Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Woking 3 Gillingham 0

Match 10/13/1037 - Saturday, 27th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Woking (1) 3 McCallum 35, Williams (pen) 55, McNamme 90
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 654

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 129/454
New Ground: 255

Match Report

The footballing gods are telling me that it is time to bring this pre-season to an end following a day in which very little went right and Gillingham slumped to an embarrassing three goal defeat at Conference side, Woking.

A pre-travel check on the vagaries of the M25 traffic left initial doubts as to whether to make the trip at all. There had been an accident that was causing major delays, but once I realised that I was getting my clockwises confused I decided that as it was on the other side of the road I would set out. This fixture had been earmarked when the pre-season fixtures were announced. Three opportunities to visit Kingfield with Tonbridge had passed me by, as it turned out the tick in the grounds visited book was the only redeeming feature of the day.

After watching a woefully poor display from Gillingham, the homeward journey was a nightmare. The accident had not been cleared as it involved a mobile crane and delays through the incident were 90 minutes long. I attempted to circumnavigate my way around that stretch of the motorway by winding my way through south west London boroughs, but these were also snarled and by the time I arrived home I had no more than broken even on time.

The Kingfield Stadium is an everyday non-league ground as you look around three sides, one of which was not in use anyway. That is before you cast your eyes on the magnificent Leslie Gosden stand. This has to be one of the best stands in non-league football attached to a club that has never played in the Football League. The 2,000 seat structure stands alone as the only part of a four phase plan begun in 1995 to be completed.

On the field, this was one match in which my opinion has to be at odds with manager Martin Allen as he tried to draw positives from it. Even the most one-eyed of the few Gillingham fans that made the journey will be hard put to see the bright side. Cody McDonald looked quite sharp but paired with the largely ineffective Antonio German he was fighting a lone battle. The midfield, with the exception of Steven Gregory, who was half-decent, was poor and sloppy defending accounted for two of the goals.

In a competitive fixture Woking's Jack Parkinson would have seen a red card after 26 minutes as McDonald was pulled back when through on goal, lenient refereeing amounted to just a word in the ear.

The hosts took the lead after 35 minutes when Gavin McCallum shrugged off the attentions of Joe Martin to lob the advancing Stuart Nelson. At the start of the second half, a couple of efforts from Gregory and Chris Whelpdale stung the hands of goalkeeper Aaron Howe before the home side doubled their lead from the penalty spot. John Akinde, who once interested the Gills, was brought down by Leon Legge allowing Gavin Williams to convert the spot kick. It was difficult to see from the length of the pitch whether Legge got anything on the ball, but it was disputed by the defender.

Gilingham ended the game with a three-pronged attack of McDonald, Akinfenwa and Kedwell as they attempted to salvage at least a consolation goal but were stunned by either a touch of magic from Anthony McNamee or a complete fluke when his shot from wide right sailed into the top corner of Nelson's goal. Having seen McNamee terrorise defences in his time at Watford, it is something of a surprise to see him plying his trade in the Conference.

The phoney war is over; bring on the battle for points.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tonbridge 0 Maidstone United 1

Match 09/13/1036 - Thursday, 25th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 0
Maidstone United (0) 1 Sobers 88
Att. 354

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 26/325

Match Report

There is no good time, be it pre-season or a cup final, to lose to your fiercest of rivals and to lose to a highly debateable goal a couple of minutes from time was a bitter pill to take. This was the most anticipated game of my pre-season with much interest in the reception that awaited Lee Worgan and Frannie Collin, as it happened, the Tonbridge fans gave them a respectful return.

Much has been said and written, that the two of them have departed and now is the time to look forward and this is largely the reaction that was evident on Thursday evening.

An even contest, poorly refereed, was settled two minutes from time, when the ball sat on a spot seemingly waiting for a defender to clear it to safety before Jerome Sobers poked it home to delight the visiting fans positioned behind that goal. Later reviews of the video clearly show that Sobers has gone through the back of Sonny Miles as the defender, somewhat casually, considers whereabouts to launch his clearance. The ball broke to Collin whose shot was parried by Chalmers-Stevens but only into the path of Sobers. It was dreadful goal on all counts, a bad decision from the referee and poor defending from Tonbridge.

