Sunday, 25 September 2011

Gillingham 3 Burton Albion 1

Match 19/11/906 - Saturday, 24 September 2011 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 3 Kedwell 20, 50 Nouble 49
Burton Albion (1) 1 Kee 40
Att. 4,946

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/1,291

Match Report

As I sat comfortably in my armchair, content with Gillingham’s afternoon victory against Burton Albion, I was ready for the Saturday night dose of Premiership highlights on Match of the Day. First up was Stoke City v Manchester United and this prompted me to recall previous visits to the Britannia and to their previous domicile at the Victoria Ground. As a visiting supporter, Stoke is not for the faint-hearted and when they launch into their pre-match anthem of Delilah the noise is impressive and when they get to the mocking laughter it becomes really quite sinister.

My point of this diversion is that the crowd at the Britannia always appear to be at one. Stoke City have a style of play that is not pleasing on the eye, giving the advocates of the beautiful game plenty to chew on and, socially, watch an episode of Homes under the Hammer and it is likely that the wreck of a property that has just been auctioned for about ten grand would have come from a back-to-back street of the Potteries. But when Saturday comes they take their places and roar on their club and celebrate a one-all draw against the Champions as if they have won the Champions League. Now in fairness, I have never taken a seat at Stoke City among the home support, so perhaps my assertion that they are all for one, one for all is ill-founded, but, and finally we get to the point of this dialogue, they don’t seem to suffer from the moaning minnies that irritate the eardrums on a fortnightly basis at Priestfield.

Sitting in the Gordon Road Stand, affectionately known as the Coffin Dodgers, it is not solely the preserve of the Senior Citizen to become Grumpy Old Men for the duration of a football match. We have the man who will be waiting at least another 20 years before his draws his first pension payment who starts his berating of the linesman before a ball is kicked. Then there is another less than senior who appears to believe that if the home side are not a goal to the good within the first 20 minutes then Hessenthaler should start making substitutions and if he doesn’t then he should quit right that very minute. And so it goes on, I glance a look at some of these men (women are either more forgiving or a bit more savvy) and I would estimate that they have played or watched the game for about 30 years and what have they learnt, seemingly nothing. This is my experience from the GRS, but I understand that it is not a lot different wherever you take your seat at Priestfield.

Over the past couple of home games, Gillingham have given their detractors plenty of ammunition with below par performances that have ended in a chorus of boos and cat calls. Last week’s record victory at Hereford offered hope that with the four game run halted an afternoon of encouragement could be envisaged. New loan signing, Frank Nouble from West Ham, was making his home debut, giving the vast majority their first look this season at a Gillingham side playing with two recognised strikers.

Burton Albion, sitting in fourth place at kick off, started the brighter and carved out chances for Jacques Maghoma, Jimmy Phillips and Justin Richards in the first ten minute. Fortunately, none of them had their eye for goal honed and each opportunity was hopelessly wasted, but it was more than enough to get the home support a little on the edgy side.

The grumbles were replaced with cheers on 20 minutes when a beautifully delivered free kick from Danny Jackman found the head of Danny Kedwell, whose header was steered into the net for his first Gillingham goal from open play. Gillingham now entered a period of play when they were well in the ascendency with Jackman pulling most of the strings and Luke Rooney enjoying one of his livewire performances.

Burton, somewhat against the run of play, equalised in the 40th minute. A shot from Justin Richards looped up after an attempted block by Garry Richards and the lively Billy Kee was on hand to nod past Ross Flitney for half time parity.

If the half time murmurs had grown to grumbles then they were quietened by a full-on assault on the visitors’ goal in the first five minutes of the second half. Within seconds of the restart, Chris Whelpdale’s strike from the edge of the box was touched over by the keeper, Ross Atkins, and after four minutes of the half Gillingham regained their lead. Jackman was once again the instigator as his cross was headed against the bar by Garry Richards, the rebound seemed to be begged to be hit home by somebody before Nouble duly obliged to stab the ball over the line.

There was no time for the cheers to die before the Coffin Dodgers were on their feet again to celebrate a third Gillingham goal. Matt Fish, debuting in place of the injured Barry Fuller, played in Jackman, whose low cross was tucked in at the far post by Kedwell. No time for grumbling now!

