Sunday, 31 August 2014

Gillingham 2 Crewe Alexandra 0

Match 19/14/1128 - Saturday, 30th August 2014 - League One

Gillingham (2) 2 Dack 18, McDonald 45
Crewe Alexandra (0) 0
Att. 4,998

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 52/1,181

Match Report

The great swathes of empty seats at Priestfield suggested an atmosphere of After The Lord Mayor’s Show but the hard core of Gillingham’s support were treated to their team's best 45 minutes so far this season.

Admittedly this was one of the poorest Crewe Alexandra sides seen at Priestfield in recent years despite arriving with the title of one of Gillingham’s bogey sides having won on each of their last four visits. Steve Davis’ side may try to play their football in the true tradition of Crewe teams but, at present, there is nobody with the talent of a Nick Powell or the goals of a Chuks Aneke that has put the gloss on their performances in Kent over that period.

For the opening half of this game, Gillingham fans got a true glimpse of what Peter Taylor is trying to achieve. Their crisp passing game was almost a reflection of what we would expect of a Crewe team, with the midfield trio of Bradley Dack, Jake Hessenthaler and Aaron Morris exacting dominance over their visiting counterparts and opening the spaces for the pace of Jermain McGlashan to exploit.

The opening goal after 18 minutes was a real beauty. Following a McGlashan raid and cross, Crewe failed to clear their lines with the ball falling at Dack’s feet 20 yards from goal. A step inside and a curling left foot shot into the top corner gave the Crewe goalkeeper, Ben Garrett, no chance.

Gillingham closed out their half with a second goal that their superiority deserved. A wonderful through ball from Hessenthaler saw Cody McDonald in the clear and one-on-one with Garratt. The goalkeeper blocked the striker’s initial effort but the ball looped high into the air towards the goal and McDonald following in, needed no more than a touch to complete the task.

The second half was a coast for the home side with Crewe mustering a couple of shots that failed to test Stephen Bywater to any great extent whilst McGlashan just failed to add a gloss to this performance with a header that struck a post. Perhaps the criticism would be that this was a Crewe team that were there for the taking by a far greater winning margin.

Leon Legge was a casualty from the successive defeats against Barnsley and Newcastle and he has a battle on his hands to regain his place in the side. Kortney Hause is improving with every game whilst his central defensive partner, John Egan, had a splendid game and is looking to be the cream of Taylor’s close season signings.

McGlashan took the award of Man of the Match for his exciting running at defenders. The lack of a consistent end product meant that, for my vote, I would have chosen any one of the midfield trio.

It is home, sweet home for Gillingham, but to make an impact on this division that form needs to be taken on their travels. A change to the considered old fashioned 4-4-2 proved as comfortable as an old pair of slippers on this occasion but whether it is secure enough to take into the next away game against Coventry City, back at the Ricoh, that is for Peter Taylor to decide. But, on home soil, hopefully the eye-catching style can continue and some of the folk that came along to see Newcastle United of the Premiership will soon return to watch Gillingham in League One action.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Gillingham 0 Newcastle United 1

Match 18/14/1127 - Tuesday, 26th August 2014 - C1C 2nd Round

Gillingham (0) 0
Newcastle United (1) 1 Egan (o.g.) 24
Att. 10,204

Entrance: £20
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 52/1,129

Match Report

There is a term in manager-speak where it is impressed on his players that they “leave nothing out there [the pitch]”. In terms of effort and application, Gillingham left nothing out there against their Premiership opponents, Newcastle United. But, I feel, they may have left out there a single regret and that would be that they could have been braver.

Newcastle were everything that you would expect from the Premier League, their passing was slick, they retained the ball for long periods and their pace in certain areas was frightening and thereby lay Gillingham’s problem. Do you set up to contain and spare yourself the possible humiliation of a heavy defeat or be just that little bit more brave and give yourself the opportunity of producing an unexpected victory?

Despite their possession, Newcastle proved to be almost as toothless in front of goal as their hosts. Apart from their goal, an unfortunate deflection into his own net by John Egan, ironically a former Sunderland player, their only other effort of note was a long range effort from Massadio Haidara that rattled the crossbar after 53 minutes.

The sold out notices went up at Priestfield during the day with just a few spaces in the visitor’s section and the hospitality block of the Medway Stand. For some reason, writing this over 24 hours after the event, no official attendance has been given.

The full house brought with it a good atmosphere and those voices were raised as early as the sixth minute when Cody McDonald attempted to wriggle clear of the impressive Fabricio Coloccini and was felled in the box but the Argentinian’s tackle was perfectly timed.

Newcastle’s opportunities were severely limited by a steadfast Gillingham defensive unit with only a shot from Emmanuel Riviere bringing a comfortable save from Stephen Bywater.

Gabriel Obertan’s pace down the right hand side was problematical but had been largely contained by Gillingham until the 24th minute when he got to the byline and crossed to the near post where the ball hit Egan and deflected into the net. As it turned out, it was cruel way to lose the game.

