Sunday, 24 February 2013

Chesterfield 0 Gillingham 1

Match 54/12/1007 - Saturday, 23 February 2013 - League Two

Chesterfield (0) 0
Gillingham (0) 1 McDonald 48
Att. 5,235

Entrance: £19
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 413/4,328
New ground: 253

Match Report

A day that began badly with a flat car battery car ended with the celebration of Gillingham’s record-breaking 11th away victory of the season and the news that Tunbridge Wells had reached the last eight of the FA Vase, another magnificent achievement.

A light dusting of snow was on the ground as I found to my horror that the car was not about to start anytime soon. An emergency call to my brother, who I was supposed to be giving a lift to, meant a change of car (and driver) for the journey to Derbyshire.

Ultimately this was a game that Gillingham won far more easily than the single goal scoreline suggests and the seven minutes of added time that the referee saw fit to add to the end of the match caused more consternation than the original ninety had previously.

My first visit to the Proact Stadium, which I found slightly underwhelming, was one that will be remembered as much for the extreme cold as the record-breaking win.

Gillingham bossed this game from the outset and it took a smart save from Tommy Lee to deny Chris Whelpdale after 10 minutes and when Steven Gregory, who gave a much improved performance, sent Cody McDonald clear on goal it took another save from Lee to deflect the ball wide.

Lee was easily the busier of the two keepers as he was needed to make saves from Charlie Lee, Joe Martin and thwart McDonald once more in another one-on-one. Meanwhile, Stuart Nelson was being superbly protected by the centre back partnership of Leon Legge and Adam Barrett.

Only three minutes of the second half had elapsed when Gillingham got the goal their efforts deserved. A right wing corner delivered by Myles Weston was headed home from close range by McDonald, who had managed to find himself a yard of space in the crowded box in front of the 500 or so travelling supporters.

Martin Allen’s recent assertion of playing it safe, “parking the bus”, saw Callum Davies introduced to bulk out the midfield and although it allowed Chesterfield more of the ball than they had previously enjoyed, their strike force was fed on scraps and even those were wasted with shooting from distance that was high, wide and far from handsome.

Jack Lester did manage to put the ball into the net but a linesman’s flag had long since been raised and on the counter attack, Lee was called upon to make saves from his namesake in a Gillingham shirt and a header from Legge.

The board showing seven minutes was greeted with a groan from Gillingham’s supporters, whether this was worry of losing their hard-earned lead or just a wish to get into the warmth of their cars or coaches is a matter of conjecture, but it was the visitors who came closest in the time added when Anton Robinson broke free but placed his shot just wide of the post.

As said, the Proact Stadium is comfortable, but despite its arched main stands that at least dispel the notion of a metal box, the overall feel is one of a pretty soulless place, unlike their old home, the admittedly near derelict Saltergate. The Gillingham fans were housed in the Rubicon Stand, the leg room was good and the viewing unobstructed as should be expected from a nearly new stadium. The price of tea, £2, was too difficult to swallow and despite the cold, I opted to wait for the Thermos flask back in the car.

The warming coffee was also used to toast Tunbridge Wells’ magnificent victory in the west country at Larkhall that saw the club earn a home quarter final tie with Hadleigh United from Suffolk. The car might have failed to splutter into life earlier in the day, but with two of my clubs managing to rewrite the history books, there is a lot of life left in the season.

Tonbridge 1 AFC Hornchurch 0

Match 53/12/1006 - Tuesday, 19 February 2013 - Conference South

Tonbridge (1) 1 Piper 45 (pen)
AFC Hornchurch (0) 0
Att. 304

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/3,915

Match Report

Two games, three days apart from two entirely different leagues, but if I was particularly lazy, I could just recycle Saturday’s posting from Gillingham. Another set of supporters who hold strong opinions on where their club should be at this present time and whether the management is steering the correct course.

Two particularly bad results, shipping seven goals in the process without scoring, in a very tight Division left Tonbridge Angels’ supporters once again looking nervously over their shoulders before this crunch match against a side from the bottom three, Hornchurch. Tommy Warrilow’s team selection had the majority of a desperately poor crowd at Longmead scratching their heads as he left out the club’s leading goalscorer, Frannie Collin. This omission was tempered by the return of Mikel Suarez to Conference football with Tonbridge after continuing his rehabilitation with a successful playing return at Hastings United.

