Saturday, 30 January 2010

Gillingham 0 Walsall 0

Match 42/09/794 - Saturday, 30th January 2010 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Walsall (0) 0
Att. 4,796

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,130

Match Report

If this afternoon was to be the last that Priestfield Stadium sees of Simeon Jackson as a Gillingham player, internet message board rumours of a move to Millwall were given a little more substance by Radio Kent, then we will be left with a final memory of missed opportunities.

In the first half, Jackson raced clear only to plant a weak shot into the arms of Clayton Ince and midway through the second half the gangling legs of Saddlers’ central defender Clayton McDonald took the ball away as the striker looked to pull the trigger. It was a brilliant last ditch tackle, but from the stands questions were being asked as to why Gills’ ace marksman needed to take the ball on an extra yard.

It was all indicative of the frustration that was endured by the Gillingham faithful as two points slipped away in their quest to ease themselves away from the League One drop zone.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, Josh Gowling returned to the side, following his midweek absence at Hartlepool, replacing Tristan Plummer.

Gillingham survived an early scare when Alan Julian produced a superb double save to the acclaim of his team mates, high fives were exchanged and it was good to see that sportsmanship is still alive and kicking as Walsall’s Troy Deeley also proffered the hand of congratulation.

The home side recovered their composure and went on to dominate, in terms of possession, the opening half. Prior to Jackson’s 44th minute chance, teenager Jack Payne three times had shots on goal, two of which were on target but easily gathered by Ince.

Gillingham started the second half brightly and in a move remarkably similar to their midweek goal at Hartlepool, a Rene Howe cross from the right was met by an angled header from Jackson. Unfortunately the similarity ends there as the striker’s contact was nowhere near as good this time around and the chance went begging.

The home side had the ball in the net with 20 minutes remaining but the play had already been brought back by referee Deadman for a challenge by Jamie Vincent on Mark Bentley. It was a poor decision from the official who booked the defender mainly to cover his own embarrassment.

The glorious chance that fell Simeon Jackson’s way was almost their last as Walsall smothered most of what the home side managed to put before them. Bentley saw one final chance following a Andy Barcham cross turned away for a corner by Vincent.

A week ago a point was seen as one earned against a more robust Colchester side, but today’s will been seen by most as two frustratingly lost.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Gillingham 0 Colchester United 0

Match 41/09/793 - Saturday, 23rd January 2010 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Colchester United (0) 0
Att. 4,948

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,085

Match Report

This has been a tough week at Priestfield Stadium. A poor second half last Saturday at Swindon was followed by a FA Cup exit at League Two side Accrington Stanley with a performance described by those that braved the trip as characterless, spineless, gutless and a few other less printable adjectives.

From the chairman, through the manager and players to the humble supporter there has been much soul searching that has led to criticism from all quarters, none less than Paul Scally himself. A response was needed and credit to the chairman who backed his manager to the tune of three new loan players who were all drafted straight into the starting line-up.

In his after match interview, Mark Stimson was full of praise for his team, but what would the paying public make of this performance, could they see beyond the fact that this was a turgid game with very little in the way of entertainment from either side?

Colchester United are not a team that are built to be easy on the eye. They are a huge lump of a side with a battering ram of a strike force in the shape of Kayode Odejayi and Clive Platt, but their fourth place standing confirms their effectiveness. They also came to Priestfield with something to prove having shipped 12 goals in their last two games.

Darren Dennehy, loan signing from Cardiff City, can be taken as the first of the positives. He sometimes looked less than assured on the ball, but alongside Josh Gowling, manfully stood up to the challenge that was presented by the physical presence of the Colchester front two.

Five changes in total were made from the side humbled at Accrington with youngsters Jack Payne coming into midfield and Tom Wynter moving across from central defence to take on the left back position vacated by Chris Palmer and hereby is another plus. Wynter looked comfortable and his delivery was a good deal better than that offered by Palmer of late.

It was Wynter’s ball over the top that freed Simeon Jackson for an early opportunity that the striker lobbed wide. From an attacking viewpoint (and that goes for both sides) it was as good as it got in a first half that was dull, dull, dull.

New loan signings, Rene Howe from Peterborough and Tristan Plummer from Bristol City had very limited opportunities to impress as the game sleepwalked its way to the break. Plummer was played on the left in the opening 45, didn’t have a great half, but improved in the 15 second half minutes that he was on the pitch having been switched to the right hand side. Howe, on the other hand, did very well in the second half. He showed a good touch, held the ball up well and, given time, he could forge a fruitful understanding with Jackson.

Two big moments in the second half could have won the game for either side. On the hour Howe released Andy Barcham, whose cross from the byeline narrowly evaded everybody and in the final five minutes Alan Julian was forced into his first meaningful save when he pushed a Kevin Lisbie header onto the bar.

There were a few boos at the end, but they were fairly muted. Perhaps a sense of pragmatism has pervaded Priestfield. We are in a fight to stay in this Division and a point at home against a top four side is not to be sniffed at. The commitment, so sadly lacking at Swindon and Accrington, was evident and more of the same needs to be taken into the away fixtures, beginning on Tuesday at Hartlepool.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Swindon Town 3 Gillingham 1

Match 40/09/792 - Saturday, 16th January 2010 - League One

Swindon Town (1) 3 Austin 37, Cuthbertson 51, Paynter (pen) 73
Gillingham (0) 1 Palmer 87
Att. 6,773

Entrance: £22
Programme: £3
Mileage: 268/5,040

Match Report

Winter loosened its icy grip on the nation and a superb effort from the Swindon Town ground staff allowed Gillingham to contest their first game of 2010 on a much better than expected surface at the County Ground.

