club and Curtis Weston and John Nutter returned to the starting eleven. The game was in its infancy when Dennis Oli made a surging run and a good shot forced a save from Owain Fon Williams. The resultant corner was headed across the face of goal where it was met by an acrobatic scissor kick from Oli. Great goal and the celebratory dive into the mounds of snow behind the goal matched the occasion.

If the first goal was down to a piece of individual brilliance, Gillingham’s second on 27 minutes was a good team goal. Kevin Maher played the ball forward, Simeon Jackson touched on into the path of Brandy who finished clinically. The cold was being forgotten as the home side’s supporters warmed their hands regularly in appreciation of the quality of the display being laid before them.

The game appeared signed and sealed in the 33rd minute when Nutter, on his 100th appearance for the club, picked his spot from 20 yards with a superb strike for a three goal lead.

Unfortunately the half time break brought a realisation of just how cold it actually was and Gillingham’s second half performance did nothing to divert that attention. Stockport made most of the running and a very good strike from full back Michael Rose on 65 minutes gave the visitors a glimmer of hope. Rose brought a fine save from Alan Julian two minutes later and had this not been the case the final period of the game might have been a rather nervous time.

So a great effort from supporters, who not only cleared the pitch but in difficult circumstances did very well to get over 4,700 through the turnstiles, was rewarded with yet another home three points to steer the club away from the frosty regions of the bottom four.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Tonbridge 2 Wealdstone 3

Match 36/09/788 - Saturday, 12th December 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 2 Rook 47, Minshull 85
Wealdstone (2) 3 Ngoyi 30,62 Chappell 32
Att. 439

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/4,398

After recent traffic disasters en-route to Gillingham away games I wasn’t overly disappointed to have to miss their game at Huddersfield due to a Christmas party commitment. It also gave the opportunity of seeing Tonbridge for two successive games, a chance to see exactly why their season is that of a stuttering nature.

A lot has been made of the manager’s budget, so much so that he has put a ban on it being used as an excuse for the inconsistency that has blighted the season. On the face of it, the eleven players starting, with the absence of Paul Booth, are a decent unit capable of better results. Scott Gooding returned after injury, a big plus considering Tonbridge have one of the worst defensive records in the Ryman Premier. Over the season so far, they have had several central defensive pairings, and the full backs have also been subject to change on a regular basis with Lewis Hamilton added to the injury list last Saturday. So excuse number one is made.

In a poor first half from the home side the defensive frailties’ were fully exposed against a good Wealdstone side, falsely positioned in the middle of the table with as many as five games in hand.

After about half an hour of mainly Wealdstone attacking the visitors opened the scoring. The Angels defence failed to deal with a right wing cross and Greg Ngoyi touched the ball home. Two minutes later the hill became a bit of a mountain as a Ngoyi through ball is deflected into the path of Lee Chappell, a youthful looking skipper, who smashed the ball past Lee Worgan in front of the jubilant Wealdstone support.

News had arrived via the text machine that Gillingham had taken an early lead, prompting thoughts that the good gods of Christmas were going to deem that I would also miss their first away win of the season, but by half time normal service had been resumed and Gillingham were trailing.

Tonbridge began the second half in the wake of what you would suspect would have been a half time rocket from Tommy Warrilow for a pretty inept first period display and instant dividends were paid. A slick move ends with a precise header from Carl Rook, converting a Kirk Watts cross. It was an ideal fillip as the weather threatened to turn nasty.

Tonbridge were buoyed by their goal and turned the heat on their visitors but against the run of play after 17 minutes of the second half Wealdstone regained their two goal advantage. A corner was met by Ngoyi, not exactly a towering striker, who steered a header past Worgan to the disappointment of the home support now getting pretty wet.

When Lee Minshull’s header came back off a post, one suspected that this was not to be Tonbridge’s day. It was Minshull himself who swept home five minutes from time to set up a finish but it was not to be.

Wealdstone deserved their win for their first half performance in which they were completely dominant and the home side must look at some poor defending which contributed to the defeat. Meanwhile, at Huddersfield, there was also no miracle.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Gillingham 0 Carlisle United 0

Match 35/09/787 - Saturday, 5th December 2009 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Carlisle United (0) 0
Att. 7,214

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/4,372

Match Report

Gillingham’s marketing department scored a success as their BOGOFs and kids offers managed to entice a healthy 7,214 to Priestfield, unfortunately the entertainment on show would have done very little to encourage many of them back paying full price.

This was always going to be a hard fought affair. Gillingham put their home form under pressure following every fruitless away trip and with Carlisle coming into the game in a rich vein of form, three successive wins and ten goals scored, they were never going to be a pushover.

Let’s make something of the positives, because there wasn’t many to take. As already said Carlisle arrived in freescoring form but were restricted to one effort that forced Simon Royce into his only meaningful save five minutes from time as the home side completed a fifth successive clean sheet at Priestfield.

Meanwhile, Adam Collin in the visitor’s goal was involved in a second half contest with Simeon Jackson and the keeper came out on top. Five chances fell to Gills’ leading goalscorer, one was blazed high, one wide, but on the three other occasions Collin made good saves.

Febian Brandy was missing, was it injury or suspension, seems strange that the OS, reporting it now, didn’t flag up a ban prior to the game. Kevin Maher continued in midfield, once again failed to impress and his substitution was greeted with cheers. It is never good to hear that from the home support but Maher does little to help his cause.

Andy Barcham tested Collin on 20 minutes and a tumble in the box from Curtis Weston brought an appeal for a penalty and a booking for Jackson, but the rest of the half was a non event.

Gillingham’s best moment of the second half arrived within seconds of the restart. Barcham’s pace saw him clear to cross for Jackson who shot agonisingly wide. Mark McCammon, a 75th minute substitute, saw a shot deflected wide off a team mate as the home side made the running in the second half but to no avail.

So for both sides, unbeaten runs are continued, successive wins are ended. Hopefully, the BOGOF punters will take advantage of the tickets on offer for the next game against Stockport and this time the team on the pitch can match the success of the team off it.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Leyton Orient 3 Gillingham 1

There are plenty of firsts watching football, but last night I suffered a first that I hope I never have to experience again.

We left Tunbridge Wells at 4.30, the satnav said we would arrive at 5.40. Unlike the trip to Southend we sailed down the M25 to the A2, up which we fairly flew. But, by this time we heard a traffic report that the Blackwall Tunnel was being closed "intermittently" to ease flow because of an "incident" on the A12. We arrived and stopped at the Tunnel at around 5.15, but we did actually get through the tunnel before 6.00 so we were relatively happy.

At which point we stopped and for the next two hours we travelled no more than a mile. On the radio we started hearing the news regarding the Gillingham players that had also failed to make the kick-off, we phoned Orient and asked if there would be a delayed start and that produced just about the only laughter of the evening. Having been told no, it was remarked that nobody could be there as they were all on the A12. "Frank, look out of the window," she said. Frank did as he was told and reported back . . . "there's a few trickling in!"