Cody McDonald was largely isolated up front with Danny Kedwell playing even deeper than the false number nine position that is being heralded this season. The best of the early second half efforts fell to Newcastle and generally from the attacking prowess of the French full back, Haidara, but these were comfortably dealt with by Bywater.

Peter Taylor injected a greater attacking intention with 25 minutes remaining replacing his strike force with Luke Norris and Antonio German. Their pace gave the Geordies defence a few uncomfortable moments including a back pass that Norris chased down and Tim Krul was lucky that his clearance that hit the striker landed back at his feet.

Krul though, was at his acrobatic best moments later when Norris fired in a shot from the edge of the area that was bound for the top corner until the Dutchman’s fingertips intervened to steer the ball over the bar.

That was the closest Gillingham came to finding an equaliser. Nobody can deny their effort and, in midfield, the youthful duo of Bradley Dack and Jake Hessenthaler acquitted themselves very well indeed. But those last 25 minutes when Norris and German ran at the Premiership side’s back line proved that there was an upset there for the taking.

Peter Taylor, in his after match interview, felt that his team could have shown more belief. Where Taylor says belief, I say bravery, much the same thing in my mind.

Tonbridge 1 Maidstone United 0

Match 17/14/1126 - Monday, 25th August 2014 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (0) 1 Teniola 90
Maidstone United (0) 0
Att. 1,168

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 34/1,077

Match Report

As the final whistle sounded, soaked through to the skin by the incessant rain, if somebody had told me that I would have to stand there for another 90 minutes to ensure the result that I had witnessed I would have happily done so.

Whether your derby is in North London, Manchester, Liverpool or the A26, the passion remains the same with the local bragging rights on offer. The Merseyside fixture may have the reputation as a friendly derby, but in general, the respective club’s supporters don’t much like each other and a special hostility is reserved for players that move from one local rival to another.

For the first time, in a league fixture, the trio of players that left Tonbridge Angels for the greener plastic at the other end of the A26, lined up in the amber and black of Maidstone United against their old employers. Much has changed at Longmead since Frannie Collin and Lee Worgan left the club two years ago with Sonny Miles following this summer.

Players, who make these moves, either way, are always going to be the subject of a certain amount of light-hearted banter (!) and they should be professional enough to ignore any abuse directed at them. Tonbridge supporters knew they could get at Miles and extract a reaction and Sonny was quick to oblige. Referring back to the not-so secret amount of money that was on offer to sign for Maidstone, he made gestures symbolising his new-found wealth and when he slipped on the obviously wet surface, he proclaimed that Longmead was a sh*thole.

Following Saturday’s defeat at Finchley, I feared for Tonbridge with Maidstone extending their opening run of victories to five with a home win against Bury Town. A first look at the team sheet did nothing to diminish my fears. A back four cobbled together with a full back playing in the centre and a left back playing right back and, as Saturday, a bench that could only muster four substitutes.

An hour before kick-off, space in the car park was already like finding a needle in a haystack and, once inside Longmead, behind both goals there was a large concentration of supporters from the county town.

An early opportunity fell the way of the hosts and nearly left their ex-goalkeeper red-faced. Worgan had his clearance charged down by Billy Medlock but the resulting angle was too acute and the striker’s effort only found the side-netting.

Action both ends of the pitch led to Maidstone’s first, and probably best, opportunity to open the scoring. Tonbridge claimed a penalty after Alex Flisher’s challenge on James Folkes but, with that turned away, James Roger’s clearance found Collin in the clear capitalising on a slip by Jack Parter, but the ex-Tonbridge goal machine dragged his shot wide, much to the relief, and derision, of the home support.

Maidstone exerted a short period of pressure with a succession of corners but the half wound its way to its conclusion with shots from both sides that were not too far wide but also not stretching either goalkeeper.

The second half was one of attrition with the battle being fought in the middle of the field where the two Parkinson brothers, Tom and Jack, faced each other for the first time. Tonbridge had an early chance with Tommy Whitnell shooting wide whilst the ever-dangerous Flisher flashed in a cross that begged a connection that wasn’t forthcoming for the visitors.

At the point in the game where substitutions are made, the relative strengths of the respective benches were apparent as Maidstone brought on experience with Tonbridge having only teenagers at their disposal.

As the game moved towards what seemed an inevitable goalless draw, my own thoughts were that, at any time from leaving home to this rain sodden 90th minute, I would have taken a point with great pleasure. As Tom Parkinson received the ball on the right hand side, my only desire was that he retained it and wound down the clock, but his pass inside to Flavio Tavares saw the youngster run at a defender on the edge of the box whose tackle took the ball away from Tavares but found its way to the right foot of Alex Teniola. A shot on the turn went in off the post with the aid of a slight deflection, and mighty irony, off Sonny Miles to the delight of the Tonbridge faithful who had found their voice once they had an end of their own.

