Saturday, 30 July 2011

Tonbridge 5 Gillingham 2

Match 03/11/890 - Thursday, 21 July 2011 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (2) 5 Collin 22,79 (pen) Kinch 40, Main 87, Parter (o.g.) 90
Gillingham (2) 2 Rance 19, Davies 32
Att. 448

Entrance: Senior Citizen £5
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 26/108

Match Report

In the 35 years that I’ve supported both clubs there has never been a pre-season friendly between them, but there have been two Kent Senior Cup ties (one win apiece) in that period, the last in 1997.

So this was a game keenly anticipated by myself, and much to the Binman’s chagrin, I was supporting Tonbridge on the night, longevity of support the governing factor.

For the home side there was the opportunity to put their calamitous start to pre-season behind them, but for Gillingham, who brought a side made up of youngsters and triallists, nothing more than those players making an impression on the manager.

The end result was a confidence-building win for Tonbridge with nobody emerging with honours from the visiting ranks.

Daren Hawkes, in the Gillingham goal, effectively their number two keeper until such times as a more experienced signing is made, had a particularly difficult night. He found himself in no-man’s land early on and was saved by a poor finish and after Gillingham had taken the lead through a splendid Dean Rance finish from 25 yards, he chased from his goal line to the edge of the box, only to be beaten to the ball by ex-Gill Frannie Collin, who coolly lobbed the errant keeper.

Barry Fuller, the one first-teamer on display searching for match fitness, struck a 32nd minute free kick that rebounded from the underside of the bar allowing Callum Davies to head home from a yard to give Gillingham a 2-1 lead before a well constructed move ended with Scott Kinch heading in from close range to level the proceedings at half time.

The second half was also an even contest until Tonbridge benefited from an uncharitable refereeing decision with ten minutes remaining. Hawkes made another hash of collecting a cross and when Alwyne Jones’ shot was handled on the line by Davies, the young defender was shown the red card as the official exercised the letter of the law. It was a friendly, for Christ’s sake!

Collin smashed home the penalty and Tonbridge then ran riot for the final ten minutes. Jon Main delighted the 442 attendance with his first goal on his return to the club, a glancing header and Gills misery was complete when Jack Parter deflected the ball past the hapless Hawkes for a fifth.

There have not been many times I’ve gone home happy at a Gillingham defeat, but it was morale boosting for Tommy Warrilow’s side to bounce back after their Brentford trauma.

Tonbridge 0 Brentford 10

Match 02/11/889 - Saturday, 16 July 2011 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Brentford (4) 10 McDonald 20, 29, 31, 44, Alexander 52 55, 80 (pen), Hacker 81, 90, Spillane 88
Att. 420

Entrance: Senior Citizen £5
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 26/82

Match Report

Continuing our summer catch-up we move on to Tonbridge where the main news of the summer was the Main news, that of the return of Jon Main to the club. There had been whispers that it might happen but personally I thought this was no more than wishful thinking by a few fantasists. But on Thursday, 9th June, a daily visit to the Tonbridge Forum left me open-mouthed . . . a post indicating that a trip to the official site might be worthwhile, the Legend had returned.

Two further ex-Angels have returned to the club for their debutant season in Conference South, Anthony Storey and Tim Olorunda with Ben Andrews also arriving from Horsham.

The visit of Brentford for the first of Tonbridge’s pre-season friendlies became greatly anticipated, but ended with sheer bewilderment as the home side was crushed by a virtual cricket score.

Brentford were quality, even though they were playing a side three divisions lower than themselves, I will be surprised if they are not in the shake-up for promotion from League One in the coming season. They had strikers clinical in the execution of their trade in Charlie McDonald and Gary Alexander and they had a new signing, Clayton Donaldson, who scored 28 goals for Crewe last term, who failed to get onto the score sheet. Mind you, he was instrumental in just about everything else.

Tonbridge just about held their own for the opening 20 minutes before McDonald tucked home the first from close range and then with goals in the 29th, 31st and 44th minute added to his total to leave the half time score at Tonbridge 0 McDonald 4. Thankfully, new Brentford manager Uwe Rosler had seen enough of the ex-Ebbsfleet striker and withdrew him at half time.

