Sunday, 28 August 2011

Dover Athletic 0 Tonbridge 0

Match 12/11/899 - Saturday, 27 August 2011 - BSq Conference South

Dover Athletic (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 1,003

Entrance: £9 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 95/872

Match Report

This League continues to confuse me. I was disturbed on Tuesday night by the way that Welling virtually bullied Tonbridge out of the game and expected more of the same at Dover, but this time we came across a side far less physical that virtually allowed their visitors to play their own game.

Who would have thought, given the goalfest that has been Tonbridge’s season so far, that this fixture would end up goalless. But, I’m sure most of the Tonbridge support assembled and probably Tommy Warrilow, would have taken the result on the way in.

Martin Hayes gave a less than gracious Radio Kent interview after the game but when he reflects, he must eventually come to the conclusion that for whatever reason, Tonbridge were well worth their point and were the team that came closest to winning with a Frannie Collin opportunity right at the death.

It was a game of very few goal scoring opportunities, George Purcell and Billy Bricknell had first half shots that failed to trouble Tonbridge keeper, Lee Worgan and Tonbridge entered the half time break thoroughly content with their opening half effort.

The second half saw Tonbridge build on the confidence taken from the opening period and could have had a penalty on the hour when Lee Browning was brought down. In the final 10 minutes Collin had chances to put his former employers to the sword with first a run that left three defenders in his wake before a shot that sailed over and in the last minute of time added on he forced Venezuelan keeper Miguel Ruiz into a great save and we all watched in anguish as his follow up shot was blocked by Nathan Ashton to deny a famous victory for the Angels.

Easy conclusion to make from this game is that Welling might well be the side that are to emerge as the best team in Conference South as they moved to the top of the table with another easy victory today, whilst the likes of Sutton, who were impressive at Longmead, are still looking for consistency.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Welling United 3 Tonbridge 2

Match 11/11/898 - Tuesday, 23 August 2011 - BSq Conference South

Welling United (1) 3 Pires 45, 75 Pugh 70
Tonbridge (2) 2 Collin 6,20
Att. 545

Entrance: £6 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 94/777

Match Report

Despite moving into a two goal lead at Park View Road, Tonbridge were offered another lesson as to the difference between Conference and Ryman football. As the teams lined up for kick off, it was visibly apparent just how big this Welling side were. They were big and they were strong, I don’t subscribe to the viewpoint that Tonbridge were outclassed but I certainly would consider them outmuscled.

Tonbridge were given an early shot across the bows when Lee Clarke put an unchallenged header over the bar from close range after just a couple of minutes. Tonbridge moved into the lead soon after, Frannie Collin won the ball in midfield, moved inside and let fly a shot from 25 yards that sped its way across the damp turf past the outstretched hands of Dan Thomas.

For the remainder of the half the game took the course that would ensue for the entire match. Welling were so much stronger, they overran the Angels in midfield and this put unrelenting pressure on Tonbridge’s back line. Lee Worgan was forced into several saves and Jon Heath cleared from the line after ex-Gillingham striker Andy Pugh had poked the ball goalwards.

Five minutes remained of the half when Tonbridge delivered a real sucker punch. In a rare attack, Ade Olorunda fired in a shot that was parried by Thomas but only into the path of Collin who tucked the ball home from close range. Any Tonbridge supporter present, and plenty of them had made the journey to South London, could hardly have believed their eyes.

Tonbridge needed to see their lead to the break and as the clock had ticked past the minute added time it appeared that they had done so. Unfortunately the referee’s watch didn’t tick as fast as mine and he awarded a free kick on the box following a foul by Anthony Storey. The free kick from Clarke was saved by Worgan but Loick Pires was able to knock in the rebound to send the Wings to the dressing room with renewed vigour.

A second half equaliser was only a matter of time as the home side pressed continuously and it eventually came on 70 minutes when Ben Andrews slipped on the wet turf allowing Pugh a clear run and a cool finish. The Tonbridge resistance was now broken and within five minutes Welling were in front when a Pires header found the bottom corner from a Lou Fazackerley corner. The comeback was complete and it was no more than the Wings deserved.