On a freezing cold night that was spent watching the green grass turn white before our eyes; Tonbridge did just enough to beat a Hornchurch side, for whom a big improvement is needed if they are to avoid being one of the sides in the bottom three at the end of the season. The match was settled on the stroke of half-time when Lewis Smith handled in the box offering Chris Piper, in the absence of Collin, the opportunity, which he duly converted, from the spot.

This was ultimately another, stuttering nervous performance from Tonbridge with far too many misplaced passes and the creation of very few chances. Lee Browning pulled a shot wide after fastening on to a woefully short back pass after 10 minutes and there was also a disallowed second half goal for an offence that most people missed but obviously not the referee.

Collin was introduced into the fray for the second half and he looked fairly sharp, perhaps justifying Warrilow’s decision to give him a gentle reminder that nobody is beyond being benched. Suarez’s return was both welcome and a good one and perhaps it might be the rekindling of his partnership with Collin that garners the points necessary to ward off the threat of a relegation battle.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Gillingham 2 Dagenham and Redbridge 1

Match 52/12/1005 - Saturday, 16 February 2013 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 2 Legge 28, Burton 68 (pen)
Dagenham and Redbridge (0) 1 Ilesanmi 52
Att. 5,611

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/3,889

Match Report

Football is a game of opinion and thank goodness it is, because much like life itself, it would be a boring game if we all held the same viewpoint. No matter how big the news headline, football talk will always occupy the conversation of the bars and the workplace and whether it was a goal or not or the manager’s tactics or team selection, everybody with an interest will have a point of view.

The divergence of opinion could not be any greater than at Priestfield Stadium at this particular time. From the outside it would be easy to assume that all would be right with the world as, following this hard fought victory over Dagenham and Redbridge, Gillingham returned to the top of the table, but that is certainly not the case.

From my seat in the normally sedate Gordon Road Stand, there are dissenting voices as the paying customers, many of which are season ticket holders, are tiring of the lack of style that is being exhibited while others, more than happy to see their club at the head of the Division, are shouting down those voices. It seems that this divergence is being replicated in the more vociferous areas of the Stadium and my brother, a Rainham Ender, told me that arguments of a similar nature nearly came to blows.

Why do people support a football club, why do they go to football matches and what drags them back Saturday after Saturday? Is it a winning team or an entertaining team? There is no definitive answer, as the opinion in the stands clearly portrays.

My own opinion centres on the objective of getting out of what I consider to be a bloody awful Division, the football is mainly rubbish and, I would be untruthful if I didn’t comment that I feel Gillingham are one of the better of a pretty poor bunch. So with this objective in mind, I am prepared to suffer, and that is the word I choose to use, the lack of style in pursuit of the ultimate prize (and that is not necessarily the title). I think it is significant that two managers of some standing chose to defend their club’s performance this weekend with reference to their winning scorelines. Steve Bruce proclaimed “substance over style” whilst Mick McCarthy extolled the virtues of “winning ugly”. We are in the run-in to the end of the season when the titles will be handed out and to collect the prizes you need points and the professional point of view is that you have to do what it takes.

Martin Allen commented that lessons had been learnt from 15 minutes against Wycombe that had left a grey cloud over the place, personally it wasn’t just the last 15 minutes that annoyed me; it was the entire 90. But a good road trip to Yorkshire that had yielded four points and the addition of two new players had initially turned the frowns upside down, sadly it wasn’t to last.

Gillingham defend well in the areas in front of a good back four that includes two real leaders in their centre backs, Leon Legge and Adam Barrett, but it is a lack of creativity in midfield that results in a lack of style that is causing such frustration. Mid-table Dagenham were far easier on the eye but lacked the cutting edge that was going to worry a resolute defence.

A mundane opening 20 minutes saw the best chances fall to the visitors with Legge denying Abu Ogogo with a good blocking challenge before Gillingham took the lead on 28 minutes. Myles Weston lofted a free kick into the box and after a touch on from Cody McDonald, Legge found himself unmarked to lash the ball into the net from eight yards. A delayed linesman’s flag was eventually overruled by the referee to confirm the lead.

