Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Tonbridge 1 Eastbourne Borough 1

Match 69/12/1022 - Tuesday, 23rd April 2013 - Conference South

Tonbridge (0) 1 Ijaha 75
Eastbourne Borough (0) 1 Jamie Smith 52
Att. 624

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/5,756

Match Report

Two days after the celebrations at Priestfield, this unforgettable season rose to another high, but of a much different nature, as a point for Tonbridge was enough to secure Conference South safety for another season.

A difficult season, second season syndrome perhaps, but not identified as such by manager Tommy Warrilow, was epitomised by a stuttering performance that could easily have ended in tears without the dismissal of Eastbourne captain Ollie Rowe after a clash with Ollie Schulz.

Defeat for Billericay on Saturday had consigned them to relegation alongside Truro and Hornchurch's defeat left them on the threshold of the drop should Tonbridge manage to pick up a single point from either of their final two home games.

Despite a sizeable contingent from the south coast, the majority of the bumper attendance of 624 was willing and able to sing their way to Conference survival.

Eastbourne Borough came to Longmead safe in the knowledge that their Conference future was secure and this should have allowed them to play with a freedom that the home side could not afford, but this failed to materialise in a first half that was scrappy and had the look of a nervous relegation six-pointer, which, of course, it was not.

Early in the second half, Eastbourne scored to increase the tension around Longmead Stadium. A cracking 25-yard drive from Jamie Smith into the top corner leaving the home support momentarily silenced.

Tonbridge's lifeline was handed to them on the hour when a scuffle in the visitors' penalty area ended with Schulz prostrate on the ground holding his face. The referee, who was only inches away from the incident, produced an immediate red card to the horror of Rowe, who clearly felt that the Tonbridge defender had feigned injury.

The impetus was passed to the home side, but not before an almighty scare when Jonte Smith struck wide of the post when it was a whole lot easier to score. Tonbridge's salvation arrived on 75 minutes when a long throw from Nathan Green, the Angels' best player on the night, was only cleared to the edge of the box to David Ijaha whose shot found the bottom right corner of the net. Ironically, Ijaha had one of those nights known in the game as a bit of a mare.

The game might have been put to bed when an effort from Henry Muggeridge was well saved by the Eastbourne goalkeeper, Danny Potter before the visitors also spurned a chance in the dying minutes when a free header from a corner was put high and wide by Darren Lok.

The celebrations on this occasion were those of relief but, nonetheless, just as joyous. This season has one last high on to which it can rise . . . Wemberlee!

Gillingham 2 AFC Wimbledon 2

Match 68/12/1021 - Saturday, 20th April 2013 - League Two

Gillingham (2) 2 Burton 12, Kedwell 22
AFC Wimbledon (0) 2 Midson 65, Meades 85
Att. 11,172

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/5,730

Match Report

The music went round on a loop as we awaited the re-entrance of the Champions once the obligatory pitch invasion had been cleared. The Last Waltz and We Are The Champions was played three or four times, but missing was Lou Reed's Perfect Day, it would have been appropriate because this was a perfect day despite Gary Alexander doing his level best to spoil it with a shot that crashed against a post in the final minute of the game.

With only one point required to seal a first title for 49 years, this particular blogger was more than happy to accept a draw allowing AFC Wimbledon a suitable reward in their quest for preservation of their Football League status. The fans of this community club have endured enough injustice through the years and the wishes go with them in their final game of the season in which a win at Kingsmeadow against Fleetwood might not be enough to save them.

The walk away from Priestfield was shared with people that had been waiting 45 years for their perfect day, whilst yours truly had spent a mere 38 years. Years that had been spent with a damn sight more downs than ups and seasons that had never had the title of Champions on the back of them.

As if to confirm that this day was going to be something special, after a long wait for an extra box of programmes to sourced came the unheard of queue to get OUT of the gents! Over 11,000 packed into Priestfield with AFC selling out their allocation and contributing to the electric atmosphere that was generated. All present were richly rewarded with a game of excitement and tension in abundance.