At the season’s end, Maidstone’s resources will, almost certainly, result in a higher finishing position than their neighbours, although they looked a long way short of a promotion-winning side on this performance. But derby day wins are not always decided by the size of the boardroom wallet, they require passion, a desire to play for the shirt and, on this occasion, those attributes found Tonbridge Angels the richer of the local rivals.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Wingate & Finchley 2 Tonbridge 0

Match 16/14/1125 - Saturday, 23rd August 2014 - Ryman Premier

Wingate & Finchley (2) 2 Knight 25, Tejan-Sie 30
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 132

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 118/1,043
New ground: 260

Match Report

This was a visit that I’ve looked forward to since the fixtures were announced. Wingate and Finchley won’t set many pulses racing, but for groundhoppers, the North London venue is one where there is something different to be viewed, in this case an art deco grandstand that dates back to 1930 with a twist that is unique to my knowledge, but I’m sure a hard-core hopper could cite another.

The grandstand’s attraction is that it is a double-sided back-to-back structure that serves on one side the football club and on the other, Finchley Rugby Club. Unfortunately, on the day, I was unable to get into the rugby club side to view their half, but if you click on the link here, there are some photographs that show better detail than I was able to obtain from my side of the fence.

The structure was accorded a Grade II listing last year, not only for its uniqueness, but also it is the earliest cantilevered roof grandstand that is still in use in this country. The rounded corrugated steel canopy that extends the roof was added in the 1950s and, in truth, could do with a lick of paint and the four columns that support it rather defeats the object of the cantilever roof, but in these sad eyes, it remains a classic structure.

This was a first-ever meeting between these two clubs and, ultimately, it was a continuance of Tonbridge’s tale of woe on the road so far this season. Two goals in the space of five minutes decided this contest in favour of the home side as Tonbridge failed to extract a goal from their better start to the match and a second half in which they dominated.

Chances that fell to Tommy Whitnell and Dee Okojie failed to test the Wingate goalkeeper before, in the 25th minute, David Knight converted a cross from Karl Oluyide from the edge of the six yard box to register his seventh goal in the opening five Ryman Premier League fixtures. A striker, in a rich vein of form that caused the Tonbridge defence problems throughout the 75 minutes he was on the pitch.

Five minutes later and the visitors received a second setback from which they were not going to be able to recover. Buoyed by their opening goal, W&F won a series of corners and from the third, Tommy Tejan-Sie was given the time to turn and fire in a shot from inside the box into the bottom corner.

Tonbridge manager, Steve McKimm introduced Alex Teniola at half-time for Chris Piper and the change immediately added some bite to the Angels’ attack. Teniola brought a save from Bobby Smith in the opening minutes of the half, tipping over the bar the striker’s effort.

Okojie’s weaving runs and an improved end product caused concern to the home defence but efforts on goal were restricted to a bare minimum as Tonbridge failed to add to their poor return of just one goal on their travels in their opening three games.

Apart from the dominating feature of the grandstand, the rest of the Harry Abrahams is a tidy stadium with terracing in front of the stand which lays a fair way back from the pitch. There are two more covered enclosures behind one of the goals and another straddling the half way line on which stands a large clock decorated with the Star of David, reflecting the Jewish origins of the Wingate element of the club that is also a feature of the club’s crest.

As a football club supporter, winning games is what it is all about, but sometimes a treasure comes along that makes the day worthwhile despite the result and this was one of them. But, on Bank Holiday Monday, pure tribalism kicks in, the derby against Maidstone United, when the only architects that matter are those in blue shirts, creating the goals that beat our biggest of rivals.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sevenoaks Town 2 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 15/14/1124 - Wednesday, 20th August 2014 - SCEL

Sevenoaks Town (1) 2 Walker 21 Cornwell 90+4
Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Spackman 90+2
Att. 183

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 46/925

Match Report

In recent years Tunbridge Wells have very much held the bragging rights from the A21 derby. Last season Sevenoaks Town shipped 10 goals during the course of the two League games and, whilst they surprisingly won by a single goal at Culverden in 2012, they conceded another six later in the season at Greatness Park.

But the times they are a-changing.

New manager Micky Collins, with the on-field experience of Ben Judge and Simon Osborne, has put together a side that looks to be far more competitive this term. Of course, it is widely rumoured that there is a healthy budget to push the club forward and there are also exciting long-term plans for Greatness Park.

It is probably an indictment of the positive strides that Sevenoaks have made under Collins that a player such as Orlando Smith, from Maidstone United, can be attracted to the club under dual registration.

Tunbridge Wells, meanwhile, are a team that are struggling to find their feet following a big turnover in personnel over the close season. Despite this, both sides entered this game with 100% records in the league after a couple of games, but both suffered FA Cup defeats on Saturday.

