Saturday, 10 May 2014

Summertime Blues (and Reds) continued

As an outbreak of football rudely interrupted this thread, I will need to restart it. To recap where I left it, Gillingham and Tonbridge both finished the season manager-less but Peter Taylor has a new two-year contract and Tonbridge have chosen Steve McKimm as their new boss.

Tuesday, 15th July: Gillingham won their second match of pre-season 2-0 at Bromley with goals from Danny Kedwell (pen) and Brennan Dickenson, whilst their Development XI drew 2-2 at Rochester United. Stanford got another 45 minutes and I'm hoping that he will still be trialling on Saturday when I get to see Gillingham at Welling United.

Friday, 11th July: Gillingham begin their pre-season with a comfortable 3-1 win at Folkestone Invicta. Goals from Danny Kedwell, Brennan Dickenson and Doug Loft cancelled out the home side's opening goal. Josh Stanford was a surprise triallist for the Gills and from reports he did pretty well. It is thought that he would get another run-out in their next match at Bromley.

Saturday, 5th July: Tunbridge Wells finally break the world's worst kept secret and announce the signings of Brendan Cass and Aaron Lacey, they do manage to spring a surprise though with the signing of Nick Barnes, a favourite from Cass's time down at Longmead. All should do well at SCEL level.

Thursday, 3rd July: Peter Taylor captures Luke Norris, a 21-year-old striker from Brentford for a fee to be decided by the compensation rule. Very limited opportunities at Griffin Park, but has done well in loan spells. Taylor is building a young, vibrant looking squad but I will be relieved to see the odd experienced defender added to the squad. At present the opening game at Milton Keynes could be 7-6 either way.

A second signing of the day does indeed bring a defender. John Egan, a 22-year-old central defender, arrives from Sunderland. A Republic of Ireland international at youth age groups, Egan has failed to make a breakthrough at the Stadium of Light, but enjoyed a successful loan spell at Southend last season.

Monday, 30th June: A new look website goes live at and very impressive it looks too and with player registrations to be confirmed tomorrow we should have a clearer idea of the strength of the Wells' squad at that point.
Chris Whelpdale has opted to leave Gillingham in favour of League Two football at Stevenage, best wishes to a player that never quite fufilled the potential of his previous loan spell.

Experience has two ends of the scale and this arrives at Gillingham in the shape of Brennan Dickenson, a 22-year-old forward from Brighton and the appointment of 70-year-old Tony Burns as goalkeeping coach. Dickenson has never made a first team appearance at the Albion and 31 games on loan at various places have yielded just four goals. It does give rise to thought that he won't be challenging McDonald and Kedwell in the immediate future. Burnsie's arrival is a blast from my youth with memories of his time at Tonbridge back in 1961 before gaining a move to Arsenal around 1963. He went on to manage Tonbridge in three different spells.

Friday, 27th June: Josh Stanford, Tunbridge Wells' Vase hero, has returned from Australia and is going to trial at Ryman Premier League, Maidstone United pre-season alongside his old mate, Jack Harris.

Tuesday, 24th June: Cast your eyes down to the fixtures release on 18th June. As said there, my attention was particularly on the visit to Doncaster Rovers' Keepmoat Stadium. 13th December, just before Christmas, perfect, or so I thought. Less than a week later, a wedding invitation drops onto the mat, 13th December. As Victor Meldrew would have said, I don't believe it. People don't even get married in December, do they? The Keepmoat seems to be aligning itself alongside Ewood Park and the Riverside as stadiums that are going to forever elude me.

Monday, 23rd June: Nathan Green has made it into the Football League, signing a one-year contract with Dagenham and Redbridge of League Two.

Friday, 20th June: Ex-Ramsgate manager, Justin Luchford is added to Steve McKimm's coaching staff and the Big Man, Adebayo Akinfenwa, finds himself a new home at AFC Wimbledon.

Wednesday, 18th June: Gillingham will start their season with an away fixture at Milton Keynes on 9th August and then welcome Yeovil to Priestfield, four days after their trip to the West Country for the League Cup tie. Boxing Day brings a visit to Colchester United and the season is brought to a close at home to Notts County. Looking forward to my only new ground, Doncaster Rovers' Keepmoat Stadium, on 13th December.