Tommy Warrilow introduced Jon Main from the bench but he was not allowed to make any impression as Welling continued to the finish with their dominance.

Tonbridge will be stronger, especially in midfield, once Lewis Taylor and Scott Kinch are fit to return (both were involved in the pre-match warm up). It remains to be seen whether the squad that took the club from the Ryman is going to be strong enough for this Division. The quality is almost certainly there, the muscle is not.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Gillingham 3 Plymouth Argyle 0

Match 10/11/897 - Saturday, 20 August 2011 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 3 Kedwell 74, 90 (2 pens), Rooney 86
Plymouth Argyle (0) 0
Att. 5,053

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/683

Match Report

When Paul Scally walked into the old Social Club in the summer of 1995 and told the assembled supporters that he had bought the club out of administration for the princely sum of a quid he etched himself into the history of Gillingham Football Club as its saviour, or so we thought at the time.

In the 16 years that have followed, the Chairman’s popularity has risen and fallen and risen again on a ride resembling that of Blackpool’s Big Dipper. We’ve had the glory years including promotions, Wembley visits, big cup ties and we’ve had the gory years, relegations and debt crises. At present, in my humble opinion, the chairman’s credibility is in positive territory following the investment in new players during the summer and an encouraging start to the new season.

During his tenure, Mr Scally has made a few enemies along the way but in the beginning he was a hero, the man who saved our club, the same cannot be said of the duo at the forefront of a controversial takeover bid at today’s visitors, Plymouth Argyle. Peter Ridsdale, the chairman that led Leeds United to the brink of bankruptcy and Kevin Heaney, the owner of successful non-league club, Truro City are the men at the centre of a bid that has found little favour with the Devon club’s fan base. As the owner of Truro City, Heaney is not allowed to be involved in the actual running of Plymouth Argyle, but should he purchase of the club, he would then sell the footballing side to Ridsdale for £1, but retain the ownership of the stadium and the surrounding land, presumably for development.

And from that brief summary, you should be able to see the similarities between Gillingham’s plight in 1995 and that of Argyle in 2011. There is the purchase for a pound, the ownership of the ground being transferred away from the Football Club and distrust among the fans. Mr Scally has ridden the storm on which Ridsdale and Heaney are endeavouring to embark.

On the field, Plymouth have suffered successive relegations from their Championship status of two years ago, last season’s demise the result of a 10 point penalty for entering administration and players and staff’s morale would have been low following news that their August wages were to be deferred, having not been paid in full since the turn of the year. Add in a 30 year drought with regards to successful visits to Gillingham and it would be understandable if the 315 diehard Pilgrims gathered at the Town End were not exactly blessed with optimism.

In a scrappy first half it was the referee who took centre stage and Charlie Lee the centre of much of the action. The bustling midfielder took a couple of heavy challenges that should have been met with cautions and missed the golden opportunity of the first period when he poked wide after surging into the box.

The early period of the second half was a contest between Matt Lawrence’s head and the charmed life of the Plymouth goal. In the 51st minute, a header from a Danny Spiller corner crashed against the bar and 15 minutes later he steered another header wide from substitute Luke Rooney’s cross.

Gillingham finally took the lead on 74 minutes in a curious manner. Lee crossed and the ball appeared to strike the hand of central defender Danny Gibson before Curtis Weston drove the ball high into the Plymouth net. In the first instance it appeared that the referee had given the goal but his attention was drawn to the linesman who was signalling for a penalty kick. After a long consultation, the goal was chalked off, a penalty awarded and Gibson was shown the red card.

Danny Kedwell was entrusted with the spot kick and he is obviously an old-fashioned penalty taker, putting his foot firmly through the ball to drive past the keeper for his first goal for the club. Kedwell’s celebration indicated the frustration of his wait to open his account. He has been unanimously praised for his energy and work ethic in his role as the lone striker, but the goals on which strikers are judged had refused to come.

