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