We picked up Radio Kent with a decent reception and listened to the first half. At half time we were still two miles away and as we had only done one mile in the previous two hours there seemed little hope of seeing even five minutes.

We came off the A12 and dropped down into Hackney with the hope that the tom-tom could sort us out but it was just as gridlocked away from the main road.

As the second half started we made the unanimous decision (4 in the car) that if we could extricate ourselves from the traffic we would give up and go home. The game was nearly finished before we managed to get ourselves on the empty southbound side of the A12.

By the time I reached home I had been in the car for 5 minutes short of 7 hours, wasted half a tank of petrol, a £20 match ticket and all for a bloke that is probably being fed and watered at Her Majesty's pleasure this morning.

In 50 years of travelling to football matches, I have never not managed to reach the game I set out to watch. I've had more than a few that have been called off because of weather en-route or even got to the ground to find out it's off, but never had anything like this.

Lesson learnt: Next time we play at the Orient, I'm going by train!

Wasted mileage: 110
Wasted ticket: £20
Wasted time: 7 hours

And here is the man that caused it all

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Gillingham 1 Burton Albion 0

Match 34/09/786 - Saturday, 28th November 2009 - FA Cup 2nd Round

Gillingham (0) 1 Weston 68
Burton Albion (0) 0
Att. 4,996

Entrance: £15
Programme: £2
Mileage: 45/4,217

Match Report

It was far from pretty but tomorrow afternoon there is a ball in the velvet bag with our name and number (50) on it. It would be nice to think that the reward for winning this bruising encounter will be the financial windfall of a trip to one of the big Premiership clubs but there are 30 or so other Round Two combatants hoping for a similar outcome.

If the fate of the balls take us to Old Trafford, the Emirates or Holker Street, Barrow I cannot imagine Gillingham are going to come across a side quite as physical as Burton Albion. I say this with a degree of confidence borne out of the fact that Oldham are no longer in the competition.

Guy Branston is described politely as a journeyman professional, let’s face it he is a good, old fashioned clogger. The big, old boy was the recognisable figure in the centre of the defence, but there were others more than willing to put a foot in and take a yellow for the sake of the team.

As on Tuesday night, the home side were quick out of the traps and fashioned a chance within the first minute with Febian Brandy shooting just wide of the post. Shane Redmond, in the Brewers’ goal made a good parry to thwart Simeon Jackson and Stewart Lewis’ follow-up within the first five minutes.

When Jackson was stopped in his tracks by a last ditch tackle it seemed that it would only a matter of time before the Burton defence was breached. But the home side lost their momentum, the League Two side gained in confidence and when Branston put a header wide from a corner they could have gone into the break with an unlikely lead.

The home side failed to regain their impetus in the early part of the second half with only Brandy forcing Redmond into a meaningful save on the hour mark. A double substitution brought John Nutter and Dennis Oli into the fray and it paid instant dividends. Nutter played the ball into Brandy who in turn sent Curtis Weston clear to finish from an angle.

Now we could dare to dream, but Burton were not going to lie down without a fight and Simon Royce was called upon to make a couple of decent saves before a tortuous four minutes of added time were called to a close.

We will all have our preferences at 3.55 p.m. tomorrow, but, in my dreams tonight, Number 23 will play Number 50. I wonder if Fabien Brandy is allowed the same dream?

24 hours later: Well, how close was that? One ball later and a tie against Manchester United would have been ours. A away tie at Barnet or Accrington Stanley is just rubbing it in.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Gillingham 1 Yeovil Town 0

Match 33/09/785 - Tuesday, 24th November 2009 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Jackson (pen) 10
Yeovil Town (0) 0
Att. 4,450

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/4,172

Match Report

Gillingham fans were left sitting uncomfortably in their seats for the closing moments of last night’s encounter with Yeovil Town and the reason could only be laid at the door of one man, the West Country side’s keeper, Alex McCarthy.

After our soaking at Bristol Rovers on Saturday, a certain sympathy had to be felt for the small gathering of Yeovil supporters with no shelter from the heavy rain and howling wind, who looked on fearfully for the first 20 minutes as the home side ripped the visitors defence to shreds.

Only McCarthy stood between Yeovil and a substantial deficit as he made five top class saves to limit Gillingham to a single goal lead, obtained from the penalty spot.

For the third home game in succession, loan star Febian Brandy earned the penalty as he teased Stefan Stam into a rash challenge. Simeon Jackson, back in the starting line up, resumed spot kick duties which he despatched with a cheeky chip after McCarthy committed himself early.

The Yeovil defence had no answer to the speed and movement of Brandy, Jackson and Andy Barcham who all saw efforts brilliantly turned away by the keeper. Brandy rattled the crossbar before the custodian made a superb double save from the striker and the follow up from Chris Palmer.

Yeovil successfully managed to stem the tide towards the end of the first half and in the early stages of the second. They had a bit of forward momentum as well but were not unduly concerning the home side’s defence.

The Yeovil crossbar was rattled again by the unlikely source of a Barry Fuller free kick that was superbly tipped onto the woodwork by McCarthy.

Gillingham’s own custodian, Simon Royce was called into action with 15 minutes remaining when he needed to be at his best to push a Sam Williams header over the bar.

Yeovil’s hopes of an unlikely point were probably ended with the sending off of Jean-Paul Kalala for a second yellow after a crude challenge on Kevin Maher.

So once again Fortress Priestfield lifts the Blues into the comparative safety of mid-table. If we can obtain another 10 wins from our last 14 home games we probably won’t need another away point!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bristol Rovers 2 Gillingham 1

Match 32/09/784 - Saturday, 21st November 2009 - League One

Bristol Rovers (1) 2 Lines 17, Hughes (pen) 81
Gillingham (1) 1 Barcham 40
Att. 6,210

Entrance: £17.50
Programme: £3
Mileage: 340/4,127

Match Report

If I had bumped into Matt Fry on Sunday at Sainsburys I would have asked him one simple, one word question: “Why?”, and it appeared to me that Simon Royce was asking him much the same as the referee pointed to the spot. Maybe Fry thought that the wrestling match with Andy Williams, that had seen the central defender go to ground, was going to lead to a free kick in his favour, but why he dragged the ball back with his hand is completely beyond me. What was the worse that was going to happen, a corner to Bristol Rovers? As it was Jeff Hughes sent Royce the wrong way and stroked home the winner.

This was the culmination of a horrible day for the travelling support, especially the hardy souls stationed on the open terrace. It might look like a large market stall but at least the tarpaulin roof offered some respite from the elements for the seated section of Gills support, including yours truly! The rain was torrential and relentless and driven by a fierce wind, making playing conditions also very difficult.

My pre-match consideration had centred around the comparison that could be made between the striker that we didn’t get, Chris Dickson matched up against the one we did, Febian Brandy. It was also going to be a first look at Brandy in an away game with an opportunity to see how his partnership with Simeon Jackson was developing. As it was, neither striker impressed, not surprising given the conditions, and manager Stimson decided not to go with the diminutive pairing from the off.