The lead did not see Gillingham obtain any dominance and I’m sure John Still’s half time team talk went something along the lines of “just go out and continuing doing what you are doing and something will break for you”. And it didn’t take long into the second half before a cracking strike from Femi Ilesanmi levelled the score. An initial pass into the box from the young full back was returned to him and a sweetly struck shot from 20 yards whistled past Stuart Nelson. Ilesanmi was the eye-catching performer on the day, a good athlete and fine prospect.

Two glancing headers from McDonald and Charlie Lee might, and perhaps should, have restored the home side’s lead before Deon Burton converted a 68th minute penalty after Anton Robinson had been brought down by goalkeeper Chris Lewington having been sent through on goal.

In Martin Allen’s own admission, having regained the lead, Gillingham chose to “park the bus” in the last 20 minutes, inviting pressure from the East Londoners searching for a point for their efforts. A fumble from Nelson and a Dominic Green effort had the home fans on the edge of their seats before a last minute breakaway from Weston ended with a cross to Burton at the far post from where the striker managed to put a header wide from about six inches distance.

A home defeat for Port Vale allowed Gillingham to leapfrog them at the head of the table, is that enough for Gillingham fans, not necessarily; it seems that is a matter of opinion.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1980-81 season.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tunbridge Wells 1 Dunston UTS 0

Match 51/12/1004 - Saturday, 9 February 2013 - FA Vase 4R

Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Irvine 66
Dunston UTS (0) 0
Att. 580

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 26/3,844

Match Report

When the season winds itself down in early May and the titles are being handed out, should Gillingham win promotion, or possibly the League Two championship, or perhaps Tonbridge might have won the Kent Senior Cup, either would be cherished occasions but should they happen they are not going to diminish the memory of this wonderful afternoon.

This long-awaited, much postponed, FA Vase Fourth Round tie finally got the go-ahead on what could only be described as a “pudding of a pitch”. Another postponement would have caused Tunbridge Wells a problem with the Football Association and this added to the nervous anticipation of the game. Dunston UTS, the holders of the Vase, hailing from Newcastle were the illustrious visitors and once they had set out from the North East on Friday morning, the game almost had to go ahead. Even the light drizzle that was falling at 2.30 p.m. when I arrived at Culverden Stadium posed a threat such was the condition of the pitch.

But on the day it all came right for Tunbridge Wells Football Club and I could not be more pleased for those that put in the hours to finally get this match to its 90 minute conclusion. To see the chairman, Joe Croker, pacing the terrace 20 minutes after the kick off like an expectant father, worrying not necessarily about the result but that the game was finally completed and the group of Wells supporters who relied on my stopwatch as the minutes counted down and past the 90 minute mark, this was as good as it gets . . . unless, of course, the Wembley dream becomes reality.

The game was ultimately decided in the 66th minute when Andy Irvine converted Josh Stanford’s cross with a half-volley into the roof of the net to the noisy acclaim of the crowd of 580, of which 50 or so had made the 300 mile journey down from Geordieland.

This was history in the making, no Tunbridge Wells team had previously made it through to the last 16 of the FA Vase, and next week they are asked to go the Bath area to face Larkhall Athletic and create a little bit more to reach the quarter-finals.

Everything that is good about non-league football was on view. Two sides, evenly matched, ploughing their way through the type of muddy field that is portrayed every FA Cup Third Round day when they dig their Hereford United tape out of the archive. Two sides that stood toe to toe and gave everything until the last 15 minutes when the legs were wading through treacle but played with great sportsmanship until the referee brought down the curtains to the unbridled joy of supporters, some of which would never have seen a day like this at their club.

Whilst sympathy in defeat could, and should, be accorded to Dunston UTS, they had their day in the sun at Wembley last May; this day belonged to the Wells.

The game began with Tunbridge Wells holding the upper hand for the opening 20 minutes before the Tynesiders literally got the journey out of their legs and started to threaten the home side’s goal. In those early stages, when the Wells managed to get the ball into the wider areas, where the pitch was a little more forgiving, Stanford and Jon Pilbeam caused the visitors defence more than a few problems. In the later period, Chris Oladogba in the Wells goal was the centre of good saves and heart-stopping moments in equal measure.

