Saturday, 26 October 2013

Tonbridge 3 Whitehawk 1

Match 36/13/1063 - Saturday, 26th October 2013 - Conference South

Tonbridge (2) 3 Pinney 32, Goodwin 34, Green (pen) 79
Whitehawk (0) 1 Taylor 85
Att. 376

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/2,843

Match Report

Turning right off the drive I ruefully reflected that had I been turning left I could, and almost certainly should, have been making my way towards Chatham Town for a FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round tie. Radio Kent constantly reminded me of what I was missing on the journey over to Tonbridge, the final qualifying round is a big deal for the local non-league clubs and for Chatham this was to be their first appearance at this stage for 80 years. St Albans City would be arriving at Maidstone Road as clear favourites, as would Tonbridge had they emerged victorious from the previous round. But, it was not to be, so a Conference South fixture against Whitehawk was the consolation prize.

In search of new firepower, Tommy Warrilow drafted in, on a month’s loan, a young striker from the Development Squad at Brighton and Hove Albion, Shamir Goodwin. The youngster was paired with Nathaniel Pinney as Warrilow sought to end a run of five League games without a win.

On a day when a stiff wind was always going to make playing conditions difficult, Tonbridge opened well with some crisp, on the floor, passing. Goodwin immediately impressed with his direct running at defenders and Pinney brought an early save out of Chris Winterton.

Whitehawk, playing with the benefit of the wind behind them, had very little to offer in the first half in which they over hit passes and the odd shot from distance that didn’t trouble Clark Masters in the Tonbridge goal.

In the Whitehawk ranks, managed by ex-Gill Darren Freeman, was another ex-Priestfield favourite, Matty Lawrence, whose Shaggy-look has been replaced with a slightly shorter version, but despite his 39 years, looked comfortable at this level of the game.

Tonbridge opened the scoring after 32 minutes with a goal of pure simplicity. Nathan Green was released down the right wing from where he delivered a perfect cross to the near post for Pinney to plant a firm header into the roof of the net.

Within a couple of minutes the new strike pairing were both on the score sheet. Goodwin cut in from the right and thundered in a shot off the underside of the crossbar.

The second half became increasingly scrappy as the wind intensified. Whitehawk offered a little more, but their shooting was wayward and from distance. The game was ended as a contest on 79 minutes in a bitter-sweet moment for Jon Heath. Goodwin initially brought a good parrying save from Winterton, who made another good stop from the follow-up shot by Pinney. The whistle blew as Heath crashed in the second rebound only to find that the referee had awarded a penalty for a trip on Pinney as he made his attempt on goal, had it stood it would have been Heath’s first goal for the club. Green successfully buried the spot kick to seal the points.

Whitehawk managed a consolation goal five minutes from time through ex-Angel Lewis Taylor and added a little more pressure in the remaining time, but the home side eased through for a very welcome victory.

Meanwhile, down at Maidstone Road, St Albans City beat their hosts Chatham Town to enter tomorrow’s First Round Draw. What’s the odds they come out of the hat with Gillingham?

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Gillingham 2 Notts County 1

Match 35/13/1062 - Tuesday, 22nd October 2013 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Whelpdale 24, Kedwell 29
Notts County (1) 1 McGregor 80
Att. 5,161

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/2,817

Match Report

“There were some good bits and some disappointing bits,” so said Peter Taylor in his first post-match press conference after the defeat against Preston North End. Wind-on three days and he could probably have repeated the same words despite this time gaining three valuable points against fellow strugglers Notts County.

After a turgid opening 20 minutes or so, Gillingham found themselves two goals to the good within the space of five minutes. One of my mentioned good bits from the Preston game was Stuart Nelson's distribution from his hands and with 24 minutes played he threw the ball towards Myles Weston on the half-way line. The throw was well directed but, unfortunately, it looked headed for a County defender, however, a slip allowed Weston to surge forward and cross to Chris Whelpdale who brought the ball under control off his chest and fire in a shot from the edge of the box.

Whelpdale then turned provider as a long kick out was headed on by the midfielder to Danny Kedwell who brushed aside the attention of his marker to smash a rising shot past goalkeeper, Bartosz Bialkowski.

Notts County were a side small in stature but also very talented and in Jamal Campbell-Ryce they had a lively winger with more than a few tricks in his repertoire and an on-loan Celtic striker, Callum McGregor that had already presented Gillingham with a problem or two. Within a couple of minutes of Kedwell's goal, Campbell-Ryce served notice that the Nottingham side were not out of this match when he cut inside and thumped a shot against the host's crossbar.