Gillingham played into the wind in the first half and whilst Royce’s kicks struggled to make the half way line, opposition keeper Mikkel Andersen was kicking it the length of the field. There was not much in the way of chances for either side before the 17th minute when Rovers took the lead. An overhead kick from Dickson was palmed away by Royce but Danny Coles retrieved the ball, laid it back to Chris Lines who fired in from inside the box.

Gillingham struggled in the conditions to get any forward momentum and it came as a bit of a surprise five minutes before the break when Andy Barcham fired in a spectacular equaliser from the best part of 25 yards. A kicked clearance from Royce was headed on in the centre circle by Stuart Lewis and picked up just inside Rovers half by Barcham who ran into his shooting position and lobbed keeper Andersen to the delight of the travelling faithful.

During the break my fateful comments were that now the conditions were in our favour I would’nt take the draw, this game was for winning. Unfortunately, Gillingham disappointed badly and failed to use the wind to their advantage. After a beginning to the half in which they played the ball along the ground, the tactic somehow got lost and the long balls in the air were all too often carried by the wind into harmless territory. Perhaps the ground was becoming so saturated that the passing game was impossible, but one way or another, any advantage the visitors had was being wasted.

Royce was called into action to make a good save from Joe Kuffour, one that the keeper indicated had been made with the side of his face, such was the swirling nature of the wind.

Fry and Josh Gowling had suffered a testing afternoon at the hands of a bustling strike force, but it was not Dickson that had caused the real problems. On his substitution with 25 minutes remaining there were more than a few cheers as his number was held up suggesting that he has not won the hearts of the Memorial Stadium.

Following the penalty Gillingham pressed forward in search of an equaliser and Jackson, on as a 65th minute substitute, rather surprisingly for Curtis Weston, saw a goal bound effort cleared away by Byron Anthony.

So another disappointing day on the road for Gillingham and their faithful, just where this elusive first win on the road is going to come, goodness only knows, but with hope in our hearts, it is at the Orient next Tuesday.

When we were last at the Memorial Stadium in April 2008, Bristol Rovers were supposedly one match away from redeveloping the site and a ground share was in the offing. Sadly, nothing has changed, the same old jumble of makeshift stands and dated, permanent structures. Presumably the recession has bitten in the plans and we will be spending time under the tarpaulin in the future.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tonbridge 2 Hendon 1

Match 31/09/783 - Tuesday, 17th November 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 2 Minshull 40, Booth 65
Hendon (0) 1 Dunn 46
Att. 371

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,787

It’s a long way back to 1996, but if you can remember the freak goal that was scored by Stan Collymore against Blackburn Rovers with Tim Flowers the unlucky goalkeeper, then you have the picture of Hendon’s equaliser after two minutes of the second half last night.

Billy Dunn from just outside the box struck a speculative, in truth half-hit shot, that Lee Worgan had covered. As he knelt to collect the ball, it hit a divot and flew up and over his right shoulder to the stunned silence of the home support. Dunn and his strike partner, Peter Dean had first half moments when their luck was not as good, but this was good fortunate of the highest order.

The first half had been a highly entertaining affair with some skilful play from both sides. Hendon started much the better side and Worgan had to be at his very best to keep out an effort from Dean with a close range save.

After Hendon’s early pressure Tonbridge took up the initiative with Jamie Cade excelling in midfield. A good interchange of passes with Paul Booth saw Cade through on goal but was blocked by a last ditch tackle.

A goal line clearance from a corner was the prelude to Tonbridge taking the lead five minutes before half time. Cade released Lee Minshull, who engaged in an exchange of passes with Booth before scoring from 12 yards.

Following the freak equaliser the second half took on an end to end pattern with half chances falling to both sides. Tonbridge regained the lead after 65 minutes with a goal from Paul Booth, who was sent through by Cade. Booth kept his composure under pressure to fire home from the edge of the area.

The home side had to endure some late pressure from their visitors but held out reasonably comfortably for a fifth successive victory that lifted them to fourth in the table.

Refereeing at this level can sometimes leave a bit to be desired so special mention should go to Mr Paul Harris of Maidstone who endeavoured to let the game flow and showed restraint of issuing yellow cards too early in the contest.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Gillingham 1 Oldham Athletic 0

Match 30/09/782 - Saturday, 14th November 2009 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Weston 60 (pen)
Oldham Athletic (0) 0
Att. 4,787

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,761

Match Report

It was the weather conditions that prevailed at Priestfield this afternoon. Gale force winds delayed the start of the match as the fire brigade tackled a Gordon Road roof top advertising hoarding that had worked itself loose and the game itself turned into a scrappy affair as neither side completely mastered the conditions.

Ultimately, Gillingham were reasonably good value for the single goal victory achieved by virtue of a Curtis Weston penalty after Febian Brandy was bundled to the ground by our old adversary Shaun Gregan.

Gregan was one of six Oldham players booked as the Lancastrians adopted a physical approach to the game.

Simeon Jackson was away on international duty and Barry Fuller suspended, so John Nutter and Kevin Maher returned to the starting line-up with Weston taking the dual striking role with Brandy.

The worst of the conditions were endured during the first half and you had to have a little bit of sympathy for the 135 travelling supporters buffeted by the wind and rain in the open Brian Moore Stand. They had very little to cheer as their side appeared to be satisfied with containing the home side, offering very little in the way of an attacking threat.

Curtis Weston went the closest in a difficult first half when he curled a shot onto the top of the bar after being well served by a bit of Brandy trickery. The Latics ended the half a little more encouragingly as the made a couple of half chances but Chris Taylor found himself the first one into the referee’s book with a display of childish petulance when Mark Bentley stood in front of him in the wall for a Gillingham free kick. All the toys were thrown out of Taylor’s pram as he behaved like a kid in the checkout queue at Tesco’s deprived of chocolate.

On the hour, Brandy wriggled his way into the box and was upended by the sizeable figure of Shaun Gregan whose shorts these days are the size of a small marquee. Gillingham’s loan signing was booed from that point by the visiting support suggesting that they, at least, thought his tumble was a tad theatrical. With Jackson away, Weston took on the responsibility to fire the home side in front from the spot.

Andy Barcham took full advantage of a loose pass, but from 20 yards his shot crashed against the bar. By now Oldham’s physical approached had turned into rough house tactics as the bookings mounted. Reuban Hazell became the last of the six as he cynically brought down Weston as he bore down on goal in the closing minutes.

In terms of entertainment, the weather was the winner but three more valuable home points eases the Gills into a slightly more comfortable lower mid table position.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Gillingham 3 Southend United 0

Match 29/09/781 - Saturday, 7th November 2009 - FA Cup 1R

Gillingham (2) 3 Weston 25, Brandy 28, Bentley 62
Southend United (0) 0
Att. 4,605

Entrance: £15
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,716

Match Report

He scored a goal, laid on a goal, won a penalty, was awarded the sponsors’ Man of the Match, all in all it was a fairly inconspicuous debut for Manchester United loanee, Febian Brandy and he didn’t even last the 90 minutes! The mere name of Manchester United was always bound to heighten the expectation on the 20 year old, but the diminutive striker, who manages to make Simeon Jackson look tall, lived up to his star billing.

