Saturday, 31 July 2010

Gillingham 1 Heart of Midlothian 2

Match 05/10/821 - Thursday, 29th July 2010 - Pre-Season Friendly

Gillingham (0) 1 Rooney 49 (pen)
Heart of Midlothian (0) 2 Novikovas 52, Bouzid 84
Att. 2,359

Entrance: £12.50
Programme: £2
Mileage: 45/231

Match Report

Gillingham acquited themselves well in their marquee friendly against Scottish Premier League Hearts. I cannot remember Gillingham having Scottish opponents before, although when the visitors team sheet was read out they didn't exactly sound celtic. I might be wrong, but I guess Gillingham managed to piggy-back this fixture by virtue of Hearts providing the opposition for Millwall in Neil Harris' testimonial on Saturday.

The home side had the best of the first half, Barcham stretched the Hearts defence on several occasions and might well have earned a penalty when brought down and Stefan Payne had a one-on-one opportunity from which he might have done better. The closest Gillingham got to gaining a first half lead came when Hearts' Darren Barr was forced to clear off his line following a deflection by one of his own players.

The second half started briskly and Payne earned a penalty when brought down by Bouzid. Luke Rooney grabbed the ball and nobody was going to stop him from taking the penalty that he duly converted.

Unfortunately the lead failed to last three minutes. A fine through ball cut open the Gillingham defence and Arvydas Novikovas cooly finished.

With 25 minutes remaining the home fans were treated to their first look at new signing Adebayo Akinfenwa, and a big boy he certainly is. Presently weighing in at a touch over 17 stone, he has to be the fattest outfield player I've ever seen. Not according to Hess though, it is muscle.

His size supplied the hilarious moment of the night, outside of a congested penalty area the ball ran loose to Rooney who shot for goal, only to see it rebound off Akinfenwa's backside, let's face it, it was impossible for Rooney to miss!

Back to the game and Gillingham were denied a draw against their illustrious opponents when Ismael Bouzid powered an unchallenged header past substitute goalkeeper Lance Cronin with just six minutes remaining to the delight of a sizeable Scottish following in the Gordon Road Stand.

A worthwhile run out that gives Andy Hessenthaler plenty of options leading up to the League opener and we will never forget our first sighting of Adebayo!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tonbridge 0 Eastbourne Borough 2

Match 04/10/820 - Saturday, 24th July 2010 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Eastbourne Borough (1) 2 Crabb, N 69, Crabb, M 80
Att. 240

Entrance: £8
Programme: £1
Mileage: 26/186

It might seem somewhat lazy to admit to arriving at Tonbridge for this pre-season friendly by virtue of overlaying for a 2.30 p.m. kick-off at Ebbsfleet, but such is the lot of a night shift worker.

I'm presently composing this posting on a mobile phone due to burglary at home robbing me of both my computers, it really has been one of those weeks.

Conference side Eastbourne Borough ran out fairly comfortable winners but not before the home side had given a good account of themselves for the second successive week against opposition of higher status.

The much travelled Richard Paquette caught the eye in the first half but he was wasteful in front of goal when given a gilt-edged opportunity that Worgan saved comfortably.

The second half was going much the same way as the first until Eastbourne made eight changes after an hour. Ten minutes later, Eastbourne took the lead when Nathan Crabb converted a defence splitting through ball and the game was tied up ten minutes from time when the second of the Crabb brothers, Matt fastened onto a terrible pass across the face of his own goal from teenager Paul Semeluka.

Performances are very encouraging at Longmead, but the worry persists that there is a lack of a cutting edge up front.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Tonbridge 0 Brentford 0

Match 03/10/819 - Saturday, 17th July 2010 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Brentford (0) 0
Att. 486

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/158

Match Report

League One Brentford arrived at Longmead courtesy of Leon Legge’s transfer to the West London side last summer. Legge has emerged as a real success story at Griffin Park, making 33 League appearances in his first season which culminated with the award of player of the year.

Brentford paid Tonbridge the compliment of bringing their first string side which produced a strong end to last season which saw them finishing in the top half of the division. There were some familiar faces amongst them, the Gillingham Judas Nicky Forster, ex-Dartford hitman Charlie MacDonald, while Legge himself made an appearance from the bench as a 66th minute substitute.

