Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tonbridge 0 Bromley 3

Match 41/12/994 - Saturday, 29 December 2012 - Conference South

Tonbridge (0) 0
Bromley (2) 3 Jones 12, Rhule 42, Pigott 58
Att. 682

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/3,361

Match Report

Accusing looks are being the made at The Hat. Back in late October, following Gillingham’s 1-0 win at AFC Wimbledon, my old hat got mislaid and since then a series of hats have been used to break a cycle of poor results, but none of them have worked to any great degree. A new hat, a replica of the one lost, was bought for Christmas, but so far, whilst it has warmed the head, it has presided over two defeats without a goal being scored. My old gardening hat managed a win at Rotherham, I think the tatty old bit of headgear is about to earn a recall. Mind you, if the old hat was lost at Wimbledon, picked up and worn by a fan of theirs, then their luck is no better with the Dons slipping to the foot of the table.

The surprise postponement on Friday of Gillingham’s home game against Northampton at least had the compensation of a first look at Tonbridge for the best part of six weeks. Following their Boxing Day win over arch-rivals Dover Athletic, I arrived at Longmead high on optimism for a game against a bottom three side, Bromley. I left thoroughly disappointed following what can only be described as a quite abysmal performance.

Tonbridge did well to get this fixture on and following the Gillingham postponement, I didn’t think this game would have a prayer and was to be the subject of a 10 a.m. pitch inspection, but a strong wind and a temporary cessation of the never-ending deluge rendered even the inspection unnecessary.

It is hard to consider how good Bromley were on the day as Tonbridge were so poor. But impressive performances from Sanchez Ming at right back and their loanee from Charlton, Joe Pigott caught the eye.

It took the home side 87 minutes to stretch Bromley goalkeeper, Joe Welch, into his first diving save of the match and in time added on their clearest shooting opportunity of the match was ballooned over by Henry Muggeridge.

Tonbridge can be thankful that they emerged from this game just the three goals in arrears. Bromley missed a penalty after 17 minutes when the score was 1-0, Danny Waldren’s spot kick saved by Lee Worgan diving to his left and after an hour Pigott rounded Worgan only to see his shot cleared from the line by Ollie Schulz.

After a bright start from both teams with Schulz heading wide for the Angels, Bromley opened the scoring with a swift counter-attack on 12 minutes. A well-crafted passing movement ended with Pigott crossing for Mike Jones to score from close range. The penalty gave the visitors the chance to double their advantage when Gary Elphick handled in the box only for Waldren’s miss to offer Tonbridge a lifeline.

Worgan was a busy man as Bromley continued to carve out chances but Tonbridge should have levelled the score just prior to half time when Mark Lovell tamely headed Danny Walder’s cross into the arms of Welch from an unmarked position just a couple of yards from goal. The miss was to prove costly. A swift break allowed winger Aaron Rhule to cut in from the right and curl a shot into the top corner from 20 yards.

Tonbridge started the second half a lot brighter and had several attempts on the Bromley goal that failed to test Welch to any great degree. The game was over as a contest on 58 minutes when Pigott cut in from the right to plant a well struck shot into the top corner. Quickly following was Pigott’s one-on-one chance to wrap the game up following a woeful back pass from Walder as the visitors began to look capable of inflicting considerable embarrassment on Tommy Warrilow’s men.

As the visitors pushed forward, Tonbridge enjoyed their best period in the game having some joy with counter attacks but the chances were wasted with Welch barely being called into action.

Conference South is a tight division from where Tonbridge’s win against Dover propelled them six places up the table and a defeat next match sends them almost back where they came from. Warrilow’s use of Frannie Collin has to be questionable. The goals have dried up from last year’s Golden Boot winner but the position he is being asked to play is not, and never will, get the best out of him.

So the tatty old gardening hat will satisfy superstition at Dover on New Year’s Day, if Tonbridge can produce a result from that difficult trip, then it is going to see a lot more of the grass at football grounds than in my own back garden.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Gillingham 0 Barnet 1

Match 40/12/993 - Wednesday, 26 December 2012 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Barnet (1) 1 Hyde 19
Att. 7,448

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/3,335

Match Report

When I started That’ll Be The Day it was intended only as a means of recording each football match I attended, result, scorers, attendance, that sort of thing. Thankfully, a few other people liked to read my scribbling and over the six years this has developed into quite a few people, consequently I now feel a sense of responsibility to produce something whatever the quality of the game. But when you have seen a game so devoid of quality, so lacking in passion from the team you support, then it becomes really difficult to find the appropriate words. This blog was never intended as a series of match reports, Fred crossed to Bert, who headed in sort of thing, more a musing of what it is like to follow a club through the good times and bad.

This season, with Gillingham, has been mostly those of good times. Martin Allen has led the club to the top of the table for the last three months and had the long-suffering fan base been offered a two point lead at Christmas back in August then nobody would not complained. So what exactly have we got to moan about?

A Boxing defeat against a Barnet side that has occupied one of the relegation positions for the most part of the season and a side that was comfortably beaten at Underhill back in September begs questions rather than a match report that merely states that the home club was beaten by a Jake Hyde goal after 20 minutes.

Questions about Martin Allen’s team selection; why do Gillingham almost always fail to produce a good performance in front of better than average home attendances and where has the form that took them to the top of the table disappeared?

Refer back to the posting following Gillingham’s FA Cup defeat at Preston North End when I reported that there were a few rumblings of discontent regarding the manager’s rotation policy. Those whisperings haven’t actually reached a crescendo, but reading message boards, listening to people, more and more of the fans do not understand why certain players are being left out of the side. Why is the grossly ineffective Lewis Montrose being chosen in front of Jack Payne; why was Danny Kedwell left on the bench and why is Danny Jackman being completely ignored? Are all three on their way out of the club come the January transfer window?

A first half performance as woeful as the low points of the Stimson and Hessenthaler eras was only improved with a triple substitution on the hour that raised the tempo of Gillingham’s display and brought a subdued crowd to a degree of life. In the middle of the field, Barnet’s Edgar Davids belied his 39 years, he won the ball, he distributed the ball, nothing fancy just effective, exactly what was missing from the Gillingham midfield that was devoid of any of those qualities. Twenty minutes elapsed when a misplaced pass from Romain Vincelot was intercepted by Davids, Jake Hyde strode forward from the pass and, with the Gillingham central defenders backing off, struck a 20 yard shot into the centre of the goal past a stranded Stuart Nelson.

Upfront, nothing was sticking with Deon Burton and Myles Weston, a job that if Kedwell’s goals from open play are questioned, he does well. Weston is not a 90 minute striker, he can make an impact from the bench against tiring defenders or he needs to be played to his strength from the wing.

Further questions towards the original team selection can be raised following the introduction of Payne and Chris Whelpdale into the midfield which stimulated a much-improved, if fruitless, improvement in the last 30 minutes. Gillingham mounted an onslaught on the Barnet goal, but the visitors defended well, if a bit haphazardly at times and goalkeeper Graham Stack was not called upon to make anything other than routine saves. Charlie Allen, a disappointment in midfield, selfishly shot when Adam Birchall was in a much better position and Birchall just failed to get onto the end of a cross close to goal being the closest the home side came to getting an equaliser.

So this was another disappointment in front of a large crowd. In November and December, positive initiatives were made to get more customers through the doors with good results. A Tuesday evening fixture against Exeter City, cheaper tickets managed to get nearly 7,000 through the gate and a gung-ho performance brought defeat and over 8,500 saw a frustrating draw against Fleetwood. The Christmas period managed to entice 7,500 full-paying customers for this fixture, but once more the occasion got the better of the team. Why, I guess there are authoritative figures at the club puzzled by the same question.