If Gillingham are good enough, and today they were, to feed this tiny strike force with passes on the floor then the pace of the pairing is going to frighten even the better of League One defences.

Apart from Brandy coming in for Dennis Oli, there was also a change at full back with Chris Palmer replacing John Nutter with good effect.

It was Southend that started the brighter in a very low key atmosphere and a crowd that dipped below the 5,000 mark; it would appear that the FA Cup has lost some of its lustre for the floating supporter. Gillingham had a scare of their own making on the quarter-hour when a Matt Fry error allowed James Walker a strike on goal, Simon Royce parried away but only to Dougie Freedman who headed wide.

Gillingham were awarded a penalty after Brandy (pictured) was bundled to the ground by Simon Francis but Jackson spurned the opportunity denied by a good Steve Mildenhall save. It proved to be a minor setback as within a couple of minutes the home side were a goal to the good. Curtis Weston and Brandy linked well with an interchange of passes that left the former through on goal to finish well.
Oh, Curtis Weston . . . lah-de-dah!

Having put his name on the assists column, young Brandy then added his name to the goalscorers. A cross into the area was met at the near post and he showed his predatory instincts with a lightning quick strike.

Scott English song circa 1972:

Oh, Brandy, well, you came
And you gave without taking
But I sent you away
Oh, Brandy, well, you kissed me
And stopped me from shaking
And I need you today
Oh, Brandy

Perhaps we don’t want to send him away just yet!

It was a half that Gillingham hadn’t dominated, but two goals to the good, who was complaining after the misfortune suffered a week ago at Roots Hall.

Gillingham should probably have had a second penalty when Jackson was brought down in the box, question to the referee, if he dived, why not book him? Once again the discontent was short lived. Palmer crossed high to the back post where Mark Bentley did exceedingly well not only to climb high enough to get a head on the ball but to have the ability to steer his header back into the opposite corner.

As an away supporter you know it is time to head for the exits when Freedman somehow missed the easiest of chances to pull one back for the Shrimpers with 15 minutes remaining. It was an awful miss.

Undoubtedly the £18,000 prize money will not go amiss with the Chairman and will go someway to paying the wages of our new, little superstar from Old Trafford. Another home tie will do nicely in Sunday’s second round draw.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Tonbridge 6 Merstham 1

Match 28/09/780 - Saturday, 31st October 2009 - FA Trophy 2QR

Tonbridge (3) 6 Booth 2, 55 Rook 14 (pen),
Cumberbatch 20, Minshull 50, Sigere 85

Merstham (1) 1 McGlash 9
Att. 382

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/3,671

Merstham arrived at Longmead Stadium for a FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying game as something of a mystery side. They are near the top of the Ryman League South and appeared in this round by virtue of an astonishing 6-1 victory against Premier League Hastings United.

After 25 minutes of the first half one of the mysteries had been uncovered. Bright and inventive up front it was easy to see how they managed to score six goals at the Pilot Field, what was less easy to understand was how they didn’t let in six!

Four goals, two penalties (one missed by Merstham), two sendings off, five bookings that was the sum total of 25 minutes of open, too open, football.

Tonbridge were in front within two minutes. A Kirk Watts free kick was headed across the face of the goal by stand-in skipper Lee Minshull and Paul Booth was on hand to net at the far post. After some defensive sloppiness Merstham equalised only for Tonbridge to go back in front from a Carl Rook penalty and extended the lead when Mark Cumberbatch met a cross that Rook had headed on.

When Merstham were given a spot kick, the attacks were so on top of the defenders that any scoreline you wish could have been envisaged. Sadly for Merstham the spot kick was missed.

As the 25 minutes of madness was reached Lewis Hamilton and the chunky Merstham central defender, Craig Vernon were involved in a bit of handbags and as both had already received yellow cards, the reds were brandished to both.

The rest of the first half passed by relatively quietly with the exception of a shocking Rook miss.

Five minutes into the second half and normal service was resumed with Minshull finding the net from 20 yards and when a brilliant run from Steve Ferguson was finished by Booth, the odds were on a cricket score being run up by the home side.

Merstham were still willing to play with an open style (and get punished for it) with their lively forwards causing problems for the Tonbridge back line. But with a couple of minutes remaining Jean-Michal Sigere, substituting Rook, scored a excellent individual goal to equal Merstham’s beating of Hastings in the last round.

Three grand in the kitty and a place in the last qualifying round is due reward for a highly entertaining afternoon.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Southend United 1 Gillingham 0

Match 27/09/779 - Friday, 30th October 2009 - League One

Southend United (0) 1 Barnard 90+2
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 7,830

Entrance: £20
Programme: Too Late
Mileage: 137/3,645

Match Report

It was just a humble Pukka Pie, as much a part of match day as the ball itself for football fans, but last night it was just about the only thing that was alright on the night.

We departed Tunbridge Wells at 4.30 p.m., judging the time to leave by virtue of the club’s coach departure time and the sat nav which informed us that we would be reaching our destination at 5.40 p.m., plenty of time to park up, fish and chips and take our places in the charismatic (sarcasm) away end at Roots Hall.

The first hint that there might be trouble ahead was on the way to Tunbridge Wells from my house when the pretend, she was so hopelessly wrong, she could not have been a real traffic presenter on Radio Kent. There was to be a half-hour delay at the Dartford Tunnel, if so, this would be just a minor irritation arriving at just after six.

As soon as we hit the back of the queue my brother confidently, and correctly, remarked that this was going to be a delay for much longer than 30 minutes. We sat, we inched forward, we stopped again, 15 minutes passed by and the wheels didn’t turn a circumference. Eventually, as we paid our £1.50 for the privilege, nearly two hours had passed to travel four miles and the chances of making it for kick-off time had all but disappeared, and to add insult to injury I was absolutely desperate for a pee!

The problem with a jam at the Tunnel is that there is nowhere to go, you can’t even give up and go home as the traffic was backed up over the bridge for as far as the eyes could see. The other side of the tunnel was barely moving, but 20 m.p.h. is better than stationary. Eventually a hard shoulder on the A13 offered relief to one problem and we desperately tried to make up the time for kick off.

We actually drove past the ground with about five minutes to spare, but when you arrive so late car parking spaces are at a premium and 15 minutes were then wasted finding somewhere to spend £5 for a place, a good 10 minutes walk away.

So it was after 8 o’clock when we sat down in our seats, three and a half hours to travel a mere 53 miles. Once, admittedly after super traffic free run, we got back from Old Trafford after an England game in 3 hours 50 minutes that was 250 miles.

What happened in the first 15 minutes, you will need to read the official report, evidently both goalkeepers made saves but the game was still goalless as we tried to settle into the match.