Not that it gave the Angels any respite. On came Gary Alexander and he helped himself to a hat trick with goals five, six and seven. Brentford showed no mercy and the goals continued to flow and even when they had reached double figures they were still looking for more.

Sadly for Tonbridge it was a friendly that had came far too early. Their visitors had been away for a training camp in Norway and were three weeks into pre-season training. It was at least a compliment to the club that Brentford brought their full-strength squad to Longmead.

So a rude awakening for Tonbridge and their supporters who might have thought that all they needed was the Main news.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Dartford 2 Gillingham 5

Match 01/11/888 - Friday, 15 July 2011 - Pre-Season Friendly

Dartford (2) 2 Pallen 20, 26
Gillingham (2) 5 Oli 34, Whelpdale 44, Montrose 60, Rooney 74, 89
Att. 1,010

Entrance: Senior Citizen £6
Programme: £2
Mileage: 56/56

Match Report

Time constraints have left an end of season and pre-season reviews hard to do, so some of the column inches in the pre-season fixtures will be devoted to where we find our clubs following the summer sojourn.

For long periods during the close season we were left wondering and worrying what sort of Gillingham team we would be watching come 6th August. Eight players had been shown the door in May and precious little was arriving. There were plenty of rumours, of which some turned out to be fact, but we had to wait until 1st July when it was announced that six signings had already been made. In from Dover came goalkeeper Ross Flitney and full back Matt Fish, Andy Frampton, a defender late of Millwall, midfielder Lewis Montrose arrived from Wycombe, former loanee Chris Whelpdale from Peterborough and striker Danny Kedwell from AFC Wimbledon. There were further reports that the partnership that had kick-started last season would be reinstated with Charlie Lee also arriving from Peterborough and it had been persistently rumoured that 45-goal Dover striker Adam Birchall would eventually become Gillingham’s man; in the coming days both were signed.

Credit has to go to the Chairman for the investment. Lee, Whelpdale, Kedwell and Birchall all commanded undisclosed fees and in the case of the two strikers, no small amounts of money were supposedly involved.

The match at Dartford was Gillingham’s fifth in a somewhat bloated pre-season schedule of 13 matches. My own belated entry into pre-season came a fortnight after the initial friendly at newly-reformed Ashford United that had been postponed from a Saturday to an unhelpful Wednesday.

Most of the new signings had been given run-outs at Ashford, Bromley, Erith and Ramsgate. At Dartford there were first appearances for Frampton and Birchall.

Dartford had little respect for their neighbour’s League status and raced to a two goal lead within the first 25 minutes. Jack Pallen converted a close range header from an unmarked position to open the scoring on 20 minutes and doubled the advantage five minutes later after Flitney’s attempted clearance had been charged down by Lee Burns, leaving Pallen an open net to score from the edge of the box. It was poor keeping from Flitney but he partially atoned himself with an outstretched leg to stop Pallen from completely a hat-trick within half-an-hour. Sadly for Dartford supporters, Pallen then limped out of the game on 33 minutes and Gillingham immediately responded with a headed goal from Dennis Oli to reduce the arrears.

Gillingham levelled the score before half-time when Whelpdale chipped Darts’ keeper Andrew Young who got his hands to the ball but could not prevent it from crossing the line.
Gillingham dominated the second half with Luke Rooney stealing the show. Adam Birchall came on for his first 45 minutes in a Gills shirt and on the hour his superb pass sent Montrose through on goal, who converted with a precise finish.

Rooney cut in from the left to drive a low shot into the bottom left corner on 74 minutes and with a couple of minutes remaining crashed in the best goal of the game, blasting past Young into the top corner following a lay-off from Stefan Payne.

First half defensive frailties would have been noted and Rooney’s fifth pre-season goal marked up as a positive in the build up to the season’s opener at Priestfield against Cheltenham Town.

For my own records last season's figures end up as:
Lifetime matches total: 2,136
Number of grounds: 240