It's probably been easier to winkle a bit of news out of North Korea than Culverden Stadium this summer and the first official player news is disappointing. Lewis Mingle, Tunbridge Wells' popular full back, has opted to join Hythe Town, thus stepping up a level to the Ryman League.

Tuesday, 17th June: Gillingham's midfield is further strengthened with the signing from Fulham of Josh Pritchard. 22 years-old, there has been an emphasis on youth with the signings this summer, Pritchard is a product of Manchester United's academy but has found opportunities in the Premier League very limited. The first competitive game of the season to be announced comes with an away draw at Yeovil in the Capital One Cup. Tomorrow is fixtures release day, always brings the season that little bit closer.

Saturday, 14th June: I have resisted the temptation to post about the situation regarding Tonbridge's possible reinstatement to Conference South as it was ongoing and would have taken a column in its own right. Today, the murky waters of Conference politics seem a little clearer and it does appear that Tonbridge will be playing their football next season in the Ryman Premier. Salisbury City, the subject of the confusion, with a dodgy new owner and unpaid debts, will be relegated from the Conference Premier rather than being thrown out altogether as were Hereford United. This, ultimately, gives a reprieve for Dartford, but not for the Angels. If anybody from beyond these shores reading this blog are somewhat confused, then I suggest they do some googling, but on the other hand, I wouldn't suggest that they waste hours of their life. Personally, given that relegation was accepted and that the new manager has built his team for the Ryman Premier, I think it may well have been damaging to be reinstated to the higher league with a team that might not have been capable of sustaining their position. What I think of the Conference administrators though is not printable.

Meanwhile, two departures from Longmead are Henry Muggeridge who has joined Lewes and coach Simon Balsdon.

Tuesday, 10th June: With Hessenthaler and Dack expected to form a regular pairing at the heart of Gillingham's midfield next season, the signing of Port Vale's captain, Doug Loft may be the significant bit of business done by the club this summer. Loft rejected a new contract at Vale Park to return to his home county of Kent and will add the experience needed in what might look a very youthful midfield.

A second striker, Billy Medlock, has arrived at Tonbridge from Eastbourne Town. Medlock scored goals aplenty last season in Ryman South. Another relative youngster at 22, McKimm's squad has a youthful look about it.

Saturday, 7th June: Tom Parkinson, a 22-year-old full back and part of Leatherhead's successful promotion winning side from last season has joined Steve McKimm's Longmead revolution, or should that be evolution? With emphasis being made that some of the youngsters from the reserve team will be given an opportunity next term, I would think we now have enough to put out a team.

Thursday, 5th May: Bidding au revoir to Chris Piper, Mark Lovell and Louis Cumbers from Longmead is countered with the signing of Tommy Whitnell, a striker who plied his trade at Dulwich Hamlet last season. Pipes and Loves departures are to be regretted but McKimm is slowly but surely putting together a brand new squad that is creating a feel good factor for the new season ahead.

Tuesday, 3rd June: Gillingham's third signing of the summer is an exciting one with Jermaine McGlashan arriving on a free from Cheltenham Town. A pacy winger with more than a few tricks in his repertoire, from my memory he will thrill and frustrate in equal measures. But, that said, I would put him in the good signing category.

Monday, 2nd June: Jerome Sobers, a 28-year-old central defender, arrives at Tonbridge from Maidstone United. Proof, at least, that the A26 is not a one-way street.

Thursday, 29th May: And he's back! Two spells as manager, one as director of football, a million games for the club, Mr Gillingham, Andy Hessenthaler, returns as assistant manager to Peter Taylor.

Taylor's first player signing of the summer doesn't suggest "competition for Stuart Nelson". Glenn Morris, 30, arrives from Aldershot as the back-up goalkeeper.

Two Morris' arrive on the same day, Aaron Morris, a 24-year-old defensive midfielder, arrives from AFC Wimbledon.

