Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Gillingham 0 Middlesbrough 2

Match 15/12/968 - Tuesday, 27 August 2012 - Capital One Cup 2R

Gillingham (0) 0
Middlesbrough (1) 2 Carayol 22, Park 90
Att. 5,146

Entrance: £15
Programme: £2
Mileage: 45/641

Match Report

Gillingham bowed out of the Football League Cup but not without, as they would have said in their opponent’s homeland, “giving it a reet good go”. Middlesbrough came to Kent, paraded three players for whom they had paid in excess of a million pounds for each signature and left another three resting their legs on Teesside. The quality of their side was completely in evidence in a first half in which Gillingham paid their visitors too much respect, standing off and allowing them to find their feet in what might have been considered a banana skin tie. A very early alarm bell rang when, in the fourth minute, Mustapha Carayol stormed through the centre of Gillingham’s defence before setting up Marvin Emnes with a shot directly at Stuart Nelson. Carayol, an old adversary from his Bristol Rovers days, was the centre of Boro’s attacking intentions, forcing Nelson into another save on ten minutes.

Gillingham’s first chance came on 20 minutes when Danny Kedwell shot across the face of the goal before Middlesbrough opened the scoring a couple of minutes later. Carayol, who was being booed by the Rainham End after he kicked out at an advertising hoarding in frustration, once again surged through the centre of the defence, riding a tackle before lashing home a shot from just inside the box.

Middlesbrough comfortably controlled the rest of the half although Gillingham claims for a penalty when George Friend appeared to be holding Kedwell were denied five minutes before the break.

The home side appeared from the outset of the second half that they had been having the nothing to lose talk and just "give a reet good go" and took the game to their Championship opponents with an enthusiastic response from the Rainham End. Whilst Gillingham surged forward and attacks from their visitors were reduced to virtually nothing, direct shots on goal were at a premium. On the hour, Charlie Allen crossed from the right, Kedwell glanced a header but not on target.

There was a sense of inevitability that with the amount of pressure that had been exerted that eventually the quality side would break away and kill the game. This happened in the 90th minute when a weak back pass from Kedwell was seized upon by the very impressive Cameron Park who finished with an exquisite chip over Nelson from the edge of the box. It was like reading an open book moment for sure.

In seven minutes of added time, Chris Whelpdale and Jack Payne added to the shots on target column but these were dealt with comfortably by Jason Steele. The referee, whose contribution to the game had not exactly been enjoyed by the home faithful, called a halt and the Gillingham support showed their appreciation of their side’s efforts with rapturous applause. It was no more than they deserved. A first defeat of the season but a performance that will only have enhanced the growing confidence that this season can go from strength to strength.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season tonight came from the 1952-53 season.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Bromley 1 Tonbridge 1

Match 14/12/967 - Monday, 27 August 2012 - Conference South

Bromley (0) 1 Araba 86
Tonbridge (1) 1 Suarez 9
Att. 805

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 68/596

Match Report

Tonbridge survived football’s equivalent of the Alamo to record a hard-earned draw at Bromley’s Hayes Lane from this Bank Holiday Monday encounter. They can be thankful to a magnificent performance from goalkeeper Lee Worgan whilst their 19-year-old full back Henry Muggeridge can also take a huge credit from the game.

On a warm, blustery day that produced the odd shower, it was referee Ian Cooper that took centre stage with a series of decisions that infuriated both sets of supporters and Tonbridge manager, Tommy Warrilow in particular. Tonbridge were reduced to ten men, for a second successive game, when Chris Piper was shown a second yellow for a tackle with 20 minutes remaining. Neither booking looked worthy, but between the offences, the competitive Piper trod a fine line and with an ultra-fussy referee his departure had an air of inevitability about it.

Tonbridge started the game with a three-pronged attack of Mikel Suarez, George Purcell and Frannie Collin and with only four minutes on the clock, Purcell drove a shot across the face of Joe Welch only to see it rebound off a post. Bromley’s reprieve was not to last long when, five minutes later, Muggeridge played in Purcell whose shot at goal was only parried by Welch into the path of Suarez who had a tap in to give the Angels the lead.

