Saturday, 28 February 2009

Gillingham 1 AFC Bournemouth 0

Match 47/08/731 - Saturday, 28th February 2009 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 1 Southall 58
AFC Bournemouth (0) 0
Att. 5,353

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,530

Match Report

Gillingham emerged from this turgid encounter with the points and a re-entry into the division’s play-off spots. But if it looked hard work for the players in the spring-like sunshine, then it was just as difficult viewing for the paying customer.

The first half was a complete nightmare. It took Gillingham fully 20 minutes just to carry the ball over the half-way line, just a few aimless punts forward had taken the ball into opposition territory. Relegation-threatened, points deducted Bournemouth enjoyed the vast majority of the possession in this time, but they failed to test Simon Royce. A Mark Bentley header was comfortably held by keeper Shwan Jalal, but at least it showed a modicum of intent. The half continued in much the same vein, Bournemouth controlling most of the ball, but the couple of easily held efforts on goal came from Gillingham, until Simon Royce was forced into the only meaningful save of the half when he palmed away a Molesley shot.

The whistle relieved the supporters of the drudgery giving them the excitement of a Madness record and the 50/50 draw to look forward to, such was the paucity of the entertainment. Talk at half time centred around as to why Mark Stimson was choosing to play (a) so narrow, (b) Rene Steer at all, and (c) whether he would have the courage to admit he was wrong on both counts and change it immediately. No, was the answer to (c).

But, in fairness to Stimson, he at least decided early that enough was enough and as if to prove all those that had made those comments during the break correct, instant dividends were paid. The hapless Steer was replaced by John Nutter and Simeon Jackson replaced Adam Miller, much to the pleasure of the Miller baiters. Within three minutes of the 55th minute substitutions, Jackson chased a ball down the right hand side and passed across the face of the goal where there was nobody in a central position. Andy Barcham managed to keep the ball in play on the left hand side and went past a couple of defenders on the bye-line to pass the ball back to Nicky Southall who side-footed home. It was an excellent bit of work from Barcham, who caused us to hold our breath later on when he received attention and hobbled for the closing minutes. Such is Barcham’s form that he would be one of the biggest losses should we lose him for any length of time in the run-in.

Gillingham had much better possession for the rest of the game. They seemed more balanced with Nutter and Barcham adding a bit of width to the left hand side and Fuller making good ground on the right. The game wound itself down with a series of niggling challenges from Bournemouth that necessitated the Gillingham physio onto the pitch on four occasions.

Seven goals in the previous two matches might give Stimson justification for his employment of the 4-3-3 formation and the inclusion of Mark McCammon naturally leads to a more direct style, but it has not been pretty and has led to all sorts of problems defensively. The improvement today was there for all to see once the home side reverted to 4-4-2. By the end of the game, Gillingham just about deserved the points and with results going their way, tonight they occupy sixth place.

As we embark on a very difficult March, with five away games and our two home matches against fellow promotion hopefuls, it might be as well to remember that despite the entertainment having been at a very low level, six points have been gained and if we can win ugly for the upcoming month then the majority of us will gladly accept it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tonbridge 1 Carshalton Athletic 0

Match 46/08/730 - Tuesday, 24th February 2009 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 1 Legge 32
Carshalton Athletic (0) 0
Att. 302

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/5,485

Whilst Tonbridge still held third position in the Ryman Premier, recent indifferent home form has seen their lead over the fourth and fifth clubs eroded and they entered this match against Carshalton, who had been unbeaten away from home all season, in danger of surrendering their league position to the visitors. Seriously depleted with Carl Rook, Tommy Tyne and Ade Olorunda injured, Leon Legge was needed to switch from his normal central defensive slot to lead the line.

Saturday’s defeat at home to Sutton had added to a feeling of despair, but in adversity a performance of true character was produced. It was indeed Legge that put the Angels in front in the 32nd minute but, unfortunately, he showed that his true abilities lay in defence when two second half chances in the first five minutes went begging. Just one of these taken would have led to a more comfortable second 45 minutes. Carshalton, who in their run of away success even managed to take a point from Dover, were found wanting on the night. Lee Worgan, in the Tonbridge goal, was forced into only a couple of meaningful saves as the Angels back line controlled an attack including ex-Angel Michael Power and the very capable Richard Jolly.

Champions League football on the television had severely reduced the attendance to a disappointing 302, but the Tonbridge behind-the-goal contingent produced a good noise to complement the character being shown on the pitch from their favourites.