The early period of the second belonged to Gillingham and County were well served by Bialkowski who made saves from Lee and a flying save from Whelpdale as the home side sought the killer third goal.

On 66 minutes, Notts County manager, Chris Kiwomya made the strange substitution removing Campbell-Ryce from the action. A ripple of applause from the home support grew into a full ovation and the diminuntive appeared almost a little embarrassed as he acknowledged the reception. Kiwomya was not afforded the same sympathy as the Rainham End launched into a chorus of "You Don't Know What You're Doing!"

McGregor, meanwhile stayed as the centre of the action and with ten minutes remaining he set off on a run from just inside his own half and from 25 yards lashed a shot beyond the dive of Nelson who could do nothing but admire the finish.

This led to a nervy final ten minutes plus the time added on in which County searched for an equaliser. Gillingham were guilty of some time wasting in their quest to run down the clock and when the ball disappeared down the player's tunnel it was left to Danny Haynes to retrieve the ball and bring it back to the six yard box for Nelson to take the goal kick.

The good bits were a return to form from Whelpdale, a second successive man of the match performance from Kedwell and some green shoots that the Taylor style is going to be easier on the eye given time. It was disappointing that Gillingham were scratching around at the finish making hard work of what could have been a comfortable night, but, whoever is the manager, when have they ever made it easy on themselves?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Gillingham 1 Preston North End 2

Match 34/13/1061 - Saturday, 19th October 2013 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Kedwell 75
Preston North End (0) 2 Keane 47, Brownhill 52
Att. 7,054

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/2,772

Match Report

Six days have elapsed since I received a text carrying the news that Martin Allen had been sacked, I replied with an expletive and then started to consider the rights and wrongs of the move. In that time, thousands of tweets have been expended on the subject, the vast majority of which portrayed bitter disappointment at Allen's dismissal.

I was undoubtedly shocked by the timing of the dismissal, but wasn't, and shouldn't have been, surprised by the announcement. Rumours had begun to circulate amongst supporters at Crawley in September. I emphasise the word RUMOUR. The word was that all was not well behind the scenes and that the manager and the chairman had fallen out. Mr Scally in subsequent interviews has stated that the dressing room wasn’t good but no made word of any disagreement between the two of them.

The bizarre transfer-listing of four players and then their removal from the list was another twist that just gave further legs to the rumour mill. And the interviews, oh dear those bloody interviews. Twelve months ago we were chortling behind our hands at some of his statements, they were seen as a breath of fresh air in some ways, at the end I know that I’m not alone in finding each one rather embarrassing and cringeworthy.

Peter Taylor had been seen at Gillingham games and once again, the rumour was that he was the man in waiting for the job. All rumours, but so much of it has transpired.

So shocked, but not surprised. Personally, I felt that any manager that had earned his club a promotion deserved a lot more time at the start of a new season at a higher level than Allen was given. It was a bad start, but like the vast majority of Twitter users posting on the subject, I think he probably would have turned it around. But for all that, there is one abiding reason why I’m not sad that Martin Allen has left the club, I didn’t like his style of football and memories of Peter Taylor’s spell 13 years ago give me hope that there will be a change for the better in terms of style.

Rome wasn’t built in a day though, so it was always going to be too much to ask that three training sessions and there would be a bright new dawn. There were a few encouraging signs, Stuart Nelson rolled the ball out to a full back more times in the course of one half than he has for the rest of the season and although the midfield continued to struggle, they at least tried to play the ball on the ground.

Taylor might well have wished for a slightly easier re-introduction than Preston North End. In Kevin Davies and Stuart Beavon they have an experienced, robust strike force that cause problems for defenders up and down the country. Davies ruffles feathers, angers opposing supporters with the odd flailing arm, but how you would want him in your team, while Beavon, brought into league football by Taylor at Wycombe, is quality.

Most of the chances in the first half fell to Preston, the best of which saw tricky winger, Chris Humphrey bring out a decent parrying save from Nelson.

Having done well to get to the break all-square, some dozy defending quickly undid the hard work at the start of the second half. A throw-in sent Keith Keane clear, unchallenged and his shot from the right hand side of the box found the far corner of the net.