Gillingham swept their way into a two goal half-time lead and seemingly in cruise control following Deon Burton's 12th minute opener and Danny Kedwell's header ten minutes later, to which the ex-AFC Wimbledon striker chose not to celebrate and almost offered a hand of apology to the fans behind the goal that had previously adored him.

AFC Wimbledon were sent out by their manager Neil Ardley with the obvious message of nothing to lose lads, so give it a go and give it go they most certainly did.

After 20 minutes of the half, a poor throw out from Stuart Nelson was seized upon by Jonathan Meades and his cross from the bye-line was knocked back for Jack Midson to score from close range.

Although the crowd noise remained at full volume, there was a tension in the air where there had been calm as the visitors piled forward in search of an equaliser. This duly came with five minutes remaining, this time Midson crossing for Meades to apply the finish. Enough time remained for Alexander to almost stun the home support into silence despite most knowing that nearest rivals Port Vale were (at the time) losing against Northampton.

The stadium announcer, who had almost apologetically pleaded with the fans to stay off the pitch during the half-time break, was repeating his plea as a few hundred decamped the Rainham End in joyous celebration at the final whistle. Most were youngsters that would not have been even a twinkle in their father's eye back in 1964, but they will carry forward their memories of this perfect day to the next generation.

Chairman Paul Scally brought the League Two trophy to the podium from which the sponsors presented medals to the Champions before the cup was raised by captain Adam Barrett with the champagne spraying, Formula One style, soon to follow.

As the chorus to Perfect Day goes:
Oh, it's such a perfect day
I'm glad I spend it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Yes, Gillingham you kept me hanging on, for 38 years, but oh my god, it was worth the wait.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lordswood 1 Tunbridge Wells 2

Match 67/12/1020 - Sunday, 14th April 2013 - Kent Senior Trophy Final

Lordswood (1) 1 Oladogba (o.g.) 9
Tunbridge Wells (0) 2 Cook (o.g.) 58 Pilbeam 84
Att. 739

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 26/5,685
Played at Longmead Stadium, Tonbridge

Match Report

The first trophy of this bewildering season duly arrived in Tunbridge Wells' trophy cabinet following their Kent Senior Trophy victory in the Sunday afternoon sunshine at Longmead Stadium. Over the course of the next couple of weeks there could be several "first for" occasions and when this particular final whistle sounded, it confirmed the Wells first silverware for 25 years.

Lordswood, themselves making their own little bit of history with their first-ever senior final can look back on the game as one that they really should have put to bed in a first half in which they dominated; scored a peach of a goal and must have generally delighted their supporters, resplendent in orange-coloured rose button holes, but heavily outnumbered by the Tunbridge Wells contingent in a crowd of 736.

After making the early running, Lordswood took a deserved lead in the 10th minute. A sweetly flighted free kick fully 30 yards from goal from Jordan Wells struck the angle of post and bar but was rewarded as the rebound struck the diving Chris Oladogba to divert the ball back into the net.

Given it was a Cup Final, a strangely subdued Wembley-bound Tunbridge Wells were virtually overrun in the opening half hour. As Lordswood played the football and opened up the Wells creating several good chances, Martin Larkin's side were reduced to hitting long, hopeful balls towards Andy Irvine, who was getting little change from a solid central defensive pairing.

When Mark Murison robbed Perry Spackman to advance on goal one-on-one with the keeper, only the lift the ball over the bar from the edge of the box, a two goal interval lead would have been no more than Lordswood deserved. Murison was guilty of spurning another gilt-edged chance in the dying seconds of the half when a parry from Oladogba was headed over by the striker.

But, having not taken their opportunities, Tunbridge Wells were going to take heart from the fact that they entered the break only a goal in arrears.

A different Tunbridge Wells emerged from the dressing rooms and a 57th minute substitution bringing Hooley Cornell into the fray changed the game. Within a minute of his introduction, Cornell produced a superb pass to allow Jon Pilbeam to drive a low cross into the six yard box. Lordswood goalkeeper, Matt Byott managed to get a hand onto the cross but only to direct the ball into the path of Gary Cooke who inadvertently deflected it into his own net.

Where the first half had been one-sided, the second was much more even and both sides traded opportunities before, with six minutes remaining, Cornell set up Pilbeam to curl a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box for the winning goal.