A man of the match winning performance of high energy from Jamie Cade typified the effort and character that had been shown all over the pitch from Tonbridge, who fully deserved their victory from a match that had produced good entertainment for those that had deserted their armchairs in favour of live football.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Gillingham 3 Macclesfield Town 1

Match 45/08/729 - Saturday, 21st February 2009 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 3 King 2, Barcham 75,88
Macclesfield Town (0) 1 Evans 79 (pen)
Att. 4,620

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,459

Match Report

In these days of the celebrity footballer where making the A list is almost as important as making the first team, we are continually told that football is now part of the entertainment business. On Tuesday night walking away from the 4-4 thriller, I took in the conversation of a group of people that (I’m assuming) took up the offer of the free tickets made available by the “Manager’s Pledge”.

This group were more than happy with their evening’s entertainment, “How lucky was that, eight goals, great game”, blah-de-blah. Personally I was slightly in despair, how could we defend so awfully, how do we score four times and not win, blah-de-blah.

Today was almost parallel opposites, for the most part this was a really poor game, Gillingham were far from great, but the 3-1 win sends the vast majority home happy. Conclusion: Unless you are a truly neutral (and how many of those do you get at League Two games?) football is not part of the entertainment business, it is all about winning.

Rather surprisingly given the defensive nightmare against Aldershot, Mark Stimson made only the obvious change in bringing back fit-again Simon King in central defence and retained the services of Mark McCammon upfront in place of the injured Gary Mulligan. Bit of head shaking as to why John Nutter was not recalled in place of Rene Steer, but under a lot less pressure, Steer looked marginally better than on Tuesday, marginally being the operative word.

King met a second minute Nicky Southall corner to plant a firm header into the Macclesfield net and from here we anticipated a goalfest and unbridled entertainment. Unfortunately the goal did nothing other than flatten the game completely and a first half of tedium ensued. There was a couple of moments when the game rose above this very low ebb, but neither goalkeeper was severely tested.

The second half started at a slightly better tempo, Southall had a shot saved at the second attempt and a solo break from defence by Mark Bentley ended with a shot just edging wide. Eventually, with 15 minutes to go, Gillingham got a second goal. McCammon, on his knees and with his backside to goal, somehow managed to get the ball back to Andy Barcham who drove home.

So two goals to the good and coasting, it was time to doze off again. This I must have done, because I completely missed the incident that led to Macclesfield being awarded a penalty for handball against Barcham. Evans converted and the palpitations brought on by Tuesday returned. Thankfully, out of the depths of mediocrity, came a match winning goal of pure quality. Barcham cut in from the left and curled a peach of a shot into the far corner to send the home fans on their way happy with the outcome.

I would doubt there were many neutrals to entertain this afternoon, so the vast majority were going home satisfied, because as Brucie once said, Points mean Prizes, and ultimately the prize is entertainment enough.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Gillingham 4 Aldershot Town 4

Match 44/08/728 - Tuesday, 17th February 2009 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 4 Weston 21, McCammon 48, Barcham 55,
Miller 72 (pen)

Aldershot Town (1) 4 Lindegaard 20, Morgan 57, Bentley 61 (o.g.), Sandell 66
Att. 5,974

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,414

Match Report

Oh my God, how do you make head or tail of this crazy football match? What was the underlying characteristic that produced this eight goal thriller? The poorest defensive display seen by Gillingham at Priestfield in many a day, although the Aldershot supporters must also have been going home asking themselves how they have scored four times away from home and failed to win. Or could it be that the inept display of referee Stuart Attwell, unbelievably eclipsed by the worst linesman in Mr P Cockup (actually his name was Kirkup) that I think I’ve ever seen, that was the contributing factor to this head spinner.

Mr Attwell, it will be remembered was the referee that awarded the phantom goal to Watford earlier in the season and was fast-tracked as the bright young thing to the Premiership before suffering a equally rapid reversal back to the Football League. Up and down the country there are spectators that believe that reversal should continue all the way back to park football. If Attwell was bad, Kirkup just shouldn’t be allowed near a touchline because he is a danger to himself, turning the normally sedate Gordon Road folk into a seething mass.

Of Saturday’s nobbled two, Simon King failed to recover and Mark Bentley deputised. John Nutter was dropped to the bench to give a full debut to Arsenal loanee Rene Steer, and what a woeful debut it was. Steer was completely out of his depth, my neighbour remarked that he would predict that he would never wear a Arsenal shirt, I would predict that he never again wears a Gillingham shirt, he made Nutter look world class.

Manager Stimson’s other decision was to drop leading scorer Simeon Jackson to the bench giving Dennis Oli and Gary Mulligan the strikers role.

Gillingham made a bright start, but conceded the first goal on 20 minutes when a long cross to the far post was brilliantly headed back across the goal by Anthony Charles, which was in turn met by Andy Lindegaard who planted his header past Simon Royce. It was a well worked goal, Charles did especially well, but it was a portent of what was to ensue, Steer had given Davies time and space to cross and there was very little in terms of challenges for the two headers.