Before Gillingham could clear the heads they found themselves two down. A swift counter-attack ended with Beavon squaring the ball to Josh Brownhill who had the easiest of finishes.

Gillingham responded with substitutions, Myles Weston and Antonio German being introduced and with 15 minutes remaining they gave themselves the opportunity of a grandstand finish. A Chris Whelpdale free kick was met by the head of Danny Kedwell, who steered it into the far corner.

Unfortunately, Preston were pretty adept at winding down the clock and they comfortably saw the game out despite the hosts’ best efforts.

This is the dawn of another new era, we’ve had far too many new dawns over the last eight years and although Taylor is introduced as the interim manager, it’s not a brain surgeon’s guess that he has the job to lose. The club needs stability and Taylor is a safe pair of hands that can offer a little bit of the style that is felt lacking. It might even be a bit dull without the Mad Dog!

Monday, 21 October 2013

England 2 Poland 0

Match 33/13/1060 - Tuesday, 15th October 2013 - World Cup Qualifying

England (1) 2 Rooney 41, Gerrard 88
Poland (0) 0
Att. 85,186

Entrance: £30
Programme: £6.00
Mileage: 160/2,727

Match Report

There is something unbecoming of a 62 year old man turning on the exit stairs to take one last look at the England team taking the acclaim of their supporters and bellowing "We Love Yer, Woy". But such was the unbridled joy, or was it sheer relief, following Steven Gerrard's 88th minute clincher of a place in next year's Brazilian World Cup Finals, that any slight political incorrectness was going to be washed away in the tide of emotion.

What a night, one of those that Wembley has seen all too few of since its reopening, one that was given a massive contribution by the amazing Polish support that in turn brought out the best from their English counterparts. Poland arrived for the final game of their disappointing campaign with nothing to lose and a freedom to express themselves and any team with Robert Lewandowski in its ranks are to be respected.

The no-hopers of San Marino left England with clarity of mind; only a win would see them avoid the perils of the play-offs where the likes of France and Portugal laid in wait.

The colour and vibrancy of the Polish support surfaced with the singing (or whistling at) of the national anthems. Vivid red flares were burning bright as the visiting anthem was played, how they manage to smuggle these things past security beats me.

England carried the momentum from their Friday victory over Montenegro with them in the opening half, the hand brake removed they were asked to go for broke and the three pronged attack alongside Andros Townsend who continued his sparkling arrival on the international scene. Poland’s failing in this campaign has centred on their failure to defend but on this occasion, subjected to intense pressure from their hosts, they threw bodies in front of everything England could muster and when clear shooting opportunities presented themselves, England found Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny in top form.

Although Poland, aware of threat that Townsend had presented, doubled up with defenders facing him, the winger brought the first save from Szczesny who could only parry his shot into the path of Danny Welbck, but the striker failed to get a good contact on the return. Townsend cracked a shot against the crossbar, Daniel Sturridge just failed to get the ball out from under his feet and Welbeck also stumbled as he went through one on one with the Polish keeper. But all the while this was happening Poland still carried a significant threat on the counter-attack. Direct from an England corner, a frighteningly quick move ended with Lewandowski clear on the right hand side of the box, as Joe Hart narrowed the angle, the Borussia Dortmund striker steered his shot wide of the far wide. It was a heart-stopping moment; Lewandowski doesn’t normally miss from close range.

If England can afford to lose one of their first choice players it is Ashley Cole because there is a wafer thin difference in quality between him and his deputy, Leighton Baines. After 41 quite thrilling, but nerve wracking minutes, Baines crossed perfectly from the left and Rooney rose the highest to plant a firm header into the right hand corner of the net. Rooney’s protective headband had fallen from his head moments earlier and Szczesny was left to do the polite thing and return it to the goalscorer.

The second half progressed in much the same vein. England continued to press on but Poland were striking fear into the England support whenever they counter-attacked. It was never going to be a night for breathing easily and when Lewandowski broke free again, the onrushing Hart managed to get a touch on the striker’s clipped shot before it was cleared to safety, breath was being held once again.

Two minutes remained when Wembley was finally offered the opportunity to indulge in a bit of pre-Rio carnival atmosphere. James Milner, on as a substitute to bolster the midfield, knocked the ball forward to Steven Gerrard, who rode the challenge Kamil Glik to prod the ball past Szczesny to set up the joyous celebrations.