As usual a large following of Wells’ supporters were in evidence and their enthusiasm was seemingly undeterred by their cup exit following a heavy defeat at Holmesdale. But their patience will be tried if they have to endure performances as poor as this one.

The game itself was a scrappy affair that dramatically came to life in the time added on at the end of the match.

A firm pitch, coupled with far too much hit and hope from both sides, didn’t lend itself to much of a spectacle in the opening stages until Sevenoaks managed to string together a move which ended with Andy Walker converting a cross at the near post to score the opener after 21 minutes.

Tunbridge Wells’ tactic of the long ball towards the ever-willing Danny Powell and Brendan Cass failed to produce many opportunities in a disappointing first half with the best falling to Powell who saw his shot turned onto the post by Luke Roberts.

Joe Fuller was introduced after the break for Ian Parsons, but even that failed to beef up a midfield in which Jake Beecroft and Nick Barnes were strangely subdued.

The game appeared to be meandering its way to a single goal victory for Sevenoaks when, in the second minute of time added, Perry Spackman, pushed forward in search of an equaliser, struck a speculative shot from 20 yards that somehow found its way under the body of Roberts to level the score.

Steve Lawrence had to be at his acrobatic best to turn over the bar a shot following a jinking run by Orlando Smith.

Sevenoaks were not to be denied, however, and two minutes later a cross from Keiron McCann found Miles Cornwell, whose header past Lawrence brought joyous approval and celebration, sliding to his knees, of Micky Collins.

So, for the first time since 2011, Tunbridge Wells head back down the A21 having suffered defeat, the times are, most certainly, a-changing. Early results suggest nobody is going to run away with this League and quite possibly the top teams are going to be beating each other, which opens the door to any of the contenders. The Wells have to improve on this performance to ensure they are one of the clubs knocking on that door.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Gillingham 2 Swindon Town 2

Match 14/14/1123 - Tuesday, 19th August 2014 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Kedwell 9, Hause 51
Swindon Town (1) 2 Williams 43, Bywater (o.g.) 90
Att. 5,264

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 52/879

Match Report

As a goalkeeper from a previous lifetime that reached the exalted level of the West Kent Sunday League Division Five, my sympathies were with Stephen Bywater at the conclusion of this entertaining encounter. In the blink of an eye, despite the heroics that had gone before, the Gillingham loanee keeper went from hero to zero as his blunder in the 90th minute cost Gillingham maximum points.

The manner in which the goal was conceded made the end result disappointing, but in fairness, I would have taken a draw at any stage of a game in which Gillingham spent the vast majority of the time chasing the ball. Swindon must be the Arsenal of League One, they absolutely pass the opposition to death, but questions might be asked of the cutting edge that is required to finish their abundance of possession. Reports of their single goal defeat at Crawley on Saturday suggested much the same story.

The injury jinx that has blighted Gillingham’s opening to the season shows no sign of abating with newly-installed skipper, Doug Loft added to the list with an Achilles problem.

In the middle of the field, which was virtually abandoned by Peter Taylor’s decision to play five at the back, Yaser Kasim and Massimo Luongo probably had more touches of the ball than the entire Gillingham team put together. Kasim, who spoilt a midfield masterclass by getting booked late on for simulation, found time and space in which to orchestrate his Swindon side mainly because Bradley Dack and Jake Hessenthaler were completely overrun with Callum Davies playing just in front of the back line.

Whether it had been Taylor’s plan that the full backs, Gavin Hoyte making his debut after earning a contract until the New Year and Matt Fish getting forward to supplement the midfield trio, it didn’t really work as Gillingham failed to gain any level of possession to enable it.

Fingers should not be pointed at the youthful midfield trio who were industrious in their efforts, but having been starved of the ball, it came as a surprise when Dack slipped a pass inside the full back for Danny Kedwell to chase. Wes Foderingham, in the Swindon goal, raced to the edge of his box to clear but his kick rebounded off the Gillingham striker, looped into the air and from an acute angle, Kedwell coolly found the net to give the home side a ninth minute lead.

The visitors were far from knocked out of their stride and Bywater was called into action, making three good saves before finally conceding a couple of minutes before the break when Andy Williams was sent clear by Michael Smith. The tall striker looked clearly offside, but even if he wasn’t, the linesman was poorly placed, some 15 yards behind the play, to make a proper judgement.

Fish failed to appear for the second half to be replaced by Jermaine McGlashan and the ineffective Luke Norris made way for Brennan Dickenson as Taylor injected pace into the side. Kortney Hause was shuffled along the back line into the left full back position and after 51 minutes overlapped to collect a Dack pass and crash in a fearsome shot from a yard inside the angle of the 18 yard box for his first Gillingham goal.

Swindon continued to dominate possession, but with the injection of pace, Gillingham were far more threatening on the counter attack than they had been in the first period. Bywater was asked for further heroics including a wonder save from a close range effort that had actually be flagged offside, but he wasn’t to know that.