Sadly, the new year brought more of the same in terms of away performance as the visitors slumped to their 11th league defeat on the road out of 13. Keeping faith with the formation that earned only their second away point at Exeter over the Christmas period, Mark Stimson chose to leave fit again Curtis Weston and Febian Brandy on the bench.

Undone by a neat turn and strike, albeit with the aid of poor marking, from Charlie Austin, Gillingham probably felt hard-done-by to enter the break a goal in arrears. They had enjoyed their share of possession and created a couple of reasonable half chances. As early as the fourth minute Simeon Jackson shot wide and also hit a post on the half hour. Moments before half time a stabbed effort from Stuart Lewis rolled agonisingly wide as the visitors failed to gain half time parity.

Expectations that may have been raised by an evenly contested first half were quickly dashed as the home side went further ahead in the 51st minute. A corner from the left, taken by Jon-Paul McGovern travelled a long way to beyond the back post where it was met by a looping header from Scott Cuthbertson that crept in at the far stick. As with the opening goal, questions have to be asked of the defence as the Swindon full back had oceans of space in which to pick his spot.

The home side were now buoyant and dominating proceedings. Off the pitch, the vocal element of the Gillingham support, which had spent the vast majority of their efforts baiting the home support rather than supporting their own, now turned on their team and manager. Febian Brandy’s introduction was greeted with rousing cheers as much for the substitution of Kevin Maher as the diminutive striker’s entrance and Curtis Weston entered the fray at the expense of one of Gillingham’s better performers, Stuart Lewis.

Brandy brought about a upsurge in the tempo drawing a couple of fouls from defenders harassed by his pace and trickery, but, in truth, the goalkeeper was not being tested with only an off target effort by Rashid Yussuff deserving of his attention.

Swindon put the game beyond the reach of the visitors when a foul by Mark Bentley on Vincent Pericard allowed Billy Paynter to seal the game from the penalty spot. At this point the depressing scoreline and the woeful second half performance had this particular blogger eyeing the exit. Even those thoughts were brought to a close with a stadium announcement that Gillingham fans were to be kept behind after the game.

Why this age-old hostility continues to inconvenience the law-abiding citizens of both clubs when the vast majority of the protagonists were merely a twinkle in their father’s eyes in the days of Ray McHale and Ken Price is beyond me. But I suppose I have them to thank for keeping me in my position to see Chris Palmer’s well struck consolation from the edge of the box to score his first goal for the Gills.

The County Ground is a functional but tired looking stadium. The visiting support of around 450 was housed in a corner of the Arkells Stand which was a blessing as, despite the upturn in the weather, the open to the elements seating behind the goal looked particularly uninviting, much the same as, errrr, the Brian Moore Stand. Opposite the Arkells is a modern stand taking the name of Swindon legend Don Rogers. Being a football stadium traditionalist it was nice to see the old fashioned floodlight pylons remain, but whether it was an optical illusion or fact, they didn’t appear to be pointing in the direction of the pitch, more so down the touchlines and the front rows of the stands and I have to say that the illumination of the pitch seemed to confirm my viewpoint.

Sadly the light at the end of Gillingham’s away day tunnel is just as dim.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Hastings United 5 Tonbridge 1

Match 39/09/791 - Saturday, 2nd January 2010 - Ryman Premier

Hastings United (1) 5 Eldridge 42, Ray 52, Phillips 61,89, Adams 85
Tonbridge (0) 1 Cade 75
Att. 720

Entrance: £9
Programme: £2
Mileage: 264/4,752

Match Report

The observant among you will notice that 264 miles have been registered on the mileage clock for a journey that is in fact a mere 49 mile round trip.

Today was FA Cup Third Round day and at 8 o’clock we set out for Gillingham’s tie at Accrington Stanley. We had known for the past five days that the weather was going to pose a real problem for the game going ahead on schedule. Overnight temperatures in the north-west had been as low as minus 6degC since New Year’s Eve when the pitch was covered to combat the frost.

On Friday a local referee deemed that the pitch was playable at that particular time but a further inspection was planned for 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, unfortunately too late for any delay in departure. So we hatched a plan that would at least minimise the travelling should we have to abort the journey.

We gently made our way to Oxford Services on the M40 arriving at around the time the referee was making his inspection at Accrington and over a cup of tea we waited his decision. Sadly, as Bonnie Tyler once sang, Turn Around. As it turned out it was not the frost that beat the ground staff but a heavy fall of snow that began just as we were leaving home.

Meanwhile, Tonbridge’s game at Hastings United had survived its own pitch inspection and off we trundled down to the Pilot Field to salvage something from the day. Our reward for our earnest endeavours was a truly horror show from Tonbridge.

My brother who has seen Tonbridge play about three times in his life, and each time has managed to witness a horrendous display, once again was true to form as a decent Hastings side took Tonbridge apart in the second half.

For the majority of the first half it was an evenly contested contest on a pitch that was snow covered on the grandstand side. Hastings eventually took the lead three minutes before half time when ex-Angel, Ade Olorunda was allowed to run into the box without a meaningful challenge. When a tackle was finally made the ball rebounded kindly into the path of the impressive Russell Eldridge, who made no mistake from 12 yards.

When Sean Ray, a burly centre half and a Hastings legend, powered in a 52nd minute header from a corner the towel was well and truly thrown in by the visitors. Another ex-Angel, Michael Phillips provided the finish to a fine move for a third as the home side began to run riot.

A possible way back into the contest for Tonbridge was offered by Jamie Cade as the substitute pulled a goal back but it was a short-lived respite for the Tonbridge faithful. Five minutes from time, and like a knife through butter, Sam Adams was on the end of a move to seal the game conclusively.

The cold, the length of the day and the sheer woefulness of Tonbridge spelt enough is enough and as we headed back to the warmth of the car the cheers signalled yet another Hastings goal and further questioned our sanity.