In a campaign that, at times had been torturous, with Hodgson’s cautious approach bringing much press criticism, the manager went bold and over two memorable Wembley occasions, England produced their two best performances. Whether England can continue to play in this fashion come the Finals is another question, would they be able to attack Germany, for instance, in the same manner, I would like to think that Hodgson would see it as a situation in which they had nothing to lose in approaching the game with the same attitude.

For the next six months, Hodgson must watch on, helplessly, as his players are at the mercy of their Premiership managers. How much game are his young players going to get is going to be crucial in the run up to Brazil almost as much as the fear that a major injury, that always seems to happen, is going to be inflicted on one of his key players.

But for now, it is time to celebrate, however unbecoming it might be for the older man.

Friday, 18 October 2013

St Albans City 2 Tonbridge 1

Match 32/13/1059 - Saturday, 12th October 2013 - FA Cup 3QR

St Albans City (1) 2 Frendo 7, Nwokeji 73
Tonbridge (1) 1 Lovell 43
Att. 607

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 160/2,567

Match Report

The high of England's World Cup win over Montenegro was quickly replaced by despondency following Tonbridge's abject display in the FA Cup at Clarence Road, St Albans. It is a long time since I left a football ground quite as disappointed as on this occasion and the grim faces among the healthy travelling contingent told a similar story.

It is hard to comprehend how a team collectively just fails to turn up in the manner that Tonbridge Angels did for this tie. Were the opposition under-estimated? Was there complacency given the lower status of the hosts? For whatever reason, the fact was that Tonbridge started lethargically and never really shook themselves out of their comatose state.

The financial implications may well be felt at the club for the remainder of the season and whilst Tonbridge, or any other club, should not be budgeting for a cup run the amount of money on offer would make for a far more healthy balance sheet at the year end. The last round victory brought a cheque for £4,500 and this would have risen to £7,500 had they progressed. A favourable draw in the last qualifying round would have netted a possible £12,500 plus the gate receipts and it is easy to see that something approaching the £20,000 mark has been lost.

Whilst lamenting the woeful nature of the Tonbridge performance it should not be overlooked that St Albans played much better than their mid-table, Southern Premier League position would suggest. There was a 15-20 minute spell in which the visitors began to resemble a Conference South side which showed that if that momentum had been carried forward for a longer period then there was every possibility that their name would be, at the very least, in the hat for Monday's draw.

St Albans just looked like a team that wanted the prize that little bit more; they were a yard quicker and most second balls fell at their feet and it wasn't all a question of good fortune. When they needed to put bodies in front of the ball, they protected their goalkeeper and when it came to the counter attack, Tonbridge seemingly had no answer to their pace.

Once Tonbridge had got off to the worst possible start, the game was going to be uphill front that point on. Mark Nwokeji outpaced Ryan Watts to a ball that the full back always seemed favourite to get to first, once past he crossed to his strike partner John Frendo who composed himself before shooting past Clark Masters to open the scoring.

Tonbridge responded relatively well and the wingers were proving to be good outlet, however, time and again, frustratingly, the cross failed to clear the first defender.

As if to prove a point, with five minutes of the half remaining, Watts delivered the perfect cross and Mark Lovell was in the right place to plant the easiest of headers into the net for an equaliser that was barely deserved.

Buoyed by their equaliser and one would hope a rocket of a half-time team talk from Tommy Warrilow it was hoped that a Tonbridge with more urgency and a bit more craft would emerge for the second half and take the cup tie by the throat. Sadly, if anything matters got worse.

In the entire 45 minutes they created one chance of note, a 25 shot that cannoned back off the goalkeeper's chest to Lovell who put the rebound wide, whilst the home side's pace in counter attack was a constant threat.

A swift breakaway on 73 minutes ended with Nwokeji receiving a pass on the right side of the box and from an unchallenged position he shot past Masters. It was a head in hands moment for all those on sidelines who found it difficult to comprehend the time and space that the St Albans player, who was a deserved man of the match, had to pick his spot.

I'm a mere supporter of the club, my time and money is spent on days like this and I'm bitterly disappointed, but you have to feel for the people whose efforts keep the club alive on an almost daily basis. They deserved so much better than this performance and one can only hope that the players are conscious of the fact that on this occasion they let a lot of people down.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

England 4 Montenegro 1

Match 31/13/1058 - Friday, 11th October 2013 - World Cup Qualifying

England (0) 4 Rooney 48, Boskovic (o.g.) 62, Townsend 78,
Sturridge 90 (pen)

Montenegro (0) 1 Damjanovic 71
Att. 83,807

Entrance: £30
Programme: £6.00
Mileage: 160/2,407

Match Report

The observant of you will notice that the next three entries have been posted rather late so if I drift into the benefit of hindsight, you’ll have to forgive me. This was the start of a big three games in my season, three games that would, to a certain extent, shape the season to come.