The home side quickly made amends, Andy Barcham who had a sparkling match and is back to his best, gave Dennis Oli a chance that was blocked, the ball fell to Adam Miller who fed Curtis Weston whose shot went underneath the keeper, who really should have done better, another sign of the madness to come.

The rest of the first half went along quietly if you can discount the bizarre decisions of Messrs Attwell and Kirkup, whose lack of speed on the line was compensated by his reasoning that he could make judgements from at least 20 yards behind the play and that the referee could make bad enough calls without his help.

Mark McCammon replaced Mulligan, who limped out of the first half and the enforced change paid instant dividends. The big striker met a Nicky Southall free kick to head home easily, far too comfortably if I was sitting with the Aldershot fans. This very respectable following for a Tuesday night was further disappointed in the 55th minute when Andy Barcham sped clear of the Aldershot defence, rounded the keeper to slot home. Barcham ran a long way with the ball and finished clinically, great stuff and the Gills are coasting. The next 11 minutes showed how wrong you can be.

In the next two minutes, Royce missed a cross by a country mile but was rescued, linesman Kirkup missed a offside decision, Royce missed another cross and from the resultant melee Marvin Morgan headed home. The madness had begun.

Four more minutes passed by and Mark Bentley, attempting to turn the ball behind for a corner, only managed to head into his own net and at the end of the nightmare period, Steer allowed Robinson the freedom of Priestfield to cross for Andy Sandell to score from close range. 3-1 up, 4-3 down and still the best part of half an hour of confusion to reign.

Gillingham’s equaliser didn’t take up much of the remaining time, six minutes later Adam Miller was brought down and got up to send the keeper the wrong way from the resultant penalty, a decision that Attwell seemed to get right.

Wild, tennis-like, predictions of 6-5, 7-6, 6-all finishes subsequently proved unfounded, although Andy Barcham once again raced clear only to be stopped in his tracks by keeper Alex McCarthy. What do we make of it in the cold light of the next day? It was entertaining, that’s for sure. It was comical in a twisted sort of way, but the hard facts are that Gillingham defended appallingly and were the makers of their own downfall. Positives can be taken from Barcham’s return to form and McCammon’s impact on his introduction. Ultimately Stimson was left with more questions than answers.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Rotherham United 2 Gillingham 0

Match 43/08/727 - Saturday, 14th February 2009 - League Two

Rotherham United (1) 2 Clarke 25, Green 81
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 2,757

Entrance: £20
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 480/5,369
New Ground: 229

Match Report

Just a few yards down the road from the Don Valley Stadium, Dwayne Chambers was completing a 60 metre sprint in 6.64 seconds, a world’s best for the season. In not exactly that precise six seconds, at Sheffield’s outdoor athletics venue, Gillingham’s promotion chase faltered under the weight of two heavy, albeit unpunished challenges.

Gillingham had, for most of the 80 minutes played, dominated the possession but trailed by a goal and, to be fair, not looked like scoring. But as we all know, no team is out of a game with a one goal deficit. A fairly aimless pass headed towards the Gillingham box, Barry Fuller, who had a good return to the side, safely cleared the ball to the sidelines only to be felled by what appeared to be a late challenge. As eyes went to Fuller, Simon King was similarly taken out by another late tackle that was to end his afternoon’s shift.

As reported in the first paragraph these tackles went unpunished, but because the referee failed to see them doesn’t make them fair. After a long injury break, with the Rotherham physio treating King, Fuller was able to continue but probably only because all three subs had been used including King’s substitution.

A minute later, a long cross field pass found Rotherham full back Jamie Green in so much space he looked to have half the pitch all to himself. He powered into the Gillingham box and sweetly struck past Simon Royce to end all hopes of a Gillingham recovery. Taking nothing away from Green, he carried the ball a long way and finished well, but the visitors defence had gone completely AWOL and had Fuller not been labouring, I’m sure he would not have been given that space.

This was always going to be a difficult fixture, had Rotherham not had the points deduction they would have been a mere three points behind the Gills at the start of play. The surrounding hills were snow covered and there was the remnants of the white stuff in small, melting piles around the edge of pitch. Manager Stimson had shuffled to pack following last week’s defeat and alongside Fuller, Curtis Weston and Nicky Southall were recalled to the side.

After a start in which both defences comfortably controlled proceedings, Rotherham opened the scoring after 16 minutes, A close range shot was well saved by Simon Royce, but his parry fell kindly for Crystal Palace loanee, Jamie Clarke who finished easily.

