Monday, 29 September 2014

Redhill 2 Tonbridge 1

Match 27/14/1136 - Saturday, 27th September 2014 - FA Cup 2QR

Redhill (2) 2 Butler 20, Bingham 44
Tonbridge (0) 1 Medlock 70
Att. 321

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 86/2,020
New Ground: 265

Match Report

As a follower of non-league football, I often pour scorn on the amount of money that sloshes around in the Premier League these days. Money is the root of all evil, it is the reason the Premiership is full of foreign players which contributes greatly to the crap England team with which we all despair and so goes the argument. When a miniscule amount of that money trickles down to clubs like Tonbridge through FA Cup prize money every supporter knows the value of every penny to their club.

£4,500 was on offer to winners of Second Qualifying Round ties, by my rough calculations about 25 minutes worth of Wayne Rooney’s working week, with the prospect of third and fourth round ties that could earn a further £20,000. These are untold riches to clubs, some of which would play in front of less than 100 on a regular basis.

When the draw was made, pitting Tonbridge against Ryman South Redhill, it was widely seen as a golden opportunity to progress into those later, lucrative qualifying rounds. But, there is something about the FA Cup and Tonbridge Angels that doesn’t sit easily alongside each other and hasn’t done since they last made the First Round Proper in 1972.

Tonbridge supporters did their bit, they turned out in big numbers and made up around two-thirds of the overall attendance, but they were left bitterly disappointed as their team produced an absolutely awful first half performance that left them 2-0 down and despite a second half onslaught on the Redhill goal, it was a scoreline from which they were unable to recover.

Steve McKimm, in his post-match interview, described that first half as an embarrassment, so I feel enabled to be equally forthright. Tonbridge supporters, widely criticised at the end of last season, have been patient and understanding of the rebuilding task that is required at Longmead. Results and performances have been inconsistent, but good or bad, they have remained positive, they have seen that improvement is being made and have appreciated the wholehearted effort, even if the quality has been somewhat lacking.

On this occasion, with the stakes high, McKimm’s side not only lacked the necessary quality but they also lacked desire and that is not easily forgiven. Against a team that only stands proud of the bottom three in Ryman South by virtue of goal difference, they were out-thought and out-fought for 45 horrific minutes.

The visitors started brightly and early pressure suggested it would only be a matter of time before the breakthrough was made. But early optimism quickly disappeared as log punts in the direction of the diminutive Billy Medlock were comfortably dealt with by a trio of six-foot central defenders. As Tonbridge went long, the menace that could have been Dee Okojie was lost in the wasteland of midfield.

Redhill grew in confidence and following a needless foul by Jerome Sobers, Sam Butler curled the resultant free kick around the wall and past Kyle Merson for the opening goal. It should have been the wake-up call for the Angels but Redhill seized command of the game and were rewarded with a second goal before half-time when Joe Bingham converted a cross.

Tonbridge’s inability, throughout the season so far, to put the requisite number of substitutes on the bench once again limited their options and when Sobers was forced off through injury after five minutes of the second half they were further restricted.

McKimm’s half-time use of the hair dryer at least produced the desired effect of an increase in both effort and tempo. On the hour, Michael Hunter in the Redhill goal produced a fine parrying save from a Tom Parkinson shot but could do nothing to keep out Medlock’s tap-in from the rebound.

Tonbridge poured forward in search of an equaliser and thought they had it on 70 minutes when Alex Teniola headed in after challenging the goalkeeper. The goal was disallowed, but not for the challenge as initially thought, but for offside.

Nathan Campbell hit a post with a header before, in stoppage time, Harrison Tweddell rounded the keeper and shot towards the empty net only to see his moment of glory and Tonbridge’s salvation snatched away by the goal-line clearance of Rob Hill.

I remember writing after last season’s FA Cup defeat at St Albans that this was as disappointed as I would feel during the season, but this defeat hurts even more as St Albans went on to prove they were a decent side, I’m not sure Redhill will prove likewise.