England’s task was almost crystal clear, two wins, over Montenegro and then in the final qualifier at Wembley against Poland would ensure that they reached the World Cup Finals in Brazil, a draw in the Poland v Ukraine game in Kharkiv would offer a slightly easier passage, but by half time at Wembley we knew that a 64th minute winner from Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko had denied this route.

Montenegro arrived at Wembley still harbouring dreams of their own and having three draws in three games against England to their credit, this was never going to be a gimme.

The criticism that had surrounded England’s performance in the Ukraine when they employed an ultra-cautious game plan that yielded a priceless goalless draw had also confirmed a character type on Roy Hodgson that would not suggest a bold team selection in the first of the Wembley double-header. But bold was the selection that saw Jack Wilshere relegated to the bench along with the much safer option of James Milner in order to employ a three pronged attack in Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, whilst also adding the pace of Tottenham’s Andros Townsend for a first start.

The evening had started badly, a wet Friday on the M25 always spells trouble with a capital T and this one was all that and more. Eventually the kick off was missed and six minutes had elapsed before we were in our seats.

The game reached half time with plenty of anxious faces among the England support. The goalless scoreline barely reflected the one-sided nature of the game; chances had come and gone for England thwarted by the Montenegran keeper, Vukasin Poleksic who was drafted in as the first choice goalkeeper was injured. Meanwhile, a couple of route one attacks had found England’s central defensive pairing a little wanting adding to the nervousness surrounding Wembley.

The first half had also seen a taste of what Andros Townsend is about and his direct running with the ball at his feet had been the highlight of the opening 45 minutes. Within a couple of minutes of the start of the second half, Townsend was once again terrorising his full back and his cross into the box was weakly headed clear to the feet of Welbeck whose shot was parried by Poleksic but only as far as Rooney who finished smartly under pressure. The relief around Wembley was tangible.

England fans were beginning to celebrate an important step on the road to Brazil when just after the hour mark, Branko Boskovic diverted the ball into his own net to double the home nation’s advantage. England, of course, would not be England if they didn’t conspire to do things the hard way and following a 25 yard shot from Stevan Jovetic that crashed against the crossbar the Montenegrans reduced the arrears with 18 minutes remaining when a shot from range was diverted into the net by Dejan Damjanovic. Wembley was on edge once more.

But the star of the show was about to have his final say on proceedings. Townsend ran at the defence, cutting inside to unleash a 25 yard shot that went in off a post to crown a personally glorious debut. The 22-year-old was substituted with ten minutes remaining allowing him to take the full ovation of a thankful Wembley crowd.

Sturridge was brought down in the box in the closing minute and Rooney stood aside from his penalty taking duties to allow the Liverpool striker round off the scoring and place an emphatic scoreline on the board.

The group situation had demanded that England approached this game on the front foot and cautious Roy became bold Roy and was richly rewarded. The same modus operandi needs to be taken forward to Tuesday when 20,000 Poles are going to make home turf a hostile environment for Roy’s Boys whose are one win from becoming the Boys in Brazil.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Chatham Town 4 Ramsgate 1

Match 30/13/1057 - Tuesday, 8th October 2013 - Ryman League Cup

Chatham Town (0) 4 May 71, 74, 81 Alderman 90
Ramsgate (1) 1 Millbank 42
Att. 108

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 32/2,247

This was a match to occupy a Tuesday night, a bit of a blog-hop as I haven't been to Chatham Town for quite literally donkey's years. In fact, so long that I was convinced I knew exactly where the ground was but ended up asking for directions. As it turned out, a pleasantly warm evening was spent talking football with a fellow Gillingham and England supporter whilst watching a decent match.

One has to have a great deal of sympathy with Chatham Town, they could almost be labelled Kent's forgotten club. They have been marooned in Ryman League North for some years and miss out on both the revenue and the attention that the numerous Kent derbies would bring. So the visit of a fellow Kent side for this League Cup tie was welcome.