Back in early November, Gillingham steam-rollered League One Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup to record their third successive four goal haul at Priestfield, since then form has stuttered and it is mostly due to results elsewhere that their position at the head of the table has been maintained. Suspensions that are just one game away for several players is probably going to mean that a more consistent team selection is not going to happen in the coming games, but with further strengthening promised during the transfer window, it is to be hoped (and desired by many supporters) that the strongest team is identified and largely played in the second half of a season that has promised much and is still in Martin Allen’s own hands to deliver.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1994-95 season.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Maidstone United 2 Worthing 2

Match 39/12/992 - Saturday, 22 December 2012 - Ryman League South

Maidstone United (0) 2 King 69, Olorunda, A. 85
Worthing (1) 2 Brotherton 3, Daniel 55
Att. 1,765

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 18/3,290

Match Report

Maidstone United, or more appropriately their owners, were able to cock a snook at the sceptics of 3G pitches as matches fell by the wayside following a couple of days of sustained rain leading to waterlogged pitches up and down the country.

In Kent, only one other game, at Erith Town, survived the deluge. In my two previous visits this season to the Gallagher, on much drier conditions, I have been impressed by the way the pitch has played with a natural bounce and true surface. Despite the monsoon conditions prior to kick off and the sustained rain during the match, the pitch played exactly the same with absolutely no lying water. Not knowing how these pitches are drained, quite where all the water goes, I’ve no idea, only to say that a walk along the towpath to the ground was interrupted at points where the Medway had broken its banks.

With the game at Erith the only footballing competition for the paying customer, it was inevitable that, despite the distraction of Christmas shopping, a large crowd would be in evidence. As it was, 1,765 was the given attendance, a phenomenal number for a Ryman League South game and the best so far for a competitive game at the Gallagher.

The game itself was a long way short of a classic, but for the supporters of the home club the draw supplied another point towards their championship quest from a two goal deficit. The visitors, Worthing, are edging themselves towards the play-off positions and on the coach back to the Sussex coast, the players and management must have been kicking themselves for allowing the three points to slip from their grasp.

After three minutes, the third of successive corners found its way to the far side of the box, from where Jamie Brotherton found the bottom corner of the net with the aid of a deflection off Gillingham loanee, Alex Brown. Maidstone looked a long way short of a top-of-the-table team throughout a half in which they offered very little in the way of an attacking threat.

Alex Flisher was introduced as a second half substitute and immediately Maidstone’s attacking intentions were increased. But, as the Stones pushed forward, Worthing were continually catching them on the break and ten minutes into the half they doubled their advantage with Matt Daniel converting with an tap-in after Deren Ibrahim had pushed an initial shot onto the underside of the bar. The Rebels had several opportunities to put the game to bed before Stuart King lobbed in from the edge of the box to offer the home side a lifeline with 20 minutes remaining.

Maidstone manager, Jay Saunders, threw caution to the wind in an effort to salvage something from the game and when Ade Olorunda was introduced he had four strikers on the pitch and with five minutes remaining his ambition was rewarded when the ex-Tonbridge striker scored from close range to earn the point.

No winner emerged from the game, but the real winner was the artificial surface that had delivered a game of football where grass up-and-down the land had failed.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Gillingham 2 Fleetwood Town 2

Match 38/12/991 - Saturday, 15 December 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 2 Lee 42, Weston 65
Fleetwood Town (2) 2 Brown 20, Goodall 28
Att. 8,571

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/3,272

Match Report

There was a good deal of head-scratching and a minor moral outrage on the opening day of December when Micky Mellon was relieved of his duties as the manager of Fleetwood Town. The man who had overseen the final couple of stages of the club’s meteoric rise from the North West Counties League to the Football League in seven years was dismissed after a run of three defeats that culminated with a cup exit at the hands of Aldershot. From the outside with the club sitting on the fringes of the play-off places, it looked a knee-jerk decision by chairman Andy Pilley, who has reportedly sunk £10 million into the club to fund their (his) ambition of Football League membership and Mellon’s squad that the new manager, Graham Alexander, has inherited, today gave an accomplished display that further begged questions regarding his sacking.

After last week’s hard-earned three points at Rotherham, Martin Allen fielded an unchanged side. A ticket offer boosted the crowd to 8,571 but there was a subdued atmosphere as the game quietly took shape in the opening 20 minutes. Both sides created a half chance before the Lancashire club took the lead when Junior Brown was unmarked at the far post to convert a cross from David Ball.

Steven Gillespie, whose initial shot had set up the opening goal, was then booked after a bizarre incident with Gillingham goalkeeper, Stuart Nelson, who collected an overhit pass but was then wrestled to the ground by the Cod Army striker with a head lock for no apparent reason.

Gillingham found themselves two goals in arrears on 28 minutes following a goal completely at odds with last week’s well-organised defensive display. A straightforward corner into the box from Barry Goodall was met with a powerful, but unchallenged header, from Alan Goodall from the edge of the six yard box, much to the dismay of the completely sold-out Rainham End.

After a lacklustre opening period, the shock of going two behind at least provoked a positive response from the home side. Romain Vincelot, in the side despite last week’s loss of consciousness at Rotherham, pulled a shot wide before Charlie Lee netted the all-important third goal of the match to halve the deficit. A corner was headed on by Danny Kedwell and Lee swept the ball home from close range to set the comeback in motion.

Martin Allen’s introduction of Myles Weston for the second half in place of Deon Burton completely changed the nature of the game. Gillingham went far more direct than in the previous half and although it wasn’t pretty, it did place Fleetwood under considerable pressure as Weston continually got behind their back four with his pace. Twenty-five minutes remained when Vincelot nodded on Lee’s long throw and Weston tucked home from just a couple of yards to level the score.

With the big crowd now finding their voice, there were nervous reminders of the gung-ho nature of the last home game against Exeter and when keeper Nelson was robbed of the ball by Gillespie, who rolled a shot towards an open goal wide, thoughts of preservation of the point gained were uppermost in the mind.

Gillingham exerted considerable pressure in the remaining 20 minutes but Fleetwood expertly extinguished the momentum generated by the comeback leaving the draw as a result that could be interpreted as a point earned by either club.

Micky Mellon will enter the Christmas period as an unemployed football club manager and, on today’s viewing of the first-ever meeting between these two clubs, that seems more than a little unfair.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1984-85 season.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Rotherham United 1 Gillingham 2

Match 37/12/990 - Saturday, 8 December 2012 - League Two

Rotherham United (0) 1 Taylor 69
Gillingham (1) 2 Burton 10,57
Att. 8,029

Entrance: £13 Senior
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 428/3,227
New Ground: 252

Match Report

They love a pie in South Yorkshire and in Rotherham, the home of the Pukka Pie, stood on the touchline the ever-expanding waistline of the loathsome Steve Evans appeared to be testament of the consumption of a truck of load of the savouries since his departure from the quiche of Crawley.

Pukka was the watchword of a Gillingham performance that required, and got, pukka resilience, pukka strength from pukka men who stood up and were counted when the going got tough, and boy, did it get tough.

The reaction of Martin Allen and the colossal Adam Barrett at the final whistle as they ran the length and breadth of the field to celebrate in front of a travelling army who had more than played their part in this magnificent rear guard action. Gillingham needed to be immense, Gillingham were immense.