No sooner had we sat down, we were on our feet cheering Gillingham’s first goal as a John Nutter free kick nestled in the bottom corner. Inevitably on a night destined for ill fortune the referee saw fit to disallow it, we read later for an Andy Barcham push or shirt pull in the wall. The referee went on to make a complete arse of himself with some bizarre bookings for both sides leading up to the break. Simon Royce and Nutter managed to scramble the ball to safety in the only clear opportunity of our half hour first half.

As the second half unfolded it was blatantly obvious that the winner would be only the better of two pretty poor sides. An oddball decision on the hour gave Gillingham an opportunity to open the scoring. An indirect free kick was awarded, was it for a back pass, obstruction, I don’t know, only seven yards from goal. The ball was tapped for Mark Bentley to blast over the bar; it did seem from that distance the most unlikely result.

More and more bookings followed as the referee decided that the stage was his and as the game entered injury time we at least thought that our traumatic night was going to end with only the second point of our travels. How cruel this game can be. A long ball into the box was headed back into the centre where Lee Barnard had a virtual open goal to smash his shot into. Q exit.

So where does the pie come into this? There was a queue (where wasn’t there last night) for the food. The burgers had run out and the pies were disappearing from the hot cabinet. As I reached the counter, there were just two remaining, one went and I had the other, the last one. It was so hot, it took the roof of my mouth away, it was one of those nights.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Gillingham 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Match 26/09/778 - Saturday, 24th October 2009 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Jackson 83
Charlton Athletic (0) 1 Nutter (o.g.) 79
Att. 10,304

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,508

Match Report

Perhaps I was unduly pessimistic, perhaps I imagined Charlton to be a whole lot better than they actually are, whatever the reason I expected Gillingham to get a bit of a pasting today. But come the final whistle, if Phil Parkinson has an honest bone in his body, he will be thankful to have escaped Priestfield with a point.

The Sold Out signs were posted and the atmosphere bristled with the local rivalry. Whether it was the buses or Dickson, Scally or FA Cup revenge this rivalry has been propagated over the last couple of years. Although they are relative neighbours there has never really been that much animosity between the clubs, players such as Dick Tydeman, Dave Shipperley and, dare I say, Derek Hales have switched between the two with no recriminations, but now there is a real feeling of dislike, especially from the Gillingham support, who feel that they are considered second class country bumpkins by their South London counterparts. Personally I cannot classify Charlton in the same category as the likes of Swindon, Millwall or even Maidstone in the “hate” table.

Dennis Oli was restored to the starting line-up in the absence of Scott Vernon whose loan spell from Colchester was ended by injury at Milton Keynes.

Both sides had shouts for a penalty in the opening minutes which were waved aside by referee Jon Lewis, who looked to keep the game in motion. The first real opportunity of the game fell to Izale McLeod who shot high and very, very wide when free on the right hand side of the box after 25 minutes. Gillingham themselves went close from a John Nutter free kick that was well saved by Charlton keeper, Rob Elliott and a Oli overhead kick from a Nutter corner that grazed a post. All square at half time and a fair reflection of the play.

The opening 20 minutes of the second half saw the game continue to be evenly contested with a couple of half chances for each side being dealt with by the respective keepers. But, as the game entered its final quarter, it was the home side that started to assert themselves and Nutter was denied by a very good save from Elliott.

The three good chances that Gillingham had fashioned had all had a significant contribution from John Nutter, but on 79 minutes his game took a bizarre twist. A seemingly harmless situation, the ball rolled towards the full back whose shank of a clearance somehow found the bottom corner of the net. It will undoubtedly feature in a Christmas bloopers DVD, John Nutter didn’t deserve his fate and Gillingham certainly didn’t.

The despair turned to joy in double quick time. Simeon Jackson, who had been successfully shackled all afternoon by an uncompromising central defence, latched onto a Mark Bentley flick on to despatch with the unerring confidence of a striker who has 11 goals already to his name this season.

Justice had been served, overall Gillingham finished the stronger, but a draw was probably a fair result. It had been a good derby, there were only minor skirmishes of trouble when Charlton supporters made themselves known in the home areas of the stadium. But with their allocation sold out and many of them living in Kent, it was inevitable that this would be the result.

Gillingham can take several positives from the game, a fine man-of-the-match performance from Mark Bentley, good defensive performances across the back line with Barry Fuller the stand-out and, of course, there is Simeon Jackson, one chance and he’s on the score sheet again. Phil Parkinson must be thinking tonight, if only a word in jest could materialise into fact. Fact is Parky, he can do a lot better than Charlton.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

MK Dons 2 Gillingham 0

Match 25/09/777 - Saturday, 17th October 2009 - League One

MK Dons (0) 2 Easter 61, Wilbraham 90
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 11,754

Entrance: £10
Programme: £3
Mileage: 225/3,463
New Ground: 235

Match Report

As Gillingham’s away day misery continued at the impressive stadium:MK, their two new loan signings experienced vastly different debuts. While West Ham’s young defender Matt Fry enjoyed a very good start to his loan period, Colchester’s striker Scott Vernon limped painfully away from the game after 44 minutes and later left the stadium on crutches.

Milton Keynes Dons had made today a family day with tickets available for just £10 for adults. Outside of the stadium all manner of events were happening to encourage Mum, Dad and the kids to be a part of the youngest, and arguably most controversial, club in the Football League.

Whatever your opinion might be with regards to the franchising of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, Pete Winkleman has taken this club a very long way in a very short time. The stadium might be unfinished but it is potentially a very fine arena. The second tier needs the seating installed for it to be complete, but they have are huge, padded seats and ample leg room. There are high-tech bar reading entries to wide concourses where rather expensive food and drink are served. The view is, of course, unobstructed and the rake of the seating is excellent. One criticism would be the reasoning behind positioning the away support into a corner of stadium and leaving the area directly behind the goal completely unused, a diagonal view across the length of the pitch is not the best.

Conspicuous by their complete absence were Adam Miller and Garry Richards, scapegoats for the midweek defeat at Brighton.

Gillingham started the stronger and forced MK keeper Willy Gueret into a couple of saves in the first ten minutes. He failed to hold a Curtis Weston shot, but smothered the rebound and then dealt more comfortably with an Andy Barcham effort.

After 18 minutes Matt Fry (pictured) became a firm favourite with the travelling support with an immaculate challenge on Jermaine Easter. The striker had been sent clear when he looked a mile offside but as he was set to pull the trigger, Fry had made up the ground and made an impeccable tackle from behind to clear the danger. It was the highlight of a very good debut for the 19 year old.

Gillingham enjoyed their fair share of the possession and territorial advantage but lacked a cutting edge that was diminished further by the departure of Vernon. Simeon Jackson got very little service and created nothing of note for himself, failing to muster an effort on goal all afternoon.

The Milton Keynes faithful might be a little too comfortable in their seats as the noise levels of their support was a good deal quieter than they received at the Hockey Stadium. But they finally found their voice on the hour when Jason Puncheon benefited from a lucky rebound off Gills’ skipper Barry Fuller leaving him in the clear to cross to Easter who scored from close range.