Defeat was hard on Lordswood, who had acquitted themselves well in their first final, but wasteful finishing and a moment of magic from Pilbeam meant that the silverware made its way over Quarry Hill for the first time in 25 years. Dreams of a trophy of much greater significance remain, but Tunbridge Wells will not be afforded such a poor first half display by Spennymoor at Wembley on May 4th.

Cheltenham Town 1 Gillingham 0

Match 66/12/1019 - Saturday, 13th April 2013 - League Two

Cheltenham Town (0) 1 Hector 67
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 4,939

Entrance: £22
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 300/5,659

Match Report

So the champagne stayed on ice. But, given that it has been chilling for the best part of 50 years, it doesn't do any harm to let it wait for another week and enjoy it with the benefit of home comforts and a full house more than ready to acclaim the champions.

Port Vale's concession of a 93rd minute goal at Rochdale meant that Gillingham's second away defeat of the season at Cheltenham was reduced to the loss of just a point and another solitary point next Saturday against AFC Wimbledon will be enough to pop the corks on, what will be for I suspect, the majority of their fans, a first-ever divisional title.

The 1,449 travelling support had arrived at Whaddon Road with an expectancy that the job would be completed and that the party could commence but a commited display from the home side, chasing an automatic promotion place of their own, stopped the celebrations in their tracks.

At another point in the season, when points were more precious with Vale breathing down the Gills necks, this would have been considered a poor performance, but the security of a seven point lead with three games remaining allowed the supporters to cut the team a little bit of slack and focus on a big finish at Priestfield.

Throughout the game, Cheltenham showed a touch more urgency, a sense that they needed the result far more than Gillingham and although there was little in the game, the result was just about right.

There was also an inevitability about the result, given the hostile, if anything associated with Cheltenham could be considered hostile, reception that awaited Martin Allen on his return to a former club, that according to some ruined the Gloucestershire club. The noisy, boisterous following from the Medway Towns easily drowned out whatever was thrown at the Gillingham manager, who had been quite open with pre-match comments that he knew he had made mistakes when in charge at Whaddon Road.

The first half was principally Cheltenham's in terms of possession and the lively winger, Jermaine McGlashan causing considerable problems on the right flank. He set up chances for Byron Harrison, Kaid Mohamed and Russell Penn whilst Gillingham's best chance fell to Danny Kedwell who saw his shot well saved by Scott Brown as the ball headed for the top corner.

The second half progressed in much the same fashion with the home side in the ascendancy, with McGlashan impressive, but also deeply irritating with his ability to go to ground at the slightest touch, one such time earning Andy Frampton a booking.

The winning goal came on 67 minutes on the back of a rising sense of injustice towards referee Gavin Ward. A disputed free kick led to a corner from which the towering Michael Hector rose the highest to firmly plant a header past Stuart Nelson.

Gillingham mounted something of a rally to salvage the point that would have been enough to seal the title on the day and Adam Barrett, thrown forward as a supplementary attacker, brought a decent save out of Brown but it was the home side that made the real chances to double their advantage.

The news from Rochdale signalled that neither side had suffered too badly from the outcome of the Whaddon Road encounter and both go forward into their final two fixtures with their eventual destiny in their own hands and the fingers of those hands ready to pop those champagne corks.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Tunbridge Wells 2 Deal Town 2

Match 65/12/1018 - Tuesday, 9th April 2013 - Kent League

Tunbridge Wells (1) 2 Sinden 10, 90+2
Deal Town (2) 2 Collins 7, Quinn 37
Att. 202

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 26/5,359

Match Report

The all-consuming nature of Tunbridge Wells' forthcoming appearance in the FA Vase Final was highlighted when, as usual with about five minutes remaining, club secretary Phil Allcorn was canvassing votes for the man of the match. On this occasion, so deep in conversation regarding all things Wembley had I been, that I realised I had not been sufficiently concentrating to actually nominate anybody with any conviction. If I had thought a bit harder, then it was probably obvious that Richard Sinden, who in the final seconds confirmed his award with an equalising goal, should be the recipient.

