Saturday, 28 July 2012

Ebbsfleet United 2 Gillingham 3

Match 06/12/959 - Saturday, 28 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Ebbsfleet United (0) 2 Ashikodi 51,83
Gillingham (2) 3 Kedwell 4,71 Strevens 29
Att. 915

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 54/194

Match Report

Six pre-season friendlies in and I get my first look at Martin Allen’s Gillingham and the initial impression is quite positive. The whole set-up looks a good deal more professional, the warm-ups before the game appeared more vigorous and demanding and on their re-emergence for the second half another routine was worked before the kick-off, whilst on the sidelines unused substitutes were also put through their paces during the match.

On the pitch, especially in a dominant first half, Gillingham’s passing was crisp, movement was good with little triangles moving the ball in all areas of the pitch, in fact it was quite a delight to see. The second half didn’t quite pan out in the same way, Liam Daish evidently blistered the paint in the Fleet dressing room and his side made a much better game of it.

Pre-season or not, Daish would have been particularly annoyed with the way his side conceded the first goal after just four minutes. A straightforward long throw from Charlie Lee was glanced home, unchallenged, at the near post by a slimline Danny Kedwell, who looks to have benefited greatly from Allen’s training regime.

Gillingham extended their lead on the half-hour with a slightly fluky finish to a very well worked move. Joe Martin got free down the right hand side; his cross was guided goalwards by Chris Whelpdale towards the far post where Ben Strevens, virtually sitting on the grass, turned the ball in with his chest.

Gillingham were now in complete control of the game and could have doubled their advantage before the break, Preston Edwards twice making good saves from Lee.

Prior to the match, Allen had stated that the majority of the starting line-up, which included a French trialist central defender, would be getting 90 minutes in their legs while the remainder of the squad would do likewise at Dover on Tuesday.

It was an ex-Gillingham player that emerged as the stand-out player of the second half, Moses Ashikodi. In the 51st minute he capitalised on a mistake by Matt Fish to drive a shot past Stuart Nelson. The visitor’s lead could have been wiped out a minute later when another ex-Gills trialist Liam Enver-Marum struck a post. Martin Allen left his seat in the stand, had a word with Fish on the touchline and the full back became his first substitution.

Gillingham re-established their two goal advantage on 70 minutes. Bradley Dack, the teenager who is making an impression this pre-season, sent a ball over the top to Martin whose low cross was turned in at the near post by Kedwell.

Ebbsfleet were cursing their luck again when Neil Barrett hit a post before Ashikodi had the final say with a delightfully chipped finish after Lee had been dispossessed in midfield. The Ebbsfleet striker has had a mixed career but this is the second time I’ve seen him this pre-season and if Liam Daish can keep his head straight then they have a very good striker at Conference level.

Nothing much changes at Stonebridge Road, despite their £100,000 win to construct new toilets, at present their sniper block remains, whilst the main terraced stand has been renamed in honour of Liam Daish’s seven-year tenure at the club, their longest serving manager.

In his after-match press conference Martin Allen said that he would like to bring upwards of a further five players to the club, spending a little of the Paulo Gazzaniga transfer fee, and adding just that bit extra optimism to this encouraging performance.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Lordswood 3 Tonbridge 1

Match 05/12/958 - Tuesday, 24 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Lordswood (1) 3 Dimmock 20, Cook 70,80
Tonbridge (0) 1 Awolles 46
Att. 70

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: None produced
Mileage: 34/140

This game wasn’t quite the fixture I envisaged as I left home for Lordswood. Tweets from some of Tonbridge’s senior players had indicated that this wasn’t going to be a first team game, but I thought the make-up of the side might be reserves and a few trialists, as it happened it was a youth side that represented the Angels. I ambushed Charlie Cole to photograph his team sheet to give me some idea of the Tonbridge squad, but to be honest I was none the wiser.

The evening did, at least, throw up a couple of amusing moments. Whilst I’ve been to Lordswood before, it was some years ago and after parking the car there is a short walk to the entrance which I unfortunately missed. Somehow I managed to enter the ground through a back gate without realising that I was avoiding the admission price. Not wanting to deprive a small club of my money, I found the turnstile and explained what I had done and was then charged the princely sum of £1!