Luke Rooney was putting in one of his little cameo performances causing plenty of concern for the visiting defence as well as that irritating bit of petulance that earned him a caution for shirt tugging before scoring with a splendid shot in the last five minutes. Kedwell flicked on for the striker to cut in from the left and score with a rising shot that cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar. His celebration outdid Kedwell’s as he sprinted with Usain Bolt qualities to the halfway line taking the acclaim of the Medway Stand.

Into time added and Plymouth’s day of woe was complete when Lee was brought down inside the box by Simon Walton to allow Kedwell the opportunity to confirm his prowess from 12 yards with another well struck penalty into the bottom right hand corner.

Gillingham’s encouraging start became its best since 1995 and they sit in third place on equal points with the two clubs above them. But for Plymouth, the result is almost immaterial. Their supporters face the prospect that their club might cease to be in the not-too-distant future. I’ve heard the sentence trotted out many times regarding Paul Scally’s takeover of Gillingham: “He may not have been everybody’s cup of tea, but he was the only cup on the table.” Faced with the spectre of Peter Ridsdale, it seems the majority of Argyle supporters would rather go thirsty.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tonbridge 1 Sutton United 4

Match 09/11/896 - Tuesday, 16 August 2011 - BSq Conference South

Tonbridge (0) 1 Collin 85
Sutton United (2) 4 Beautyman 7, Orilonishe 15,79, Riviere 86
Att. 683

Entrance: £6 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/638

Match Report

Reality can bite back and it when it does, it can really hurt.

Sutton United’s heavy defeat at the hands of Woking and the Angels comprehensive win at Maidenhead should not have led to any complacency and on the pitch there was no evidence that it did, but the events of the evening led to a severe wake-up call for one and all.

The Tonbridge back line that had looked assured on Saturday was led a merry dance by Leroy Griffiths, a striker who was completely out of his depth during his spell at Gillingham, and the very impressive Fola Orilonishe, whilst the home front line was easily controlled by Karim El-Salahi and Sam Page, a powerful central defensive pairing.

Tonbridge endured a nightmare start to the game and struggled to gain a foothold from that early period. With just seven minutes on the clock, an under hit back pass from Jon Heath allowed Harry Beautyman a one-on-one with Lee Worgan; the keeper managed to parry at the feet of the Sutton striker but the rebound allowed an open goal to tap into.

After 14 minutes, Griffiths set up Orilonishe, once again Worgan parried the first effort but the ball fell kindly and the Sutton No. 4 was able to score with covering defenders unable to make a challenge. At this point, with Tonbridge being opened up almost at will, a long evening looked as though it would ensue. To a certain extent the home side responded and Jon Main had an attempt that was wide and Ade Olorunda had a goal disallowed for a push, but the whistle had long since sounded.

Just prior to half time the Angels defence once again went to sleep and it took a fine double stop from Worgan to thwart Griffiths and Beautyman’s follow-up was kept out by Sonny Miles. Sutton had looked two yards quicker throughout a one-sided first period.

Tonbridge made a better fist of the second half without imposing much of a threat before 15 minutes from time Sutton made the game safe. Griffiths was once again the provider as his right wing pass found substitute Ramone McCrea, whose shot was parried by Worgan into the path for Orilonshe to tap in front close range. Sympathy has to go to the Tonbridge keeper who managed to get something onto every one of the goals but only managed to find the eventual scorer.

Frannie Collin, on as substitute for Main, scored a consolation goal with eight minutes remaining before Anthony Riviere scored the goal of the match a minute later with a magnificent shot curled into the far corner from 20 yards, this time giving Worgan no chance.

Hopefully an encouraging attendance of 683 will not be too disheartened by this opening Blue Square Conference South fixture and will return in similar numbers in the future, but next time there will be no false illusions as to the task that faces Tommy Warrilow and his troops in the coming weeks.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Maidenhead United 0 Tonbridge 4

Match 08/11/895 - Saturday, 13 August 2011 - BSq Conference South

Maidenehead United (0) 0
Tonbridge (2) 4 Henry 20, Beecroft 37, Main 70 Olorunda 79
Att. 385

Entrance: £6 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 156/612
New Ground: 243

Match Report

It’s not going to be this easy every week.