In a smash and grab of three points, Deon Burton, the subject of hostility from the home support with reference to his acrimonious departure to arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday back in 2006, was the ace predator taking maximum advantage of the couple of chances that came his way.

A second half blow to the head for Romain Vincelot extended the half for 11 agonising minutes that was further lengthened by a couple more before referee Andy Haines brought an end to proceedings to ensure a jubilant celebration for the fans who recognised the battling performance that had been put before them and revelled in the fact that one had been put over the fat Scotsman.

Jack Payne was among the changes made and the team had a look of the side that knew that a battle was about to ensue. Ten minutes of a one-sided assault on the visitors’ goal had elapsed when Gillingham won a throw on the right hand touchline. Charlie Lee sent his trade mark long throw into the Millers’ penalty area, Danny Kedwell headed on and Burton was able to tuck the ball home from close range in virtually Gills’ first attack.

The home side responded and Stuart Nelson was forced to parry away a shot from Michael O’Connor with Matt Fish shepherding the ball to safety and on 23 minutes Daniel Nardiello threaded a fine pass through to O’Connor who was one-on-one with Nelson whom he rounded but then fell over his own feet as he attempted to direct the ball into the net from an acute angle.

Nelson made another good stop from Jason Taylor; Nardiello could only find the side-netting and Kari Arnasan failed to get a touch in front of goal as the one-way assault continued until the break. A Payne shot well clear of the bar offering the only respite just prior to the half-time whistle.

The home element New York Stadium crowd were hushed into silence just before the hour mark and once again it was Burton the forced their taunts back down their throats with his second goal. Receiving a pass into the box, Burton had plenty to do to shrug off the attentions of two defenders before rolling the ball past Andy Warrington, a goalkeeper who looked 40 twenty years ago but continues to defy the sands of time.

I couldn’t have been the only Gillingham fan that was watching with some disbelief at the two goal lead given the nature of the game. Nelson excelled again to push over the bar a header from Alex Revell before an arrow of a shot from Taylor left the Gills’ keeper helpless as it found the top corner. Buoyed by the goal, the home side ratcheted up the pressure if that was even possible.

Vincelot was laid out on 75 minutes following a challenge by Rotherham’s goalscorer Taylor who received a booking. In my opinion, if it wasn’t deliberate then he didn’t deserve a booking, but as the referee decided that the challenge was illegal then the force with which he felled the Frenchman should have resulted in a red card. It was red or nothing. Such was the length of the stoppage that both team’s fitness trainers took to the pitch to keep their player’s muscles loose.

Jack O’Connell bounced a header onto the top of the crossbar as the Gills’ fans nerves reached breaking point screaming at the referee to put to an end their agony. There was still time for Lewis Montrose to make a last ditch challenge to deny Lee Frecklington before finally the last whistle sounded to the approval of the noisy, boisterous visitors.

This was the type of performance that wins promotions, perhaps even championships. Rotherham supporters might point to some cynical time-wasting that brought bookings for Nelson and Lee but it was a professional seeing out of a game to its conclusion. This was a win of great significance against the form side of the division at a time when Gillingham’s form has, at best, been patchy. Martin Allen’s delight was fully apparent, whilst this particular writer glowed with pride all the way home.

The New York Stadium, named after the area in which it is situated that previously housed a foundry that made fire hydrants for New York City. A glance to the right as you walk towards the new 12,000 capacity stadium and the floodlights of the old Millmoor ground are in view.

Driving away in the darkness of the evening and the brightly lit frontage is a colourful vision in an area that is rather run-down. Inside the stadium the seating offered plenty of leg room and whilst the climb to your seat is a steep one the rake at least offers an unobstructed view.

After last week’s iconic floodlight pylons at Deepdale, this week’s offering was a bit funky (or rather odd). Strangely, there were only two positioned on the Bob Bennett Stand, whereas the lighting on the opposite side was single lights positioned on the roof of the stand. After the atmosphere-less reside at the Don Valley, it must be heaven for the Millers’ fans to be housed in this shiny new stadium that generates a huge atmosphere.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Preston North End 2 Gillingham 0

Match 36/12/989 - Saturday, 1 December 2012 - FA Cup 2R

Preston North End (2) 2 Monakana 12, Beavon 38
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 5,271

Entrance: £5 Senior (Season's Bargain!)
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 574/2,799

Match Report

Before we proceed with the day’s events at Preston North End’s Deepdale, I’ll indulge in that pointless exercise of ifs, buts and maybes. If only Deon Burton had converted a penalty awarded just 20 seconds into the second half then given the pressure that Gillingham exerted in the following 45 minutes then quite possibly they could have recovered the half-time deficit and if only Callum Davies had Row Z the ball instead of attempting to play his way out of trouble, then a single goal deficit would have given his side a fighting chance in the second period. But, as Gillingham pressed forward in search of a goal, it has to be said that Preston rattled the bar and had a couple of close range near misses as they caught the visitors short at the back on the counter attack.

Coming to the maybe, I am beginning to hear the odd murmur of discontent about Martin Allen’s rotation policy. Over the course of the 90 minutes, Gillingham gave their League One hosts a decent game and following their second half revival, it is hard not to at least consider what might have been had Chris Whelpdale and Charlie Lee not been left on the bench from the outset. On the other hand, it is far too simplistic to assume that had Danny Kedwell been on the pitch at the time, the penalty would have been converted. Personally, I find it just a little sad that a club of Gillingham’s standing feel they can use the FA Cup to field a weakened side, although I recognise that Martin Allen would dispute that his side was weakened. As I’m writing with the knowledge that the reward for winning this tie was a trip to Millwall, I’m sure there will be a lot of Gillingham fans happy to have avoided that particular trip, but how gutted would we have been had one of the big fish emerged from the velvet bag with Preston.

The puddles on the pavements were still iced over as we walked to the ground and the wind was bitingly cold. Gillingham, were themselves caught cold and were under pressure from the outset and it was no surprise when they slipped behind on 12 minutes. A free kick from the right following a pretty cynical challenge by Adam Barrett was headed into the centre of the area from where a weak clearing header found Jeffrey Monakana who, with the aid of a deflection, scored from around the penalty spot.

The visitors endured a difficult opening 20 minutes before they got into the game when North End’s German goalkeeper, Thosten Stuckmann made an acrobatic save from Romain Vincelot. On the half hour Monakana, who gave an eye-catching display, set up a chance for Stuart Beavon and his well hit shot was equally well saved by Gills’ Tommy Forecast, deputising in goal for the suspended Stuart Nelson.

As it was being considered that getting to half-time with just a single goal deficit would not be such a mountain to climb, Callum Davies made the type of mistake on the edge of his box that, perhaps, a player of greater experience would not have made. With time to clear the ball from the edge of the box, he dwelt too long and by the time he decided to return the ball to his keeper, the onrushing Lee Holmes had robbed him of the ball, Forecast came from his line but the ball rebounded off him into the path of Beavon who had the easiest of tasks to slot the ball into the empty net.

Half-time changes were made by Allen; Whelpdale and Lee were introduced for Joe Martin and Davies, paying instant dividend. Whelpdale’s shot was charged down with the hands of Joe Welsh and, the much unloved, Trevor Kettle pointed to the spot. In Kedwell’s absence, Burton took the responsibility but his spot kick rebounded off the right hand post to the despair of the sizeable following stationed behind that goal.