Plying his trade down Bromley’s left wing was ex-Gillingham winger Albert Jarrett, who had produced from Worgan his first fine save of the match. With the impressive Ali Fuseini starting to pull the strings in the middle of the park, Bromley recovered from their shaky start and went on to dominate the first half. Piper picked up his first caution on 18 minutes, a soft looking booking for a barely mistimed tackle, whilst Worgan was called into action producing fine saves to deny Danny Waldren and Tony Finn. Bromley only had themselves to blame as they went in at half-time still in arrears as some poor finishing had been coupled with Worgan’s brilliance to keep the scoreline as it was.

Warrilow reshuffled at half time, the three-pronged attack was dispensed with and he introduced wingers Rory Hill and Nathan Koranteng to add some much needed width to their play whilst Olly Schulz, who had picked up a booking just prior to half-time for a poor challenge, was withdrawn with an ankle injury.

Sadly the second half started with Jarrett being stretchered from the field, but Tonbridge’s new set-up had the desired effect of nullifying Bromley’s midfield dominance. But, Piper’s second booking on 69 minutes changed all that and his dismissal led to an all-out assault on the visitor’s goal.

Worgan denied their efforts until he was beaten by Moses Swaibu’s header from a corner, but young Muggeridge made a fine saving header on the line.

Bromley finally got their deserved equaliser with four minutes remaining, substitute Ali Chaaban crossed into the path of Hakeem Araba who swept the ball home from close range.

As the home side used the time added-on to search for a winner, Worgan produced a save of stunning quality when he blocked Swaibu’s shot from point blank range. At any level of the game, it was a sensational effort; if it had been recorded by Sky they would have replayed the action all week.

How Tonbridge survived the last ten minutes was a matter of Worgan, stout defending and wasteful finishing, but the last chance fell to Koranteng who, with the chance of make himself an unlikely hero, blasted over after good work from the hard-working Purcell to preserve the status quo. Bromley would have been disappointed that their dominance failed to secure the three points, whilst Tonbridge will refer to refereeing decisions that had a huge effect on the game. The point lifts the Angels out of the bottom three with their hosts a place behind and both sides needing a win to get their season up-and-running.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Gillingham 2

Match 13/12/966 - Saturday, 25 August 2012 - League Two

Dagenham & Redbridge (1) 1 Gayle 34 (pen)
Gillingham (1) 2 Burton 30, Weston 62
Att. 2,251

Entrance: £19
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 92/528

Match Report

Gillingham maintained their 100% record this season and along the way Martin Allen is laying a few ghosts. Tuesday’s win at Wycombe, a perpetual bogey ground, went some way to eradicating the memory of their 2010 relegation after one of the most spineless displays ever seen by a Gillingham team and today, at Dagenham’s Victoria Road (old name, but even that’s more catchy than its present-day title), horrendous displays in the last two visits were despatched to the archives.

This win was another, like last Saturday’s that I would put in the patchy category, and that actually gives me a great deal of encouragement, giving belief that there is an awful lot more to come from this squad. And a squad game it is proving to be under Martin Allen. Win last Saturday equalled five changes on Tuesday; win on Tuesday accounted for another five changes today including a surprise benching for Danny Kedwell.

Trips to Dagenham always seem to come with a weather warning; we froze on the then terraces on Boxing Day 2008 and last year it was a very wet night, albeit under the cover of the new Traditional Builders’ Stand. Today was another wet one with lightning arcing its way across the leaden skies and torrential downpours at regular intervals.

Gillingham could easily have been ahead within 10 seconds of the start when a quick throw caught the Daggers defence cold, but Chris Lewington was alert enough to thwart Deon Burton. For 20 minutes Gillingham looked capable of running riot, opening up the home defence almost at will, but without reward. Chances came and went for Myles Weston who struck one into the side netting and rounded Lewington before standing up a cross that ended with Chris Whelpdale’s shot being blocked with penalty appeals being turned away.