As the match unfolded, with Ramsgate taking the lead after the home side had had two first half goals disallowed, the game became the Alfie May show. A nippy, little winger was shown the yellow card for petulence, but then took his attitude in the right direction with a match winning hat-trick, the third of which was a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box that warranted a bigger stage and a larger audience.

Since my last visit, goodness knows when, the structure behind the goal that houses the changing rooms, tea bars has been built and adds to the tidy ground. The wooden stand with its bench seats are a lovely throw-back to the good old days.

I enjoyed my visit and I'm guessing it will not be so long before I return.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Gillingham 3 Milton Keynes Dons 2

Match 29/13/1056 - Saturday, 5th October 2013 - League One

Gillingham (2) 3 Kedwell 11,13 (2 pens) Hollands 59
Milton Keynes Dons (2) 2 Bamford 26, 30
Att. 5,410

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 45/2,215

Match Report

Just how frustrating can football get? For once, I’m not expressing the emotion of Gillingham’s result or performance, but expressing a little bit of sympathy for fellow fans. As the 343 Milton Keynes supporters headed back home to their city of roundabouts, concrete cows and franchised football their mood probably led to a few cats seeking shelter. Let’s get the franchise stuff out of the way, it’s 10 years since Wimbledon were relocated, it was wrong and should never happen again, but whilst MKD will never be loved, they can be admired and their football at Priestfield was to be appreciated.

Two down and a man light following the second of two penalties, MKD never strayed from their ethos of passing the ball from the back to the front, they fought back to level the scores and having fallen behind once more they had Gillingham fans on the edge of their seats as they made light of their man disadvantage.

In Patrick Bamford we witnessed first-hand one of the principle problems of English football and the lack of talent emerging to make up the next generation of national team players. Bamford, now 20, was quality and I was left to wonder just how good he would have been had he not been suffocated at Chelsea by ready-made foreign imports during his formative teenage years. I’ve little doubt that he will go on to be a Premier League player, but I very much doubt it will be with his parent club.

Following their first win of the season at Crewe, Martin Allen opted to go with the same side.

It was referee Linington who took centre stage in the first 15 minutes and who’s not to say that he got each one of three decisions absolutely correct. After eight minutes, MKD had a penalty appeal when Danny Green went down following a challenge from Joe Martin, the referee saw it as simulation and Green was booked. Three minutes later, at the other end of the field, Mr Linington was pointing to the spot after Cody McDonald drew a mistimed challenge by ex-Gillingham loanee Tom Flanagan. Danny Kedwell blasted the ball past Joe Martin’s brother, David, to open the scoring. Such is Kedwell’s surety from the spot these days; it drew an unwise comment from myself “that I could remember when he missed them”. It seemed a kiss of death when just a couple of minutes later a second spot kick was awarded.

McDonald, this time sprinting clear of the MK defence following a through ball from Charlie Lee, was once again felled by Flanagan, who this time saw a red card for his troubles. Kedwell saved me having to eat my words as this time he smashed his kick straight down the middle as Martin dived to his right.

Alan Smith, the ex-Leeds player, these days sporting long flowing locks akin to Robbie Savage and bringing with them an element of friendly banter from the Rainham End was brought on to compensate for the loss of the centre half. Karl Robinson also made the bold decision that he needed a presence up top and brought on one of Gillingham’s foremost nemesis, Izale McLeod, who as usual provided a significant threat.

Robinson was rewarded for his resourcefulness on 26 minutes when Green’s cross was met by Bamford’s head to reduce the arrears and four minutes later the comeback was complete for the 10 men, when a defence splitting pass from Shaun Williams found Bamford through on goal and the young Chelsea loanee coolly shot past Stuart Nelson for his tenth goal of the season.

Bamford showed some fallibility at the start of the second half shooting hopelessly wide, before, just on the hour mark, Michael Harriman provided a peach of cross to the head of Danny Hollands who scored from close range despite the efforts of Martin getting a hand on the ball.

Nelson saved at his near post from another Bamford header before the game took its final twist a quarter-hour from time. The Dons’ keeper was laid stricken on the ground as Nelson put the ball into touch to allow his counterpart attention. With all substitutes used, a heavily immobilised Martin had to continue.

Gillingham failed to take advantage of the situation and in the remaining time, plus six minutes of added time, just the once, with a gentle cross down the throat of the goalkeeper, was Martin tested.