Tonbridge can be hugely encouraged by their performance. Such has been the turnaround of players the first half was spent largely trying to work out who was who. This process could be made so much easier if the tannoy announcers were to ditch the bizarre method of reading out the team sheet in alphabetical order.

Tommy Warrilow has made some impressive captures during the close season and all within the playing budget we are assured. I can remember my surprise at Frannie Collin being released by Dover at the end of last season; never did I imagine he would turn up at Tonbridge. Danny Walder and Lee Browning have followed Collin from the Crabble, whilst Jacob Mingle and Jake Beecroft have arrived from clubs of higher status.

Brentford with obvious advantages of quality and superior fitness stretched the home side’s defence to the limit during a fairly one-sided first half. Myles Weston, who gave Gillingham the run around back in February, exercised Walder with a difficult 45 minutes, but credit the full back who stuck to his task especially as it was later revealed that he is recovering from tonsillitis. Seb Barton, standing in for Lee Worgan in goal, was forced to make just a couple of decent saves as Peter Hawkins and Liam Harwood stood firm in the centre of the defence.

Tonbridge made a better fist of the second half in terms of an attacking force and their best chance of the game fell to Harwood who headed over from a Beecroft cross. Charlie MacDonald hit a post for the Bees, but the home side were good value for their creditable draw.

A fairly long pre-season ensures there is plenty of time and matches for this new-look Tonbridge to gel into a side that is going to justify its position among the favourites with the bookies and as a first step this was very encouraging.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Dartford 1 Gillingham 2

Match 02/10/818 - Tuesday, 13th July 2010 - Pre-Season Friendly

Dartford (0) 1 Bonner 88
Gillingham (1) 2 Spiller 3, Palmer 54
Att. 770

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2
Mileage: 56/132

Match Report

This was a more comfortable evening all round for Gillingham at Princes Park, Dartford than their previous two pre-season encounters. Possibly newly-promoted Dartford are finding their feet in comparison to their Blue Square South compatriots Braintree Town and Bromley, but a positive spin would be that Andy Hessenthaler’s squad are also beginning to ease themselves into the new term.

A fair few column inches have been used on the triallist that has arrived with Champions League experience. Small in stature, long flowing ringlets, add a pair of swimming goggles and you have a ringer for Edgar Davids, from a distance at least. Stanley Aborah was only given a 20 minute run-out and a best description of his time on the pitch would be that he looked a little rusty. One cleverly weighted pass that offered another triallist, Sam Gargan, the opportunity to shoot off target was hopefully a foretaste of his ability.

Gone was the blistering heat of Saturday and rain during the day had freshened up the atmosphere. Danny Spiller returned to the starting line-up alongside Stefan Payne making his first appearance in this pre-season.

Spiller made an instant impression, converting a rebound after just three minutes to give Gillingham the lead. Barcham crossed from the left, Spiller climbed well to head for goal, his effort being parried by Dartford’s keeper, Andy Young. But Spiller reacted quickly and scored from the resultant rebound.

Spiller went on to produce a 45 minute performance of high energy and good skill, easily the stand-out performer of the half.

A first look at Stefan Payne was also favourable. A good size for a striker, mobile and was a constant source of concern for Dartford’s central defenders. After 15 minutes Payne had a good opportunity which he spurned tamely, the ball falling for Barry Fuller to drive over the bar.

Dartford rarely troubled Gillingham’s rearguard but on the occasions they did Lance Cronin in goal looked sound and, once again, Tony Sinclair did his hopes of a contract no harm whatsoever with a comfortable display that included a clearance in front of the line with Cronin beaten.

A largely different Gillingham side emerged for the second half. Cronin continued between the sticks, Josh Gowling, Curtis Weston and Dennis Oli extended their pitch time. Triallists Serge Makofo, who once again looked lively and Fola Onebuje starting the period up front.

Dartford produced an early flurry to the second half and Jack Payne was forced to clear off the line before Gillingham extended their lead after 54 minutes. Chris Palmer’s misplaced cross deceived everyone and drifted into the far corner for a fortunate addition to the scoreline.

Luke Rooney continued his all action pre-season and he must be catching Hessenthaler’s eye with his performances. Andy White, on for Oli on the hour had an opportunity that was wasted by a poor touch and Makofo made a surging run that was also spoilt by a disappointing pass.