Such is Tunbridge Wells' fixture backlog, they played at Sevenoaks the night before and will play Canterbury at Culverden on Thursday, it is unsurprising that Martin Larkin is fully utilising his squad. It was thought that of the starting eleven for this Kent League game against Deal Town only three would be likely to feature in Sunday's Kent Senior Trophy Final, never mind the Wembley occasion.

There is definitely the air of cup fever around the town. Ticket sales have exceeded 5,000 (in fact, Tunbridge Wells have sold more tickets than the entire attendance at last season's Final) and the hoped-for knock on effect of an increase in the fan base is showing signs of materialising with the attendance of 202 being 40-or so more than the average, which on a damp Tuesday night is encouraging.

For their part, Deal Town would almost certainly have returned to the East Kent coast with a sense of injustice as they were fully deserving of the three points that Sinden denied them well into stoppage time.

The visitors took a seventh minute lead when a pass into the right channel beyond the Tunbridge Wells' full back saw goalkeeper Michal Czanner venture far from his goal, arriving just about as late as watching a bus disappearing down the Wells hill when you've only got as far as the War Memorial. Jack Collins took full advantage, rounding the keeper and sliding the ball into the net from an acute angle.

This Tunbridge Wells side is nothing if not resilient and within three minutes they were level when Sinden swept in a cross from the right from close range.

Deal continued to play the better of the football on a pitch that remains difficult and on 37 minutes a corner was headed home by Liam Quinn to give the visitors a half-time lead and this remained the pattern through a second half in which the black and white hooped shirts dominated but wasted numerous chances.

As the sun appeared to be setting on a run that has seen Tunbridge Wells unbeaten in the league since mid-October, Sinden's 93rd minute cross-cum-shot (from the length of the field it was difficult to tell) sail into the far corner of the net to salvage both the record and a point.

At Longmead on Sunday, I must resolve to put Wembley talk to one side and if and when I'm asked to nominate the man of the match, I can do so with a clear conscience of knowing that I've concentrated fully enough to make the choice.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Gillingham 1 Torquay United 0

Match 64/12/1017 - Saturday, 6 April - League Two

Gillingham (0) 1 Kedwell 48
Torquay United (0) 0
Att. 7,574

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/5,333

The cake is baked, it now just needs icing.

News had long since filtered through that both Northampton and Rotherham were losing their respective matches and Gillingham supporters, who had been left of the edge of their seats by a late Torquay rally, were able at the final whistle to celebrate their first-ever promotion in front of a Priestfield Stadium audience.

As the players danced with joy in front of an adoring Rainham End, below us in the Gordon Road Stand, Martin Allen and his chairman, Paul Scally embraced in a manner than many, myself included, had seriously doubted on his appointment in July.

Allen and Scally didn’t appear to be ideal bed fellows. The manager it was assumed from previous tenures was a man that would manage on his terms and his terms alone and Gillingham supporters, at least thought they knew, that Scally was a controlling chairman. Martin Allen’s record made him a respected choice but could his relationship with Scally survive the season, even the chairman himself reminisced that he had previous considered Allen, but was scared of him.

Allen revamped his squad in the summer and Scally made significant investments in bringing the likes of Deon Burton to the club and it was feared that the crunch might come if and when Allen needed to go back to his chairman to further strengthen his squad at a later date. Allen did indeed go back, in came Myles Weston, later in the season he went back again for Leon Legge, there were several loan signings in between, and Scally backed his man every time.

The embrace told us all that our concerns had been unfounded and if there is any justice in football, their pair will celebrate Gillingham’s first title in 50 years in the next couple of weeks. For 90 per cent of the season they have led the table and even the most one-eyed of Port Vale fans would have to accept they are the team that deserves the accolade.

All the day needed to round it off was a Roy of the Rovers moment and it duly arrived three minutes into the second half when the local lad playing for the team he supported as a kid, Danny Kedwell, received a peach of a pass from the ever-improving Steven Gregory and from the corner of the six yard box drove a volley past the Torquay keeper and into the bottom corner.

