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.