Ten minutes from time, one such counter attack should have secured the points for the home side. Hessenthaler worked an opening for Dickenson but his shot came back off the crossbar.

As the game entered time added on, Swindon worked the ball to the right hand side and from the bye-line Raphael Branco, sent forward from his defensive duties, fired a cross-cum-shot towards the near post. Bywater, positioned perfectly to catch the ball, fumbled it over his shoulder and into the net.

The Swindon bench, hardly believing their luck, celebrated wildly and a fracas with the Gillingham bench ensued with Taylor given his marching orders to the stand. After a game in which the previous ill-feeling between the clubs had not surfaced, the Rainham End failing to render a single chorus of “because of Ray McHale”, it seemed out of character for the mild mannered Taylor to see red.

Swindon would have left Priestfield wondering how they didn’t turn 65% possession into three points but thankful that a goalkeeper’s fortune can turn in an instant.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Gillingham 2 Yeovil Town 0

Match 13/14/1122 - Saturday, 16th August 2014 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Martin 35, Kedwell 55
Yeovil Town (0) 0
Att. 5,173

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: Sold Out
Mileage: 52/827

Match Report

A day that started badly at least ended with the satisfaction of Gillingham’s first three points of the season obtained via a comfortable, if uninspiring, victory over Yeovil Town.

Nothing can be worse on match day than the wife coming in from the supermarket to inform you that you have a flat tyre. As an aside from football, why do garages have to use those guns to tighten wheel nuts? Over the last 20 years, touching wood, I haven’t had to call out the RAC for a mechanical fault, but every time I have a puncture there is at least one wheel nut that I cannot undo and, consequently, the motoring organisation has to be called. It is embarrassing for a grown man to have to call them for something so trivial, but I guess that's what I’m paying them for.

The call to the RAC gave me a time that a patrolman would be with me within the hour; that would leave me very little spare time once I had travelled to Gillingham. When the patrolman phoned and said he would be with me in 25 minutes, I thought great, plenty of time. Sadly these things never work out quite like that and 50 minutes later I’m still waiting for the man.

When he finally arrived, job done (with the correct tools, of course) in ten minutes and when he tightened the wheel nuts out comes the gun once more!

Desperately short of time and with a skinny wheel on which I’m only supposed to do 50 m.p.h., I find a parking space with ten minutes to spare. I run-walk down to Priestfield and as I enter the ground, gasping, I’m almost pleased that the first person I see is a St John’s Ambulance man, I had a distinct fear I might be in need of his assistance!

Peter Taylor has drafted in the services of Stephen Bywater from Millwall on loan until January to cover last week’s injury to Stuart Nelson, who will be out of action for a couple of months.

The game was a long way short of a spectacle. Gillingham started slowly and should have gone behind on 17 minutes. Ben Nugent was brought down in the box by Leon Legge and the referee had little option but to point to the spot. A woefully poor spot kick by Kieffer Moore allowed Bywater to save easily to his right and earn instant hero status from the Rainham End.

Earlier in the half, Gillingham’s unfortunate start to the season with regards to injuries continued as Josh Hare, making his League debut, took a ball full in the face and was knocked spark out. He was stretchered from the field to be replaced by the returning Matt Fish after just 11 minutes.

Gillingham finally found a foothold in the game following the penalty miss and took the lead on 35 minutes when Joe Martin, using that wand of a left foot, curled a beauty into the top right of the goal leaving the Glovers’ keeper, Chris Weale, grasping thin air from the flighted free kick.

After ten minutes of the second half, Gillingham doubled their lead after Aaron Morris was felled in the box by Nathan Smith, who, incidentally, had also given away the free kick for Gillingham’s opening goal. The ever-reliable Danny Kedwell stepped up, but on this occasion, failed from his first attempt. However, the spot kick was well struck and Weale could only parry the ball back to the striker who scored from the rebound.

The injury jinx surrounding Gillingham at present struck once more, with 13 minutes remaining, when Martin went down, seemingly without a challenge, and also left the field on a stretcher.

The game was comfortably seen out, completing a double victory over the west country side, having knocked them out of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, earning an attractive home draw against Premiership side, Newcastle United.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Peavehaven & Telscombe 4 Tonbridge 1

Match 12/14/1121 - Wednesday, 13th August 2014 - Ryman Premier

Peacehaven & Telscombe (2) 4 Burton 35,45, Jones 50,
Pitcher 76

Tonbridge (0) 1 Whitnell 67
Att. 226

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 95/775
New ground: 259

Match Report

After their opening day success against VCD at Longmead, Tonbridge were served a huge dose of reality at Peacehaven & Telscombe. The Ryman South champions have maintained their momentum of last season with a reasonable looking draw on opening day at Leatherhead and, whilst the visitors would point to individual mistakes contributing to this heavy defeat, they look strong enough to mount a challenge from the top half of the table in the coming months.

