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.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oxford United 0 Gillingham 0

Match 24/12/977 - Saturday, 6 October 2012 - League Two

Oxford United (0) 0
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 6,690

Entrance: £19
Programme: £3
Mileage: 200/1,562

Match Report

Tongue-in-cheek, Martin Allen asked the question, was it Gordon Banks? Well no, but we know where you are coming from, Martin. The goalkeeper in question was Ryan Clarke and his first half performance undoubtedly kept Oxford United in the game and led ultimately to the hosts being the first club to deny Gillingham full points on the road this season.

As the game unfolded, after a first half of total Gillingham dominance, Oxford recovered in the second and at the finish of the game it was the visitors that were hanging on for their point.

The first of Clarke’s heroics came after only three minutes when he parried away Danny Kedwell’s initial effort and was quickly back on his feet to save the return effort from Adam Barrett. At the end of the half, Clarke once more made a double save to thwart the visitors, firstly saving from Deon Burton’s header and blocking the follow-up from Matt Fish. In between those double saves the goalkeeper also made good stops from Myles Weston.

Oxford rarely threatened in a one-sided first half, but one of their very infrequent attempts almost resulted in a goal when an Alfie Potter header looped onto the bar and rebounded off the unwitting head of defender Tom Flanagan.

The early part of the second half saw no change in the ascendancy and the brilliance of Ryan Clarke, the keeper making a fine one-handed save to thwart Burton once more. An injury to David Wright led to his substitution on 55 minutes and subsequent changes, Finlay on for Weston and with 20 minutes remaining Burton was withdrawn for Frampton, led to Gillingham losing their momentum and offering the hosts the opportunity to stage a grandstand finish.

Stuart Nelson was called into action to make his only meaningful save from Potter and a last gasp challenge from Flanagan foiled Oxford substitute Tom Craddock.

On their first half performance, Gillingham fans who numbered over a 1,000, might consider this game two points lost, but following a tense finish it was realistically a point gained from a difficult venue.

It seems hard to believe that it was 11 years ago that the Kassam Stadium was opened with Gillingham being one of the first visitors for a Worthington Cup First Round match. At that point it was expected that the three-sided ground would be completed with the erection of a West Stand in the not-too-distance future. Sadly, relegation from the Football League and the financial climate has meant that the open end of stadium remains. In that time, Tonbridge have been visitors for a FA Trophy match and our 15 minute walk to the stadium from the first available parking space made us realise how lucky we had been, parking-wise, on our previous visits.

Gillingham supporters might also wonder of what might have been as Martin Allen’s Gordon Banks was dropped from the team a couple of games ago and only recalled due to injury to his replacement Wayne Brown, such is the fickle fortune of a goalkeeper.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Eastbourne Borough 1 Tonbridge 2

Match 23/12/976 - Tuesday, 2 October 2012 - Conference South

Eastbourne Borough (0) 1 Remy 75
Tonbridge (1) 2 Piper 38, 80
Att. 415

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 70/1,362

Match Report

Lightning strikes twice.

Last season, on the back of a worrying run of form, Tonbridge went to Eastbourne, then a form team, and with rain lashing the Langney Sports Ground, they came away with a well deserved, but surprising 2-1 victory. Wind forward eleven months, the rain was still pelting down, Tonbridge’s form was still indifferent and once again they delighted their travelling support with a 2-1 win.

On this occasion the inclement weather took its toll on the attendance. A crowd of 924 attended the 2011 fixture whilst this time less than half (415) braved the elements.

Although Eastbourne had the lion’s share of early possession, they were pretty punchless in the final third leaving Lee Worgan untested and having lost four of their previous five League fixtures the home faithful were not in any mood to cut their side too much slack. The principle point of discussion in the opening half-hour was the melee that followed a tackle by Tonbridge's Ben Judge. The challenge was misjudged, but hardly dangerous, and the scuffle that followed with almost all of the 22 players getting involved was completely unnecessary. The referee, who went on to be card happy, booked Judge (when it didn’t appear he was going to take action from the initial incident) and Eastbourne’s Ben Adelsbury for his part in the fracas.

Tonbridge went ahead after 38 minutes when Borough’s keeper Nick Jordan allowed a Henry Muggeridge cross to slip from his grasp at the feet of Chris Piper who eased the ball into the unguarded net.

As the rain fell even harder, the second half became a bit of a dog fight with the referee brandishing his yellow card with a little too much relish, eight players receiving a caution by the end of the night. Eastbourne finally got on terms with 15 minutes remaining, a long cross from the left found its way to the far post where substitute Ellis Remy scored with a shot in-off a post.

Tonbridge’s reply came five minutes later. Ross Treleaven, an ex-Eastbourne player, hurled a long throw into the Borough penalty area from where Olly Schulz’s goalward header was parried by Jordan into the path of the night's poacher, Piper, who scored to the delight of the visiting support positioned behind the goal.

A well-worked team goal following a cross from George Purcell and a volley from Frannie Collin was disputably ruled out for offside as Tonbridge caught the home side on the break in the closing minutes.

So from what looked a patchy run of form, Tonbridge can now to point to eight games without defeat, albeit with only two wins in the sequence, and their rise up the table to 14th makes much easier viewing.