Friday, 31 December 2010

Gillingham 3 Port Vale 0

Match 38/10/856 - Tuesday, 28 December 2010 - League Two

Gillingham (2) 3 McDonald 1, 37 Akinfenwa 60
Port Vale (0) 0
Att. 5,364

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/5,985

Match Report

Although I’ve been penning this blog for the past four years it is only recently that I found the stats page that reveals that browsers in several countries have stumbled across this page whether by accident or design. It would be nice to think that the viewers in footballing hotbeds such as Brazil (34 page views), Holland (91 page views) and Germany (173 page views) have found their way in search of football content rather than accidently finding the page whilst looking for an old David Essex film of the same name.

My reason for beginning this review of Gillingham’s Christmas fixture against Port Vale with such details are that far-flung countries of the world may not have realised that a mere four inches of snow in the United Kingdom can bring the country to a standstill and decimate the sporting calendar in the meantime. So to those of you in the United States (an impressive 285 views) that have two feet of the white stuff and still function, this is why there have been no postings since Macclesfield on 11th December. Two home postponements and an away fixture at Aldershot scheduled for Boxing Day fell to the weather as have all Tonbridge’s fixtures in the same period.

So it was with much relief that the freezing temperatures started to relent on Boxing Day and come the 28th December had reached the balmy heights of 4degC. The frost covers at Priestfield Stadium had protected the ground and no inspection was needed for the game to go ahead as scheduled. After a successful three game winning sequence on the road, it was hoped that the lack of action would not curtail the momentum that had been achieved.

There was to be no sign of rustiness as Cody McDonald needed only 40 seconds to fire Gillingham into the lead from just inside the box. Port Vale, who came to Priestfield with an impressive defensive record having only conceded 10 goals in 19 League games, were looking to regain the top spot from the frozen out league leaders, Chesterfield but showed, or were not allowed to show any of the form that took them to the higher reaches of the Division.

The dangerous Marc and Justin Richards partnership were being well marshalled by the ever-improving Josh Gowling, who before his loan move to Lincoln led to my own derision of being one of the worst defenders to pull on a Gillingham shirt, and the ever-reliable Matt Lawrence.

Leading the line was the imposing figure of Adebayo Akinfenwa and the Port Vale back line really had no idea on how to contain him and it came as no surprise that he was involved in the 37th minute goal for McDonald to put the home side two in front. His control and pass to a surging Barry Fuller allowed the Gills skipper to send a pass across the face of the goal to be met by McDonald who scored from close range.

The start of the second half saw the same three characters involved once more which culminated in McDonald hitting a post and Akinfenwa putting the rebound just wide.

Andy Barcham made a welcome return to the line-up as a 54th minute substitute for debut-making Joe Martin who suffered a head wound that required six stitches.

On the hour Akinfenwa got the goal that his performance richly deserved. A long throw from Curtis Weston was met by Lawrence whose shot was parried into the path of the big striker who powered home from the edge of the six yard box to make the game safe for the Gills.

In the closing half-hour Barcham had some encouraging moments that gave hope that the loss of Whelpdale will be counter-acted by the return of the player of the year.

So we go into 2011 with renewed hope that Gillingham will push on into the play-off positions and might still threaten the top three places. To all my readers in far-flung corners of the globe, keep bringing the page to your screens and have a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Macclesfield Town 2 Gillingham 4

Match 37/10/855 - Saturday, 11 December 2010 - League Two

Macclesfield Town (1) 2 Bencheriff 7, Bennett 71
Gillingham (4) 4 Whelpdale 8 Gowling 12 McDonald 19 Akinfenwa 33
Att. 1,507

Entrance: £18
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 504/5,940

Match Report

Gillingham fans for so long endured nothing but heartache on the road, but at Moss Rose, Macclesfield on Saturday when Adebayo Akinfenwa tapped home a fourth goal in less than 25 minutes, those with good memories were able to use a chant long since forgotten, Easy, Easy. Gillingham are now on a run of the more acceptable variety and with it a march up the League table to a position where another win would put the Kent club within touching distance of the play-off places.

In a crazy first half, in which as many gilt-edged chances were missed as the five goals scored, both defences looked suspect from the outset. Gillingham went behind to an early goal from a free kick by Hamza Bencheriff. Kevin Maher had needlessly given away the free kick from which the Algerian scored with a wicked deflection that wrong-footed Alan Julian. Unfortunately the vocal muppets among the travelling support failed to spot the deflection and decided to abuse the Gillingham goalkeeper without reason.

They need not have wasted their breath as the visitors replied within a minute. Charlie Lee’s long throw unforgivably found its way to the left hand side of the box from where his fellow Posh loanee Chris Whelpdale drove the ball into the ground and high into the net with the home keeper Jose Veiga helpless.

Three minutes later Whelpdale produced a sublime piece of skill to turn, leave a couple of defenders in his wake, and cross to the far corner of the box where the unlikely figure of Josh Gowling volleyed home.

Whelpdale was instrumental again in Gillingham’s third goal on 19 minutes. His initial cross found Danny Spiller on the right who picked out Cody McDonald with an inch perfect cross that the striker converted with a close range header. Twenty minutes gone, four goals, two dodgy defences brought visions of Accrington Stanley to mind, but the hope that if seven goals were to be scored this time around it would be by the visitors.

When Gowling shot narrowly wide after 25 minutes, with the Silkmen’s defence once again AWOL, the thought of a high scoring victory strengthened. But two golden chances for the home side also embedded the fear that no amount of goals was actually going to make this game safe for the Gills.

After 33 minutes, some absolutely rubbish defending allowed Akinfenwa to tap home from a yard after his initial header had been parried by the goalkeeper. Safe, none of it, as Macclesfield spurned a couple more chances before the half-time whistle.

The second half was more of a pedestrian nature mainly due to both sets of strikers losing their eye for goal rather than either defence appreciably improving.

Chris Whelpdale was removed from the action on 56 minutes and when, late in the game, Charlie Lee joined his team mate on the bench, the Gillingham faithful had shown their full appreciation for the Posh boys’ contribution in turning Gillingham’s away fortune on its head. Thank-you for your help lads, you are welcome back anytime.

Chances fell to Akinfenwa and McDonald to put the game beyond the reach of the home side before Tyrone Bennett pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining, re-opening the fears that Gillingham’s away resurgence might implode as the home side finished strongly. Julian was forced to claw away a last minute effort from Bennett before referee Keith Hill brought the curtain down on Gillingham’s third successive away win.

Moss Rose is still rather non-league in its make-up, but is quite appealing in the process. The Main Stand that straddles the half-way line is small but perfectly formed and has a classic style not imitated anywhere else in the country. We were housed opposite in the functional Alfred McAlpine Stand that is the usual flat pack design that has none of the endearing features of the Main Stand. The open terrace behind the goal that in the past allowed the visitors standing positions is now only used for large support, so despite around 250 making the trip this was not enough to warrant its use.

A kindly lady pointed us in the direction of a Fish and Chip shop that took us past a genuine Coronation Street, with an old-fashioned road sign identical to that celebrated this week in the opening titles for the past 50 years. Funny, a fortnight ago, it seemed a similar length of time since we last won away.

Everybody appears to be very accommodating at Macclesfield, and that includes their defenders.