Against a backdrop of the rolling hills of the South Downs and black, threatening clouds, the quaintly named Piddinghoe Avenue (admittedly ignoring the bland Sports Park bit) made for a picturesque venue, but one that falls a long way short of the standards that will be required to move further up the pyramid. Its 150 seat stand and a covered area in front of the clubhouse and dressing rooms provided the only cover, mercifully the threatening clouds managed to skirt the ground and drop just a few drops of rain whilst somewhere in the distance was getting a fair drenching. A new stand is planned for next year.

Peacehaven & Telscombe suffered tragedy as a club in April 2012 when their 19-year-old central defender Connor Saunders was killed in a fracas in Rottingdean following a night out with mates. A 14-year-old was later found not guilty of manslaughter. Peacehaven have subsequently retired his Number 5 shirt and a banner in his memory hangs behind one of the goals.

They also seem to have made light work of the loss of their leading goalscorer from last season, Charlie Walker, who left to join Luton Town. A livewire striker in Jamie Brotherton was proving a real handful until injury removed him from the action at the half-time break.

Tonbridge made a reasonably confident start, with Dee Okojie posing a significant threat, but they failed to really stretch the P&T goalkeeper whilst Kyle Merson in the visitor’s goal was three times called into action making good saves before succumbing to a poor opening goal in the 35th minute. A corner to the far post was met with an unchallenged header by Tom Burton that went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Tonbridge needed to get into the break with no further damage, but in the time added at the end of the half, Burton was once again allowed time and space to bury a close range header.

The game was over as a contest five minutes into the second half when P&T worked the ball to the left hand side of the box where the man over, Josh Jones drove a low shot past Merson.

A lifeline was offered five minutes later when Billy Medlock was brought down in the box. The striker stepped up to take the spot kick but could only hit a post. At that point, it didn’t take Einstein to work out that this was not to be Tonbridge’s night.

They did, however, have the small consolation of scoring the best goal of the night when Tommy Whitnell struck a powerful shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards after good work from Okojie and Alex Teniola.

At this point we wondered, but that thought wasn’t too last long. Ben King dwelt on the ball and lost possession to Charlie Pitcher who drove a shot through Merson to complete the scoring.

So it was back to earth with a bump for the Angels, who were made to pay for individual mistakes by a committed Peavehaven side.

Mention should be made of the size of the following that Tonbridge took to the south coast. My own estimate would be that there were around a 100 supporters and the fact that Peacehaven’s average attendance was virtually doubled on the night would suggest that guess is not too far adrift.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Tunbridge Wells 2 Lingfield 0

Match 11/14/1120 - Tuesday, 12th August 2014 - SCEL

Tunbridge Wells (1) 2 Cass 1, Beecroft 58
Lingfield (0) 0
Att. 237

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 36/680

Match Report

When Brendan Cass worked himself an opportunity, with the Lingfield ‘keeper Rheece Oscar grounded and out of position, and subsequently scoring from close range after just 28 seconds, you had to fear for the visitors following their 8-1 opening day humiliation and sympathise with their small group of supporters gathered in the east stand.

Those fans had every right to fear the worst as Tunbridge Wells poured all over their opponents whose erratic defending veered between kamikaze and desperate. But the chances came and went for the Wells as poor finishing contributed to Lingfield’s success in getting through the first half-hour with no further damage inflicted.

Slowly but surely, the visitors managed to get a foothold in the game and in the last quarter-hour before the break they managed to pose a threat. A cross into the six yard box with the Tunbridge Wells’ goalkeeper, Steve Lawrence rooted to his line, begged a finish but nobody was unable to get a meaningful touch. A couple of other shots from distance were wayward and became symptomatic of Lingfield’s evening.

Aaron Lacey’s long throws into the penalty area caused all sorts of problems for the visitors with the height of George Benner and Nick Davis the target. It is not always very pretty to watch, as Lingfield’s manager implied in his post-match interview, but, in their first season in the SCEL, Lingfield are going to have to learn how to deal with a physical league and direct tactics that are going to be used when they are effective.

Tunbridge Wells began the second period in much the same vein as the first with just a cutting edge in front of goal the missing ingredient. Finally, just before the hour, they doubled their lead. Danny Powell, my man of the match for his tireless running, found Jake Beecroft in space 20 yards from goal and his well struck shot found the bottom corner. Powell, who has greatly impressed with his work rate, just needs a goal himself to completely find his feet at a level far greater than the Hildenborough side he left for Culverden.

The home side coasted their way to the finish and a comfortable win that might frustrate some of the Wells’ faithful who perhaps expected a goalfest given Lingfield’s demolition at Holmesdale and Cass’ opening goal. In those last 20 minutes, Lingfield carved out several shooting opportunities from long range and both open play and dead ball situations. But it is a long time since I’ve watched a side so lacking in composure, in fact hopeless, at this aspect of the game. If the goal had been twice its size none of their efforts would have been close.