Burton were now being run ragged and when Aaron Webster brought down Kedwell on the hour it earned a second booking and a walk to the tunnel. Ten minutes later Ryan Austin brought down Charlie Lee, also meriting a second booking, setting the scene for the home side to make hay while the sun shone. Unfortunately they didn’t take advantage of the situation and subsequently, despite the comfortable lead, the grumbling began once again. By the finish it would have been difficult for an alien to decipher from the crowd’s mood which side had won, which is pretty sad.

Perhaps we just haven’t the passion in Kent that they possess in Stoke-on-Trent, although away support for the Gills would suggest otherwise, but I have to accept that payment of an entrance fee is an entitlement to voice your pleasure or displeasure as that person sees fit, I just wish that sometimes it would be a tad more positive.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Tonbridge 3 Salisbury City 1

Match 18/11/905 - Saturday, 17 September 2011 - Conference South

Tonbridge (2) 3 Collin 26 (pen), 36 Browning 90+3
Salisbury City (1) 1 Giles 79
Att. 511

Entrance: £6 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/1,246

Match Report

Its 25 years since Greavsie muttered the words “It’s a funny old game, Saint”, the expression is still frequently used and the old guy had it right, it was and continues to be a funny old game. There are good reasons why only the lucky few ever won big on the football pools, as long as the game is honest it is so hard to predict.

Take last Saturday, Tonbridge visited Thurrock, the two worst defences in Conference South going head to head, goals aplenty to come, none of it, it was somewhat inevitable that a goalless draw would ensue, it did. On Tuesday night at Southend, Gillingham had 15 shots at goal, failed to score and completed a fourth game without a goal from open play, today they took their goal shy attack to Hereford with a new strike partner for Danny Kedwell in Frank Nouble and the result was far less predictable.

Tonbridge welcomed their visitors, Salisbury City to Longmead following successive heavy defeats at Longmead, conceding six against Woking and another five from Farnborough. Salisbury are another full-time outfit and, in truth, I feared the worst for the Angels, but that’s where we come back to Greavsie and the funny old game.

Tonbridge started brightly but had to survive a couple of major scares before taking the lead on 26 minutes. Dan Fitchett dragged a shot wide after a weak clearance and when Ben Judge made a hash of cutting out a through ball, it looked odds on leading scorer Jake Reid would open the scoring but he pulled his shot wide of the post when through on goal. So a certain amount of luck had been ridden when Ben Adelsbury inexplicably handled a cross from Lewis Taylor to give away a penalty that was duly converted by Frannie Collin.

Ten minutes later a sublime effort from Collin put Tonbridge two goals to the good. Fully 25 yards from goal he spun and cracked a shot the whistled into the top corner, stood and took the acclaim in true Cantona fashion. If it had been in the Premiership, Match of the Day would have shown it half-a-dozen times on Saturday night, Tonbridge fans will have to make do with a YouTube clip.

Salisbury took to the field early for the second half with a couple of substitutions to retrieve the situation in which they found themselves and exerted a considerable amount of pressure during the second half but were found wanting in front of goal on more than one occasion. In between, Collin had a great chance to complete his hat trick and tie up the game but he also wasted the opportunity. 12 minutes remained when the visitors finally found a clinical finish, skipper Chris Giles driving a shot from the edge of the box through a packed penalty area to set up a tense finale.

Whilst Salisbury searched for an equaliser, Tonbridge were exploiting the spaces that were being left behind and eventually in stoppage time, Lee Browning showed great composure to finish a surging run with a rising shot that left the keeper with no chance.

Wholly unpredictable, or just me of little faith, whichever, a great result for the Angels against the odds. Meanwhile at Edgar Street, goal shy Gillingham ran riot with a record away victory of 6-1, it was enough for Greavsie to pop his head back on our screens and utter, “It’s a funny old game, Saint”.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Southend United 1 Gillingham 0

Match 17/11/904 - Tuesday, 13 September 2011 - League Two

Southend United (0) 1 Phillips 87
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 4,598

Entrance: £19
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 132/1,220

Match Report

This is getting really frustrating now. Gillingham’s lack of a strike partner for Danny Kedwell was further highlighted as they tumbled to a single goal defeat to a Southend side that played for the final half-hour with a man short. On the night, 15 shots at goal were registered for the visitors but less than clinical finishing and an inspired performance from Glenn Morris in the Shrimper’s goal consigned Gillingham to a fourth consecutive game without a goal from open play and also increased the games without a win total to four.