Another boisterous Priestfield crowd had grown just a little edgy through a first half in which the home side dominated the early stages but lost their momentum after the midway point of the half. After a couple of minutes, Adam Birchall’s 20 yard strike clipped the top of the crossbar on its way over as Gillingham mounted an opening period of sustained pressure. However, ex-Gillingham striker Rene Howe issued a warning when he struck a post.

After Roy Race (of the Rovers) had put the home side in front, Gillingham failed to take their chances and Torquay slowly edged their way back into the game. A penalty shout as Elliott Benyon went down in the box had the Rainham End anxiously awaiting the referee’s decision and they thanked their lucky stars when Aaron Downes met a corner only to place his free header wide.

With five minutes remaining Torquay must have realised that this was not their day to play the part of party-poopers when a free kick, given away needlessly by Leon Legge, 25 yards from goal, was crashed against the bar by Kevin Nicholson.

It proved to be the last scare and the final whistle confirmed Gillingham as the first club in the Football League to earn promotion this season and from that point to celebrations ensued. This was another game that epitomised the character and resilience of Martin Allen’s side. It hasn’t (hardly ever, in fact) been pretty, but they are a damned hard side to beat and many previous Gillingham sides would have lost this game and many others like it this season.

Once the celebrations have passed with, presumably the title added to the honours list, the cold reality of next season in the higher level will take hold, but this summer no one should doubt the ambition or the partnership of Messrs Allen and Scally.

Tonbridge 1 Weston-super-Mare 1

Match 63/12/1016 - Wednesday, 3 April - Conference South

Tonbridge (0) 1 Lovell 55
Weston-Super-Mare (0) 1 Grubb 90+2
Att. 283

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/5,288

Match Report

If you've watched the game for a long time, the culmination of this game was something that you would have seen many times before. A team, fighting for their lives at the bottom of a division, not getting the breaks and with Tonbridge struggling in Conference South, an injury time equaliser was a real kick in the teeth as just a couple of minutes earlier they had seen a Frannie Collin effort hit a post and roll agonisingly along the goal line before spinning out of play.

But then, the saying "what goes around, comes around" rang hollowly true as the last gasp point earned against Billericay on Easter Monday was reversed.

An early April evening fixture should be presenting a little bit of comfortable spectating but this never-ending Winter offered up another evening when light snow showers and a biting wind eventually bit hard at the extremities.

The first half was one of limited opportunities, Weston-super-Mare probably having the best of them, before Nathan Green forced Lewis Carey into his first real save of the half. Ex-Angels’ loanee Kayne McClaggon was a constant threat and put a couple of chances wide of the post.

The feature of the second half was the impression that both wingers, Green and Henry Muggeridge, were able to make whenever they were given the opportunity to run at their full backs.

Tonbridge opened the scoring ten minutes into the half. Lee Browning laid an inch perfect cross from which Mark Lovell steered the ball into the bottom corner. Green might well have doubled the advantage two minutes later when through one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot was straight at Carey who saved comfortably.

There were several chances for both sides in what became an entertaining encounter before the final dramatic moments and the one that could define Tonbridge’s season. Muggeridge skipped a couple of tackles in a run along the bye-line before pulling back a pass to Collin, whose shot first hit the post and then ran along the line before spinning out for a goal kick.

Almost immediately, Dale Grubb, who was probably the best player on the pitch, took an advantage of a slip from Gary Elphick and curled a fantastic 25-yarder into the top corner for a heartbreaking equaliser with 92 minutes on the clock.

You feel that Tonbridge can take some consolation from what was a good performance on the night and, from reports, a much improved display from their Bank Holiday Monday encounter against Billericay. But not just character is going to see the Angels get out of this relegation fight, a little bit of Lady Luck might go some way to helping.

Gillingham 1 Rotherham United 0

Match 62/12/1015 - Monday, 1 April - League Two

Gillingham (1) 1 Burton 22
Rotherham United (0) 0
Att. 6,796

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/5,262

Match Report

Be aware, It Ain't Over Till The Fat Lady Sings, but take heart, she's clearing her throat. However, the Fat Man is Singing and it’s the same old song. Gillingham took one massive step towards promotion on Easter Monday and, at the same time, damaged Steve Evans' hopes of taking his Rotherham side into the automatic positions.