The game was drifting, as pre-season matches tend to do, when Aborah (pictured) was introduced to add interest to the Gillingham support that made up a fair proportion of the 770 attendance. Despite shipping a late goal, the majority of those supporters will have gone home feeling a bit happier than departing Hayes Lane on Saturday.

Premiership referee Steve Bennett was also indulging in some pre-season work and the official was called into action in the closing seconds when an unseemly scuffle ensued on the touchline following a boot of the ball back into play from Ian Hendon that was ill-directed and a touch too hard. Having seen on Saturday just how firmly Hendon can strike a ball, the exception that Dartford took may have had a point!

Gillingham now head for France for some team bonding and a match against RUFC Calais.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Bromley 2 Gillingham 1

Match 01/10/817 - Saturday, 10th July 2010 - Pre-Season Friendly

Bromley (0) 2 McDonnell 66, Scarborough 73
Gillingham (0) 1 Onibuje 78
Att. TBC

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 76/76

Match Report

This was a stereotypical Pre-Season Friendly. A roasting hot day, a different eleven for each half, a clutch of triallists, one of which even had the press box boys scratching their heads and a Gillingham away defeat.

The thermometer on the car dashboard showed 31degC as I pulled into the Hayes Lane car park for Gillingham’s second friendly in 48 hours following a 2-1 defeat at Braintree on Friday evening.

Nicky Southall and Ian Hendon were putting out the cones and while kicking a ball about Hendon thundered two successive volleys into the net from 20 yards and he’s just the assistant manager were my thoughts. Danny Spiller warmed up with the squad but did not feature and Mark McCammon went through a light session away from the rest.

Bromley’s Hayes Lane pitch looked absolutely perfect, although with the lack of rain it was probably a bit on the firm side.

Andy Hessenthaler began the game with a recognisable first eleven. Triallist Tony Sinclair lined up in centre defence alongside Josh Gowling sporting an almost comical new hairstyle and Andy White, the young summer signing from Reading, took up a position on the left side of midfield.

Gillingham dominated the first half; Luke Rooney was the stand-out player drawing a couple of saves from Bromley’s Craig Holloway and was in the thick of most of the visitors attacking intentions. White drifted across the front line and looked comfortable on the ball. In the back line, Sinclair, although lacking in height, was untroubled by Bromley’s strikers. Jack Payne also had an industrious 45 minutes.

A convenient injury mid-way through each half allowed the referee to implement an American-style time-out for the players to take on much needed liquid countering the searing heat.

Alan Julian was forced into just one save before the break, but for all of their possession and Rooney’s efforts the half remained goalless.

Gillingham’s second half eleven included triallists Oliver Kelly, a former Reading academy player; Craig Stone making a return in a Gillingham shirt; Serge Makofo and Fola Onibuje (pictured) making up the front line. Makofo, Congolese, had great pace and proved quite a handful, whilst Onibuje, a Nigerian, was simply huge.

The second half began badly for the visitors and got progressively worse. Connor Essam was caught in possession inside the box and Nic McDonnell made him pay dearly for the mistake with a well taken shot past Julian into the bottom corner, for a 66th minute lead. Shortly after Dean Rance had to be helped from the field following a knock to the ankle to be replaced by Youssef Bourezghi, a triallist that even Wikipedia cannot place.

Three minutes later a corner found defender Jon Scarborough standing in an ocean of space from which he capitalised with a thunderous volley reminiscent of Hendon’s warm-up efforts. Mark Bentley looked questionably at Kelly and Bourezghi regarding their whereabouts at the moment of conversion. Neither went on to redeem themselves greatly and this might well be the first and last we see of the pair in a Gillingham shirt.

A typical jinking Andy Barcham run and cross from the left hand side left the towering Onibuje to head home from close range to halve the deficit and in the last act of the game, Makofo weaved his way into a good shooting position but spoilt his good work with a shot that was smothered by the Bromley keeper.

Successive defeats will not inspire confidence but results pre-season mean nothing. First half passing was crisp and effective, second half defensive howlers were the contributory factors to the defeat. 45 minutes viewing is not enough to rule in or out any of the triallists, but first impressions are that they will not make the grade.

Dartford’s Princes Park sees the next stop on the Pre-Season trail.