A little of the momentum went out of the visitor’s play and it was during the hosts best period of the first half that Gillingham took the lead. Having survived a real scare following Billy Bingham’s free kick which Stuart Nelson did well to parry (or, at least, the ball hit him), a swift counter attack ended with Matt Fish placing a pinpoint cross for Burton to head home from the edge of the six yard box.

The lead was not to last long. A superb through ball from ex-Gill, Luke Howell allowed Dwight Gayle a run into the box which was ended when Nelson brought him down. The keeper was shown a yellow card and then sent the wrong way as Gayle despatched the spot kick.

Gillingham started the second half in the same manner they had the first and immediately chances fell once more to Weston, one into the side netting and a second over the bar. On the hour, Martin Allen made his first changes, Kedwell on for Burton and Jack Payne replacing Whelpdale with an immediate dividend, albeit with neither substitute involved. Fish played a long ball over the top to the galloping Weston who advanced into the box and drove a fierce shot through Lewington’s legs to the delight of the best part of a thousand Gillingham supporters behind the goal.

Gillingham created a couple of further chances before Dagenham mounted a grand finale that left the visiting fans biting fingernails, but Stuart Nelson was equal to the task with a couple of parrying saves and the home forwards aiding the cause with some wayward finishing.

So, even in these embryonic days of the league table, it is satisfying to see Gillingham sitting equal points at the top of the table, but kept in second place by a single goal disadvantage to Oxford United. As football banter goes its early doors and as a result of Gillingham’s away form of previous years, there are plenty of ghosts to exorcise in the coming months.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tonbridge 1 Salisbury City 2

Match 12/12/965 - Tuesday, 21 August 2012 - Conference South

Tonbridge (1) 1 Collin 36
Salisbury City (0) 2 White 73, 75
Att. 520

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/436

Match Report

Second Season Syndrome. Does it really exist or is it just myth? Supporters of Norwich City might well be considering it a genuine football ailment following their heavy defeat at Fulham on Saturday and after two defeats in games in which the corresponding fixtures were last season won, similarly the fans of Tonbridge Angels might just thinking likewise.

There are good arguments as to why SSS is real. Opposition clubs will be coming to Longmead this season knowing what to expect in terms of the facilities, the pitch, the hostility (or otherwise) of the home support and the logistics of just getting to Tonbridge, i.e. the vagaries of the M25. Players come and go, but let’s face it, Frannie Collin is hardly the league’s big secret. There is a statistical counter argument from the Premiership, of 59 clubs promoted only seven have been relegated in their second season.

Tonbridge’s start to the season has been less than great but, according to reports from their opening game at Maidenhead, although the best team won, they were not too far away from taking a point from the fixture and a similar argument could be made for last night’s opening home encounter against Salisbury City.

The opening exchanges of the game saw Salisbury hold the upper hand, but Tonbridge were looking lively on the counter attack. Chris McPhee, scorer of Ebbsfleet’s winning goal in their FA Trophy victory of 2008, was centre of much of their attacking intention, although his verbal exchange with the referee was hardly one of Olympian values.

Frannie Collin engineered a goal out of nothing on 36 minutes. The Tonbridge striker received the ball 20 yards from goal and curled a delicious strike into the top right hand corner, bending its way past three defenders and a goalkeeper. In fairness it was a lead that the home side barely deserved on the run of play.

The visitors suffered a further set-back just before the break when winger Stuart Sinclair was sent off for a stamp on Rory Hill, but as the second half unfolded, at no time did Salisbury look the side reduced to 10 men.

Tonbridge were forced into two half-time substitutions, Olly Schulz who took a heavy knock in the first half was replaced by Sonny Miles, whilst Robbie Kember was also replaced by George Crimmen.

In the space of a couple of minutes, and on both occasions as a result of swift counter attacks, Tonbridge fell behind. On 73 minutes, Jamie White, a close season capture from Winchester City, where he scored 54 goals last season, steered the ball past Lee Worgan from close range after a speedy break by Dan Fitchett and within two minutes he was on the mark again as he got onto a clearance and outpaced the Tonbridge defence to score. Two clinical finishes and White is obviously a striker to watch this term. The second goal did have an element of controversy about it. Tom Davis lost out on a challenge on the edge of the Salisbury box to a tackle that was perceived by many of the home supporters to have been over-the-top and, as he lay injured, the break was on and the goal was scored.