The miss sparked the game into life and a much better half ensued than the first that had been played in an almost funereal atmosphere, save for the Gills support and the constant beating of a drum from a home supporter. In the next five minutes the always dangerous Monakana was brought down on the edge of the box with no foul given by Mr Kettle, quickly followed by another set up for Beavon to smash the ball against a post.

But Gillingham were now giving as good as they got and Stuckmann was forced to make two very good saves from Burton and Adam Birchall, but the League One side professionally saw out the last 20 minutes without too much in the way for further alarm to seal their place in the third round draw.

Deepdale is now a fine stadium, far removed from the plastic pitch and derelict stands that I first visited in 1988 when a 5-0 defeat on a Tuesday night left me questioning my sanity at making such a trip. The final relic of that old stadium in which we sat for the first leg of the play-offs in 1999 has now disappeared with a new stand, which is obviously only the bottom tier of something much grander to come in the future.

Their iconic floodlight pylons made for a good picture from the outside of the ground, as well as inside.

Our old adversary, Sean Gregan, once the midfield general was now reduced to the drawing of the half-time lottery and despite the fact that he managed to draw a Gillingham supporter out of the hat, probably elbowed, tripped and generally muscled his way home with the smuggest of grins.

Another year of cup ties comes to an end . . . didn’t fancy The Den anyway.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Welling United 2 Newport County 0

Match 35/12/988 - Saturday, 24 November 2012 - FA Trophy 2R

Welling United (1) 2 Healy 36, Martin 60
Newport County (0) 0
Att. 441

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 76/2,225

Match Report

For the first time this season (and with the weather we have been having, I would imagine not the last) a postponed game forced me to change direction from my original destination. The postponement of Tunbridge Wells’ Kent League fixture against Deal Town came as no surprise as their previous home game had suffered the same fate as a result of a waterlogged pitch.

The choice was made therefore to go to Welling to watch the FA Trophy match against Newport County, dubbed by Tonbridge fans as Kinch v Minsh, two former Longmead favourites. That personal encounter was something of a damp squib as Scott Kinch only made the Welling bench and was not used, whilst Lee Minshull was substituted after an hour. Also on the Welling bench was another Tonbridge, and I think I can use the word legend, Jon Main. The Park View Road pitch didn’t look the best, but was perfectly playable.

Newport County came into the game, third in the Conference, but in a poor vein of form having lost four of their previous five games. But they settled into the task in the early stages and Welling goalkeeper Sam Mott was forced to make a couple of good saves. But having survived their early scares, Welling took the game to their Welsh opponents and were worth their lead on 36 minutes when player-manager Jamie Day delivered the perfect cross for Joe Healy to rise at the far post and score with a free header.

There was a long delay in the closing minutes of the first half when Fraser Franks collided with his own goalkeeper and was stretchered off and subsequently an ambulance arrived to take him to hospital. He tweeted later that evening that it was originally thought he had punctured a lung, but, thankfully, it was just bruised.

On the hour, Day produced a carbon copy of his first half cross and this time it was Franks’ replacement Ben Martin that profited at the far post. Ex-Gillingham goalkeeper, Alan Julian, had no chance with either of the goals, but for several fine saves from him, the score could have been quite embarrassing for the Conference high-flyers.

Certainly, this can be considered to be a Trophy upset, but truth was that Newport County were very disappointing and this must have been a really frustrating afternoon for the sizeable Welsh following that had braved the atrocious conditions both at the game and en-route.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Gillingham 2 Exeter City 3

Match 34/12/987 - Tuesday, 20 November 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 2 Whelpdale 4, Jackman 79
Exeter City (0) 3 Gow 27, Cureton 54, 86
Att. 6,851

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/2,149

Match Report

Sometimes in life you just have to settle for what you have got. A wistful look in the estate agents’ window might allow you to dream about the four-bedroom detached house in a quiet cul-de-sac but the reality is, do you really want the mortgage that goes with it? Or perhaps it’s the shining new car on the garage forecourt that takes your eye, but your slightly high mileage vehicle is still fit for purpose. Truth is, a glass half empty is exactly what it says it is half a glass and more often than not, it is better than nothing at all.

Gillingham’s willingness to throw caution to the wind (and the rain, on a torrid night) was admirable, but once Danny Jackman’s bolt from the blue had rescued the game, then a little pragmatism would not have gone a miss. They chased the game with wild abandon, they failed to heed a warning when Stuart Nelson saved Jamie Cureton’s penalty, but still they left the back door open to concede defeat to an Exeter side, that ranked among the best we have seen at Priestfield this season.

Gillingham got off to the best possible start, hitting the woodwork in the opening minute and following a superb through pass from Lewis Montrose, Chris Whelpdale was able to steer the ball over the advancing Grecian keeper, Artur Krysiak for the opening goal after four minutes.

Exeter recovered well from the setback and whilst referee Deadman’s award of a free kick against Charlie Lee on 27 minutes might have been debatable there was no doubting of the quality of Alan Gow’s beautifully flighted free kick to level the score. The home side created several chances before the break, Lee twice saw headers hacked away from the line whilst Ben Strevens and Deon Burton failed to test the keeper with shots that went close.

In the 57th minute, a corner for the visitors found its way to the far post where the 37-year-old predator, Cureton was lurking to smash the ball into the roof of the net. It was now a necessary evil for the home side to have to throw bodies forward and while chances fell to Myles Weston and Callum Davies, their vulnerability to the counter attack was all too apparent.

Eleven minutes remained when Gillingham got their salvation in the form of Jackman’s thunderbolt from 25 yards into the top corner. The Rainham End roared their appreciation and urged the home side forward for a winner and any sense of defending what they had was lost in the excitement.

Into the last five minutes and when Romain Vincelot brought down Jimmy Keohane on the edge of the box it appeared that all was lost, but Nelson made a fine save from Cureton’s penalty, but was the lesson learnt, sadly not. Just a minute later, Cureton made amends when he converted Liam Sercombe’s cross with a free header from close range and Gillingham’s folly of throwing everything in search of the three points was at an end.

Martin Allen’s side should not be criticised; they showed ambition and a bucket load of endeavour but, almost without doubt, they are going to find themselves in situations like this one again and if next time they emerge with just half-a-glass, they might realise that this is not an empty glass.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1981-82 season.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gillingham 2 Morecambe 1

Match 33/12/986 - Saturday, 17 November 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 2 Montrose 37, Burton 90+3
Morecambe (0) 1 Redshaw 59
Att. 5,402

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/2,104

Match Report

It was one of the abiding memories of the London Olympics. Mo Farah had bided his time on the shoulders of various front runners for 9,600 metres of the 10,000 metres and at the sound of the bell he made his kick for home. The American, Galen Rupp and Ethiopia’s Tariku Bekele attempted to stay with Farah, but 90 metres from the line he strode clear and the gold medal was his. There were front runners that had done much of the donkey work for a large part of the race, but the pressure of leading the pack was too much and they faded away and with it their medal chances.

The thought crossed my mind on Saturday, that the football season is the equivalent of the track’s longest race and the longer you stay at the front the pressure grows match by match as you look over your shoulder at the team that is seemingly content to wait until the home straight before making their move. Football, of course, isn’t like a athletics race at all, the odd game cannot be lost just so you can stay in second place, but the pressure of being the front runner is just the same.

For three months, Gillingham have led the table and have largely swept aside the majority of the sides put before them, but I sensed that the pressure of being the front-runner is beginning to manifest itself. Adam Barrett touched on it in an interview and following the game, Martin Allen also commented that being at the top is something that everybody at the club, chairman to fan, needs to learn how to handle.