Andy Barcham was looking far more effective than of late, but Simeon Jackson was unfortunately the complete opposite. Barcham had several good runs creating a couple of decent chances but there was nobody on the end of his endeavours. As the half time whistle sounded the scoreline was undeserved on behalf of the Gills.

Twenty minutes of the second half passed as a non-event until Dennis Oli and Gary Mulligan were introduced as substitutes for Jackson and Stuart Lewis. Oli immediately enlivened the affair with his surging runs and a effort finally brought a meaningful save from the seemingly pensionable Andy Warrington.

The Chambers six seconds ensued and the 269 Gillingham fans that had travelled knew it was to be a long, pointless drive home.

The Don Valley Stadium, once the scene of Jan Zelezny throwing the javelin the equivalent of one goal line to the other (before goal posts were introduced to the stadium, of course!), was built as an athletics stadium and subsequently the viewing is far from ideal for football. With all the spectators on one side of the pitch it makes for a strange atmosphere (or no atmosphere at all). The away support was stationed into a corner just behind the goal line and from here to the far goal it was a dickens of a way.

Personally, despite the viewing difficulties I didn’t mind the DVS. Something that was futuristic in 1992 has now taken on a bit of character in comparison to today’s new build boxes and my brother will tell the tale that I was positively orgasmic (perhaps not quite the right word on Valentines Day!) over the floodlights. They are reminiscent of those fine old pylons that are seen at the vast open bowls of Eastern European grounds, but quite unique on these shores.

Three home games on the spin now and maximum points are almost a must to pitch Gillingham back into the mix for the automatics.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Gillingham 0 Bradford City 2

Match 42/08/726 - Saturday, 7th February 2009 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 0
Bradford City (1) 2 Daley 45, Boulding 70
Att. 4,866

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/4,889

Match Report

The Borough of Gillingham managed to emerge from the week’s Big Freeze only for its football club to leave their supporters cold with a poor performance against promotion rivals Bradford City. Whilst very few positives can be drawn from a Gillingham perspective, plaudits should be offered to the visitors who looked a really good side, probably the best seen at Priestfield this season.

The heavy snowfall that had engulfed Kent in the early part of the week and covered the entire country over the next couple of days had thawed and despite an overnight frost the pitch was perfectly playable. Despite losing their last home match against Lincoln City, the Gills entered the match on a high having won a third successive match on the road last Saturday against Chester City. A Tuesday night postponement at Notts County had lost the opportunity to reinforce their much improved away form.

Bradford City, who came to Priestfield a point in arrears of their hosts, opened the game on the front foot and raided from the wings with Omar Daley and Steve Jones taking it in turns to especially torment John Nutter. Daley drove an early chance into the side netting, sparking an enthusiastic, misguided celebration from the visiting supporters, this was followed by Daley setting up Michael Boulding to force Simon Royce into a save.

As Gillingham finally started to get a toe hold in the game, they had a Simeon Jackson goal disallowed for offside. There was probably no doubting the decision as the linesman’s flag was quickly raised, but it was unfortunate that the first opportunity that fell to Adam Miller had been blocked by the keeper as the Gillingham player slipped at a most inopportune time.

In the 45th minute Bradford City got the lead that their first half performance had deserved, albeit in a controversial manner. The veteran Peter Thorne crossed from the right and found the impressive Daly to slot home from close range. Fury was vented at the linesman as the Gordon Road spectators felt that Daly had strayed offside. The decision was dependent on whether the ball had been passed forward and from the angle of my viewing position it was not possible to be sure. Protests from Gillingham defenders were waved away, but in truth they looked a bit half-hearted.

In midfield, Mark Stimson had chosen to start with Jaime Peters in preference to Nicky Southall and Mark Bentley had returned to his midfield slot replacing the suspended Curtis Weston, who was a big miss on the day. The home crowd was seemingly unimpressed with Stimson’s decision to replace Peters with Southall. It was a straight change, but it was the fall guy of the boo boys, Adam Miller, that the jeering few wanted rid of. Miller wasn’t at his best, but then his best is not good enough for some.

Gillingham were just not at the races in the second half and another change with 25 minutes remaining was ultimately to seal their fate. Garry Richards was withdrawn for the introduction of Mark McCammon, the reshuffle seeing Bentley revert to central defence. On a patch of grass not far removed from where Miller had slipped in the first half, Bentley did likewise whilst attempting a clearance and Boulding was on hand to go one-on-one with Royce, whose valiant effort was not enough to stop the shot entering the net.

The end of the match was greeted with a repeat of the booing that had been in evidence at the end of the Lincoln game. This had been a very poor performance from Gillingham and it is easy to understand the frustration of the home support. It is somehow typical of Gillingham that as their away form significantly improves, all of a sudden their form at home seems to have deserted them.