The Dons now held the upper hand and Simon Royce was called on to make several good saves to keep the game at just the one goal. He was finally beaten for a second time when Aaron Wilbraham struck with an angled drive from the right hand side of the box.

This wasn’t one of Gillingham’s lay down and die away performances of late but it was rather toothless upfront. Who knows what the difference might have been had Scott Vernon lasted the course because the visitors lacked any real threat once he had departed. Let us hope that his Gillingham career is not restricted to just 44 minutes.

England 3 Belarus 0

Match 24/09/776 - Wednesday, 14th October 2009 - World Cup Qualifier

England (1) 3 Crouch 4,76 Wright-Phillips 59
Belarus (0) 0
Att. 76,897

Entrance: £43
Programme: £6
Mileage: 100/3,238

Match Report

Plan B didn’t quite work, Plan C fared a little better as England finished their World Cup Qualifying campaign with a 9 out of 10 record.

Shorn of the talents of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard, this was the opportunity for several of the fringe players to stake a claim to be on the plane to South Africa next June.

It all started promisingly with a fourth minute goal fashioned by a superb Gareth Barry through ball to Gabby Agbonlahor who cut a pass back from the byeline for Peter Crouch to scramble the ball home. Unfortunately the first half went downhill from that point. The low boredom threshold of Wembley surfaced as early as 25 minutes when the first half-hearted Mexican wave took place before taking a grip on the stadium a few minutes later. Whilst the act is tedious in the extreme it is difficult to criticise on the strength of the lack of entertainment being placed in front of the paying public.

The Belarusians were a neat and tidy side but carried little threat, Foster making just one comfortable save before the break. The half time verdict on Fabio Capello’s Plan B was one of disappointment.

On the hour, B was sacrificed for Plan C and the introduction of Wembley’s demi-god David Beckham, as always greeted with a rapturous reception. Aaron Lennon was forced to make way for the bearded one and in the blink of an eye the game was made safe. Beckham played a short corner to Shaun Wright-Phillips whose drive beat the despairing dive of Zhevnov rather too easily. James Milner and Beckham both hit posts before a Carlton Cole shot was parried by the keeper only for Crouch to snaffle his second of the evening.

Bizarrely Beckham was given Man of the Match for his 30 minute cameo and if England’s dressing room is anything like the one I was a part of in park football, then I can only imagine the piss-taking he took for the honour.

So how did the pretenders shape up in the quest for a plane ticket.

Ben Foster: One minor excursion into no-man’s land that caused a ripple of anguish, but was otherwise assured and made one very good save from Omelyanchuk. Whether he will acquire the game time with Manchester United following Edwin van der Saar’s return could be the defining factor for his inclusion.

Wayne Bridge: Didn’t do a lot wrong and will almost certainly go as Ashley Cole’s back-up.

Aaron Lennon: Didn’t impress greatly on the night and his chances would have been damaged slightly by Beckham’s successful cameo. But still towards the front of the queue as far as the flyers are concerned.

Shaun Wright-Phillips: Despite his goal, his chances lessened with a rather ordinary performance.

Peter Crouch: His hold-up play is not as good as Heskey, but his goal ratio just cannot be ignored. It could come down to who plays the most for their clubs as neither is an assured starter in the Premiership.

Gabriel Agbonlahor: Had a reasonable game, but probably not enough to break into the small group of strikers.

David Beckham: He was always going to go, wasn’t he? But he must get the loan spell at AC Milan or the Premiership.

Carlton Cole: On the very fringe, best hope is an injury to somebody else.

James Milner: I can see him making the squad, do we read anything into him finishing the game as left back?

Four friendlies from now we will have all the answers. Will anybody from the treatment table, Joe Cole, Theo Walcott, Stewart Downing or even Owen Hargreaves regain their fitness and impress Fabio enough for inclusion. My money is on Joe Cole.

Dartford 2 Tonbridge 0

Match 23/09/775 - Tuesday, 13th October 2009 - Ryman Premier

Dartford (0) 2 Tait 57, Harris 85
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 1,228

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 58/3,138

Match Report

Three very reasonable headed opportunities came Tonbridge’s way in quick succession with 15 minutes remaining at Dartford’s Princes Park. None of them so much as tested the keeper and when Danny Harris struck a superb drive into the top right with five minutes remaining, the reasons why Dartford are eleven points clear at the top and 16 points in front of the Angels was clear for all to see.

Tonbridge put in a very acceptable performance but failed to turn their share of the possession into clear cut chances.

I overheard a Dartford supporter telling a friend that Tonbridge keeper, Lee Worgan had been the best he had seen at Princes last season. Three good saves early in the match saw the gentleman nodding knowingly at his mate.

After 20 minutes Worgan was beaten as he was beaten to a cross by Lee Burns, but the linesman had spotted a Maradona-type handball. Dartford fans were bemused by the disallowed goal, I was rather more confused as to the referee’s decision not to book Burns, if it was deliberate handball then a yellow would be a minimum punishment.

The league leaders finally opening the scoring 10 minutes into the second half. After Worgan had beaten away a couple of efforts the ball landed at the feet of Allan Tait who gratefully accepted the opportunity.

Harris came off the bench to sweetly strike the clinching goal and leave Tony Burman’s side looking like a similar runaway winner of this Division to Dover of last season.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Gillingham 3 Wycombe Wanderers 2

Match 22/09/774 - Saturday, 10th October 2009 - League One

Gillingham (2) 3 Gowling 16, Weston 44, Jackson 77
Wycombe Wanderers (1) 2 Woodman 27, Bentley (o.g.) 62
Att. 5,316

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,080

Match Report

Wonderful though holidays are, and we have just returned from an excellent trip to Egypt, most football people hate to be away from their clubs on match day. So, last Saturday, my head and heart were back in Southampton as we cruised down the Nile. It can only be coincidence (surely) that the only hint I had of an Egyptian Tummy came after I received a text informing me of the mauling that Gillingham had suffered at St. Mary’s.

Consequently I was more than ready for today’s game against a Wycombe Wanderers side whose poor form had signalled the end of Peter Taylor’s tenure, denying him of a return to Priestfield and the warm welcome he always receives. But, as somebody famous once said, “It’s a funny old game” and in the midst of a really poor first half we had two well-worked Gillingham goals and a superb strike from Wycombe’s full back Craig Woodman that was completely out of character with the pattern of the game.

On a warm autumn day both sides started slowly with a couple of speculative shots failing to raise some much as an “ooh” from a slumbering attendance. Priestfield was as quiet as some of the tombs I had visited a week earlier before an Andy Barcham cross was nodded on by the returning Simeon Jackson for Josh Gowling to head in from close range. It was just the boost that the home side needed as they strived to bring a four game winless run to an end. But the Buckinghamshire visitors, who had hardly threatened, scored a stunning equaliser in the 27th minute. There seemed little danger when a pass was laid back to Woodman, who thundered a shot into the top right hand corner from 20 yards with Simon Royce clutching at thin air.