The hot, sunny day was turning to night at the beginning of the second half when the floodlights were turned on, only for the whole of one side failing to shine. The referee explained to an official that he would allow the game to continue until it became too dark, but he managed to get the game to its finish by which time it was really quite gloomy.

The first half of the game was a reasonably even affair with Lordswood taking the lead after 20 minutes following a goalkeeping error. A shot from outside of the area was spilt by the keeper and Richard Dimmock was on hand to poach a goal from the rebound. This was the same Dimmo that I had watched at Thamesmead five years ago and at the time referred to him as portly, but whilst the years had added a few pounds (in actual fact he was only 28) there was still a bit of quality that caught the eye. Five years on and he can now only be described charitably as portly, is even less mobile, but obviously still has that keen eye for a goal.

Tonbridge equalised immediately at the beginning of the second half, substitute Dan Awolles cutting in from the left to score with a good finish. Their revival was cut short after 70 minutes when woeful marking allowed Gary Cook a free header and 10 minutes later from a corner Cook scored with a perfectly executed volley that was worth the entrance money alone, if even it was only a quid!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Maidstone United 0 Tonbridge 3

Match 04/12/957 - Saturday, 21 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Maidstone United (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 3 Collin 58, 75 Browning 85
Att. 1,320

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 18/106
New Ground: 251

Match Report

As Maidstone United are my pet dislike in football, it would be easy to denigrate everything about their homecoming to the Gallagher Stadium, so it would be best to congratulate the true supporters of the club on managing, after nearly 25 years in exile, to bring their club home. And a nice home it is; functional and fit for purpose, if it lacks a little on the eye. A focus of interest of the stadium’s construction has been the club’s choice to lay a 3G synthetic pitch. The picture below is the first and last time plastic grass will feature on That’ll Be The Day! Before the game I ran a hand through the 60mm pile and whilst it doesn’t feel much like grass, it doesn’t feel much like plastic either. As far as I could tell from the touchline the ball ran true, players certainly didn’t shirk a sliding in tackle and neither goalkeeper felt the need to wear tracksuit trousers.

The main stand sits 400 and straddles the halfway line, alongside of which is a rather horrible, Yellow Box-type structure that houses the club’s social facilities. At either end there is covered terracing with uncovered flat hard standing on the remaining length of the pitch. There is plenty of scope for expansion as the club make their way through the pyramid.

So I’ve been nice, now for the criticism. The biggest downside of the stadium is the lack of car parking. I chose to park at Lockmeadow, mainly because it was the cheapest at £1.60 for four hours, Fremlin Walk is closer, but at £3.70 it is an expensive add-on. A walk along the river towpath was very pleasant, whether I would consider it so on a wet Tuesday night in February is another matter. Whilst on the subject of money, I thought £10 entry for a pre-season friendly was a bit steep. I can understand the club charging full whack for their opening game against Brighton, but Tonbridge? Sorry, too much.

And my final issue was with the selling of beer from a tent outside of the social facilities. This might be harsh, but Maidstone is a chav town and there were plenty of said people in evidence. I can see people being allowed to continue drinking pitch side throughout the game causing a problem or two at some stage during the season.

Maidstone just edged a first half of very few chances. Shaun Welford, a proven striker, with Alex Flisher giving good supply from the left wing might have caused the visitors a problem had it not been for the solid central defensive pairing of Ben Judge and Ollie Schultz. George Purcell showed good movement upfront, whilst Mikael Suarez won every ball in the air, but in attack it wasn’t quite happening.

Into the second half, from the bench came the Golden Boot and with Lee Browning dominating the midfield, Tonbridge showed their Conference South class and took the game by the scruff of the neck. Frannie Collin missed one that you would have stacked your mortgage on before turning and shooting for the opener and followed that with a beautiful flick at the near post from a corner before George Crimmen laid a super pass for Browning to wrap it up. After getting rolled over by higher class opposition this was Tonbridge’s chance to do the rolling, and they did it with ease in the second half much to the disgust of a couple of young chavs who stomped away after the third.