Wednesday, 28th May: Faversham Town have announced the departure of Brendan Cass and Aaron Lacey to Tunbridge Wells. Brendan was a firm favourite with Tonbridge supporters during his spell at the club and has pretty much scored goals wherever he has played. Lacey comes to the club with a huge amount of experience, making a record near-250 appearances for Maidstone United. Two excellent signings for Martin Larkin.

Sunday, 25th May: The door at Longmead is most definitely marked In as the Steve McKimm revolution continues. Midfielder Lee Carey, who spent a period on loan at the club back in 2008, returns to Tonbridge and a player that won a Sky talent contest in 2005, Dee Okojie, a winger, joins from Kingstonian.

Friday, 23rd May: Good news that, with the signing of Kyle Merson, a 21-year-old goalkeeper from Staines Town, Tonbridge now have enough players for a 5-a-side team. It is said that he is the son of Paul Merson, but I cannot find any evidence to back-up the rumour.

Thursday, 22nd May: A welcome to Tonbridge Angels for James Folkes, Ben King and Harry Harding.

Wednesday, 21st May: Fond farewells are bid to Adam Birchall, who has signed for Bromley and Tunbridge Wells' Andy Irvine who is "seeking a new challenge".

Tuesday, 20th May: Bayo Akinfenwa opts to refuse his contract offer and leave Gillingham. He has been the best hold-up player with his back to goal that I've seen at Priestfield. He will be missed, his partnership with Cody McDonald was second to none, but it is definitely time to move on.

Sonny Miles confirms he will play for Maidstone United next season. Enough said.

Friday, 16th May: Sonny Miles and Henry Muggeridge have declined their new contract offers. Muggeridge is said to be waiting to see what offers he might get, but McKimm has withdrawn the contract offer, whilst Miles is definitely seeking pastures new.

The Southern Counties East have decided, not before time, that their league will next season increase to 20 clubs with the addition of Erith and Belvedere (relegated from Ryman South), Crowborough and Lingfield moving across from the Sussex County League and Croydon from the Combined Counties League.

Thursday, 15th May: Gillingham announce their retained list and nine players will leave the club after not being offered contract renewals. The big names on the list are Steven Gregory, Myles Weston, Charlie Lee, Craig Fagan and Adam Burchill. Gregory and Weston may come as a surprise to some supporters. Chris Whelpdale and Adebayo Akinfenwa are considering contract offers with Whelpdale attracting interest from Stevenage and Bayo a return to Northampton.

Tonbridge have made contract offers to Chris Piper, Sonny Miles and Henry Muggeridge.

Monday, 12th May: Danny Kedwell signs a new two year contract. Great news and proves most rumours are what they are ... rumours. Along with every other Gillingham supporter, the two names we wanted tied up were Kedwell and Nelson. All done and dusted, eight days from the last game, for the rest we can be a little more patient.

Meanwhile at Tonbridge, the first name to put pen to paper under the Steve McKimm regime, is long-term servant, Jon Heath.

Sunday, 11th May: Pre-season friendlies: I'll keep the list updated on this dateline.
Friday, 11th July Folkestone Invicta (a) 19:45
Tuesday, 15th July: Bromley (a) 19:45
Saturday, 19th July: Welling (a) 15:00
Tuesday, 22nd July Dartford (a) 19:30
Tuesday, 29th July Dover (a) 19:45
Saturday, 26th July Ipswich Town (h) 15:00
Saturday, 2nd August Ebbsfleet (a) 15:00

Tuesday, 15th July Dover (h) 19:45
Saturday, 19th July Eastbourne Borough (h) 15:00
Tuesday, 22nd July Stevenage (h) 19:45
Saturday, 26th July Ramsgate (h) 15:00
Tuesday, 29th July Farnborough (h) 19:45
Saturday, 2nd August Walton Casuals (a) 12:00

Tunbridge Wells
Tuesday, 8th July Rusthall (a) 16:45
Saturday, 12th July Eastbourne Town 15:00 (at Hayesbrook)
Saturday, 19th July Crowborough (h) 15:00
Tuesday, 22nd July Ramsgate (h) Cancelled
Saturday, 26th July Folkestone Invicta (h) 15:00
Tuesday, 29th July Lydd (a) 19:45
Saturday, 2nd August Maidstone United (a) 15:00

Ebbsfleet United 0 Dover Athletic 1

Match 83/13/1109 - Saturday, 10th May 2014 - Conference South
Play-off Final

Ebbsfleet United (0) 0
Dover Athletic (0) 1 Elder 55
Att. 4,294

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/7,879

Match Report

To be at Stonebridge Road was an unexpected bonus. A previously arranged BBQ was cancelled because of the threat of heavy rain (and how right they were), leaving yours truly to fake disappointment but, inwardly thinking there’s a classic play-off with my name on it, not that Mrs T didn’t see through that little charade!