Gary Borrowdale has been drafted into the worryingly frail central defensive position and if he can regain full fitness he would form an experienced pairing with Gary Elphick.

Maidstone opened the stronger and two long throws from Alex Flisher caused real problems at the heart of the defence, one of which left Collin with a clear opportunity which he blazed over the bar and when the visitors were awarded a free kick from just outside of the box, it was feared that the result that has been cheered many times would this time be met with groans, but once again Collin's shot sailed over the bar.

Tonbridge took their time getting into their stride, but chances came and went for Mickel Suarez and Luke Blewden, who headed straight at Worgan from close range.

In the second half, Nathaniel Pinney was introduced and once more showed that he is going to be a worthy replacement for the aforementioned, albeit that his game is entirely different. He is a powerful target man that holds the ball up well and looks to be a real handful at this level.

So controversial goal or not, it is the Stones that take the local bragging rights, but it's only pre-season and the results don't matter, but I don't believe that for one minute when it comes to this particular contest.

Tunbridge Wells 1 Folkestone Invicta 4

Match 08/13/1035 - Saturday, 20th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Cornell 2
Folkestone Invicta (3) 4 Beecroft 10 Lutchford 18 Hamshire 40
Dryden 50

Att. 274

Entrance: Free
Programme: None Issued
Mileage: 26/299

Match Report

Unfortunately Tunbridge Wells' traffic was behaving as it does almost any day of the week, any time of the day, slowly. Consequently the game at Culverden was 20 minutes old by the time I walked through the gate, not having to pay as free admission was the order of the day. As I reached the gate there was a cheer from the sizeable crowd inside and to my annoyance I found that it was the third goal of the game rather than the first.

Tunbridge Wells had taken an early lead four minutes into the game with a goal from Hooley Cornell, I would never have made it for that one, traffic or not, and Folkestone had responded with two goals from Jake Beecroft and Dane Lutchford.

The first thing to notice was the fine new surface at Culverden. The blaze of green leaving the mud baths of last season's Vase games against Dunston and Shildon a distant memory. Hopefully come the depths of winter, the new drainage will be keeping it in good condition.

Ultimately this game was a one-sided affair, giving the Wells a glimpse of the standard they need to attain to be competitive at Ryman League level to which they aspire. Neil Cugley produces good sides at Cheriton Road, but unfortunately a financial black cloud appears to be always around the next corner and those sides tend to get broken up.

In the present Folkestone set up, Beecroft, Jimmy Dryden and Stuart King are all players that have played at a higher level and had it not been for the heroics of Chris Oladogba, then the margin of defeat could have been much greater than the eventual 4-1 scoreline.

Gillingham 1 Millwall 3

Match 07/13/1034 - Saturday, 20th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Gillingham (0) 1 Akinfenwa 76
Millwall (3) 3 Morison 7, 19 Keogh 28
Att. Est. 2,000

Entrance: £15
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 45/273

Match Report

The visit of Millwall, pre-season or otherwise, generally brings the inconvenience of an early kick-off but the 12.30 start at least gave me the opportunity of doing another double-header, linking in Tunbridge Wells'
3 o'clock kick off against Folkestone Invicta.

Unfortunately, the afternoon also brought the first setbacks of pre-season with both clubs beaten quite convincingly by opponents of higher standing.

Millwall enter the new season with a new manager in place for the first time since 2007 following the departure of Kenny Jackett. In his place comes Steve Lomas, who enjoyed, but nobody else did, an unproductive spell at Gillingham at the tail end of his career. If his work ethic as a manager at the Den is anything like that of a player at Priestfield then Millwall are in for a tough time. I cannot recall a player so obviously collecting one last pay day than that of Lomas.