MKD pressed on, Callum Davies was asked to make one last ditch, virtually game winning tackle, leaving the Gills’ fans nerves in tatters, but eventually referee Linington’s final whistle was greeted with cheers, mainly those of relief. But back to back wins are going to do no harm to the confidence of the side as the sanctuary of lower mid-table is reached.

The afternoon had begun with due respects being paid to two Gillingham strikers from old. Tony Cascarino was the legend to receive the crowd’s acclaim, whilst a minute’s applause was observed to mark the passing of a true Gillingham legend, Ernie Morgan, who had died on Thursday. The afternoon ended with due respect being given to both sides who served up a most entertaining game, but significantly to a Milton Keynes team that is doing its best, with pleasing football, to bury the franchise stigma.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Tonbridge 2 Hayes and Yeading 1

Match 28/13/1055 - Tuesday, 1st October 2013 - FA Cup 3Q Replay

Tonbridge (2) 2 Elphick 30, Suarez 42
Hayes and Yeading (0) 1
Att. 297

Entrance: £6.00 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 26/2,170

Match Report

Look directly at the post below for the original game of this FA Cup tie and you will read of me bemoaning the luck of Tonbridge Angels when it comes to this particular competition. The good Lady looked down on the Angels last night, but she should not have needed to.

Hayes and Yeading were fast out of the traps and looked a completely different side to the one that laboured through 90 minutes on Sunday; perhaps their pre-match meal had been a full-blown Sunday roast!

The visitors created a couple of half chances that were comfortably dealt with by Clark Masters before their good start was thrown into turmoil by a moment of insanity from Kelvin Bossman. Twenty minutes had elapsed when, on the far side of the ground, out of nothing, the referee brandished the red card to the H&Y striker. It later transpired that he had taken it upon himself to call the referee a bit of a tool, or words to that effect. Bossman had let his team down badly and they were made to pay.

Ten minutes later, a ball into the penalty area was challenged by the lanky Mikel Suarez, the ball fell to Tonbridge's Gary Elphick who blasted it into the net from the edge of the box. H&Y's keeper, Mikhael Jamiez-Ruiz, stayed on the ground implying that the Suarez challenge had been unfair, but the referee was having none of it.

A couple of minutes before the break, Nathan Green swung in a peach of a cross for Suarez to bury the easiest of headers to double the Angel's advantage. Green had been guilty of failing to clear the first man on numerous occasions, but this one time his delivery was inch perfect.

Two goals and a man to the good, a third would have killed the game, but whether Tonbridge got nervous, after all they haven't won an FA Cup tie for four years, they found themselves in a "stick or twist" situation and not knowing which hand to play. Louis Soares curled a free kick against the upright as the ball was consistently being given away and when H&Y introduced fresh legs, Tonbridge found themselves under pressure.

Amongst the panic that was setting in, a couple of chances came and went which would have made the last 15 minutes a lot more bearable. Phillip Appiah and Luke Blewden both failing to convert close range headers. With 12 minutes remaining, a through ball sent H&Y's Frankie Merriman clear and he coolly shot past Masters to set up the nervous finish.

Tonbridge rode their luck, although Green had another golden chance to end the agony, but survived six minutes of added time and a couple of close shaves on their goal, to seal their place in the next round.

General opinion seems to be that Lady Luck has smiled on them once more with their away draw at St Albans in the Third Qualifying Round. The Hertfordshire club sit mid-table in the Southern League Premier Division, a step lower, but I'm not so sure. It has the look of a banana skin to me and Tonbridge are going to have to impose themselves in the manner they did in the original game of this tie to force their way into the fourth qualifying round for the first time since 2007.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Hayes and Yeading 0 Tonbridge 0

Match 27/13/1054 - Sunday, 29th September 2013 - FA Cup 3Q Round

Hayes and Yeading (0) 0
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 197

Entrance: £8.00 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 124/2,144
Played at Kingfield, Woking

Match Report

The stadium announcer at Kingfield brought some amusement to the Tonbridge contingent that had probably made up 50% of a pathetically poor attendance when he announced the Hayes and Yeading man of the match as their goalkeeper, Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz. The custodian had made one save of note and another couple of comfortable saves during the 90 minutes, but such was woeful nature of the home side's performance this was enough to justify the award.