Maidstone United now have a set up that should, especially with the huge fan base they enjoy, see them progressing through the Divisions with a similar impetus to that of Dartford on the advent of their new stadium. I predict they will begin this process by winning Ryman South this season by a country mile.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tonbridge 1 Ebbsfleet United 6

Match 03/12/956 - Saturday, 14 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (1) 1 Piper
Ebbsfleet United (3) 6 Ashikodi 2, 30, Bellamy 10, Elder 48,
Makofo 80, Judge o.g. 89

Att. 315

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 26/88

Match Report

Pre-season is meant to serve the purpose of obtaining match fitness, to assess which is your best possible team in a formation that best serves the players at the manager’s disposal and, hopefully iron out the mistakes that cause you to lose goals and games. This is where Tonbridge’s pre-season stands after two heavy defeats against albeit superior opposition, defensive errors that cost them goals against Crawley were not only replicated against Ebbsfleet, but continued during the game.

Tonbridge appear to have a real problem defending from the flanks, two of Crawley’s four were the result of crosses into the box and four of Ebbsfleet’s six came from a similar source. They would also hope that the conceding of early goals is not going to become a habit.

Thankfully, the game itself found a window in the relentless rain of July and the pitch played wonderfully well considering the deluge that it has suffered in recent days.

Tommy Warrilow started with a team without trialists and one that would appear to closer resemble the expected eleven on opening day, albeit that day is still five weeks away.

Ebbsfleet fielded their new look strike force of Nathan Elder, a (shall we say) beefy striker who has been in and out of the Football League alongside, one time Gillingham loanee, Moses Ashikodi. It did not take the latter too long to get his name on the score sheet. Just two minutes were on the clock when the home side failed to cut out a cross from the right allowing Ashikodi to tuck home from close range. The lead was doubled on ten minutes when Liam Bellamy scored with an unchallenged header at the far post from a corner.

Half an hour had been played when yet another cross from the right was once again converted by Ashikodi from close range with Ebbsfleet threatening to run riot. In fairness to Tonbridge they steadied the ship and managed to pull a goal back before half time. A wonderful crossfield pass found Frannie Collin in acres of space on the right and his perfectly weighted cross was met with a near post header from Chris Piper to reduce the arrears.

The early doors mental block struck the home side again in the opening minutes of the second half. Elder rose unchallenged at the far post to head home the Fleet’s fourth of the afternoon. One time Gillingham trialist Serge Makofo added a fifth before Ben Judge steered a cross into his own net in the final minutes to complete the rout.

Upcoming friendlies in the next couple of weeks are against clubs from lower divisions, so it is going to be all the more concerning if the same mistakes surface once more. Improved performances will allow the supporters the consolation that these teams of higher status are not going to be met every week and those defensive shortcomings are nothing more than a hiccup that pre-season is used to work out.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tonbridge 0 Crawley Town 4

Match 02/12/955 - Wednesday, 11 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Crawley Town (3) 4 Akpo 18, Clarke 20,44, Akinde 78
Att. 323

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 26/62

Match Report

A wait before leaving home as a pitch inspection is planned and leaden skies that had thrown down torrential rain for a couple of hours. Arrival at the ground with thunder rumbling in the background and the flash of lightening to be seen in the distance, we are not talking about a League game in the depths of winter, but a pre-season friendly in the early part of July. Oh, the joys of a British summer.

This was the backdrop to Tonbridge’s opening pre-season friendly against Crawley Town. The League One newcomers paid the home club the huge compliment of fielding a full strength side, albeit that two completely different teams played in each half. Tonbridge for their part paraded their close season signings in striker George Purcell and central midfielder Tom Davis, plus several triallists who chose the most difficult of evenings in which to impress.