That gripe out of the way, in actual fact if Millwall's performance at Gillingham is anything to go by, then their fans should be viewing the prospect of a very enjoyable season to come. For half-an-hour the visitors clearly portrayed the difference between the Championship and the divisions below. They literally passed their way through the Gillingham rearguard, opening up their opponents with ease.

Working where I do, deep in the heart of Millwall-land, I know a few Lions fans and Lomas' West Ham connection caused some initial consternation, but the loan of fans' favourite Steve Morison from Leeds United has bought him some goodwill and two goals in the opening 20 minutes from the striker helps the cause even at this fledgling stage of pre-season.

Morison drove a seventh minute volley past Stuart Nelson after the ball broke kindly to him and in the 19th minute from the edge of area he smacked home a low drive. Morison turned provider after 28 minutes when his left wing cross to the far post was headed home by Andy Keogh, with the home side now in somewhat disarray.

Josh Wright and Jimi Abdou had ruled the roost in midfield for the Lions and when the former was withdrawn at half-time, much to his annoyance it appeared, then the visitors were not quite so dominant in the second period. Millwall made a host of changes just after the hour which further affected their flow and Gillingham followed suit after 75 minutes when they made six change of their own, one of which, Adebayo Akinfenwa, found the net within a minute of his introduction, the big man converting a Joe Martin cross with a far post header.

Gillingham pressed to further reduce the deficit, but with a couple of minutes to go, it was time to take my leave and head for Tunbridge Wells . . .

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Tonbridge 1 Welling United 1

Match 06/13/1033 - Tuesday, 16th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge (0) 1 Blewden 60
Welling United (1) 1 Lafayette 30
Att. 171

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 26/228

Match Report

Drawing conclusions from pre-season friendlies can be a dangerous game, but Tommy Warrilow may well be feeling quite content that his summer's business in player recruitment has gone rather well. After next Thursday's fixture against Maidstone United, this blog and its readers can put behind them Messrs Worgan and Collin and look forward with Pinney, Appiah, Masters and Watts, because they are the present and, on the evidence of this game against the Conference South champions, Welling United, the future is a whole lot brighter.

Apart from the irritating habit, continuing on from last season, of giving away sloppy goals, it was both pleasing and surprising just how dominant Tonbridge were in this pre-season game that attracted a disappointing crowd of just 171.

Phillip Appiah, on Saturday, was deployed in front of the back four, which against lesser opposition in the shape of neighbours Tunbridge Wells; he tidied up the loose ends and passed the ball out of defence with an easy style. For this game, he was asked to pair up with David Ijaha in the centre of midfield and gave a performance that suggested that he might be wasted in the deeper lying areas. But whatever job he is asked to do in the coming months, he exudes a confidence that he is going to be able to fulfil it.

Leading the line, Nathaniel Pinney displays a good touch, but might just be a little rusty when it comes to the finishing department, whilst Luke Blewden added a third goal in two halves of football to press home the point that he is not at Longmead to make up the numbers.

Pinney's finishing had eluded him twice in the opening half hour before a single through pass saw Ross Lafayette rounding Masters to tap into an empty net for an undeserved half-time lead.

Blewden, Chris Piper and Nathan Green were among the five half time changes made by Warrilow and Sam Beales was also introduced when Ryan Watts went down injured. On the hour, a superb through pass from Piper saw Blewden scoring from an acute angle.

Tonbridge looked to have denied themselves a worthy draw at the very least when they conceded a penalty with ten minutes remaining but Joe Healey hit the bar with his spot kick.

Whether the warm glow in July turns cold in November, we can only wait and see, but just for the present, everybody at Longmead can look forward to the new season with renewed optimism.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tonbridge 5 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 05/13/1032 - Saturday, 13th July 2013 - Courier Cup

Tonbridge (2) 5 Akokhia 19, Muggeridge 32, Watts 55,
Blewden 60, 75

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Sinden 65
Att. 301

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: 50p
Mileage: 26/202

Match Report

This game marks a fresh start for Tonbridge Angels, their manager Tommy Warrilow and to a certain extent their supporters. Last season finished with much relief as relegation from Conference South was avoided but this led on to early summer disappointment as two of the fans’ favourites, Lee Worgan and Frannie Collin departed for their most bitter of rivals, Maidstone United. That disappointment has been tempered by the arrivals that the freeing up of two of the club’s more expensive salaries have allowed, Nathaniel Pinney (pictured) is the striker that has been asked to pick up the mantle of Collin’s goalscoring whilst Clark Masters is the new custodian of the Angels’ goal.