It’s a long, long way to go and their finishing needs to be a good deal sharper, but two wins out of two represents a satisfactory start for Martin Larkin’s team.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

MK Dons 4 Gillingham 2

Match 10/14/1119 - Saturday, 9th August 2014 - League One

MK Dons (1) 4 Hause o.g. 43, Grigg 68, McFadzean 70,
A Morris o.g. 73

Gillingham (2) 2 McDonald 6, Kedwell (pen) 29
Att. 7,595

Entrance: £20
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 240/644

Match Report

Two points of consideration emerged from Gillingham’s season opener at the MK Stadium, if they are going to suffer from the cruel luck of injuries and, whether it was as a result of those injuries or otherwise, they are going to fold in the manner they did; then we are going to suffer a long hard winter.

Up and down the country, at the 72 Football League clubs, optimism is at its highest, if that is not the case on the opening day then there is little point to it all. My sense of optimism might not have been that high but as Gillingham raced into a two goal lead, I felt my pre-season sense of foreboding may have been a little misplaced even if I wasn’t quite ready to join in with the “We are top of the league” chants.

Quite what happened in five crazy minutes is hard to understand as the Gillingham back line folded like a house of playing cards under a trio of high crosses that brought a goal on each occasion for Milton Keynes Dons.

Since my last visit to MK the top tier now has seats and, although those seats and many more in the lower tier are devoid of punters, the stadium is an impressive sight. A pre-match viewing on the big screen of the Toy Dolls’ version of Nellie the Elephant with their ultra-skinny lead singer had us splitting our sides with laughter before the teams lined up for the serious stuff of the first kick-off of the 2014-15 season.

Peter Taylor’s first pick of the season was a difficult one to predict and he chose to go with Cody McDonald as a lone striker with his partner Danny Kedwell playing as a deep lying number nine. Debuts were handed to John Egan, Kortney Hause, Aaron Morris, Jermaine McGlashan, who had an eye-catching opening 45 minutes and Doug Loft, who took on the captain’s armband.

Gillingham took the lead after six minutes with a route one goal. A long kick from Stuart Nelson was headed on from the centre circle by Kedwell and as McDonald and Kyle McFadzean tangled to deal with the bounce of the ball, it was the Gillingham striker that got clear to shoot across the face of David Martin and into the far corner for a dream start.

The home side entered into a period of possession without causing the Gillingham rearguard any real problems. Jake Hessenthaler and Aaron Morris mopping up every loose ball in front of the back four and when he was released, McGlashan brought a series of fouls from a cumbersome looking MKD back four.

Just before the half-hour mark another long ball out of defence, this time from Egan, saw a misjudgement from Anthony Kay and McDonald, bearing down on goal, was brought down by the onrushing Martin. Kedwell, unerring as ever from the spot, sent the keeper the wrong to spark celebration from over 1,000 Gills' fans that had made the trip north, even if some of them were getting in front of themselves with their predictions of “winning the league”.

Nelson had to be at his very best to touch away a downward header from Danny Green on 37 minutes, but with four minutes to get to the sanctuary of the dressing room with their lead intact, the Gillingham keeper uncharacteristically misjudged a corner from Green and his finger tip touch found the head of Hause who turned it into his own net.

Nelson failed to re-emerge from the dressing room after the break having broken a thumb, which might have accounted for his mistake for the goal, in his place was debutant Glenn Morris.

More misfortune befell the visitors after 10 minutes of the second half when McDonald, who had shown a clean pair of heels to McFadzean and Kay on numerous occasions, was fouled by the latter and, after an eight minute delay was stretchered from the field with what might well be a serious leg injury.

What happened next beggared belief as Gillingham crumbled in the space of five bewildering minutes. Sub keeper Morris sped from his line to deny Dele Alli but then watched on helplessly as the game slipped from the grasp of the visitors between the 68th and 73rd minutes. A Green cross from the right met the head of Will Grigg who got between Leon Legge and Hause to score into the bottom corner for the equaliser.

Two minutes later, a free kick from Ben Reeves into the box saw McFadzean power a header into the top corner to make the MK Dons comeback complete. Gillingham’s fragility in the air was compounded in the 73rd minute when a corner from the ex-Dagenham player Green, who had a memorable debut for the home side, was headed into his own net by Aaron Morris to complete a miserable debut for his namesake in the Gillingham goal.

The last 20 minutes or so saw Gillingham pose no threat whilst doing their best to keep the scoreline from entering embarrassing territory. The injuries, without doubt, upset Plan A, whist Plan B, well there didn’t appear to be a Plan B. No real blame can be attached to Glenn Morris, as the sub keeper, but he doesn’t have the physical presence of Nelson and looked less commanding in his six yard box.