The second half took on much the same shape with Tunbridge Wells opening strongly which culminated in the 66th minute with Stamford skipping past his defender, taking the ball to the bye-line and crossing for Irvine to apply a composed finish. As the minutes ticked away and with the trophy slipping from the holder’s grasp they threw the kitchen sink at a Wells defence that stood firm with Perry Spackman and Scott Whibley putting heads and bodies in front of every assault. The naivety of non-league football sometimes shone through in these dying moments, with supporters screaming for their players to run the clock down by taking the ball to the corners, they persevered with playing the game through the heavy middle of the pitch in search of a second goal.

After five minutes added time, the final whistle sounded and with it a joyous pitch invasion that once again had echoes of that Hereford United video. Players hugged it each other, was it in disbelief, whilst supporters shook hands and punched the air. I cannot profess myself as a Tunbridge Wells supporter, in fact to some my allegiance to the old enemy at Tonbridge makes supporting both a misnomer, but on this occasion I was as delighted as any of those with whom I had spent this historic afternoon and can only reiterate just how pleased I was, not just for the players that won the game, but the people of this fine old club that give so generously of their time for moments precisely like these.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

England 2 Brazil 1

Match 50/12/1003 - Wednesday, 6 February 2013 - International

England (1) 2 Rooney 26, Lampard 60
Brazil (0) 1 Fred 48
Att. 87,483

Entrance: £30
Programme: £6.00
Mileage: 100/3,818

Match Report

For once, it was nice to walk away from Wembley feeling that, from the game, I had had my thirty quids worth and not only from the satisfaction of a fine England victory over the most celebrated of visitors.

This Brazil are no vintage, but they counter-attacked with speed and precision only to finish wastefully in front of goal, no more so than the superstar of the future, Neymar.

As England produced their best performance at Wembley since the demolition of Croatia in 2009 the crowd responded producing the best atmosphere heard for a very long time.

Whilst Chelsea's Oscar weaved a little magic in midfield for the South Americans, one Englishman was not to be outshone, the outstanding Jack Wilshere.

The evening had begun with a warm reception for one of England's unloved, Ashley Cole, on the achievement of his 100th cap but then was sullied by the brain-dead that chose to break the silence in respect of the victims of the Santa Maria nightclub fire, remembering the Munich air disaster and most disappointingly, the memory of Bobby Moore who died 20 years ago this month.

Both sides showed their attacking intentions from the outset with Julio Cesar producing the first save of note when he tipped over the bar a Wayne Rooney header after 10 minutes. On 18 minutes Brazil where awarded a penalty for a questionable handball by Wilshere. Ronaldinho, also making his 100th appearance, saw his initial spot kick and the follow-up saved by Joe Hart before Tom Cleverley steered the ball to safety.

Rooney opened the scoring on 26 minutes following a superb through ball from Wilshere to Theo Walcott, whose shot was saved by Cesar only to fall to Rooney who drove the ball into the empty net from about 15 yards.

Neymar should have equalised before the break when he failed to get on the end of a cross by Oscar, who had got past his Chelsea teammate Cole to get to the bye-line.

The Brazilians were level within three minutes of the start of the second half, not through stunning samba-football, although Fred’s finish was pretty emphatic, but a mistake from Gary Cahill, who had a decent first half alongside Chris Smalling reducing the threat of Adriano to nothing. Cahill attempted to dribble the ball to safety after a Brazilian attack broke down but was caught in possession by Lucas and Fred finished from the edge of the box with a powerful shot. It almost got instantly worse for England when a Smalling mistake allowed Fred another effort that clipped the bar.

Credit to England in that they bounced straight back and Cahill was close to making amends with a header that was saved by Cesar before Frank Lampard restored the home nation’s lead on the hour with a shot that went in off the post. Lampard, as he has done for much of this season, giving a gentle nudge to the Chelsea owner that he is a long way from the knacker’s yard.

The game continued its entertaining path to the finish and, albeit the friendly nature of game, a first win over Brazil in 23 years. A very satisfying evening, why can’t it be like this every time at Wembley?