Who knows what that £4,500 might have brought to Tonbridge’s table? Another player that might enable them to field a full bench; money towards the general upkeep of Longmead, whatever. This was a day when the supporters of the club were badly let down by their players, but with Tonbridge and the FA Cup that appears almost as inevitable as Wayne Rooney getting a pay rise.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lingfield 1 Tunbridge Wells 2

Match 26/14/1135 - Tuesday, 23rd September 2014 - SCEL

Lingfield (1) 1 O'Hara 7
Tunbridge Wells (1) 2 Cass 4, George 71
Att. 106

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1.00
Mileage: 96/1,934
New Ground: 264

Match Report

It was just prior to the half-time break when another, shall we say “well contested challenge”, had passed by a consistently poor referee that I said to one of my friends, “the second half could be tasty”. The second half could wait; scores were to be settled there and then. With the referee having called time on the opening 45 minutes, a scuffle broke out in the penalty area from which Tunbridge Wells had defended a corner. Principally, it was a bit of handbags, but with the referee in the midst of the action, Lingfield’s Jake Daly, inexplicably, went through the motion of a headbutt leaving the referee with no alternative but to brandish a red card. It was nothing short of madness and, ultimately, cost his side at least a share of the points that they thoroughly deserved.

This game had an edge to it following the comments from Dixie Dean, the abrasive Lingfield manager, after the reverse fixture at Culverden six weeks ago. Following the Wells’ 2-0 victory, Dean was far from complimentary about their opponent’s style of play, among other comments, claiming that he wouldn’t want his son playing for Tunbridge Wells.

On the touchline his behaviour is provocative to say the least and he has history of misdemeanours including a sending off from the dugout against Hassocks in the Sussex League.

But, to his credit, Lingfield looked an entirely different side to the one seen at Culverden. Even in the second half, when down to 10 men, they carried a significant threat with their pace. It had been with raised eyebrows that I took note of their weekend victory at Cray Valley.

An early goal raised expectations that this could be an easy night for Tunbridge Wells. Their new signing, Curtis George, from Sittingbourne produced an electrifying run leaving several defenders in his wake before a corner from Jake Beecroft was met at the far post with a header back across the face of goal for the lurking Brendan Cass to touch the ball home from close range.

Those expectations were quickly extinguished with Lingfield’s equaliser four minutes later. Joel O’Hara’s pace down the left exposed the visitor’s defence resulting in his low cross being turned into his own net by the Wells’ skipper Jason Bourne.

Lingfield were buoyed by their success and O’Hara went close again, bringing a save from Steve Lawrence. In the meantime, on and off the pitch tensions were rising. The referee had a deep and meaningful discussion with Aaron Lacey after an altercation with the Lingfield bench and several rather meaty challenges were allowed to go without reprimand.

Whilst this was going on, Mr Dean was doing a terrific winding-up job, exclaiming every time a ball was hit forward, “here it comes” with reference to the long ball. Unfortunately, with the Wells struggling to find any momentum, their threat was coming mainly from Lacey’s long throws which did add weight to Dean’s argument.

With the sending-off, it was to be reasonably expected that Tunbridge Wells would take control of the match, but their own inability to retain possession of the ball, negated their man advantage. Lingfield enjoyed the better chances and control until the introduction of Nick Barnes added some bite and quality into the Wells midfield.

Rob Hambley, a goalkeeper of portly stature, made a couple of good saves before Chris Seenan, on as a substitute for Danny Powell, threaded a pass into the path of George, who produced a good finish under the body of the keeper with 20 minutes remaining.

The Wells had to withstand intense pressure in the final minutes and everybody in the ground thought Lingfield had found a deserved equaliser when a header from Alfie Dean came back from the underside of the crossbar.

There was a cordial handshake at the end of the match between the managers but I’m guessing that Martin Larkin is relieved that he is not going to be in the opposite technical area to the overbearing Dean for the rest of the season.

The ground at Godstone Road is a pleasant venue of typical county league standard. There is a seated enclosure, oddly positioned towards the corner of the side that also houses the Pavilion, presumably cricket is played here during the summer. With no cover and no people positioned behind one of the goals, it was irritating that when the ball went under or over the surrounding railings there was a delay as the ball was retrieved, sometimes from a distance.

Characters such as Dixie Dean are the soul of non-league football, however annoying they may seem. Just whisper that quietly next time in the vicinity of Martin Larkin, whose coaching staff were without reproach despite the circus going on around them.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Gillingham 0 Walsall 0

Match 25/14/1134 - Saturday, 20th September 2014 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Walsall (0) 0
Att. 5,344

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 52/1,838

Match Report

My 140 words on Twitter following this match suggested that this posting would amount to just three paragraphs. The first would relate that Walsall were poor, the second would say that Gillingham were worse and the final paragraph would simply be the final whistle. A reply told me that I would have been better off going to Longmead where Tonbridge had drawn 3-3 with Hendon. I couldn’t argue AngelJoy’s point.