What might have been a dream start to the League season turned into a nightmare and the prospect of a hard season to come looms large, but hope reigns eternal and that hope is to be drawn from those first 40 minutes and not what happened in the terrible five.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tunbridge Wells 6 Hildenborough 2

Match 09/14/1118 - Tuesday, 5th August 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tunbridge Wells (2) 6 Bryant 13, Benner 29, Cass 81,
Beecroft 83, Goldsmith 88, O'Connell 90

Hildenborough (2) 2 Lock 10, Crompton 41
Att. 156

Entrance: £1 Senior
Programme: None
Mileage: 36/424

For 81 minutes of this curious friendly, Hildenborough of the Kent County League were the equals of their senior hosts but in those last ten minutes, with their players dropping like flies with cramp, they conceded four goals to give Tunbridge Wells a comfortable, but somewhat flattering 6-2 victory.

This was a game arranged at a week’s notice and one wondered what purpose it was supposed to serve given the discrepancy of the levels of the two sides. Perhaps it was a nod of thanks towards Hildenborough for the services of newly-acquired striker Danny Powell, we will probably never know.

Apart from a serious injury from an unnecessary fixture, Tunbridge Wells would have looking to avoid an embarrassing scoreline and their defenders would have been looking at each other when the ball fell in the penalty area to Lock in the 10th minute who, with his back to goal was allowed the time to turn and score from close range. Fortunately the red faces didn’t last too long as Tom Bryant equalised three minutes later to follow up his two goals at Lydd Town.

When George Benner rose highest to plant a firm header from a corner into the net it would have been expected that the Wells would go on to score a hat full but further poor defending allowed Crompton to level the score and when Hildenborough appeared to have regained the lead a couple of minutes before the break the Wells’ defence was in disarray, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Tunbridge Wells’ comparative strength in depth when the substitutions started to roll led to a second half of one-way traffic but Hildenborough managed to hold on until the 81st minutes when Brendon Cass got one-on-one with the keeper to put the Wells ahead and open the floodgates.

Further goals came from the [always] impressive Jake Beecroft, Jack Goldsmith and a trialist with an unknown Christian name, O’Connell.

Tunbridge Wells open their League campaign on Saturday at Cray Valley. There has been a defensive vulnerability viewed in pre-season that comes with an entirely new back line, although Jason Bourne, in particular, is to come back into the side. This area will certainly need to be a lot tighter against a Cray Valley side that last year were very physical and carried a significant threat. Cray’s pre-season has produced some unpredictable results, losing to lower level sides, Eltham Palace and Orpington but also producing a good win against Romford.

Pre-season 2014 is over. Good luck to the clubs followed by That’ll Be The Day, so much has changed at each of them that Saturday is virtually a step into the unknown for all those attending, whether that is it at Milton Keynes, Tonbridge or Cray Valley.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Ebbsfleet United 1 Gillingham 0

Match 08/14/1117 - Saturday, 2nd August 2014 - Pre-Season Friendly

Ebbsfleet United (0) 1 Sheringham 85
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 1,007

Entrance: £8 Senior
Programme: None purchased
Mileage: 56/388

Match Report

I'm quite thankful from a Gillingham perspective that this is the last time this pre-season that I'll be watching them before the big kick-off at Milton Keynes next Saturday. Since my first viewing at Welling where a good first half was followed by a poor second, Gillingham have looked progressively worse with every half. I've only seen three of their eight games but from what I've seen so far, they have not installed the greatest of confidence for the season ahead.

Ebbsfleet have beaten all four of the Football League clubs put in front of them this season,so perhaps the conclusion should be drawn that, as favourites, they are nailed on to win Conference South this term and not too higher tariff should be put on this Gillingham defeat, but acknowledge Ebbsfleet's potential.

A senior moment brought a worry on the drive to Stonebridge Road as I realised that I had forgotten to put cash into my wallet. Fortunately, my old age forgetfulness was compensated by the £8 concessionary entrance fee, which was just about all I had left in my wallet. Sadly a £2 programme had to be passed over.

There is so little to write about regarding the match. Gillingham fielded an odd-looking line-up in the first half with recognised defenders, Callum Davies and Devante McKain filling positions in midfield. Ebbsfleet made most of the running and Gillingham failed to muster a serious attempt on goal.

A more recognisable Gillingham team took the field for the second half and although Preston Edwards was forced into a couple of saves, the action was more prominent in and around Glenn Morris' goal. A misplaced back pass, five minutes from time, from Bradley Dack allowed Charlie Sheringham through on goal and he tucked his chance away with ease.

Hopefully the old maxim of friendly results counting for nothing holds true and a more convincing performance is on view at the MK Dons.

As a postscript, Josh Stanford's trial period at Gillingham failed to earn him a contract and he spent the afternoon on the bench at Maidstone United whose opponents were ironically his old mates from Tunbridge Wells. I hope his spell at Gillingham has alerted clubs of his ability and wins him a contract at a level at which he deserves to be playing.