As it turned out, classic it wasn’t. For the neutral it was a long way short of a spectacle, but, even the most hard-nosed Ebbsfleet supporter would have to respect the tactical masterpiece that was put in front of them by Dover’s manager Chris Kinnear. In a dour first half, Dover’s back five contained, slowed the game, irritated the hell out of the home support and restricted Ebbsfleet to a Daryl McMahon free kick that whistled narrowly over the bar.

Where Bromley had capitulated at Stonebridge Road from corner kicks in the semi-final, Dover’s central defensive pairing of Sean Raggett and Callum Davies dealt with everything thrown into the box, whilst the dangerous Anthony Cook was forced to switch wings in an attempt to make any sort of impression on the game.

In previous Ebbsfleet games that I’ve seen, McMahon has been allowed to dominate the midfield but Dover shut down his space and reduced his influence to a minimum.

Kinnear’s half-time message may well have been along the lines of “you’ve drawn their sting, now go and hit them with the sucker punch”. Given the history of last summer’s events, it was almost inevitable that the winning goal would come from an ex-player on either side. Preston Edwards, who had sustained a first half head injury that halted proceedings for seven minutes, turned away a Ricky Modeste effort but from the resultant corner, Dover took the lead on 55 minutes. Modeste swung in the corner and from six yards Nathan Elder powered home a header to delight the Whites’ fans assembled behind the goal.

Ebbsfleet responded, Alex Osborne rippled the side netting but really should have done better, but as they poured forward the more likely it looked that they would get picked off a second time. This didn’t happen but despite Steve Brown sending on attacking substitutions and in the final assault, Edwards himself leaving his goal to add to the numbers, Dover comfortably saw the game to its conclusion to deliriously celebrate with their mass of support.

This is the third time that Kinnear has led Dover into the Conference National and with the rebuilding job that was required following the exodus of players to Ebbsfleet last summer this is the one that he may feel the most satisfying. From ending the season fifth in Conference South, Dover may want to send a bottle of champagne the way of Tonbridge goalkeeper Lewis Carey, who had it not been for his penalty save at Longmead against Havant on the last day of the regular season, they would not have made the play-offs at all.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Summertime Blues (and Reds)

The close season period could be very interesting for the principle three clubs followed by That'll Be The Day. In effect, at the close of play on Saturday, 3rd May two of the three clubs were manager-less. As the clubs go about their summer-time business, managers, player movements I will use this post to keep abreast of the news.

Thursday, 8th May: But before tomorrow comes there is a puff of white smoke over Longmead and the new Tonbridge manager is announced as Steve McKimm with Barry Moore as his assistant. More here ... New Tonbridge manager.

Thursday, 8th May: When I've been asked about who stays and who goes, my answer has been get Stuart Nelson signed up pretty damned quick. Peter Taylor obviously reads the blog and the Gills' custodian has signed a new two year deal. Oh, what influence I have!! Meanwhile over at Tonbridge it appears that we are getting very close to seeing the puff of white smoke over Longmead. Eight candidates have been interviewed and Steve Churcher has said it was a difficult decision and one he was glad not to have to make alone. One with Tonbridge background, Ben Judge, and someone from outside of the club appear front-runners. Perhaps tomorrow ...

Wednesday, 7th May: First pre-season friendly announced, I'll try to keep the list updated on this dateline.
Saturday, 26th July Ipswich Town (h) TBC

Tunbridge Wells
Saturday, 19th July Crowborough (h) 15:00
Saturday, 26th July Ramsgate (h) 15:00

Tuesday, 6th May: Peter Taylor begins his reshuffle at Gillingham by telling Assistant Manager John Schofield and Goalkeeping Coach Carl Muggleton that there will not be a contract renewal for either of them.