Every so often, one of these games come along with few redeeming features. Walsall, on the back of a midweek hammering at Rochdale, applied themselves well, passed the ball a whole lot better than their hosts but had no cutting edge whatsoever. Whilst Gillingham could only really point to the clean sheet, with the central defensive pairing once again outstanding, as their positive.

Jermaine McGlashan’s pace continued to be Gillingham’s best outlet, but all too often the final ball was either lacking on his account or there was nobody on the end to convert. Luke Norris, sliding in but failing to make contact, in the 70th minute was a perfect case in point.

In the opening minutes, Kortney Hause twice inadvertently stretched Stephen Bywater with deflections towards his own goal before Ashley Grimes shot weakly to allow Bywater a comfortable save.

Late in the game, James Baxendale wasted an opportunity to win the game when a free header failed to find the target and although that would have been harsh on Gillingham, overall the Saddlers deserved the points more than their hosts.

Little more than three paragraphs, but truth is, I’ve made a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Gillingham 2 Peterborough United 1

Match 24/14/1133 - Tuesday, 16th September 2014 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 McDonald 26,87 (pen)
Peterborough United (1) 1 Taylor 45
Att. 4,819

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 52/1,786

Match Report

Home is where the heart is. Priestfield or Longmead might not have the grandeur or kudos of the Nou Camp and there’s certainly no Messi or Neymar gracing the turf but, in my opinion, watching a football match without any passion for either of the sides playing lacks an edge.

Peterborough United came to Priestfield, second in the table, with an expensively assembled side. They have acquired a wonderful knack over recent years in unearthing diamonds from the lower leagues and selling them on for phenomenal sums of money. This time around they were parading Marcus Maddison, an attacking midfielder from Gateshead for whom they paid a reported £600,000. Also on show was a livewire winger, Jon Taylor who has arrived from Shrewsbury Town and captaining the side on the night was Jack Payne, who as we all know, learnt his trade at Gillingham and has developed into an even better player under the tutelage of Darren Ferguson.

The match started in a helter-skelter fashion; Jermaine McGlashan’s pace stretched the legs of the visitor’s defence whilst Taylor was doing a similar job going in the opposite direction.

Peterborough dominated the early stages and Kortney Hause and John Egan were posed questions to which they found answers in both the first 20 minutes and the following 70 thereafter. Both were superb in the centre of defence and it was a mystery to me how both of them were overlooked by the sponsors when making their man of the match judgement.

As Gillingham found a foothold in the game, they were rewarded with the opening goal in the 26th minute. Bradley Dack shot from the edge of the box bringing a parrying save from the Posh keeper, Ben Alnwick. Jake Hessenthaler retrieved the ball and his cross was met with a close range header from Cody McDonald.

Alnwick might have done better with the direction of his parry and the goal appeared to rattle his confidence. A mix-up between him and Christian Burgess almost offered McDonald a second.

As half-time approached with Gillingham comfortably holding onto their single goal lead they were dealt a dispiriting blow as a misplaced cross from the right by Taylor looped over the head of Stephen Bywater to nestle into the far corner of the goal. It was a complete fluke.

The second half was proving an equal affair making for a thoroughly entertaining game of football. Joe Newell striking a shot against a post for the visitors being the closest either side came to scoring. After 70 minutes Taylor went down injured after what appeared from the side lines to be a fairly innocuous challenge from Jake Hessenthaler. However, the referee saw it differently and the young midfielder saw yellow for the challenge. Taylor was unable to continue and a major threat for the Posh had been inadvertently removed.

An unnecessary handball, six minutes from time, by Burgess allowed Gillingham the opportunity to restore their lead. McDonald scored from the spot for his 50th Gillingham goal and an unexpected victory was there for the taking.

Gillingham’s 100% home record remains intact, for them as for me; home is where the heart is.

Barcelona 2 Athletic Bilbao 0

Match 23/14/1132 - Saturday, 13th September 2014 - La Liga

Barcelona (0) 2 Neymar 79,84
Athletic Bilbao (0) 0
Att. 80,161

Entrance: 170 Euros
Programme: None
Mileage: 100/1,734 (to Gatwick)
New Ground: 263 (37th abroad)

Match Report

Okay, so it wasn't quite Oldham, but for a Saturday afternoon’s football, Barcelona just about passed muster.