Tonbridge took their place on opening day of the Blue Square Conference South at a historic venue, York Road, Maidenhead and the 4-0 win would have been beyond the expectations of even their most optimistic of supporters.

Tonbridge fans turned out in force to welcome their club to the relative big time and might easily have accounted for one-third of the 385 attendance. They left probably a bit bewildered that the standard of the opposition was so poor, they should not be fooled, I doubt we will see a worse side than Maidenhead in the coming months.

But that should take nothing away from a thoroughly dominant performance from the Angels. They started brightly, setting the tempo for the whole match. When called upon, the central defenders coped with the little threat offered and when asked, Lee Worgan made a couple of decent saves to preserve their clean sheet. On another day, Jon Main will be the first to admit that his goal tally could easily be have been four as the visitors shredded the home defence almost at will.

Tonbridge took the lead on 20 minutes when the tricky Chris Henry collected a pass from the impressive Anthony Storey and curled a shot into the corner of the net. This was followed in the 37th minute with a second first half goal. Main seized upon a weak back pass and although the dithering Nick Bussey took the sting out of his shot, it did no more than leave Jake Beecroft with a tap into an open net.

Into the second half and Main inexplicably steered a header wide before, in the 65th minute, finishing with the aplomb of a seasoned striker. Latching onto a ball over the top from Jon Heath, the home keeper neither came or stayed at home and the Tonbridge striker lobbed him with ease. The game was completed when Ade Olorunda, who had a superb match leading the line, curled in a shot from the corner of the penalty area to the delight of the fans assembled behind the goal.

Impressive it was, but when Sutton United come visiting on Tuesday evening smarting from a 5-0 home defeat by Woking, thoughts are more likely to be centred on just how good are Woking rather than another easy night for the Angels.

York Road is the oldest football ground in the country, some say the world, with continual use as a football stadium. It is perhaps not quite what we might have expected from a higher level of the pyramid. It is a hotch-potch of enclosures that engendered a certain charm, but also the reality that it is very old and a little tatty. But it will certainly be remembered as the place where the first three points of Conference football were attained.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Gillingham 0

Match 07/11/894 - Tuesday, 9 August 2011 - Carling Cup 1R

Brighton & Hove Albion (0) 1 Barnes 67 (pen)
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 16,295

Entrance: £14.50
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 80/456
New Ground: 242

Match Report

The old green eyed monster is a terrible trait in life and, in general, I don’t suffer from it, but football throws up a whole different set of circumstances than everyday life. All football supporters have clubs they don’t like for various reasons and one of mine is Brighton & Hove Albion. I didn’t much like them before they became tenants at Priestfield but their constant carping during their tenure that they were being ripped off by Gillingham left me hating their very existence, one that our club was instrumental in preserving.

There was something comforting about the Withdean Stadium; it was a poxy place that ideally suited a poxy club. Now they have a shiny new home and one, that as we approached we were quickly reminded by the first Albion supporter we encountered. Seeing our Gillingham colours he remarked, “Now we have a proper stadium”, yes, but you’ve still got a poxy club.

That’s got that off the chest. Yes the Village People Community Stadium is very impressive. Its main three-tiered stand is very pleasing on the eye with its curved roof mimicking the rolling hills in which it is set. The layout behind both goals is rather odd, especially the end where the home fans are sited. The amount of seating in relation to the room available seems limited, but I presume it is an area that can be reconfigured should they find themselves in the Premier League and requiring extra capacity. Likewise the visitors end and the other side, scope for extra seating is apparent.

The obvious downside to Falmer is the (wait for it, that word is coming again!) poxy transport links. No parking at the stadium means a park and ride that is nine miles away. That be said, we were the luckiest parkers in the Amex on Tuesday evening. At 6 p.m. we pulled up at Falmer to ask the way to the Park and Ride, having failed to find the Mill Hill point. A kindly steward took pity on us and allowed, despite the intervention of another steward, to occupy a corner spot at the Station. Lucky, lucky, lucky!