Monday, 5th May: My personal choice, and one of the early favourites for the Tonbridge job, Tony Russell, rules himself out by signing on for another season at VCD.

And no sooner said, the first news comes from the Player of the Year Presentation at Gillingham.

Saturday, 3rd May: At the Player of the Year Presentation, Gillingham chairman Paul Scally announced that agreement had been made with Peter Taylor to continue as manager of the club with a two year contract. It was also announced that the club's principle sponsor, MEMS would continue for the next four years. The player of the year was awarded to Stuart Nelson.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Gillingham 1 Shrewsbury Town 1

Match 82/13/1108 - Saturday, 3rd May 2014 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Barrett 70
Shrewsbury Town (0) 1 Miller 86
Att. 7,634

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 45/7,823

Match Report

The final game of the 2013-14 season pretty much summed up Gillingham’s season, frustrating. Despite the extraordinarily large attendance, 7,634, the game felt like a pre-season friendly with neither club having anything left to play for. The pitch looked great, the sun shone and the players went about their business mostly at half pace. It seemed the only difference was the substitutions were limited to three each.

One of those substitutions brought the heartwarming moment of the afternoon when Matt Fish became a 52nd minute substitution for an injured Leon Legge, bringing to an end nine months on the sidelines following his cruciate ligament injury in the very first game.

A second pleasing moment came pre-match when the honoured legend, [Sir] Keith Peacock, was given a rousing reception from all corners of Priestfield Stadium.

Gillingham, almost certainly, deserved to take the three points against a relegated Shrewsbury Town side and enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession. Joe Martin brought a good save from Joe Anyon following a well hit free kick whilst Stuart Nelson was called into action to make a good stop from a Luke Summerfield free kick.

The best chances of the half fell to leading scorer Cody McDonald in the five minutes leading up to the break. A superbly worked move ended with the striker hitting a post and a couple of minutes later, sent clear by Adebayo Akinfenwa, McDonald’s first touch took him too wide and the attack petered out.

Two chances in the 70th minute eventually gave the home side the lead. Danny Kedwell’s initial effort was cleared from the line before Jake Hessenthaler retrieved the ball and chipped a cross to the head of Adam Barrett who firmly planted a header into the net.

Gillingham had their chances to put the game beyond doubt, Bradley Dack brought a fine save from Anyon; Fish and Chris Whelpdale also saw efforts turned over by the keeper, before, frustratingly, Shrewsbury broke away and Shaun Miller headed home from close range a Joe Jacobsen cross to delight the near 200 travelling support, a fine effort from them to support a relegated club.

As the curtain fell on another season at Priestfield it was time to reflect on the past nine months with a series of questions self-answered.

At the start of the season would I have accepted 17th place? Without a doubt, I never bought into Martin Allen's assertion that he was building a side that would smash League One. It was a much tougher division than the one we left four years ago with some massive clubs (Wolves, Preston, Bristol City and Sheffield United) in comparison to Gillingham.

Would I have guessed that we would end the season without Martin Allen? Certainly did not see that one coming last August. At the time of his sacking, despite the desperately poor start, I thought he had earned the right to time having won the League Two title the previous season. But rumours of player unrest and a style of football that wasn't easy on the eye made it less of a surprise when it happened.

Have things changed for the better under Peter Taylor? Not totally, but he has fulfilled his mandate, that of keeping Gillingham in League One. The squad, in principle, is the one that Taylor inherited and if the football is any more pleasing, it is very marginal. But, having achieved the initial objective, I would hope that in the next couple of days he is announced as manager with a contract that enables him to build a team in his image and not that of his predecessor. This will not cut much ice with a section of the support that hasn’t taken to him and want him removed right now.

A season of not too many highs and far too many lows. The win at Sheffield United, sandwiched between the FA Cup games against Brackley produced both ends of the scale in a matter of days. The win over Wolves, despite being over-run for much of the game, was special in that it was quite unbelievable considering the run that the eventual champions went on after losing at Priestfield. Home wins against Coventry and Swindon were good days, whilst dreadful performances at Colchester and Stevenage highlighted the inconsistency. Thankfully, for myself, I didn’t suffer the humiliation that was Brisbane Road. The home game against Rotherham was a great game of football, but, of course, Gillingham lost it.