A five-day break in the Catalan city had offered up the opportunity to watch Barcelona’s home La Liga game against Athletic Bilbao, so it would be foolish to turn it down, despite the hideous price of the tickets.

We left the purchase of our tickets to the hotel, which use an agency, and consequently we paid a bit more than we needed to have done if I had been brave enough to trust the Barcelona website and bought the tickets direct. But even that route would have seen the price of the seats we had exceed the 120 Euros mark.

Our hotel was nicely positioned to hop on to the Metro at Diagonal and just five stops later we are stepping off the train at Badal. Armed with directions from our helpful hotel receptionist, who was a Barcelona member, it was a short walk before the stadium came into sight.

The Camp Nou was opened in 1957 and its stark exterior has none of the shiny finish of the newly-built stadiums of today, in fact if I was to be harsh, I would say that from the outside it actually looks quite ugly. But, the heart of the stadium is not outside and once inside the cavernous bowl comes to life.

Our seats were on the wrong side of the stadium to avoid the beating sunshine and the heat did make it uncomfortable at times during the first half, but thankfully a large cloud offered some respite during the second period.

Barcelona attracts visitors from all over the world and alongside me was a Polish girl who lived in Barcelona and had brought her Dad over from Warsaw to celebrate his 66th birthday with a Nou Camp visit.

As kick-off approached the few empty seats around us were filled with older people who, I would guess, had occupied those same seats for 40 years or more with each greeting the other like a family member.

Both teams had been given a special dispensation to wear shirts that reflected the independence campaigns of their respective regions. Two days earlier the streets of Barcelona had heaved with people creating a carnival atmosphere has they demonstrated for their right to a referendum vote in much the same way as Scotland was about to vote. But, unlike the United Kingdom government, the Spanish equivalent is not listening.

For the Catalans, this was the 300th anniversary of their absorption into Spain in 1714.

As the teams took to the field prior to kick-off a large flag of red and yellow was unfurled with the dates 1714-2014 to mark the occasion. Bilbao wore the green of the Basque region to highlight their own cause.

The welcome to the field of play also brought the first realisation of the noise that is generated by 80,000-plus people despite the openness of the bowl. Although there were a few Bilbao supporters dotted around the lower reaches of the stadium, the main bulk of just a couple of a hundred, were situated at the stadium’s highest point.

The first half was one in which Bilbao’s resilience was to be admired. Their goalkeeper, Gorka Iraizoz, made a couple of decent stops to thwart Munir El Haddidi and the impressive Croatian, Ivan Rakitic. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi was strangely subdued to the point that my wife felt that he appeared lazy.

Bilbao opened the game well, but once Barcelona got on top they were restricted to breakaways and their lone striker, Aritz Aduriz, had a thankless task.

It was quite surprising to see Javier Mascherano deployed in a central defensive position but he was forced to make way for Gerard Pique at half time.

I’ve little doubt that I will see better halves at my usual destinations, but hey, this is Barcelona, who am I to complain!

The second half was principally one-way traffic with Athletic Bilbao locked in their own half. Munir had a goal disallowed before making way for Neymar, returning from the back injury sustained in the World Cup and with his appearance the resilience of the Basques was finally broken.

As soon as Neymar was alongside him, Messi became a different player and his defence splitting pass set up the Brazilian to slide the ball past Iraizoz to delight the “Ultras” behind that goal.

Within five minutes, the Argentinian weaved pure magic down the right hand side of the penalty area and his cross laid on a plate a second goal for Neymar.

The stadium quickly emptied whilst we bided our time and took in the surroundings on what may be the only time we are to visit the Nou Camp. A bar on a corner wasn’t particularly busy, so a cool beer en route to the Metro was in order.

In Barcelona it seems there is only one club. This is not true, there is actually another La Liga club, Espanyol and a couple of lower league clubs, CE Jupiter and Europa CF, but when you walk around the shops there are only Barcelona shirts and merchandise on display. It must be really hard being an Espanyol supporter in such surroundings.

This was a wonderful experience, I wonder what the Barca faithful might have made of Oldham?

Tonbridge 4 Canvey Island 1

Match 22/14/1131 - Tuesday, 9th September 2014 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 4 Medlock 26,90 Okojie 45, Tweddell 53
Canvey Island (1) 1 Osubo 22
Att. 343

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 34/1,634

Match Report

A corner has been turned . . . they were the words I used on Twitter after this exhilarating performance from Tonbridge Angels, a team that are not suddenly going to take the Ryman Premier League by a storm, but are showing a steady improvement with every game played.