As for the game itself, given the two division difference between the sides, Gillingham performed admirably. There are the same reservations as the opening League game, Danny Kedwell cannot continue infinitum to plough a lone furrow up front and discipline cannot allow for seven bookings to be accumulated in a single match, even allowing for a poor performance from a real homer of a referee. The match was ultimately decided with the latter, Andy Frampton wrongly adjudged to have brought down the home danger man, Will Buckley, to concede the duly converted penalty. Television pictures clearly show that the Gillingham captain played the ball and Buckley fell very easily.

After early chances for Kedwell, the second of which was cleared from the line, Brighton exerted a lot of pressure on the visitors back line, especially poor Barry Fuller who was given a torrid time by Buckley. But they stayed firm with the central defensive partnership of Frampton and Matt Lawrence repelling everything alongside Joe Martin who continued his fine start to the season and it is to the credit of the back four that Ross Flitney barely had a save of note to make.

Gillingham actually enjoyed the better of the second period. Lewis Montrose had a penalty appeal turned down by the rotund Brendan Malone. At the time it didn’t look a penalty, but it was as much a penalty as the one given later. Casper Ankergren was forced to make a decent save from a Montrose header as Gillingham held the balance of play.

Following the 67th minute penalty, duly converted by Ashley Barnes, and into the final ten minutes, Gillingham could be accused of losing their discipline and a reckless challenge from substitute Stefan Payne led to a mass coming together of both sets of players before a frustrating final period when referee Malone blew his whistle and booked Gillingham players almost to distraction.

So, our involvement in the Carling Cup ends with a defeat in the first round but in a heartening manner. One final word for the steward at Falmer Station who said that we could not park there on future occasions, we don’t want to come back to your poxy club anyway.

To my readers who in the past have enjoyed balanced reports, the green-eyed monster is back in its cage and normal service will be resumed at Maidenhead.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Gillingham 1 Cheltenham Town 0

Match 06/11/893 - Saturday, 6 August 2011 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 1 Montrose 26
Cheltenham Town (0) 0
Att. 5,360

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/376

Match Report

A moment of madness from Luke Rooney left Gillingham holding on for their opening day victory at Priestfield this afternoon. The Gillingham youngster lunged into a reckless challenge and was shown a straight red card by a rookie referee who took dog’s abuse for the decision but, in truth, was left with very little option.

Sensing their opportunity to grab a point, the visitors piled forward but a resolute performance from Gillingham’s back line left keeper Ross Flitney with just one comfortable save to make. New skipper Andy Frampton and Matt Lawrence gave towering displays in the centre of the defence and Joe Martin had one of his best games for the club, including a major contribution to the winning goal.

Gillingham’s lack of support for Danny Kedwell is patently obvious to everyone, none more so than Andy Hessenthaler. Kedwell worked tirelessly as the lone striker and it was such a shame that his superb display was not rewarded with a goal when he wasted his one big chance of the game. Rooney’s corner with ten minutes remaining was met with an unchallenged header, but the striker’s effort was well wide.

The first half was pretty much one-way traffic with Cheltenham’s contribution being limited to a series of irritating shoves in the back from James Spencer who tried the patience of the home support and the referee to the absolute limit before he was eventually booked just prior to half time.

Chris Whelpdale reminded Gillingham supporters of his shooting powers that had been displayed during last season’s loan spell with a couple of rasping drives that had whistled over the bar before Gillingham took a deserved lead on 26 minutes. Joe Martin made a surging run from his left back position, his cross found Whelpdale who laid the ball back for Jack Payne to strike. The youngster’s shot was blocked but the rebound fell into the path of Lewis Montrose (pictured) who fired into the bottom corner with a crisp strike.

Gillingham were good value for their half time lead, but their visitors approached the second half with a renewed vigour. Of concern during the second period was the number of free kicks that were conceded close to the penalty area and better sides than Cheltenham are not going to allow Ross Flitney the luxury of not having a save to make from any of them.