Gillingham 0 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Match 49/12/1002 - Monday, 4 February 2013 - League Two

Gillingham (0) 0
Wycombe Wanderers (0) 1 McClure 85
Att. 4,758

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/3,718

Match Report

This was a night in which Gillingham Football Club were only suffering the embarrassment of a woeful team performance in front of the Sky televisions cameras but it turned to shame as an attention-seeking teenage prat left the Rainham End to launch himself at Wycombe Wanderers' goalkeeper Jordan Archer. Such has been the frustration of Gillingham's home form, any of the goalkeepers from Exeter, Barnet, York or Port Vale could have been accused of wasting time to preserve their lead and cause this waste-of-space to take it upon himself to make his ill-advised protest, so why this game ... answer: the presence of the cameras.

The perpetrator was quickly hauled to the ground by a couple of stewards and marched away to the derision of the majority of the Priestfield crowd. A Leeds supporter that confronted and struck Chris Kirkland earlier in the season received four months imprisonment and a six year banning order, because of the age of this miscreant perhaps the court will not be as harsh, but I don't think I would be alone in hoping they are.

As said, this was the final indignity in night that will only live in the memory for all the wrong reasons. Frankly, Gillingham were awful, dross, insert whatever term you might use at a time of sheer frustration. I left with one wish: that nobody that I knew had tuned into Sky to watch and thankfully, my wish was granted.

Supporters of the club that have been frustrated by Martin Allen's team selection of two defensive midfielders in home games were once again muttering under the breath as the team was announced. The first half was one of such tedium that I can only imagine people at home reaching for their remote controls as soon as the opening bars of the EastEnders theme tune was sounding.

Just before half time, with the home side having not tested Archer, Stuart Nelson was forced to make the first of a series of saves to deny a 30 yard effort from Sam Wood. The saves that Nelson went on to make in the second half earned him the man of the match award telling you everything that you need to know about this Gillingham performance.

Perhaps, but probably not, Allen saw the error of his ways and replaced one of his defensive midfielders with new signing Anton Robinson, sadly he chose to replace the wrong one.

Nelson started to earn his corn with a save from ex-Gill, Jo Kuffour before Robinson managed to clear from his line. On the hour, Kuffour was once more in the clear, but Nelson managed to throw his body in the way of the striker's shot. Gillingham were pressing hard, creating nothing of significance and getting hit on the break time and time again.
On 70 minutes, Dean Morgan absolutely left Leon Legge for dead as he sprinted on goal but once again Nelson came to the rescue with a blocking save.

With five minutes remaining from a superb through ball by another ex-Gill Stuart Lewis, Matt McClure sprinted clear to the edge of the box from where he shot past both Nelson and the post. It was a short-lived reprieve for the home side because a minute later, Steven Gregory, who had the most awful of games, was robbed in midfield and this time McClure, racing away, made no mistake.

Adam Barrett saw a header cleared from the line by Lewis before the pitch invader brought the final shame on Gillingham Football Club. We can sympathise with the frustration he felt, but the law-abiding either booed heartily at the finish or bit their tongues, but most importantly, stayed in the stands.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1996-97 season.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Tonbridge 2 Farnborough 3

Match 48/12/1001 - Saturday, 2 February 2013 - Conference South

Tonbridge (1) 2 Collin 37, Lovell 73
Farnborough (2) 3 Connolly 20, 33 Tarpey 56
Att. 491

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/3,673

Match Report

As January’s weather continued to blight the non-league fixture list, its consequences were highlighted as some Kent clubs needed to make big decisions following a month in which they have struggled to make any income through the turnstiles. Tunbridge Wells’ long awaited FA Vase tie against Dunston UPS was postponed a third time and now face a deadline of next Saturday to complete the tie whilst Ebbsfleet United have asked their supporters to “lose a few of the Christmas poundage” in other words make a donation of £30 to help the club through this “lost” month to avoid dipping into their February earnings to make up the shortfall. Whilst, at Tonbridge, a couple of players have been released to balance the books following new arrivals, but doubtless they are also suffering from a lack of home income having had only six home fixtures in the past three months.

Rory Hill is the latest player to make way at Longmead, following Ben Judge’s departure, whilst Mikel Suarez will continue his rehabilitation from the head injury sustained in the reverse fixture in October on dual registration. It is a fact of life at this level that players have to be moved on when the manager wants to bring in new faces and while money is the principal governing factor, players want to play football rather than sit on the sidelines week after week.

Three games without defeat had propelled the Angels into the top half of the table and within spitting distance of a play-off place, but such is the compactness of this division that a similar run would almost certainly see them looking over their shoulders once more.