Who might we not see back at Priestfield next season? Get Stuart Nelson and Danny Kedwell under contract pretty damn quick and after that, within Taylor's budget constraints, I can see a mass exodus of players. The emergence of Jake Hessenthaler and Bradley Dack are huge bonuses and one would hope that both are given much greater prominence next term.

What would be considered a success next season? Progress. This might be considered another season of consolidation, but if Gillingham were to have a season when they head towards the top half of the table without looking over their shoulders at the relegation places, then I would consider this success of a relative nature.

Well folks, that's it for another season. I suppose I'm left to reflect that this season has been a frustrating one from the point of view of the clubs that this blog follows. To add to Gillingham's season already detailed, Tonbridge's relegation and Tunbridge Wells' failure to achieve promotion when highly fancied were big disappointments. Another frustration was the weather and three months of postponements, never quite knowing where I was going to end up on a Saturday afternoon, but this contributed in the end to the variety of fixtures that I've managed to attend this season. Roll on June 18th, release date for the Football League fixtures when the planning for 2014-15 begins.

Lifetime match total: 2,359
Number of grounds: 257

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ebbsfleet United 4 Bromley 0

Match 81/13/1107 - Wednesday, 30th April 2014 -
Conference South Play-Off 1st Leg

Ebbsfleet United (2) 4 B May 2, Bricknell 9 (pen), Howe 60,
McMahon 80

Bromley (0) 0
Att. 1,693

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 56/7,477

Match Report

On my last Tuesday evening of the season, with three of the four Conference South Play-off places occupied by Kent clubs, Ebbsfleet's tie with Bromley was an attractive proposition. On New Year's Day, Bromley thrashed Ebbsfleet at Stonebridge Road and led the division by a dozen points or so, but 2014 has seen the pack close in on the Hayes Lane outfit and, in the case of Eastleigh, overtake them to take the title of champions and the automatic promotion place. Ebbsfleet, meanwhile came into the game in a rich vein of form, especially at home where seven straight wins had also brought seven clean sheets. Bromley, having ended the regular season as the division's top scorers were expected to put this record under a good deal of pressure.

So with this in mind, the opening ten minutes of the game was somewhat unexpected. Ebbsfleet won a corner in the first minute and Daryl McMahon's low corner from the right evaded Bromley's defenders in the six yard box and Ben May was at the far post to tap in the opening goal after 62 seconds.

Bromley's night went from bad to worse after eight minutes when they once again failed to deal with a McMahon corner. A header was pushed against the bar by Joe Welch and a further two efforts on goal failed to find the net, the third of which had been prevented with the hands of Alex Nicholls who conceded a penalty and saw a red card for his trouble. Billy Bricknell drove home the spot kick to leave both sets of supporters staring in disbelief.

Credit must go to Bromley for the way in which they galvanised themselves for the rest of the half reduced to 10 men with Brendan Kiernan posing a significant threat.

From a tactical point of view, Bromley might have considered accepting their two-goal deficit to mount a fresh assault in Saturday's return leg with eleven men on the field, but they pressed on early in the second half only to be suckered by a counter punch on the hour. A brilliant pass from McMahon was turned into the path of full back Joe Howe who slid the ball under the advancing Welch to put the tie almost out of the reach of the Lilywhites.

A fourth goal would almost certainly render the second leg a formality and it came with ten minutes remaining with McMahon almost inevitably involved once more. The Fleet skipper, man of the match in my opinion by a country mile but not the sponsor's choice, dribbled along the byeline and embarrassed Welch at his near post as his shot went under the keeper's body and into the net.

There can be no way back for Bromley who must be reflecting on how the wheels came off their promotion bid since that New Year's Day mauling of their hosts. The other semi-final between Dover Athletic and Sutton United goes into Saturday's second leg all-square after a 1-1 draw at the Crabble. On last night's performance Ebbsfleet will be fancying themselves against whoever comes out on top.