Mikael Suarez had already been brought on as a third substitute and as Davis could not continue, Tonbridge were themselves reduced to 10 men for the remaining 15 minutes.

Tonbridge sought an equaliser in the time remaining and the visitors time-wasting became a trifle irritating, but ultimately Salisbury deservedly saw the game out to a winning conclusion.

Are we witnessing Second Season Syndrome, or is this just another of Tonbridge’s notoriously slow starts to a season, only time will tell.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Gillingham 3 Bradford City 1

Match 11/12/964 - Saturday, 18 August 2012 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 3 Kedwell 43, 54 (pen) Weston 88
Bradford City (0) 1 Wells 62 (pen)
Att. 5,127

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/410

Match Report

First day of the League Season and, given the poor summer we have endured, naturally enough it was roasting at over 30degC. I can only say, thank heavens for my seat on the shaded Gordon Road side because I’m pretty sure I would have ended up in the care of the St John’s Ambulance had I sat in the lower tier of the Medway Stand.

As it was, in relative comfort, I was able to sit back and enjoy Gillingham’s opening game of the season as the home side produced a somewhat patchy, but very encouraging performance against an opposition that over the course of the season may well turn out to be pretty decent.

A little digression before reporting Gillingham’s 3-1 victory over Bradford City would be to look back at the wonderful London 2012 Olympics and enter the debate as to where football stands after a fortnight of sport in which the referee’s decision is accepted and victory or defeat are taken with equal grace. After the last night at the Olympic Stadium, I tweeted: “So that was that. Next Saturday the Premiership is back next Saturday, wave goodbye to sportsmen with humility and good grace.” It struck accord as I accumulated retweets and replies. It certainly was in line with the thinking of the national media as the country’s feel-good factor devoured many column inches.

It is probably too much to ask from our over-paid, boorish, egotistical stars to act with the humility with which the likes of Katherine Grainger and Gemma Gibbons greeted their respective medals. It is understandable that the Premiership players who are in the spotlight for nine months of the year, whilst the Olympians spend just a fortnight in a four-year period, are under far greater pressure to perform at a level at which their salaries demand but surely they are not so self-centred as to completely ignore the country’s opinions of them.

Whilst we look to our players to act in a responsible manner, I think that, as football supporters, we also have to look at ourselves in the hope that our game can be returned to one of honesty. For an example, I return to yesterday’s Gillingham match. Bradford City had a nippy winger, Kyel Reid, but like many players of his speed and talent, also has a penchant for going down rather too easily. On one such occasion, midway through the first half, down he went and was immediately taken to task for his simulation by the home support. This would be considered admirable if only the same level of dismay is taken when one of their own players does precisely the same thing. All the time, we snigger behind our hands that “he got away with that one” we have no right to deride a cheat.

Sermon over, and back to the game in question. Martin Allen made a couple of changes to the side that had surprised with their League Cup win at Bristol City bringing in Joe Martin and Deon Burton at the expense of Chris Whelpdale and Ben Strevens. An early scare was survived when Garry Thompson was given time and space to convert a header before Bradford’s keeper, Matt Duke, was forced into a brilliant save to deny Andy Frampton’s header and from the resultant corner, Danny Kedwell’s header was cleared from the line.

The half progressed as an evenly contested affair before Gillingham took the lead five minutes before the break. A ball into the channel from Lewis Montrose found Kedwell, who from an impossibly acute angle on the by-line clipped the ball over the head on Duke and into the far corner of the net, in-off a post.

The advantage was doubled early in the second half when Charlie Lee weaved his way along the by-line before being upended by a clumsy challenge from Thompson. Kedwell drove his penalty high into the right hand side of the net to register his third goal in the opening two games. The two goal advantage wasn’t to last long as Bradford were awarded a penalty of their own after Narkhi Wells was brought down by Frampton, Wells converting the kick himself.

Gillingham went through a patchy period in the match following the goal and the visitors carved out and wasted several half-chances.