Other new arrivals have been Ryan Watts, a winger; the competitive midfielder Philip Appiah and returning striker, Luke Blewden.

Tunbridge Wells arrived at Longmead fresh from an encouraging performance in defeat at Maidstone and full of hope that they could live up to the “noisy neighbours” tag that appears to have arrived from nowhere. They were still missing Perry Spackman and Andy Irvine.

On a stifling hot day, which perhaps sent people to the coast rather than to a football ground, hence the rather disappointing attendance of 301, the greater squad depth of the hosts eventually proved too much for Martin Larkin’s troops.

Tonbridge's first half eleven included a triallist, Emmanuel Akokhia, released by AFC Wimbledon who caught the eye, linking well with Pinney and scoring the opening goal after 19 minutes with a good finish from a Jon Heath cross. Akokhia was also involved in the second goal when his cross was retrieved by Pinney, who set up Henry Muggeridge to fire home. Tonbridge could well have had the game out of sight by half time had it not been for the fine keeping of Chris Oladogba.

In the second half, with Tonbridge able to field a new eleven over the course of the half, the Wells visibly tired in the intense heat and the Angels were able to take full advantage. Ryan Watts crashed in a 20 yard shot before Blewden showed the quality finishing that caught the eye at Crawley Down with opportunist goals, the first a volley from a Muggeridge cross and the second, through on goal following a pass from youth teamer, James Pass. In between Richard Sinden scored a consolation goal for the Wells.

So the “noisy neighbours” were sent back over Quarry Hill to reflect on two reasonable performances against teams of higher standing, but ultimately two defeats and one of them rather heavy. From a Tonbridge perspective, all the new players impressed and certainly Akokhia earned further opportunities to impress in the upcoming games against Welling on Tuesday and next Saturday’s game in Belgium if he is able to travel.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Maidstone United 2 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 04/13/1031 - Tuesday, 9th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Maidstone United (1) 2 McKenzie 20, Collin 73
Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Sobers (o.g) 44
Att. 597

Entrance: £5
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 20/176

Match Report

A year ago this fixture would not have happened. But one of the benefits of last season's run to the Final of the FA Vase is that not only are Tunbridge Wells being offered a prestige friendly against Maidstone United, but they are also offered the opportunity of treading the hallowed plastic of the Gallagher. On Saturday, Tonbridge will also be offering their neighbours the respect of a first team fixture for the previously unworthy Courier Cup.

At the Gallagher, on a pleasant evening after another hot day, Tunbridge Wells were accorded a warm welcome with their achievements of last season being recalled by the stadium announcer. A couple of significant absentees to the Wells squad were Perry Spackman and Andy Irvine, both evidently carrying knocks, whilst in the Maidstone side, that fielded a different eleven for each half, were ex-Tonbridge heroes (almost legends), Lee Worgan and Frannie Collin.

Despite their superior status and although they dominated large periods of the game, Maidstone never really put Tunbridge Wells in their place and their visitors can take great heart from a really decent performance. They defended stoutly, Chris Oladogba and Mikel Czanner were called upon, and made, good saves in both halves, whilst leading the line, Jack Harris showed all the credentials that has attracted clubs far higher up the pyramid.

In the first half Maidstone fielded Leon McKenzie as a triallist, a player that has commanded a fee of £1 million when he moved to Coventry City and also scored over 100 goals at Football League level. He may well be heading towards the end of his career at the age of 35, but undoubtedly he should have enough in his locker to be able to perform at Ryman League level. It was indeed, McKenzie, who opened the scoring after 20 minutes when Oladogba could only palm a shot into the striker’s path who only needed a tap in to score.