Steve Evans isn't just loathed by Gillingham supporters, he has rubbed up the wrong way opposition fans up and down the country and you have to wonder whether the baggage he brings with him is worth it for any club that employs him. The man Is a sore loser, there is always an excuse why Rotherham lose, referees, misfortune, but never that the other side were better than them. On this occasion he felt that his side deserved a point and their second half performance was one of total dominance, the man is seriously deluded. And it seems some Rotherham supporters are tiring of his vitriol with plenty of them questioning his position on message boards.

Back in December, on our first visit to Rotherham's New York Stadium, Evans had a point, our win there was a serious mugging, but this was an equally one-sided affair in Gillingham's favour. If total dominance of the second half amounts to a grandstand finish in the last ten minutes when Rotherham poured forward in search of an equaliser, but managed on just one occasion to force Stuart Nelson into a meaningful, albeit very good, save turning away a Michael O'Connor volley that had seemed destined for the top corner, then he is entitled to his opinion.

In the absence of any ticket offers, there was a smaller crowd, 6,796, than has been the case recently, but were nevertheless loud and the sight of Evans on the touchline would have been enough to raise the emotions, but the stadium announcer joking that there was a pizza delivery for the Rotherham manager (amusing, but at the same time, really quite naughty) and Martin Allen's walk to the centre of the pitch prior to the team's arrival ratcheted up the atmosphere several notches.

As expected, Allen brought back a couple of the faces that had been missing on Saturday at Fleetwood. Ex-Miller, Deon Burton was restored to the attack and Steven Gregory replaced Callum Davies in centre midfield. Both made significant impressions on the game.

Both sides responded to the atmosphere and the early exchanges were even with a half-chance coming to both sides. Daniel Nardiello was an early threat and Adam Barrett saw a shot on the turn deflected over the bar.

Gillingham's well rehearsed long throw routine brought a 22nd minute goal. Chris Whelpdale threw to the near post and Danny Kedwell's header was poked home from close range by Burton, to once more torment is ex-employers.

On 34 minutes, Whelpdale was seriously unlucky to see a 25 yard shot crash against the bar with Scott Shearer a helpless spectator as the home side were in complete control of the game.

The early part of the second period was largely dominated by the home side with Kedwell striking a fierce shot that was touched onto the bar by Shearer after 70 minutes and five minutes later the pair were in action again with, once again, the keeper proving the winner as Kedwell's header was turned aside.

The game then entered the period of Evans' dominance, Gillingham were forced back but defended resiliently allowing the Yorkshire side virtually nothing until O'Connor's late strike.

The final whistle sounded on three very satisfying points and there was further cheer when news came of results elsewhere that had gone in Gillingham's favour opening up an eight point lead at the top of the table. Very soon, the Fat Lady will sing, perhaps she can duet with the Fat Man, something along the lines of The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony?

Fleetwood Town 2 Gillingham 2

Match 61/12/1014 - Saturday, 30 March 2013 - League Two

Fleetwood Town (1) 2 Matt 33, 69
Gillingham (2) 2 Kedwell 3, Allen 43
Att. 3,033

Entrance: £12.50
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 616/5,217
New Ground: 254

Match Report

Every season as we enter April there is a day when I would wish to be at two places at once, this was the day this time around.

I had no problem with being at Fleetwood Town. A nice Easter weekend away with my brother and our wives taking in the scenery further up-country at the Lakes in a very pleasant hotel with good food and a few drinks is certainly not to be sniffed at. Added to this was the attraction of a new ground, and of course, Gillingham’s onward pursuit of promotion, and dare I say it, the League Two championship.

But 80 miles further north there was the possibility of real history in the making. The two goal lead obtained by Tunbridge Wells last week in the mud of Culverden Stadium needed to be defended to reach a FA Vase Final for the very first time and 50% of me wanted to be at Shildon Town. The mobile phone was going to be both my source of information and a distraction at the same time.

A walk along Fleetwood’s front suggested this was a coastal town that Easter forgot. The biting wind that had a chill factor into minus figures left the uninviting beach empty bar a few hardy fishermen, whilst the prom was only being walked by a few dog owners and their reluctant pets.