Myles Weston, signed from Brentford on Thursday, had already given his new supporters a glimpse of his speed as he showed his defender a clean pair of heels, before with a couple of minutes remaining, he was offered a little extra space to run past his opponent and strike a shot across the face of the keeper and into the far corner.

In the time remaining, Charlie Allen threaded a superb pass into the path of debutant teenager Bradley Dack, who struck a mirror image of Weston’s shot, only to see his effort rebound off a post.

This was an encouraging performance from Gillingham whose fitness sustained them in the closing quarter of the game when many a side would have wilted in the heat. Martin Allen has harnessed his own feel-good factor, perhaps of a different nature to those of the Olympics, but very welcome nonetheless. I have to say that less welcome were the hideous red shirts that the club have chosen to celebrate their centenary year as Gillingham Football Club, personally I hate everything about them, the style and mostly the colour. On the positive side of the centenary offerings was the programme, reflecting classic covers and the opening issue was from 1975-76, my first year as a Gillingham supporter.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tunbridge Wells 1 Beckenham Town 4

Match 10/12/963 - Saturday, 11 August 2012 - FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Barton 87
Beckenham Town (1) 4 Greenway 20, Nunn 48 (pen), McKone 65, Turner 88
Att. 137

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 26/365

In nine months’ time, when the FA Cup Final is played out at a time when ITV can fit it in between Harry Hill’s TV Burp and X-Factor nobody will give a cursory thought to any of the 400 clubs that opened the competition on 11 August 2012 and should Manchester United be one of the Finalists, it will take Wayne Rooney just 13 minutes to earn the £1,000 that awaits the winner of this afternoon’s tie (and that is based on Wayne working a 35 hour week, like the rest of us).

This is where the soul of the competition remains. Six rounds remain before the First Round and a potential meeting with a giant such as Barnet at their ramshackle Underhill ground. This is where the dream began or ended for Tunbridge Wells and Beckenham supporters who dreamt the same dream as those up and down the country from Jarrow Roofing to Plymouth Parkway. Sadly, for local interest, it is the Beckenham supporters that take their dreams into the next round with a trip to Chertsey, whilst for the Wells, interest in the national competition ends before the majority of the country’s league season has begun.

Tunbridge Wells can have no complaints; their visitors were better in every department and were in no way flattered by their 4-1 winning margin. The Wells lined up without Andy Irvine and the lack of a strike partner for Jack Harris was never overcome.

Beckenham started the game well and found themselves ahead on 20 minutes, albeit with a controversial goal. A scuffed shot from just inside the box was deflected in by Nathan Paul who was in an obvious offside position. The linesman adjudged that the scorer had not touched the ball and was therefore not the scorer, but the goal credited to Adam Greenway could stand. With no bias whatsoever, there was no doubt that he had in fact touched the ball. Beckenham dominated the first half as the Wells’ long ball to the isolated Harris found no reward.

The South Londoners doubled their advantage early in the second half with a Alfie Nunn penalty and the tie was settled with 25 minutes remaining as a Danny McKone strike from 20 yards found the bottom corner. Tunbridge Wells claimed a consolation through Jason Barton with three minutes remaining but this was cancelled out when a corner from Jamie Turner deceived keeper Chris Oladogba and went straight in.

So the road to Wembley was nothing more than a cul-de-sac for Tunbridge Wells, whilst for Beckenham and 199 others the dream stays alive.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Tonbridge 2 Charlton Athletic 1

Match 09/12/962 - Tuesday, 7 August 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (1) 2 Purcell 32, Collin 47
Charlton Athletic (1) 1 Azeez 8
Att. 732

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 26/339

Match Report

The success of the Olympics has made it difficult to lift the backside out of the armchair for a moment let alone an evening to take in yet another Pre-season Friendly. On this occasion it was the relative failure of British athletes that levered me out of the chair and into the car to take in Tonbridge’s game against a Charlton Athletic XI. For all the success of TeamGB it is somewhat sad that the event of Coe, Ovett and Cram fails to produce a finalist for the 1,500 metres. Decision made, leaving Gabby Logan later on in the evening to update the bronze medal success of high jumper Robbie Grabarz.