If there has been one player that has caught the eye more than most it would be Dee Okojie. The fleet-footed winger has delighted and frustrated in equal measure, but a stunning goal and an energetic display would have won over some of his harsher critics frustrated at his lack of an end product. It was rumoured, that from the touchline, the Canvey Island manager offered him a substantial amount to sign for the Essex club, a figure that went up every time he turned one of his defenders inside-out.

After a quiet opening period, the Islanders opened the scoring after 22 minutes in which Tonbridge had just about held sway. A Tonbridge corner was cleared and with a single pass, Victor Osubo rounded Kyle Merson to score into an empty net. With the benefit of hindsight, the Tonbridge ‘keeper should almost certainly have stayed at home, but faced with the one-on-one situation it was a decision he had to make.

Tonbridge hit back quickly, Okojie scampering down the right, crossed for Billy Medlock to steady himself before shooting past the Canvey keeper.

On the stroke of half-time, Okojie produced a moment of magic that will live long in the memory of the Tonbridge faithful. Seizing upon a loose ball in midfield, he danced past a couple of tackles before, from 25 yards, let fly with a shot into the top corner.

After six minutes of the second period, Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton was asked the same question as Merson had been asked in the first half. He, also, made the choice of leaving his line but this time with no chance of getting to the ball before Harrison Tweddell, who lifted the ball over the keeper and into the unguarded net.

Tonbridge were now in complete control and Medlock was denied after an exciting run and pass from full back Jack Parter, but the in-form striker was on hand to touch home his second of the game and fifth in three games to complete an impressive performance from Steve McKimm’s side in the final minute.

I’m off to Barcelona in the morning, I wonder if Lionel Messi has the tricks of Dee Okojie?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Leatherhead 1 Tonbridge 2

Match 21/14/1130 - Saturday, 6th September 2014 - Ryman Premier

Leatherhead (0) 1 Hughes-Mason 49
Tonbridge (0) 2 Medlock 57,76
Att. 403

Entrance: £7.50 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 114/1,600
New Ground: 262

Match Report

After three successive away defeats there was a monkey to be removed from the back of Tonbridge Angels but, for yours truly, the monkey was weighing even heavier. With my clubs, five away trips this season had failed to yield a single point, the finger of jinx was being well and truly pointed.

So, it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I departed the leafy surrounds of Fetcham Grove heading in the direction of the M25 and home with three points safely in the pockets of Tonbridge Angels and the finger of suspicion having been turned away from my direction.

A good contingent of supporters from Tonbridge was in evidence at Leatherhead’s very tidy ground with a beautifully manicured pitch. Two stands covering the length of the pitch are separated by the tea bar; one is for standing and the other seating. Both are covered by a rather ugly green corrugated roof, but they serve their purpose of keeping the punters dry, although on a very warm September afternoon this was not necessary. Behind one of the goals there is a covered enclosure with the rest of the ground having single level concrete hard standing.

A number of ex-Tonbridge players were noticeable on the Leatherhead team sheet and one of those, Stacy Long, looked to have a little too much quality for the visitors in the opening stages of the game. But, once Tonbridge got a foothold in the game after about 20 minutes, then his threat diminished.

Following that opening spell, it was Tonbridge that carved out the best chances in an entertaining half. Louis Wells, the ex-Dartford goalkeeper, was called upon to make saves from Harrison Tweddell and a 30 yard free kick from Billy Medlock.

Another ex-Tonbridge player, Carl Rook, lived up to his reputation from old, with a constant stream of chatter aimed at the officials, which almost inevitably ended with his name going into the book. Some things never change!

A third ex-Angel, Paul Semakula, found Kiernan Hughes-Mason, who was given time and space to curl a shot from 20 yards into the top corner to give Leatherhead the lead after just three minutes of the second half. After a first half that had given heart to Tonbridge supporters who had endured some really poor performances on the road, I felt that pointed finger of jinx prodding my back.

Thankfully, that feeling wasn’t to last too long. After 57 minutes a shot on goal from Tweddell was deflected into the path of Medlock who had the easiest of tap-ins to level the score.

Kyle Merson was called into action for the first time mid-way through the half when he saved from Hughes-Mason before Tonbridge took the lead on 74 minutes. Wells did well to turn away a Tommy Whitnell effort. But, from the resultant corner, Whitnell cleverly back-heeled at the near post to Medlock, who once again had a tap-in for his second of the game.