On the first chilly evening of the season, Gillingham looked pretty in pink as they paraded their new third choice kit for the first time and in a drab first half the shirts were pretty much the bright spot. Southend struck the bar just after the quarter-hour mark when Blair Sturrock lobbed the ball over the outstretched arms of Ross Flitney, who perhaps got the faintest of touches to direct the ball against the bar. Morris made good parrying saves from Rooney, Martin and Spiller during a first half that was evenly contested.

Three minutes of absolute madness from Bilel Mohsni threatened to turn the game in Gillingham’s favour. The French-Tunisian had already riled the visiting support with his histrionics and tested referee David Phillips patience once too often for a needless foul on Garry Richards. Time to stay out of the referee’s face one would have thought, but Mohsni blocked the tacking of a free kick and the referee dished out the red card. It was probably harsh, and it should not be a sending off offence to be a total twat, but Gillingham fans could not contain their laughter at his departure.

A clash of heads led to Matt Lawrence being substituted with concussion with 15 minutes remaining and this had a bearing on the outcome of the game. Stefan Payne, on as a substitute for Danny Spiller, had a rasping shot beaten away by Morris, who saved everything but caught nothing all night. Three minutes remained when Gillingham’s reorganised defence cracked in an irritatingly straightforward way. A corner from the right was met, unchallenged by Mark Phillips who guided a header home from six yards, it was a terrible goal to concede.

Gillingham piled on the pressure in the remaining time but Morris and his parrying hands were equal to efforts from Rooney and Payne, leaving 550 visiting supporters scratching their heads as to where the next goal, let alone points are going to come from.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Gillingham 1 Accrington Stanley 1

Match 16/11/903 - Wednesday, 10 September 2011 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 1 Rooney 86 (pen)
Accrington Stanley (0) 1 Craney 82
Att. 4,619

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/1,088

Match Report

Early season optimism has evaporated as fast as a small puddle on a hot summer’s day. Two successive defeats left the visit of Accrington Stanley as not exactly critical at this early stage but certainly the opportunity for Gillingham to get their season heading in the right direction again. As the game unfolded the home side will be grateful for small mercies as a penalty saved a point after the visitors had taken an 84th minute lead.

This was a poor game that saw neither goalkeeper really tested. Gillingham opened up brightly and Charlie Lee brought a save from Sean Murdoch but it was a further half hour before the Stanley goal was threatened again. From a Danny Jackman corner, Lee headed goalwards beating Murdoch but seeing his effort cleared from the line by Dean Winnard.

Gillingham keeper, Ross Flitney had been a virtual spectator so it was to his credit that he maintained his concentration to turn a shot from Kevin McIntyre around his post late in the half.

The second half also meandered its way but there were increasing signs that Accrington were gaining in confidence and fancied their chances of a bit of a smash and grab. From a corner, Winnard placed a free header directly into the hands of Flitney and with seven minutes remaining on the clock, Louis Moult wasted a gilt edged chance, steering the ball wide of the post when through on goal.

The reprieve was short-lived however as Ian Craney exchanged passes with Moult and this time the former calmly scored into the bottom left hand corner. The Stanley celebrations in front of the Rainham End went down like a lead balloon as many headed for the exits.

Those that stayed until the bitter end were rewarded with an equaliser with a couple of minutes remaining. Moult, who had a mixed, but always involved 25 minutes on the pitch, needlessly brought down Danny Kedwell on the corner of the box leaving the referee with little choice but to award the spot kick. Kedwell was injured in the process and unable to take the penalty leaving Luke Rooney to step up and hold his nerve with so little time remaining, his penalty hitting the inside of the right hand post before nestling in the opposite corner.