Charlton brought a mixed team of youngsters, trialists and Leon Clarke, the striker that famously fell out with Paulo Di Canio at Swindon last season. It would also appear by virtue of his appearance at Longmead that his days are numbered at the Valley as well. There was a bit of experience in their side with John Sullivan between the sticks and Paul Hayes in midfield.

Charlton started really well and for 20 minutes, whilst it was ok for those of us on the sidelines to admire their movement and distribution, I’m sure it would have disturbed Tommy Warrilow to watch his troops on the pitch doing much the same thing. In the opening seconds a poor pass back to the goalkeeper from Danny Walder allowed Clarke in on goal, but the striker perhaps showed why he was in this eleven as he allowed Lee Worgan to save with Hayes firing the rebound high over the bar.

The let off wasn’t heeded, the very impressive Ade Azeez cut in from the left hand side, was allowed to travel across the face of the goal almost unchallenged to round Worgan and slide the ball into the empty net. With the South London side pinging the ball about at their leisure and stretching the Tonbridge defence, a pasting seemed very much on the horizon.

But Tonbridge slowly found their feet with George Purcell looking very lively upfront, certainly the best I’ve seen him this pre-season and Tom Davis starting to see more possession in the middle of the field. The blossoming partnership between Frannie Collin and Purcell eventually brought a reward on the half hour when Purcell deftly lobbed the keeper for his first goal for the club.

There was a moment of real concern early in the half when Worgan was clattered by Azeez and his importance was illustrated throughout the half as he made several saves of note. If there is an irreplaceable member of Tonbridge’s squad it is Lee Worgan and there is a collective holding of breath whenever he needs attention from the physio.

An early second half free kick on the edge of the box offered Collin a shooting opportunity. We all know Fran’s ability from that range; seemingly Sullivan in the Charlton goal was less aware, as he was rooted when the free kick nestled in the net off the underside of the crossbar.

Despite the second half being an evenly matched encounter, Worgan was forced on several occasions, particularly in the closing stages, to re-emphasise his value with superb saves from Bradley Jordan and Tobi Sho-Silva.

This was a particularly encouraging display from Tonbridge. The side fielded, one suspects, is not too far away from the starting eleven for the season’s opener at Maidenhead on 18 August. Sonny Miles was onfield during the warm-up and he might come into the reckoning following his hernia operation and Rory Hill might get the nod if he recovers from his knock on Saturday.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Tunbridge Wells 1 Fisher 1

Match 08/12/961 - Saturday, 4 August 2012 - Kent League

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Spackman 20
Fisher (0) 1 Monan 47
Att. 132

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 26/313

Match Report

Four weeks of friendlies is enough, it was time for some football with a competitive edge. Thankfully, the Kent League got off to an early start and Tunbridge Wells and Fisher contested a feisty encounter to set the ball rolling on the next nine months of action.

Martin Larkin, the Tunbridge Wells manager, has had a significant rebuilding job to do during the summer following a mass player defection to Erith and Belvedere. In his search for replacements he turned to old faces in the shape of Jason Bourne, James Russell, Joe Fuller, Jon Lord and Matt Foreman. Nobody is contracted at Tunbridge Wells, nobody earns a penny, so when a club finds a little cash, then players naturally move on. It is a fact of life at Kent League level, there always appears to be one club that have that little bit of extra cash to spend than the others, this season it seems to be Erith and Belvedere.

Fisher spent last season, largely in the doldrums and took a six goal pasting at Culverden in January. Steve Firkin has put together a side that this season look capable of putting those difficulties behind them, they have enjoyed a decent pre-season and their performance at Tunbridge Wells was well worthy of a point.

Tunbridge Wells took the lead, somewhat against the run of play, in the 20th minute through Perry Spackman. I would have liked to describe the goal perfectly, but as I was engaged in conversation regarding Mark McCammon and Snowgate at Gillingham my head was turned and I only saw the ball nestling in the corner of the net. Evidently it was a bit of a fluke, inadvertently diverted in by Spackman after a cross had been headed on by Andy Irvine.