With time running out for the home side, Merson was brought into action and made a good save from Ryan Dolby, pushing the ball to safety before making an even better one, low to his left to deny Long.

The final whistle brought relief and celebration that the monkey had been removed and it was with a smug smile that the M25 traffic beckoned without so much as a care.

Coventry City 1 Gillingham 0

Match 20/14/1129 - Friday, 5th September 2014 - League One

Coventry City (1) 1 Nouble 10
Gillingham (0) 0
Att. 27,306

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 305/1,486
New Ground: 261

Match Report

This was Coventry City’s night of celebration with their return to the Ricoh Arena. The Sky cameras were there to broadcast this momentous day in the history of the home club. Gillingham had only one role to play in this piece of grand theatre, that of party-pooper. They could have, and probably should have, played their part to the full.

Coventry’s 18 months in exile at Sixfields, Northampton came to an end a fortnight previously and it was announced that their first fixture back on home soil would be against Gillingham with the television paymasters dictating that the welcome home party would be held on a Friday night.

Arriving at a pre-paid parking space, a walk to a fish and chip shop that was supposedly two minutes away but took 15, it was noticeable how many different variations of the home shirt were being proudly displayed by the faithful, obviously dug out of cupboards to be worn once more by fans that had been forced to boycott their club in terms of their patronage whilst the team was in exile.

Average crowds of 15,000 or more nosedived to 2,500 at Northampton as the row with the stadium owners ACL over the price of renting the Ricoh forced the Sky Blues from their home. Coventry’s return home was a victory for fan power and a packed stadium took the roof off with a wall of noise as the teams took to the field.

As would have been expected with such a level of support, the home side started the match with an adrenalin rush but that was very nearly dampened in the early minutes when ex-Coventry striker Cody McDonald narrowly failed to get on the end of a teasing cross.

The goal that the 27,000 home fans craved was not long in coming and, inevitably, it would have to come from the boot of Frank Nouble, a former Gillingham loanee. A pass to the left wing saw Ryan Haynes speeding clear of Callum Davies and into the box. The midfielder pulled the ball back for Nouble, who angled a side-foot shot into the far corner, to allow the Ricoh to ratchet up the decibel levels a notch or two more.

At this point, just ten minutes into the game, the visiting supporters, amounting to nearly 500, probably feared the worst for their favourites. But despite the continued pressure, through a first half totally dominated by the hosts, the Gillingham back line superbly marshalled by John Egan held firm with Stephen Bywater only asked to make a couple of comfortable saves from Nouble and Connor Thomas.

After surviving an early second half chance, Gillingham started to the dominate proceedings and a powerful header from Kortney Hause had the visiting supporters out of their seats but his effort just cleared the bar whilst an Egan header from a corner brought a good stop from Ryan Allsopp at his near post.

Jake Hessenthaler and Bradley Dack were exerting more influence in the middle of the field and despite the ongoing noise being generated these was a sense of nervousness coming from the City defence.

Gillingham’s final 20 minute assault that deserved an equaliser would have been futile had a 65th minute effort from John Fleck, an outrageous lob from the left wing, 50 yards out, that had Bywater back-pedalling to touch the ball over the bar.

The introduction of Luke Norris added significant threat and successive headers from Egan failed to find the target.

If that had been inevitability about Nouble’s early goal, then the same thoughts must have entered every Coventry supporter in relation to Cody McDonald. That moment arrived with five minutes remaining, a cross from the left teed the striker up for a volley from an acute angle, unfortunately it was too acute and the ball nestled only in the side netting.

There was still one last chance; Antonio German slid a pass across the face of goal where Norris agonisingly failed to get a touch.

The final whistle was naturally greeted with rapturous acclaim by the long-suffering City fans whilst we, as the party-poopers, were left with the long ride home and time to reflect on what might have been.

The cynical amongst us might guess that their next home game, against Yeovil Town, will attract less than half of their homecoming attendance, especially as this game was priced very favourably at a tenner a head. I think the feel good factor might last a while longer, but this does not look like a Coventry City side that will be knocking on the promotion door and ultimately it is results that keep the turnstiles clicking.

The Ricoh provided a fantastic atmosphere and it was a pleasure to be a part of the celebration that marked the success of people power, but that nagging thought that we may well have spoilt the party remained the next morning.