The game deteriorated further following the goal, neither side having any control, misplaced passes, over-fussy refereeing, in fact it was a real mess. As it meandered its way to the half-time whistle the home side fashioned another goal straight from the training ground. Jack Payne’s long throw was flicked on by Jackson and Curtis Weston stooped to head home from close range.

I certainly had the feeling during the half-time break that another goal for the home side could end with perhaps five or six, but should the next goal go the other way then it was a game that could easily be lost, such was the paucity of defending from both sides. On the hour, it was the visitors that levelled the scores once more. After Woodman’s free kick was cleared the ball was returned to the danger area where ex-Gill Leon Johnson was allowed far too much space to touch the ball goalwards before Mark Bentley lashed his attempted clearance into his own net. Were my half-time fears about to be realized? No, because, as Mark Stimson keeps telling us, we are so lucky to have the little man up front. Latching on to a Gowling clearance, Simeon Jackson produce a sublime chip from the edge of the penalty area as the Chairboys keeper Scott Shearer rushed out to close down the diminutive striker. It was a quality strike that will further enhance his reputation and undoubtedly increase the interest from clubs further up the food chain than our own.

The home side closed the game out with a couple of heart-stopping moments, no more so than a well hit free kick that was spectacularly clutched by Simon Royce. One for the cameras perhaps, but it will have made for a great photo and, of course, it retained the points.

Mark Stimson has made a lot of Simon King’s absence during the week and once again the weakness in the centre of the defence was highlighted. Bentley is not a natural centre half and Josh Gowling needs somebody of strength alongside him. Whilst I’m not a great admirer of Garry Richards, I think it’s time for him to come off the bench and add a bit of old-fashioned central defending to the back line. When in danger, hoof it out, is Richards’ game and whilst it is not pretty I’m sure Gowling will benefit from a physically stronger player alongside him.

Gillingham return to middle of the table security, but with two away games before the Valley Express buses make their shortest journey of the season, I suspect that it might be a short-lived respite. Mind you, I was wrong at half-time, so who am I to make wild predictions!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gillingham 1 Norwich City 1

Match 21/09/773 - Saturday, 26th September 2009 - League One

Gillingham (1) 1 Jackson 36 (pen)
Norwich City (0) 1 Russell 90
Att. 7,550

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,035

Match Report

1,500 Norwich City supporters stationed behind the Town End goal being attacked by their favourites celebrated wildly as they snatched a 94th minute equaliser from Darel Russell whilst the rest of Priestfield looked on in stunned silence. As the final whistle sounded the feeling was one of gutted, arguments could be made that five minutes of added time was excessive (I had only three on my stopwatch) but the fair-minded (or neutral observers) would say that Norwich deserved a point.

The East Anglians had played for the best part of an hour with ten men following the awarding of a penalty and the sending off of goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Curtis Weston, sent through on goal by a deft flick from Simeon Jackson, was upended by the onrushing keeper. Was it a dive? I couldn’t tell from my Gordon Road seat and when referee Paul Taylor headed in the direction of the penalty box to brandish a card, I half expected a yellow for Weston as much as I hoped for a penalty. As it was a red was shown and Forster took the walk. Taylor is not a particularly respected referee (certainly not popular) and some of his decisions are completely mystifying, so why should we think that he got this one right?

Jackson kept his nerve through the long delay to put Gillingham one-up, much against the run of play. Norwich had opened brightly with Wes Hoolihan a shining star. An excellent Simon Royce save denied the tricky midfielder after a quarter of an hour and his partnership with right back Jon Otsemobor was giving the home side all sorts of problems.

Mr Taylor’s bizarre interventions brought yellow cards for Hoolihan and Gills skipper Barry Fuller following a minor spat in which the Norwich player auditioned for a part in Platoon, shame because he is so much better than that.

Just prior to half time Otsemobor was forced to leave the field following a knock and with it the Hoolihan threat did slightly diminish. The half ended with Gillingham starting to dominate territorially for the first time aided by the man advantage.

For the first 30 minutes of the second half, Gillingham held the upper hand, chances were made, chances were wasted. Gowling, Palmer and sub Nutter all saw efforts go high or wide before Jackson embarked on a one man crusade to seal the game. Four good, almost great, chances in the space of five minutes fell to the Gills ace marksman, but it was not to be. Two went wide, one went high and the other was smothered by the sub keeper, Declan Rudd. Within a couple minutes Jackson pulled up clutching a hamstring and his afternoon ended.

Norwich, with nothing to lose, started to gamble in the last 15 minutes. As they took the game on, sadly Gillingham didn’t help their cause by constantly giving the ball away. The pressure built and built until the 90th minute and beyond was reached. A superb block from a Hoolihan shot by John Nutter led to a corner and keeper Rudd rushed forward to join in the fray. Josh Gowling and Mark Bentley had manfully countered the threat of Grant Holt bruise for bruise all afternoon but with seconds remaining from the resultant corner, Holt headed onto the bar and Russell grabbed the equaliser from the rebound. Cue mad yellow-clad celebration.

I will use a phrase that I’ve used before in these columns, glass half-full or half empty? On this occasion, half empty I’m afraid, although I will admit I would have taken a draw at the start, to lose the three points at such a late stage leaves an empty feeling.

Credit to Norwich though, they’ve gone the distance with 10 men and while they had 11, I thought they were the best team we’ve seen at Priestfield so far this season and in Wes Hoolihan they have a starlet that even opposing fans can admire.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tonbridge 2 Bognor Regis Town 0

Match 20/09/772 - Tuesday, 22nd September 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbrdge (1) 2 Rook 23, Storey 74
Bognor Regis Town (0) 0
Att. 348

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/2,990

Match Report

Despite taking three points against bottom of the table Bognor Regis Town, Tonbridge’s indifferent home form continued last night. The visitors carved out six very good chances and failed to take a single one whilst the Angels benefited from a wicked deflection for their second goal.

It is really hard to understand the reasons why Tonbridge have under-performed at home, and not just this season, as their record at Longmead last term was similarly inconsistent. Whilst I have not seen a good Tonbridge performance this season, they should employ me as a lucky charm for I’ve been present at each of their three home wins!

Forced into a defensive reshuffle following injuries obtained in the warm-up, Lee Minshull was played in a central defensive position and his absence in midfield was sorely missed. Paul Butler came in as a makeshift full back, so it could be said that there were extenuating circumstances for the defensive uncertainty that created chance after chance for the West Sussex side who went on to spurn them one after the other.

In eight games this season Bognor have only scored six goals and sit at the foot of the table, goals win matches and they will continue in the basement of this league whilst their chance-taking is so profligate.

Tonbridge could have opened the scoring in the first quarter hour when a Jamie Cade effort was hacked off the line. Following on, Lee Worgan did well to save with his legs and the first of Bognor’s shooting chances came soon after when Jason Prior shot hopelessly wide and then Charlie Oatway, son of the ex-Brighton favourite, also blasted wide from a good position.