Curtis Weston was introduced from the bench to replace Montrose with 20 minutes remaining and for the first time there was a discernable partner for the impressive Kedwell. In the final minute of the 90, Weston brought a good save from Scott Brown, turning his shot around a post. This was an impressive little cameo from Weston that would have caught the manager’s eye and a possible starting position for Tuesday’s Carling Cup tie at Brighton.

Nothing more can really be asked on opening day than to get off to a good start and Gillingham will certainly be glad to have three points on the board having waited the length of August for a win last term.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Hythe Town 2 Tonbridge 2

Match 05/11/892 - Saturday, 30 July 2011 - Pre-Season Friendly

Hythe Town (2) 2 Parkinson 7, Cook 28
Tonbridge (1) 2 Main, 18, 59
Att. 128

Entrance: £7.50
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 78/331
New Ground: 241

Match Report

No pre-season would be complete without a new ground to visit and this year it was a trip down to the East Kent coast for Tonbridge’s fixture at Hythe Town and their Reachfields stadium. A pleasant enough little arena that is dominated by the clubhouse that is not particularly pleasing on the eye but viewing from the balcony is rather good, I’m told. Alongside there is a shallow stand with a limited amount of seating but the rest of the ground is without any terracing or cover.

The match itself was a well-contested affair with a draw a fair reflection of the play. Hythe took an early lead when the Angels defence failed to deal with a long throw, the ball was deflected into the net and the goal was awarded to Tom Parkinson, it looked like an own goal from the sidelines. Jon Main equalized after 18 minutes before Hythe retook the lead on 26 minutes. Once again the home side credit the goal to their own Dave Cook, but the ball was clearly directed into the net via the knee of Tonbridge’s Ben Andrews.

The second half saw the visitors step up the pace and on the hour, Main added his second of the afternoon finishing whilst one-on-one with the keeper.

Hythe should have won the game but for a miss worthy of YouTube fame from Lloyd Blackman, who somehow managed to loft the ball way over the bar from a couple of yards at most.

So the curtain comes down on pre-season as the weather warms itself for the traditional opening day of the season in baking sunshine.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Gillingham 0 Millwall 1

Match 04/11/891 - Saturday, 23 July 2011 - Pre-Season Friendly

Gillingham (0) 0
Millwall (0) 1 McQuoid 90
Att. Estimated 2,500

Entrance: £15
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 45/153

Match Report

Gillingham’s first of three friendlies at Priestfield will be my only pre-season visit as I embark on my annual rant about the admission fee. £15, plus another quid for booking on the internet, is too much for a bloody friendly and I don’t care whether it’s Millwall or Barcelona. OK, so I would happily stump up £15 to watch Lionel Messi strut his stuff on our fields of green, but Darius Henderson . . . do me a favour.

As it turned out it was a passable game of football, Gillingham lost to a last minute goal but gave a display that would lend itself to a certain amount of optimism for the coming season but with the caveat that they were rather toothless failing to force Steve Mildenhall in the Lions goal into a single save of note. The loss of Adam Birchall, whose cruciate injury sustained at Welling will sideline him for the first six months, leaves Danny Kedwell without an obvious partner and sadly it showed.

At times it was quite feisty for pre-season, the aforementioned Henderson and our own Matt Lawrence and Charlie Lee, both ex-Lions, being charitably ticked off by the referee when in regular season a card would certainly have been brandished.

The usual plethora of substitutions at half time contributed to the first two real chances of the game early in the second half both wasted by Millwall’s Hamer Bouazza and Josh McQuoid.

The deadlock was finally broken in the visitors’ favour in the last minute. Gillingham’s central defence weakened by the withdrawal of Lawrence went absent as a free kick from Bouazza found John Marquis in space in the six yard box, to glance a header past the triallist Argentinean keeper, Paulo Gazzaniga.

Gillingham can take positives from the first half performance of new captain Andy Frampton, resolute and very vocal, there is no doubt he will be a fine signing and also the little cameo from Luke Rooney, quiet first half but had a good 15 minutes before being substituted in the second. One suspects Rooney is not the long-term answer as a replacement for Birchall, but could be the immediate solution.