As the game began, with the storm still threatening, it was apparent that the pitch, which looked an absolute picture, had weathered the downpour remarkably well. Opening the game with three of the triallists and their two new players it was understandable that Tonbridge came under early pressure from their Football League visitors. Of the two defensive triallists, John Scarborough, late of Maidenhead, looked the more composed while Dollard Mvimvi at right back was given a difficult time by the livewire Nicky Adams. It came as no surprise that Crawley eventually took the lead on 18 minutes when Gary Alexander crossed from the right for Hope Akpo to convert from close range. Less than two minutes elapsed before the visitors doubled their advantage, Billy Clarke scoring off a post after a cross from the left. Memories of last season’s ten goal drubbing at the hands of Brentford came flooding (literally, as the heavens were beginning to open) back.

As the worst of the rain held off, but with the thunder rumbling heavier and the lightening seemingly getting closer, Crawley spurned chances to see the game completely safe in the first half. Alexander was sent through following an incisive pass from Sergio Torres, but struck the post before, on the stroke of half-time, Clarke fastened onto a similar pass from Torres and calmly fired home.

The half-time break became a light show as the storm rattled around Longmead accompanied by torrential rain. It looked like an abandonment of the game was inevitable as the referee emerged from the dressing room to assess the conditions, but as the rain was slightly easing he decided that the match could continue. Crawley changed their entire team, whilst Tonbridge introduced another four triallists, one reserve team player and a couple of last year’s squad, Rory Hill and Lee Browning.

The substitutions, or perhaps the conditions, took the effectiveness out of Crawley’s game and the home side had a decent percentage of the possession and chances during the second period. Mark Lovell, late of Ramsgate, had three stabs at goal following a free kick, but from the clearance, John Akinde ended up rounding Lee Worgan, only to delayed his shot enabling the keeper to smother his eventual effort. Worgan was substituted by young keeper, Callum Keswick, unfortunately his first touch of the ball was to retrieve it from the net following Akinde’s conversion after beating the offside trap.

Tommy Warrilow was hopeful that he could build a relationship with his old club and that pre-season matches in future years could be arranged, hopefully they will be played in more July-like conditions.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Rusthall 1 Sevenoaks Town 3

Match 01/12/954 - Saturday, 7 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Rusthall (0) 1
Sevenoaks Town (2) 3 Johnson 9, Balogun 35, Akosa 42
Att. 60

Entrance: Free
Programme: None produced
Mileage: 36/36
New Ground: 250

Match Report

Appetite firmly whetted by an enjoyable, if not from an England perspective, Euro 2012 and without club football for nine weeks, an early to start to pre-season at Kent Invicta League Rusthall’s Jockey Farm was too tempting to turn down. Sevenoaks Town provided the opposition, whilst the home club provided free admission for the afternoon’s entertainment. This was my first visit to Jockey Farm, a ground that could be seen from the lounge on the upper floor of Rusthall Lodge where my Dad had been a resident. This was my 250th ground visited and a first whereby you enter the ground to be faced with horses hanging their heads over their stable doors. The drive to the car park takes you through the covered spectator enclosure to a parking space pitchside. Once parked, there is a nice clubhouse where the welcome was a warm one. There were few groundhoppers in evidence who took pictures of the Rusthall crest carved into the bar counter and although no actual match programme was produced the gentleman behind the bar, who might well have been the chairman of the club, handed out old programmes, of which I was a grateful recipient.

The match itself was played on the home club’s second pitch to save the playing surface of the main ground. As this was only my second dip into Kent Invicta League grounds I don’t know the standard of pitches in use, but this second pitch looked a bit of a cabbage patch. The game was played in three 30 minute periods with unlimited substitutions. The ending of the first period was met with confusion, not least from the referee who was unaware of the timing agreement. Indicative of the summer we have experienced, several brisk rain showers were endured.

Sevenoaks Town, under the returning management of Simon Jones, were much the better side for the first two periods as their higher status would suggest. A near post header and an angled drive from 20 yards had them in charge of the game before a fabulous hit from 25 yards into the top corner provided the outstanding moment of the game. Rusthall scored a consolation goal before the end that was well deserved for their competitive nature.

So season 2012-13 gets underway with what was almost a social gathering of a few old faces exchanging news of departing and incoming players of our local clubs in front of a couple of teams that served up some decent entertainment.