The first half was one of domination by the league leaders. In the very first minute, Matt Fish forced Barry Roche to tip the ball over the bar and further chances came for Ben Strevens and Barratt. On the half hour, Gillingham did everything but score in a hectic moment for the Shrimps back line. Danny Kedwell claimed a penalty for holding that only resulted in a corner, from which Barrett had successive attempts that were cleared from the line.

The goal finally arrived on 37 minutes. A free kick from the right by Danny Jackman was weakly punched to the penalty spot by Roche, who was helpless as Lewis Montrose drove the ball past him into the centre of the goal.

The second half was an entirely different affair and Kevin Ellison and Izak Reid stretched Stuart Nelson before the Shrimps equalised with 20 minutes remaining. Callum Davies lost out in a tussle on the edge of the box and when Nelson left his line to face Ellison, the veteran striker fed a pass across the face of goal for Jack Redshaw to tap into an open net from a yard to the delight of the hardy band of 21 Morecambe supporters that had made the long trip south.

Kedwell and Charlie Allen went close before the game entered its time added and the classic finale to a game that perhaps didn’t quite deserve the stunning quality of Deon Burton’s finish. Fish lifted a long, almost desperate cross, into the box that Burton took on his chest, on the turn and volleyed home from around the penalty spot. It was pure class. Ellison, who had wound up the crowd with some gesturing following the visitor’s equaliser was left staring into space, head in hands as the point that Morecambe had worked hard to attain, disappeared.

Just like Mo Farah, when it came to the finish, Gillingham had enough to get over line when the pressure was at its most intense, but unlike a 10,000 metre final, you have to get over that line more than once in the course of a season.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1979-80 season.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Maidstone United 2 Tonbridge 3

Match 32/12/985 - Tuesday, 13 November 2012 - Kent Senior Cup

Maidstone United (0) 2 T. Olorunda 46, Waugh 85
Tonbridge (2) 3 Gayle 22, Lovell 40, Muggeridge 65
Att. 1,102

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 18/2,059

Match Report

Frankly, over 1,100 for a Kent Senior Cup tie is ridiculous, but that is the pulling power of the Gallagher Stadium at the present time. Maidstone United are back in the town, they are successful and, it seems, everybody (from the Stones substantial fanbase to the stadium-ticking groundhoppers) wants a piece of the action.

The group of Tonbridge supporters amongst which I watched the game agreed that if this fixture had been played at Longmead, a little over the 300 mark was the best that could have been hoped for.

And it seems that visitors are coming away with a little more "like" than Maidstone United have previously engendered. I’ve steered clear of “love” and “hate” as words too emotive and, for all that is good about an evening at the Gallagher, I was not prepared to put aside 50 years of dislike to embark on any love-in. My good friend, and legendary Gillingham supporter, The Binman might have written in a recent programme that it was becoming “less and less easy to loathe them” after a cheery welcome and a good atmosphere generated by enthusiastic fans, but I wasn’t prepared to be swayed so easily. But, for the reasons he stated, it was hard to loathe them. A couple of very likeable supporters stood alongside our group explained the club's future development plans, what it had been like in exile at Sittingbourne and Ashford and the level-headedness of the new owners. Even, my attempt to burst the bubble with the opinion that Maidstone must not repeat previous mistakes of chasing the dream without the proper foundation was met with total agreement.

The fact is, with the huge attendances that are descending on James Whatman Way, they have every opportunity to emulate the progress that has been made by Dartford since their return to their home town with the building of Princes Park.

All this, despite the fact it was one of the lesser competitions and, as the higher league opposition, Tonbridge were expected to win, it was still with a certain smugness that I left the stadium after the game, having put one over them.

In truth, Tonbridge showed their superior quality and could, and should, have won a lot more comfortably than they eventually did. Both sides were under-strength, but it was apparent that the Conference South club's depth was significantly stronger. They cruised into a two-goal half-time lead through a 20 yard shot from Aaron Gayle and a free header from close range converted by Mark Lovell and the lead should have been significantly greater such was their dominance.

The first minute of the second half changed the complexion of the game, when ex-Angel Tim Olorunda crashed home a shot from six yards following a corner to buoy the home crowd and Tonbridge had to withstand a period of pressure before a 35 yard scorcher from Henry Muggeridge restored the two goal advantage. The swagger returned to the Angels and further chances to put the game to bed came and went before, with five minutes remaining, Alex Waugh struck, with the ball coming down off the underside of the bar and deemed to have crossed the line. This gave the home side renewed momentum, but this was lost when a very poor challenge from Ade Olorunda on Sonny Miles earned a straight red card. Maidstone still mounted a challenge in the time added on and it was not without great relief that the final whistle blew to allow me my smug walk back to the car.

Such is their fan base, I’ve no doubt that Maidstone can pass Tonbridge on their way back to the higher reaches, possibly even to the Football League. But, even if I’ve learnt not to loathe them, could I love them, absolutely not a snowball in hell’s chance.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Tonbridge 2 Hitchin Town 1

Match 31/12/984 - Saturday, 10 November 2012 - FA Trophy 3QR

Tonbridge (2) 2 Purcell 3, Piper 35
Hitchin Town (0) 1 Frendo 28 (pen)
Att. 513

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 26/2,041

Match Report

Tommy Warrilow celebrated five years as manager of Tonbridge Angels with something not synonymous of his reign at Longmead, a cup victory. Warrilow’s time at the club, in league terms, has been largely upwardly mobile, but his cup record has been largely through the door marked exit.

A draw against lower league opposition has certainly not been a free pass into the next round in previous seasons, so this Third Qualifying Round tie against Southern Premier League, Hitchin Town was not to be considered a gimme.

Prior to the game beginning a minute’s applause was observed for Ken Jarrett, a club stalwart since the very beginning in 1948. I didn’t know Ken personally, but like just about everybody else who follows the club, knew of Ken. A former club secretary, vice chairman and director, Ken was typical of the people found up-and-down the country who are the mainstay of non-league football, those that give freely of their time and effort to maintain a local football club that we can visit when Saturday comes.

Tonbridge opened the game at a canter and were a goal to the good within three minutes. Ross Treleaven’s direct pass through the heart of the visiting defence found George Purcell, who advanced on the keeper, who despite making a semi-block of the shot, saw the ball loop over his body and into the empty net.

The early goal on appeared to engender complacency into the Tonbridge ranks as the Hertfordshire team found their feet. After several sorties on the home goal, Hitchen were eventually, deservedly, on level terms after the awarding of a 28th minute penalty which leading scorer, John Frendo, converted. Ben Judge committed the foul on the edge of the penalty area and received a booking which was to prove costly later in the game.

The home side was not behind for long. Chris Piper, who had an outstanding afternoon, cut in from the left, executed a turn that left his marker on his backside and shot calmly into past Hitchen keeper Martin Bennett.

In the 52nd minute Tonbridge were reduced to 10 men when Judge was sent off after being beaten for pace by Stewart King and then tripping the Hitchen forward. The dismissal shook Tonbridge out of their complacency, their possession of the ball improved and they took control of the game. Raiding down the left hand side, the impressive Henry Muggeridge found himself in shooting positions on three occasions, one of which looped onto the bar. The young left back is a fine acquisition, he has been outstanding in every game I’ve seen him play and I’m only left to scratch my head as to why he is not playing above Conference South level.