Farnborough arrived in Kent a club smarting from a four point deduction for use of a player without international clearance but also on the back of an impressive win against the league leaders, Salisbury Town.

Tonbridge will look back with regret at two golden chances at either end of the game as to why their Hampshire opponents departed with the three points in their pockets. With only four minutes on the clock Nathan Green spooned a close range chance over the bar following an effort from Lee Browning and right at the death of the game, George Purcell dragged a shot well wide when one on target would almost certainly have brought Tonbridge the point that their late rally might just have deserved.

In truth, Farnborough bossed a lot of the game and their swift movement was too much for a Tonbridge back four missing Olly Schulz. They were all over the place as the visitors were denied a goal by an offside flag and were as stationary as terracotta soldiers when Reece Connolly converted at the near post from a corner.

It was looking all too easy for the visitors as Nic Ciardini tip-toed his way through the Tonbridge defence only to see his first effort cleared from the line and his second hit a post before Connolly converted the rebound.

A touch of the Francis Collin magic was needed to get the Angels back into the game and it duly arrived on 37 minutes when a free kick from fully 30 yards bent its way past the substitute goalkeeper who had replaced Craig Bradshaw, who was stretchered off following a collision with Green with an injury that was later revealed as a broken leg.

Tonbridge’s hopes of getting back into the game in the second half were dealt a blow when Dave Tarpey angled a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box on the hour. Tonbridge laid siege on the Farnborough goal and all was to play for 15 minutes from time when Mark Lovell glanced a Collin free kick into the net to reduce the arrears.

A succession of corners were forced and chances fell to Tonbridge, none better than Purcell’s last gasp miss that allowed the Farnborough side to celebrate a double over their hosts this season.

As January passes us by, hopefully the weather will relent and the turnstiles can be clicking on a regular basis and Tunbridge Wells can finally pursue their opportunity of a place in the last 16 of the FA Vase.

Gillingham 2 Northampton Town 0

Match 47/12/1000 - Tuesday, 29 January 2013 - League Two

Gillingham (1) 2 McDonald 3, Weston 83
Northampton Town (0) 0
Att. 5,600

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/3,647

Match Report

Such as been the paucity of Gillingham’s home, the majority of the 5,600 in attendance at a rain lashed and windswept Priestfield would have taken a single goal win with a goal that deflected in off the considerable rear end of Adebayo Akinfenwa. As it was two goals of an equally bizarre nature won a game that was spoilt by the conditions.

Bayo, who received a warm reception from his previously adoring fans, later tweeted that he felt that the Cobblers deserved to come away from the game with something and overall I’m inclined to agree with him.

Two teams positioned first and third in the League table came a distant second on the night as the conditions prevailed with neither side coming to terms with the howling wind. On a night when a goalkeeper’s kick-out either headed back towards them or sailed aimlessly over the heads of the forwards depending on the direction of the swirling wind. So, some sympathy has to be directed towards Northampton’s custodian Lee Nicholls who was deceived when a long punt forward from Matt Fish caught the wind and flew over the top of him to allow a grateful Cody McDonald a side foot into an open net to give Gillingham a third minute lead.

Clive Platt proved to be a muscular alternative leading the line for Northampton to Akinfenwa and Stuart Nelson needed to be at his very best to save his close range header on 20 minutes. Chances came and went for Platt and Ben Harding as the Gillingham back four were stretched but showed a greater resilience than of recent home performances.

A spectacular overhead kick from Deon Burton following a long throw by Charlie Lee was Gillingham’s best effort at doubling their advantage before the break.

Akinfenwa was introduced into the action just past the hour to impose on Leon Legge and Adam Barrett a heavyweight opposition the like of which they won’t encounter again this season.

Seven minutes from the end, the home side benefited once more from a strange goal that owed something to the conditions but also begged a question of the Northampton back line. A goal kick from Nelson cleared the back line to Myles Weston who was positioned a clear 15 yards or so further forward than the defenders. Did they not know you cannot be offside from a goal kick? Weston collected the ball and, despite a couple of defenders making up the ground to offer a challenge, his shot across the face of goal went in off the far post.

Conditions won the day, Gillingham won the points, ending a dismal run at Priestfield and returning to the top of the table.

The classic programme covers that are being replicated for this centenary season today came from the 1956-57 season.