The home side took an undeserved lead on 23 minutes when Carl Rook turned in from close range following a Anthony Storey free kick that was headed on to the striker. Tonbridge failed to build on the goal and the game made its scrappy way to the half-time whistle.

Early in the second half the signs were posted that the half would progress in a similar manner to the first. Another chance for Bognor goes begging as once again Prior shot well over the bar. Michael Birmingham, a good old pro that rumbled his way around the midfield directing the traffic, had a free kick that was not so far over the top before Tonbridge scored a second to add a little comfort to the scoreline.

Kirk Watts, who had a good second half, crossed into the box from where the Bognor defence only managed to clear to the edge of the penalty area. Storey fired back in and with the help of a massive deflection found the bottom corner. It was the stroke of fortune that had deserted Bognor all night.

Although Tonbridge were now easing towards their second home League victory of the season, Bognor still had time to manage to waste one last opportunity with a header that went wide.

There were much recriminations about an incident involving Tonbridge supporters and the Sutton management on Saturday, happy to report that despite some audible bad language from behind the goal, there was no repetition last night. The hangover from last season’s encounter when the Sutton manager slapped Tonbridge captain Storey was an obvious factor, but the behaviour of a certain element of the Angels’ support has been an ongoing discussion for almost too long. As club secretary Charlie Cole was this time subjected to the abuse, it might well be the time when the perpetrators are banned from the club and hopefully some of its reputation can be restored before it goes beyond recall.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Leeds United 4 Gillingham 1

Match 19/09/771 - Saturday, 19th September 2009 - League One

Leeds United (2) 4 Johnson 14, 38 Howson 46, Beckford 80
Gillingham (0) 1 Barcham 50
Att. 21,026

Entrance: £21
Programme: £3
Mileage: 491/2,964

Match Report

Sixteen months ago with the sands of Gillingham’s League One time ebbing away, Leeds fans taunted their counterparts with the song “we’ll never play you again”. Two failed play-offs and one Kent-based promotion, their words came back to haunt them as the two teams did meet again.

Bright enough to realise they would have to meet us once more, they didn’t sing it yesterday, but had they, on this occasion I, for one, would guess they might well be right this time.

Gillingham became the home side’s 15th successive victim at Elland Road and they played with such aplomb it is very difficult to make a case as to why they will not be taking their place in the Championship next season without the need of the dreaded play-offs.

They have strength and movement in midfield where they won game and carried a threat from their front two. On Leeds’ debit side Gillingham created several good chances and the spurning of these at crucial times contributed to the slightly flattering scoreline.

In May 2008, a capacity crowd and an antagonistic spat between the chairmen fuelled a hostile atmosphere as both clubs were 90 minutes away from their respective fates of the season. This time around, despite the two chairman’s best efforts, there was not the same anticipation or ire towards the visitors.

After 10 minutes of little more than jousting the home side took the lead when the excellent Bradley Johnson met a Robert Snodgrass corner with a powerful header from an unmarked position. Following the goal Leeds dominated the midfield area retaining the ball for long periods of time with Johnson seemingly the centre of everything.

After 38 minutes Johnson inflicted further pain with a surging run against Gills’ skipper Barry Fuller, who failed to stop the midfielder shooting across the face of the goal. Whether the ball would have found the net if it hadn’t deflected off Simon Royce’s legs is arguable, truth is Fuller could have done better.

The first of Gillingham’s chances to put a different complexion on the match came just prior to half time. Last Saturday Curtis Weston enjoyed the finest of matches against one of his previous employers, this Saturday his mood would have been vastly different. Dennis Oli, who had made very little impact, released Weston into a clear shooting position from which the former Leeds man shot wide.

Had they gone in with the scoreline 2-1, the team talks might have been different, but whatever was said, within half a minute of the restart the game was over as a contest. Superb movement cut through Gillingham’s back line and ended with Jonathan Howson shooting into Royce’s left hand corner from just inside the box.

As a Jermaine Beckford’s drive struck the bar and Becchio shot wide in the space of a couple of minutes following the goal, the possibility of humiliation loomed large. But credit to Mark Stimson’s side who responded with a well taken goal from Andy Barcham who drove high into the net from the left hand side of the box to momentarily silence the Elland Road crowd.

A second opportunity to impose a bit of pressure on the home side passed Gillingham by when Simeon Jackson just couldn’t rise high enough to get over the ball and his header sailed over the bar. Gillingham had shown a good deal of resilience in the face of a superior side but their resistance was finally broken when a Becchio shot came off the bar for Beckford to nod home the rebound from close range. Offside? Looked it, but television will be prove one way or the other.

Gillingham were far from disgraced but the difference between the sides showed just how far they have to go to be competitive in this division and the gap will need to be closed with a fraction of the resources available to the likes of Leeds.

Elland Road is the type of ground in which we only dreamt of playing prior to our Championship days, but as a visiting supporter the viewing is particularly disappointing. Stuck in a corner, adjacent to what was known as the Lurpak Stand that towers over the rest of the stadium, with pillars obscuring the view, it is one of the poorest positions we are likely to experience this season. If those Leeds fans had sang “we’ll only play you once more”, I’m more than inclined to say “and thank goodness it’s at Priestfield” where win, lose or draw we will, at least, have a clear view of the proceedings.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Tonbridge 1 Metropolitan Police 0

Match 18/09/770 - Saturday, 12th September 2009 -
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying

Tonbridge (1) 1 Minshull 38
Metropolitan Police (0) 0
Att. 352

Entrance: Sneaked in late
Programme: None
Mileage: 26/2,473

Match Report

The keyboard warriors and the genuine hooligans of Gillingham, Millwall and West Ham did me a little favour in forcing a 12.30 kick off at Priestfield. The police had enforced the early start on Gillingham in the face of the potential for crowd trouble, especially as the West Ham element became involved.

As it happened, at least as far as I saw, the game went off peacefully but the early finish gave me the opportunity to hot foot it to Tonbridge for their FA Cup game against Metropolitan Police. I missed the opening 15 minutes and sheepishly took my place on the sidelines having not paid for entry, the turnstile operator having retired to watch the game.

Sadly my endeavours were not rewarded with sparkling entertainment but at least Tonbridge progressed to the next round with a single goal victory. A 38th minute Lee Minshull goal ultimately proved the difference in a game that Tonbridge deserved to win, but were less than impressive. Several chances for the home side went begging before a Jamie Cade miscue fell kindly to Minshull whose scuffed shot found the bottom corner.

Fussy refereeing, a hot afternoon and a misfiring Tonbridge strike force combined to make for a frustrating afternoon (and made me feel less guilty about not paying!). After half-an-hour of the second half Paul Booth laid on a sitter for Carl Rook, who somehow sidefooted wide, it was synonymous of the match in general.

The £3,000 prize money will be a welcome entry to Tonbridge’s credit column and a place in Monday’s draw for the Second Qualifying Round offers the opportunity for further riches.