The team’s equality in terms of personnel was levelled at 10-a-side when after melee Hitchen’s Louis Lee was sent off after raising his hands to Tom Davis and pushing him to the ground. Tonbridge safely saw the game out with no real alarms and Monday brings the tantalising prospect of a Trophy draw with Tonbridge in the hat and that is a bit of a novelty for Tommy Warrilow!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Gillingham 0 Cheltenham Town 0

Match 30/12/983 - Tuesday, 6 November 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 0
Cheltenham Town (0) 0
Att. 6,096

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/2,015

Match Report

If there were any among the 6,000-plus crowd at Priestfield Stadium, or the wider world, that were naïve enough to think that game in, game out Gillingham would spend the rest of the season turning over their visitors four goals at a time, then last night was a wake-up call. Cheltenham Town arrived in Kent in third place, in a good run of form and, most especially in the first 45 minutes, lived up to their credentials as promotion contenders.

Although only 109 supporters followed their favourites from Gloucestershire, their invective against their former manager, Martin Allen, was clearly audible. A pre-match blog from a Cheltenham journalist made it apparent that there was going to be no love lost from the away terrace and with their singing of “Martin Allen, you ruined our club” they made their point heard.

Allen’s team selection saw Andy Frampton return at left back in direct opposition with the tricky Jermaine McGlashan. Frampton, even in his dreams, was never going to win a foot race against the speedy McGlashan and with the full back Sido Jombati getting forward to double the trouble, Gillingham were facing a severe threat down the Cheltenham right hand side.

Stuart Nelson needed to be at his best with saves from Russ Penn and Kaid Mohamed, while Callum Davies and Adam Barrett were called upon to make chance saving tackles and blocks. The home side made the odd foray on the opposition goal but in general it was Cheltenham that were calling the shots. On 35 minutes, Mohamed was stopped in his tracks by a sliding tackle from Davies that, if there was one, would earn tackle of season with immediate effect. Had he not made the tackle, the on-form striker would have been through on goal with options.

Five minutes before the break chances were spurned at both ends of the pitch. Firstly, Penn headed wastefully over the bar before at the other end Town keeper, Scott Brown could only parry a fierce shot from Jack Payne into the path of Danny Kedwell, who somehow managed to crash a shot against the bar from very close range.

The Cheltenham fans might not value Allen as a manager, but his team talk may well have had a bearing on the second half transformation. Those visiting fans spent the entire half peering into the distance as the second half was played out in front of the Rainham End. But they will also be appreciative of the fact that whilst in the opening period their side showed good quality on the front foot, the second was one of great resilience at the back with the giant central defenders, Darren Carter and Steve Elliott standing firm.

The referee became a frustrating official as McGlashan got a ticking off for a poor challenge on Davies and Carter trod a very fine line following a caution. Perhaps recognising the official’s inconsistency, Allen decided to replace Payne, who was on a booking, with striker Deon Burton.

Despite their dominance, real chances were at a premium. Barrett forced Brown into a save and a series of free kicks on the edge of the box failed to beat the wall. Perhaps, it was a lack of concentration after a long period of inactivity but when Nelson spilled a McGlashan cross at his right hand post there was a timely reminder of the threat the visitors held.

Gillingham’s second chance of note came on 75 minutes when Deon Burton steered a diving header wide of the post and from that point the visitors restricted their hosts to half chances falling to Barrett and Kedwell.

As it turned out, with none of the chasing pack able to capitalise, each one drawing their fixture, the point can be considered a good one and if it did nothing else it served as a gentle reminder that Gillingham are not the only decent side in the division.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1999-2000 season.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Gillingham 4 Scunthorpe United 0

Match 29/12/982 - Saturday, 3 November 2012 - FA Cup First Round

Gillingham (0) 4 Fish 59, Burton 65, Kedwell (pen) 76, Birchall 90+3
Scunthorpe United (0) 0
Att. 4,017

Entrance: £15
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,970

Match Report

If I could have script-written this FA Cup First Round tie, then Adam Birchall, back from his loan spell at Dartford and sitting on the bench, would have been brought on to score the winning goal. It didn’t quite pan out that way; when Birchall was introduced with eleven minutes remaining, bringing to an end his 16 month wait for a League appearance, Gillingham were three goals to the good and their place in Round Two assured. In time added on, his tap-in from a yard won’t win goal of the season, but will probably be the most emotional goal, for both players and supporters, scored this season. I don’t mind admitting it brought a lump to my throat as the striker celebrated with wild abandon.

Martin Allen might have wished to play down Gillingham’s role as favourites for this tie with a Scunthorpe side a division higher, but I don’t think this thumping will register as any sort of upset. Sitting in the bottom four, only of couple of wins all season and despite the installation of Brian Laws as their new manager, the Lincolnshire club must have arrived at Priestfield fearing the worst.

Allen, perhaps with Gillingham’s match on Tuesday against Cheltenham in mind (even at this stage of the season it has the ring of a six-pointer), once more rang the changes with the likes of Danny Kedwell rested to the bench and Tom Flanagan to the stands.

Gillingham fans were still reeling with the shock of Martin Allen’s red trousers (part of red, white and blue day) when Stuart Nelson was forced into an early save from Mike Grella, significantly, when the game reached its conclusion this was the only real save the Gills’ keeper was asked to make.

The League One side were the more positive in the first quarter of the game, but once the home side had survived that period they then asked practically all of the questions. Myles Weston had an afternoon of threat and frustration as his pace was too much for the Iron defence but the final product was lacking. The half ended in deadlock despite Matt Fish and Chris Whelpdale going close. Andy Barcham, making his first appearance back at Priestfield with Scunthorpe, was almost anonymous.

The thought of a midweek replay at Glanford Park among a heavy schedule of travelling in the coming weeks was the subject of concern during the half-time period but those worries were dispelled in a scintillating second half display. From the outset the game became one way traffic and Adam Barrett and Charlie Lee saw efforts saved before Gillingham finally took the lead on the hour. Iron keeper Sam Slocombe did well to parry a Whelpdale shot but only into the path of Fish who squeezed the ball home from a tight angle.

The lead was quickly doubled when Weston found Deon Burton at the far post who directed his header back across the face of the goal into the opposite corner.

The visitors were being overrun at this point and, with 15 minutes remaining, Danny Jackman surging into the penalty area was brought down for as uncontentious penalty as you would wish to see. Kedwell, on for Burton, leathered the ball home from the spot in his usual style and Gillingham’s name was in the hat for the next round.

All that was left was for Birchall to add the most delicious of icing to the cake. He came on for Weston and was almost immediately involved in a well-worked move that might have produced a goal for the diminutive striker. But that moment came on 93 minutes, Slocombe was only able to parry Kedwell’s header to the far post where Birchall was lurking to tap the ball into the bottom corner. Sixteen months of rehabilitation and concern for his future was washed away in a moment of joyous celebration that was embraced by the entire Gillingham family. Perhaps it wasn’t quite a “not a dry eye in the house” moment but I’m sure there were many more than just me who wiped away a tear in recognition of, hopefully, the final chapter in one man’s endeavour to resurrect his career from the debris of a pre-season friendly at Welling.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1971-72 season.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

AFC Wimbledon 0 Gillingham 1

Match 28/12/981 - Saturday, 27 October 2012 - League Two

AFC Wimbledon (0) 0
Gillingham (1) 1 Vincelot 23
Att. 4,546

Entrance: £15
Programme: £3
Mileage: 118/1,925

Match Report

As a spectacle the only winner was the wind which dictated which side was in the ascendancy, but Gillingham withstood their turn to face the elements and bravely held onto the single goal lead obtained with the wind at their backs. It is a widely used train of thought that to win championships you have to sometimes win ugly and, make no mistake, this was, if not ugly, a really scruffy victory.