Tonbridge are not blessed with any luck when it comes to FA Cup draws and this Second Qualifying Round fixture at H&Y's groundshare of Woking looked another difficult one against a fellow Conference South team that had enjoyed a decent early season. However, most of the Tonbridge supporters present would have walked away from the stadium disappointed not to be in the Third Qualifying Round draw without the accompaniment of their opponents.

Tonbridge, with Phillip Appiah back in the side and pulling the strings in midfield, dominated the first half but without the cutting edge to unduly threaten Ruiz. Lovell had the ball in the net after 17 minutes but the goal was ruled out, without complaint, for offside. Henry Muggeridge was continuously an outlet down the right hand side and one of his speculative shots that cleared the bar was the closest the Angels got to opening the scoring.

For all Tonbridge’s possession it has the hosts that should have taken the lead just prior to the break. Louis Soares broke away to set up a shooting opportunity for Jamie Reid after an initial shot was blocked, but Reid struck a post when it seemed a whole lot easier to score.

The second half was a scrappy, dour affair with neither attack able to create clear opportunities. Hayes and Yeading showed a little more purpose than their dire first half display, manager Phil Babb obviously having had a word or two during the break. But what shooting opportunities the hosts created were from distance and woefully inaccurate. On the hour, Tonbridge keeper, Clark Masters, was called into action for his one and only time, diving low to his right to turn away a drive from Kevin Bossman.

The best chance of the game fell to Tonbridge’s central defender, Sonny Miles who put unchallenged header narrowly wide from a Nathan Green corner.

This was, frankly, a pretty awful game that deserved no more than the paltry 197 who bothered to turn up on a Sunday afternoon when they would have been better dozing off a lunch time pint and roast dinner. But, such has been Tonbridge’s luck in this competition that any small success is taken with some delight. Hayes and Yeading cannot be as bad again in Tuesday’s replay, so a place in the next round is no given, but on the evidence of this game, it is Tonbridge’s to lose.

Lordswood 0 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 26/13/1053 - Saturday, 28th September 2013 - Southern Counties

Lordswood (0) 0
Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Parsons
Att. 137

Entrance: £3.50 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 34/2,020

Match Report

Barcelona, in their pomp, didn't become champions of Spain winning their games by four clear goals every single week, there are the odd occasions when the Catalonian artisans had to grind out a single goal victory, perhaps on a day when they were not at their best.

Tunbridge Wells came to Lordswood Town on the back of their wonderfully crafted victory over Erith Town of Tuesday, full of confidence, but found on a cabbage patch of a pitch, that it was going to be whole-hearted endeavour rather than artistry that would win the points and on this score they duly delivered.

This season Culverden Stadium boasts a fine playing surface but Tunbridge Wells' supporters shouldn't be too churlish about the pitch at Martyn Grove with last season's mudbaths against Dunston and Shildon still fresh in the memory.

However, we were left to wonder whether the pitch might have been involved when, after just eight minutes, with nobody in close proximity, Scott Whibley went down with a knee injury that necessitated his substitution by Andy Boyle.

Lordswood suffered early season as a new team beds in following the departure of Jason Lillis and several of last season's successful side to Whiststable. No wins in their first six games had been turned into three wins in their last four outings as a young side began to find their feet in this league under the guidance of Simon Halsey, a previous Kent League winner with Herne Bay.

Ian Parsons, once again underlined his potential with another good performance, and it was from his 20 yard effort after 20 minutes that a goalkeeper was first called to make a save. This was quickly followed by a breakaway from James Simmonds who attempted to round Chris Oladogba, but the outstretched arm of the goalkeeper was enough to smother the ball, right on the very edge of the penalty area.

Tunbridge Wells took the lead in the 32nd minute when a ball over the top deceived ex-Gillingham youngster, Tom Bryant and Parson fastened on to it to cooly lob the Lords' keeper Adam Highstead.

The game became very scrappy in the second half, but on the hour the Wells really should have put the game beyond the reach of their hosts when in the space of a minute two chances for Hooley Cornell and Jack Harris both went begging. Cornell dragged his shot wide when clear and Harris steered a free header wide.
Lordswood pressed hard for an equaliser in the final 15 minutes but the well marshalled Wells defence only allowed efforts on goal that were comfortably dealt with by Oladogba.

Tuesday's classic performance was supplemented by this rather scrappy display, but the same points are awarded whether you win by four or by one and, I would imagine, that Martin Larkin would have been just as pleased by the resolution shown at Lordswood as he was by the craft that took Erith apart.