Sadly, but understandably, the final whistle brought a chorus of boos and an anxiety that Kedwell’s injury could leave Gillingham without a recognised striker for the midweek trip to Southend.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

England 1 Wales 0

Match 15/11/902 - Tuesday, 6 September 2011 - Euro 2012 Qualifying

England (1) 1 Young 35
Wales (0) 0
Att. 77,128

Entrance: £40
Programme: £6.00
Mileage: 100/1,043

Match Report

This has been a difficult time on a personal front following England. My dear friend, John Gilmour, travelling companion to away games with the national team for the past eight years, suffered a heart attack and died on 24 July, he was just 54.

John was everything you would want from a football supporter, intensely loyal, he hardly ever missed a game and a man with the correct sense of values towards his fellow human beings, something that I failed to observe at Wembley on Tuesday night. In fact the happenings of the evening besmirched the memory of that fine man.

I’m not going into the incident, just to say that it shook me to the core. On the way home we heard of the Wales supporter that was killed outside Wembley and it reinforced my opinion that, at this level, football is just not worth the risk.

A visit to Wembley for an England international has long since lost its shine. They are always blighted by drunken behaviour but this has only ever affected us on the periphery; we’ve witnessed acts of thuggery but once again it has not directly involved us, Tuesday night was different.

At present I never want to go to an England game ever again. My first international was with my Dad prior to the 1962 World Cup in Chile against Mexico (an 8-0 victory) when midweek games were played in the afternoon as Wembley had no floodlights. Almost 50 years that has taken in the high of Bobby Moore lifting the World Cup to the Wally with the Brolly, time that will be left behind because of the actions of a thug.

As for the game, Ashley Young scored, Robert Earnshaw missed and England put more than one foot into the door of Euro 2012 and I couldn't care less.

RIP John Gilmour.

Gillingham 0 Shrewsbury Town 1

Match 14/11/901 - Saturday, 3 September 2011 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 0
Shrewsbury Town (0) 1 Wroe (pen) 90+4
Att. 4,869

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/943

Match Report

At 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Jim White stopped shouting and the transfer window slammed shut for another four months. I’m convinced that Sky Sports invented this arbitrary day to enable them to manufacture the situation that took Mikel Arteta to the Emirates and Raul Miereles to Chelsea with seconds to spare. Once Gillingham’s cheeky bid to bring Lionel Messi to Priestfield had collapsed, following a failure to agree personal terms, the whole evening bore no relevance to our club and very little relevance to clubs of our level.

The transfer window does no favours to the lower division clubs. It negates their capacity to trade when their financial health dictate and when the window is open then the buying clubs are usually looking for a quick fix that a signing from the fourth division is unlikely to supply. Gillingham supporters would have been looking at who was going where and hoping that perhaps a certain player went nowhere and would be available to the loan market in a week’s time. Unfortunately, Coventry City quashed these hopes.

So it was that Gillingham entered today’s fixture against Shrewsbury Town, with Danny Kedwell continuing to plough a lone furrow at the sharp end of the attack, aiming to put last week’s first defeat of the season at Rotherham behind them. Luke Rooney and Danny Jackman were recalled to the side at the expense of Danny Spiller and Joe Martin.

On a hot afternoon the game boiled down to two penalties. Kedwell had his first half spot kick saved by Ben Smith whilst Nicky Wroe twice converted his injury time winning penalty.

Ross Flitney made several fine saves during the game, the first of which came on 20 minutes when he dived to his right and pushed to ball away but only into the path of one-time Gills target Marvin Morgan, who blazed his shot over the bar from six yards from an unchallenged position. Shortly afterwards Rooney, who had a bright opening period, was brought down in the box to give Kedwell the opportunity to fire the home side in front from the spot. But his shot was too close to the keeper who got down to comfortably save.

Into the second half and Shrewsbury started asking the majority of the questions. Chances kept falling Morgan’s way and he continued to miss them, albeit in the back of another decent Flitney save. It was well into stoppage time when Terry Gornell sent Sean McAllister through and into the box; Flitney raced from his line but was beaten to the ball and sent the midfielder sprawling to the ground leaving the referee little choice but to award the penalty. Nicky Wroe was asked to take the spot kick a second time following encroachment for the first, but each time he drove the ball firmly to Flitney’s right and into the net in front of a despondent Rainham End.