Speaking to Gillingham fans before the game that had been to Torquay for the midweek defeat, it was thought that on Tuesday the selected team was surprising and there were a few raised eyebrows when the team was announced this time. Andy Frampton replaced the injured Joe Martin, whilst the newly-loaned Romain Vincelot came into the midfield as a total of six changes were made.

Gillingham completely sold out their allocation and 856 travelling supporters packed the shallow terracing and a section seated in the newly-built North Stand. The viewing from the East Stand was difficult even for a six-footer such as myself and the constant leaning and standing on my toes in a largely unsuccessful attempt to see the action in the far left hand corner left me with sore calf muscles.

With the wind at their backs, Gillingham started the game brightly and early half-chances fell to Ben Strevens, who shot wide of a post and a Myles Weston header that was saved at the near post by the Dons keeper, Seb Brown. The best chance of the opening quarter came on 21 minutes when Kedwell and Strevens carved out a shooting opportunity for Chris Whelpdale, but his shot was directly at Brown who saved comfortably.

The reprieve was short-lived and the visitors took the lead a couple of minutes later. A Whelpdale long throw was only cleared to the edge of the box from where Vincelot marked his debut with a low, rasping drive that was nestling in the net before Brown had completed his dive.

The first 30 minutes had been predominantly one-way traffic and the only scare came when Wimbledon’s Norwich City loanee, George Francomb sent a cross across the face of the goal leaving the Gills support thankful to see Matt Fish steer the ball to safety. Fish then turned his thoughts to attack and a cavalier run forward ended with a driven shot towards the top right corner of the goal that Brown did well to palm away.

The benefit of the wind turned the game in Wimbledon’s favour for the second half but it was Gillingham that opened up with the best chance. Curtis Osano was forced into a last ditch block to deny Weston after some good link play with Kedwell. Following on, the impressive Francomb started winning his midfield battles and two attempts on goal resulted with Nelson needing to make his first meaningful saves.

Adam Barrett and Tom Flanagan were standing firm at the heart of Gillingham’s rearguard action and, one goalmouth scramble apart, the testing of Nelson was virtually non-existent while Kedwell and Whelpdale brought saves from Brown.

So, despite raised eyebrows at team selection, Martin Allen continues to lay the ghosts of season's past. This time it was the horrendous first half at Kingsmeadow last season when Gillingham found themselves three down in little more than 20 minutes that was laid to rest.

The wind dictated that this game was never going to be a thing of beauty, last week’s home victory over Burton might have been of that nature, perhaps this was ugly but the reward is just the same.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Message to my overseas pageviewers

One of the pleasures of writing any blog is that it is read, and hopefully appreciated, by others. Through the stats details, I have noticed that That'll Be The Day is read all over the world, and whilst I'm very grateful, I wondered why somebody in Russia, for instance, would have any interest in a blog that is essentially about two, in the scheme of world football, very insignificant English football clubs.

I wonder, if I might ask any viewers (UK included), to leave a comment answering my question. Are you a Gillingham fan exiled abroad, a Tonbridge Angels fan living away from Kent for a while or did you just stumble across the blog whilst looking for something else.

I have been writing this blog for six years now and it is deeply satisfying to see that someone in Indonesia, New Zealand, China, or the greatest thrill, Brazil have glimpsed into the lower reaches of English football.

Thank-you for your time and interest.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Gillingham 4 Burton Albion 1

Match 27/12/980 - Saturday, 20 October 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (2) 4 Flanagan 22, Fish 40, Weston 59, Martin 63
Burton Albion (0) 1 Diamond 54
Att. 7,268

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,807

Match Report

Earlier in the week league tables were published in which Gillingham were top of the league, unfortunately it was one that the fans of the club would rather not be the leaders. This was a BBC Survey on the Price of Football in which the cost of a ticket, programme, pie and a cup of tea contributed to the cost of a day at the match. At £28.90 they were 60p clear of their nearest rivals, Southend United and £9.30 dearer than the cheapest in League Two at Plymouth Argyle. The main reason for the overall top price appears to be in the match day pricing of tickets which is the highest, because the cheapest season ticket category sees several League Two clubs with higher prices and, in fact, Newport County in the Conference were also higher priced. Gillingham supporters may well contend that various ticket offers, not least the “kids for a quid” that was in evidence at today’s game, lowers the price but comparatively these offers are prevalent up and down the country. It has long been my contention that the cost of football at League Two level, and particularly at Gilllingham, is too expensive and more so than the survey, the recent offers have served to prove the point.

This is a really good Gillingham team that deserve to be watched week in, week out by over 7,000 people as they were for this highly entertaining encounter with Burton Albion. But, unfortunately, in the present financial climate, it takes an offer to boost the attendance beyond the hard core base of 4,500, but hopefully it does reflect that the word is out in the Medway Towns that they have a decent team and Mums and Dads will want to bring the children if the price is right.

The most satisfying feature of this game was that Burton were a thoroughly decent team, in a good run of form, eight unbeaten going into the clash, but with no sense of bias, they were simply brushed aside. With David Wright having returned to Crystal Palace at the end of his loan period, Lewis Montrose, not a universally popular choice, was given the opportunity to fulfil the holding midfield role, and much to my own surprise, he made a damn good job of it.

Priestfield Stadium, with its increase in numbers, was in a boisterous mood from the outset and they were nearly at full volume after just 20 seconds when Montrose lofted a forward pass into the path of Myles Weston, who narrowly shot wide of the far post having left his marker for dead with his pace. Montrose then saw a shot of his own rebound off the post after six minutes before defender Adam Barratt got into the act with a long range effort that skimmed the bar in an opening period full of attacking intention.

The breakthrough finally came after 22 minutes when another defender, Tom Flanagan, picked up the pieces of a Danny Kedwell turn inside the six yard box to smash the ball into the roof of the net. Gillingham were thoroughly dominant and chances followed before the Brewer’s keeper, Stuart Tomlinson did well to turn aside another strike from the hugely impressive Weston.

Gillingham doubled their advantage five minutes before the break with another goal from the personnel making up the back four. Matt Fish began the move, pressing forward down the right hand side before a clearance found him on the edge of the box from where the full back curled a shot into the top corner via a post.

Burton who, despite at times in the first half being totally outplayed, had shown some enterprising forward play of their own with the impressive Jacques Maghoma and the sizeable unit that is Calvin Zola forming a dangerous partnership came out for the second half in search of a foothold in the game. Substitute Bradley Dack made a goal line clearance before 10 minutes in the half, Zander Diamond fastened onto a shot cum pass to score from the corner of the six yard box with a low shot.

If it was a setback for the home side, it was only of a temporary nature. On the hour, Weston’s blistering pace was far too much for Rob Kiernan and his angled drive into the bottom corner in front of a rapturous Rainham End was a sublime finish. Three minutes later and Gillingham were home and hosed when a clearance from a Fish cross only found Joe Martin, 20 yards from goal, from where a well hit volley was despatched for a third defender’s goal.

With Tuesday’s encounter at Torquay in mind, Martin Allen, who described the performance as magical, was afforded the luxury of withdrawing Weston and Kedwell and likewise, Burton’s manager Gary Rowett, accepting the game was lost, substituted Maghoma with a nod towards Tuesday’s full League Two programme and a game against Gillingham’s foremost rivals at the present time, Port Vale.