On entry into the Highbury, named after the Avenue behind which it sits, rather than anything to do with Arsenal, the blandness of three sides of prefabrication is broken by an arched roof main stand that houses a viewing gallery that was quite unusual. Another quirk of the stadium is that stand on the other long side has been built directly in front of the old stand which remains undemolished.

The pitch was firm and dry, nothing like the mud baths that have been witnessed in recent weeks. It did, in fact, play like a spring pitch with plenty of bounce in the ball.

Martin Allen selected a side that had the hint of keeping a couple of players back for Monday’s encounter with Rotherham. Adam Birchall partnered Danny Kedwell in attack whilst Callum Davies was given a rare start in the centre of midfield.

At kick-off it was a case of synchronise watches and with the mobile displaying Tunbridge Wells’ Facebook page awaiting updates. Before I had even glanced at the phone, Gillingham were a goal to the good after just three minutes. Birchall picked up a loose clearance and with a deft backheel set up Kedwell to curl a shot into the top right corner from the edge of the box.

Fleetwood, to their credit, were not to be intimidated by the league leader's fine start and Stuart Nelson needed to be at his best to save at the feet of Gareth Evans. By now several glances had been made at the phone and the latest brought the bad news that Shildon had also taken the lead after 10 minutes. Ten minutes later and the news from the north-east was even worse with Shildon having levelled the aggregate score, this was going to be a long afternoon.

Back to the matter in front of my eyes and just after the half-hour Fleetwood got a deserved equaliser. Junior Brown was given far too much space and his cross from the right was headed against the underside of the crossbar by Evans with the rebound bundled home by Jamille Matt.

An entertaining encounter ensued with both sides having chances before a couple of minutes from the break, Birchall sent Joe Martin away down the left hand side from where he delivered a pin-point cross to the welcoming head of Charlie Allen to restore the visitors' advantage.

The little bit of news coming through from Shlldon during the break didn't make great reading as it appeared that Tunbridge Wells were being given a bit of a chasing. The opening to the second half at Fleetwood saw Gillingham continue their momentum. Davies intercepted a pass in the centre circle and charged through the middle of the field, a glance to his right would have seen a better placed Gillingham player, but he chose to shoot weakly at the goalkeeper.

Just after the hour mark, things went from bad to worse at Shildon as the quality player on view at Culverden a week previous, Sam Garvie, put the home side three-up and ahead on aggregate and to compound the woe within five minutes, following an unusual muddle in the Gillingham penalty area in which chances to clear the ball were spurned, Matt was able to poke home a equaliser for the home side.

Fleetwood were now in the ascendancy and with Gillingham clinging on for their point, the mobile was becoming a bit of a distraction, but with eight minutes to go at Shildon, there was good news at last with Andy Irvine scoring to level up the aggregate score. Now confusion reigned as to whether away goals counted or not (they didn't).

As the clock ticked on, and being ready to accept the result at both venues, a cross from Allen was met firmly with the head of Kedwell and it took a brilliant diving save from Scott Davies to deny the striker the winning goal.

The final whistle blew at Fleetwood with a result I would have taken at the beginning but now my concern was one of a different nature, the mobile's battery was beginning to die and extra time was being played at Shildon!

So, it was necessary to conserve the battery but switching the phone completely off and turn it back on again, each time five minutes had past. The excitement must have been getting to the Facebook contributor as the updates also dried up after half-time with the scores still level.

Then, with five minutes remaining, the seemingly impossible happened, from Twitter it read GOOOAAALLLL!!!!! Perry Spackman had scored with a header from a corner and the Wells had one foot in the Wembley dressing room. There was obviously a further alarm if you were at the game when the home side had a goal disallowed. But a Twitter post saying: Goal Disallowed for Shildon doesn't present the same palpitations.

Tunbridge Wells at Wembley, I don't believe I've just typed that said the Facebook contributor and I don't think many of us, watching from afar, could quite believe it either.

Back at the hotel, the conversation was on promotion, but never far away was the words Wembley and Tunbridge Wells, never before uttered in the same sentence and the strangest of bed fellows, but stranger things have happened . . . sorry but they haven't!