Fisher got back on level terms within a couple of minutes of the second half, Richie Monan cleverly turning in a free kick at the near post.

A poor challenge from Spackman was the blue touchpaper for a fracas between the players that was ended with a booking for the Tunbridge Wells defender. Unfortunately, there appeared little forgive and forget as the remainder of the second half was peppered with little skirmishes between the two sets of players. The game became messy with the single highlight of a fantastic save by Fisher goalkeeper, Danny Firkins as a header by Jon Pilbeam was bound for the top corner.

The game ended honours even in the season’s opener, a season in which Tunbridge Wells celebrate 50 years at the Culverden Stadium, thankfully there is no obscure kit to mark the occasion with the Wells returning to their red shirts after last season’s centenary blue.

On another blog I noticed a picture of a stone marking the opening of the stadium back in 1962. I’ve been a regular visitor at Culverden for all of those 50 years and had no knowledge of the existence of the memorial until a saw the picture. As you will see from the photo, it needs a bit of a jet wash and a position of more prominence, rather than it being tucked away as an almost forgotten object.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dover Athletic 1 Gillingham 2

Match 07/12/960 - Tuesday, 31 July 2012 - Pre-Season Friendly

Dover Athletic (0) 1 Willock 57
Gillingham (2) 2 Jackman 11, Birchall 42
Att. 825

Entrance: £10 Senior
Programme: None Produced
Mileage: 93/287

Match Report

Adam Birchall led his team out at Crabble last night, scored a goal and made it through his first 90 minutes since his injury last pre-season. He received a warm reception on his old stomping ground and scored his goal a couple of minutes before the half time break after Connor Essam’s header from a corner had been cleared from the line, the striker fired the clearance through the crowded penalty area and into the centre of the goal.

As with the Ebbsfleet fixture, Martin Allen announced his side two days before the match with a second eleven getting 90 minutes into their legs. Two French trialists were included, the central defender Itoua, who had played at Stonebridge Road and a right back, simply known as Mikael, who I thought had a reasonably good first half and was rather surprised to see him replaced at half time. As the second half progressed, several of the youth team were introduced.

In the opening exchanges, Dean Rance, released by Gillingham this summer, had an opening effort that didn’t trouble Tommy Forecast before Danny Jackman opened the scoring for the visitors. Lewis Montrose, who looked very busy in midfield, passed to Jackman who from 20 yards fired in off the right hand post.

Midway through the half Martin Allen appeared on the touchline on the opposite side of the pitch to the dugouts and was constantly barking out orders with his son, Charlie, the closest and therefore the subject of much of his berating. Too slow in the middle of pitch appeared to be his consistent concern and Move, Move almost becoming a chant. His presence was quite intimidating and, if I was a Gillingham player, I wouldn’t want to cross him!

Four changes were made at half-time, both trialists departed along with Andy Frampton and Ashley Miller. Twelve minutes into the second half Dover pulled a goal back when a looping header from Callum Willock dropped into the corner of the net with Forecast stranded. It was a set piece that wasn’t defended and I’m sure Allen, back in the dugouts, would have been pretty annoyed.

Jack Payne, only made it to the hour mark, being behind everybody else in fitness having missed the trip to France. In the closing minutes, Essam turned an ankle and very painfully hobbled to the sidelines leaving Forecast, Jackman, Birchall and Allen to be the four that completed the 90 minutes.

On the walk from the gates of the Crabble grounds a very steep hill is encountered, a golf buggy is employed to take the less abled up the hill. On this occasion, I decided, for the first time to sit along the side rather than stand behind the goals and from there it is apparent just how much of a slope there is on the pitch heading back down the hill.

Martin Allen will be pleased that, at all levels, Gillingham remained undefeated and this was a good work out against a Conference South side that might well make an impression on that division this season. It says much for their ambition that they have managed to prise Willock away from Ebbsfleet, a club a division higher. Time is counting down, there was one new signing made between the two games, Tom Flanagan, a young central defender from MK Dons. In the mind’s eye a first eleven can be envisaged but new arrivals could change that line-up between now and the League Cup game at Bristol City.