So the survey said … you get what you pay for. You want the best, you pay the top price. No, that’s not quite the opinion I hold, but at this time, I can only say that I’m more than happy with the entertainment I’m getting for my money and I’m pretty sure, the 58 hardy Brewers apart, the rest of the 7,000 people went home thinking to themselves that the afternoon had been well worth their time, effort and their cash.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1960-61 season.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Gillingham 4 Aldershot Town 0

Match 26/12/979 - Saturday, 13 October 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (3) 4 Allen 9 Kedwell (pen) 26 Weston 38 Whelpdale 66
Aldershot Town (0) 0
Att. 5,039

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/1,762

Match Report

From a rather too descriptive account of a stomach bug that has swept through the club to his observations on how this season has progressed so far, Martin Allen was at his enigmatic best in his radio interview following this rout of struggling Aldershot Town. Words such as unbelievable, incredible and amazing described the opening quarter of this season whilst the players were described as charismatic and intelligent. He also paid tribute to the fans that are paying their money in tough financial times. Those fans, whose numbers edged above 5,000 without the help of any ticket offers, are presently a group of believers. They question virtually nothing, team selections, substitutions and formations are accepted because they have complete faith in the manager and whilst the team on the pitch reproduce results and performances of this nature that will not change.

Time was when this audience had been worn down by hoofball, but a little bit of head tennis early in the game was quickly seized upon because they have seen the type of attractive football that this Gillingham team are capable of and that is what they want and pay to see. Gillingham put this game to bed before half-time with a first half performance that devastated their under-pressure opponents. They opened the scoring after 10 minutes when a Chris Whelpdale shot following a Myles Weston corner was beaten out by Shots’ keeper Jamie Young but only to the feet of Charlie Allen who bundled the ball home for his first goal for the club. Weston, in particular, was too hot to handle for the visiting defence and Young was forced into another fine save before Sonny Bradley handled a Matt Fish cross to concede a 26th minute penalty. Danny Kedwell, whose distinctive style was copied by Wayne Rooney at Wembley the previous evening (written with tongue-in-cheek), powerfully striking home the kick.

Now, over-running their opposition, Gillingham increased their lead in the 38th minute when Weston outpaced his marker to shoot between Young and the post for a fine individual effort. Stuart Nelson was asked to make one meaningful save in the last minute of the half from a Craig Reid volley.

Three goals to the good, Martin who had been booked just prior to half time, was preserved from potential suspension with his withdrawal and when Jack Payne also received a yellow card, manager Allen also decided a little self-preservation was justified with his substitution.

Gillingham never rose to the heights of their first half performance in the second 45 but controlled the game with the majority of the possession before adding a fourth with a well worked team goal finished by Chris Whelpdale. Weston took a short corner to Andy Frampton, who crossed low to Whelpdale who shot into the bottom corner.

Gillingham made Aldershot look the San Marino of the previous evening and might well have surpassed England’s five goal total, but the cliché, you can only beat what is put in front of you, does Gillingham a disservice. This is a really good Gillingham side that can be a delight to watch, has depth to the squad and has a man in charge that has the confidence of everybody from the chairman to the supporter that has only heard his now legendary radio interviews. He holds our attention in awe, even when he is describing his bodily functions!

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1991-92 season.

England 5 San Marino 0

Match 25/12/978 - Friday, 12 October 2012 - World Cup Qualifying

England (2) 5 Rooney 35 (pen), 69 Welbeck 38, 71 Oxlade-Chamberlain 77
San Marino (0) 0
Att. 85,654

Entrance: £20
Programme: £6
Mileage: 155/1,717

Match Report

After 30 minutes of huffing and puffing, England put the minnows of San Marino, officially one of the three worst teams in the world, in their place. By the finish, five goals had been scored from a total of 33 efforts on goal against just one, hopelessly wide, effort from the Sammarinese. If the referee had taken the correct course of action for what amounted to common assault on Theo Walcott by the visiting goalkeeper after just three minutes, then, in all probability, England would have chalked up a cricket score. Which begs the question, why are these one-sided games necessary? The answer is, of course, because FIFA want to offer the same opportunity to the Turks and Caicos Islands as they do to Brazil, but in these times when international football is so beholden to the major clubs, can this approach continue to be justified.

In the cricket world cup, the Cayman Islands and Nepal have a route to the Finals but are not asked to pit themselves against Australia or South Africa in the opening rounds. Likewise, in tennis’ Davis Cup, despite the presence of Andy Murray in their ranks, Great Britain has not the necessary strength to be matched against Spain or the United States.

In these days when it is club football that calls the tune, a pre-qualifying tournament for countries with a low ranking would reduce the group sizes by a least one and cut two meaningless fixtures from the crowded calendar. It could be contended that, by playing nations of comparable strength in competitive fixtures, the opportunity for confidence building victories are of greater benefit than humiliating defeats at the hands of the major powers. Referring back to the cricket world cup, Afghanistan is a perfect example of what can be achieved through a qualification event.

The FA’s marketing team did a job akin to that of selling ice to eskimoes to get nearly 86,000 through the turnstiles on Friday evening. They recognised that San Marino was going to be their hardest sell during this qualifying group, they slashed ticket prices, we paid £20 each for a ticket on the half-way line, and their initiative was rewarded with a sell-out crowd.

San Marino arrived at Wembley, famous only for Davide Gualtieri’s goal against England back in 1993, scored in record time of 8 seconds. Since their entry into World Cup football in 1990 they have never won a game, scored only 14 goals and conceded 463, even against a less than highly regarded England team this was a complete mismatch.

As for the game itself, England took a while to get into their stride following the horrific challenge on Walcott who was literally wiped out by the goalkeeper having lifted the ball over him. That the referee failed to award a penalty and red card to the offender is no justification for the challenge. Despite having made some fine saves in the intervening period, there was a sense of justice when England finally made their breakthrough on 35 minutes when Simoncini once more made an ill-judged excursion from his goal line to plunge at the feet of Danny Welbeck, catching his trailing leg. This time the referee awarded the penalty, yellow carded the keeper and Wayne Rooney confidently dispatched the kick. Barely two minutes had elapsed before Aaron Lennon got to the bye line and pulled back a cross for Welbeck to repeat his trick from the Sweden World Cup tie to back heel the ball into the net.

The one-way traffic was obviously going to be the continuing storyline of the second half and once again it took some while to break down the minnows 10 man defence and having finally managed it in the 69th minute, another goal came along two minutes later. Firstly, Rooney fastened onto a loose ball after Lennon had run across the face of the goal, to score from the edge of the box and then Welbeck converted Tom Cleverley’s cross. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain curled in from outside of the box with an exquisite finish to complete the expected rout.

San Marino came to London and did all they could. They put a complete set of bodies behind the ball at all times, they possessed a goalkeeper that at times was inspired and at others utterly useless, but Simoncini’s assault of Walcott apart, they played the game within the rules, unlike another minnow that visited Wembley, Andorra, who came and cynically kicked lumps out of their hosts. Andorra are another good reason for pre-qualifying, why should the likes of Arsenal be deprived of a player for whatever time because an opposition’s only form of defence is cynicism.

At the end of the evening, England won 5-0, there were a couple of eye-catching performances that are cheapened by the lack of opposition and the only real satisfaction that could be taken from the game was that it only cost twenty quid.