The difference in divisions was evident, but the Wells dug in and Harris capitalised on a mistake just before the break and although his scrambled shot was cleared it came back off the post and rebounded into the net off an unfortunate defender.

With the fresh legs of a completely different eleven, Maidstone had the ascendancy for much of the second period and eventually reclaimed the lead on 73 minutes when a header from Charley Robertson came back off the underside of the bar for Collin (pictured) to head the ball home from about 5mm. Any Tonbridge supporters casting an eye on the game would have been amused when the stadium announcer chose to credit the goal to Robertson.

In the true scheme of things, a late equaliser for the Wells would have been unjust on the passage of play, but it could have been an oh-so-sweet moment had Richard Sinden not pulled a shot wide in the dying moments of the game, but results don’t win points in July and Martin Larkin will be more than satisfied with his side’s display in their first run-out of pre-season.

The phenomenal pulling power of Maidstone's return to their home town is obviously going to continue this season in great numbers when a crowd of 597 can be attracted for a low-key pre-season game.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bromley 0 Gillingham 3

Match 03/13/1030 - Saturday, 6th July 2013 - Pre-Season Friendly

Bromley (0) 0
Gillingham (3) 3 Dack 28, Barrett 35, Kedwell (pen) 39
Att. est 600

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: None issued
Mileage: 76/156

Match Report

Pre-season is not only about players getting match fitness, teams getting a settled pattern of play and managers finding his best eleven prior to the season start. It is also about those on the sidelines getting their eyes accustomed to watching games again and their concentration fully focused on what they are watching. On the evidence of this game, I need a lot more pre-season games before I’m fully match fit.

I’ll get my excuses in first, this was a really hot day, far more appropriate for the game of cricket that was being played on the adjacent field. I deserted a preferable place along the length of the pitch that was bathed in hot sunshine for a place under the roof of the stand behind the goal that offered some shade.

Martin Allen once again picked two elevens, one for each half and given the heat this was a wise move. The strongest team played the first half and whilst the second half team was made up mainly of youngsters there was the significant inclusion of the returning Adebayo Akinfenwa.

As the game kicked off, the loudspeaker that had clearly announced the teams turned into a high-pitched whistle that was pretty irritating so I decided to move a few seats along to save my ears. Whilst my back was turned there was a cheer from the Gillingham fans that had made the trip as Bradley Dack turned in from close range, but my dismay at missing the goal was short-lived as it was disallowed for offside. The visitors were once again denied the opening goal when a tap in from Charlie Allen was also ruled out.

After half-an-hour, Gillingham second half team took to the corner of the sidelines offering a good photo opportunity for a shot of the Big Man. So, of course, while I’m peering through the camera lens, Dack is beautifully weaving his way through the Bromley defence for the opening goal. Also among the players being put through their paces was Antonio German, newly acquired from Brentford and whilst I sought that particular shot, Adam Barrett was tucking home Gillingham’s second goal. I wouldn’t have mind had I not realised that I was, in fact, focussing on Devante McKain!

With mind fully on the job, I was at least concentrating as Myles Weston was brought down in the box to allow Danny Kedwell the opportunity from the penalty spot to give Gillingham a three goal half-time lead.

Goalkeeper Stuart Nelson was the only player to continue into the second half as the youngsters rather laboured in the heat. Bayo showed that his beautiful touch has not left him, but he obviously looks a couple of weeks behind in the pre-season training, but then he always looks a couple of weeks behind! I spotted the sign in front of me (pictured left), believe me it was directed at those on the terraces, not Bayo!

The Big Man showed a lightning turn of place as he chased down a ball that was being shepherd out by a Bromley defender, “he's coming to get you” shouted a Gillingham supporter, “I thought he was going to eat me”, retorted the defender.

Overall, this was a satisfying performance from Gillingham on a bowling green of a pitch. There were high class performances from Bradley Dack and, in the second half, Stephen Gregory. At least, during the time my concentration was in tune, they were the outstanding players. But, like the players, this is the time to blow the cobwebs away and be ready in the first week of August.