So the loan window opens on Wednesday, Jim White will not be shouting and, to be fair, the vast majority of the dealings done in the lower Divisions won’t be worth shouting about. The majority inside Priestfield on Saturday will know that just one line on the ticker at the bottom on the screen will say all that is needed.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Tonbridge 3 Woking 6

Match 13/11/900 - Monday, 29 August 2011 - BSq Conference South

Tonbridge (1) 3 Collin 37 (pen),90 Andrews 75
Woking (3) 6 King 2 (pen), McNerney 17, Ademola 39, Hammond 77,
Gray 85,87

Att. 922

Entrance: £6 Senior Citizen
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/898

Match Report

It was always suspected that during this first-ever season of Conference football, somewhere, along the way, Tonbridge were going to pick up the odd pasting. I had deep misgivings that the August Bank Holiday visit of Woking might well prove to be one of them, sadly I was correct.

Ever since the first couple of games when Tonbridge were well beaten at home by a Sutton side that had taken an opening day thrashing from Woking this game took on the mantle of an accident waiting to happen. Saturday’s encouraging goalless draw at Dover offered some optimism that defensive fragility had been addressed, two minutes of playing time told a different story.

Once the home side had conceded an early penalty, they were on the back foot, chasing the game and mostly chasing a Woking forward line that cut through almost at will. It is disappointing that a positive that can be taken from the game, scoring three times against a side that had previously conceded just one goal in their first five matches, will be lost in the scoreline.

A bumper attendance of 922 watched the horror show unfold. Six goals would suggest that the back line were to blame, but this has to be shared with a midfield that was completely swamped as Mark Ricketts and Jack King dominated whist Paris Cowan-Hall was a box of tricks to which Tonbridge had no answer. Perhaps it is a good indication of the strength of this Woking side that Cowan-Hall was making his first start of the season, until today having been a bench-warmer. Upfront was the experienced pairing of Elvis Hammond, once a £250,000 signing for Leicester City and Moses Ademola who had Football League experience at Brentford.

Cowan-Hall sent a pass through to Ademola, Lee Worgan seemed slightly hesitant from his line and brought down the forward to concede a second minute penalty from which King converted and the tough afternoon was on its way. The visitors hit a post before doubling their advantage on 16 minutes, Worgan parried a shot from Hammond but only into the path of Joe McNerney who wasn’t going to miss from close range.

It was one-way traffic but the home side were offered a route back into the game five minutes before the break when Sonny Miles was pushed in the box and Frannie Collin cooly despatched the resultant penalty. It was imperative that Tonbridge reached the break trailing by just the single goal but that wish lasted a mere minute. The pest that was Cowan-Hall wriggled his way into the box, Worgan parried again but only into the path of Ademola who thumped it home. I make that of the last six goals that Tonbridge had conceded as at half time in this match, Worgan had parried four of them only to see the rebound fall to the eventual goalscorer, unlucky or poor defending?

Any lingering hopes were quickly extinguished in the second half. Chris Henry was unfortunate to pick up a booking for simulation when he clearly appeared to be tripped before Hammond blasted home on 55 minutes to wrap up the match. Credit does go to Tonbridge that they continued to pose problems for the Cards’ defence and with 15 minutes remaining pulled another goal back when Ben Andrews squeezed his header in from a corner. Once again a whimsical ounce of hope was quickly brushed to one side. Wayne Gray, a substitute boasting over 300 Football League appearances, came off the bench to score twice from close range after Cowan-Hall and Dale Binns had shredded Tonbridge’s right hand side.

I have to admit a pressing need to be somewhere else led to a resignation of this match and, by all accounts, Collin’s goal to make it
6-3 was the goal of the game, but I wasn’t there to see it.

There are probably going to be a few more thrashings but Tommy Warrilow and his troops have to set these aside if and when they happen and keep the confidence as high as possible, because as Tonbridge have already proved, there are going to be very few teams quite as potent as Woking and there are plenty more points on offer to secure safety.