Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Peter Taylor sacked

As of lunchtime on New Year's Eve, Peter Taylor was no longer the manager of Gillingham Football Club.

After a phone conversation with Paul Scally, the chairman made the decision that it was time for a change and Taylor was relieved of his duties.

Mr Scally, who had previously backed his man after the defeat by Chesterfield just prior to Christmas, and also stated that at the outset of this morning's conversation he had no intention of sacking Taylor, made reference to what he called "huge adverse public response and serious abuse."

Taylor had been in charge for 14 months and took over at a time when Gillingham were bottom of League One after a poor start under Martin Allen. Taylor was never universally accepted by Gillingham supporters, many of whom were not happy with the dismissal of Allen. Taylor guided the club to safety by the end of the season and overhauled the squad in the summer with the introduction of several younger players. Few of those signings have been what could be considered a success, John Egan being the exception.

Taylor's perceived negative style of football, heavily weighted defensively even at home has brought much criticism and, for my part, has been painful watching. Words such as turgid have been widely used, and it hard not to agree with those opinions.

Andy Hessenthaler takes over as the interim manager for the trip to Port Vale, but despite his legendary status, it is hard to see him as the way forward having now been a part of this particular regime.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Gillingham 1 Bristol City 3

Match 52/14/1161 - Sunday, 28th December 2014 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 McDonald 47
Bristol City (1) 3 Flint 34 Smith 44 Wagstaffe 55
Att. 6,216

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 52/3,814

Match Report

There are occasions when a game has so little redeeming features that you can only have the utmost of respect for the “proper” journalists who can put together 500-plus words when they barely have any raw material to work from.

Gillingham’s match against league leaders Bristol City is one such instance. Prior to kick-off, it didn’t take a football genius to realise that despite City being short of their two principle goalscorers in Aaron Wilbraham and Kieran Agard, they should have more than enough ability in the squad to maintain their position at the top of the table.

Football can be very exciting when matches don’t go to form, but they can be equally quite boring when the expected manifests itself.

Cody McDonald raised the level of excitement with an individual goal a couple of minutes into the second period to half the deficit but those hopes were quickly extinguished within eight minutes when Scott Wagstaff restored Bristol City’s two goal advantage.

When there is little to write about, it can be quite interesting to gauge the feelings of Gillingham supporters through the window of social media and they are not a happy bunch. Two successive away wins have kept the club above the relegation line but a home form that reads one league win in seven games can only lead to discontent with Peter Taylor taking the brunt of the criticism. At the last home game he was subjected to abuse, and whilst none was reported after this game, I cannot imagine there was not the odd disgruntled voice directed at him.

Taylor opted to go with five at the back including playing Jake Hessenthaler at right back, for home matches this is perceived as negative by many supporters. The three in the middle were initially matched up with three from Bristol City, but as Gillingham sank deeper and deeper towards their own penalty area, the visiting full backs were virtually redundant and pressed on into midfield leaving Gillingham hopelessly outnumbered in that area.

Bristol City finally took the lead after 34 minutes of largely one-way traffic. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas had a goal ruled out and Luke Freeman and Marlon Pack brought saves before a corner from Freeman was headed across the face of goal by Aden Flint for Matt Smith to head in from close range.

A second, killer goal came a couple of minutes prior to the break when Greg Cunningham was allowed to run unchallenged down the left hand side before delivering a cross that, it would nice to say evaded the Gillingham defenders, but truth is none of them barely raised an effort to intercept it, leaving Smith to tap home.

McDonald’s run from the inside right channel to the edge of the box and finish with a crisp shot into the far corner raised spirits and hopes of a comeback but when Freeman deftly back-heeled into the path of Wagstaff who finished with a fine curling shot into the top corner, the game was over.

Loud voices of derision rang around Priestfield and the inquest on Taylor was about to begin once more on social media. As this is to be published a couple of days after the event, all is now irrelevant because, as of lunchtime on New Year’s Eve, Peter Taylor was no longer the manager of Gillingham Football Club.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Tonbridge 2 Margate 2

Match 51/14/1160 - Saturday, 27th December 2014 - Ryman Premier

Tonbridge (1) 2 Okojie 45, Carey (pen) 71
Margate (1) 2 Moss 15, Bull 90+3
Att. 610

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 36/3,762

Match Report

As I switched on the car engine and prepared for the drive home I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, in truth I could barely believe what I had witnessed. Three hours previously, I hadn’t expected to watch the most entertaining game I’ve seen this season with just about every element of drama the game can offer.

As I pulled out of the Longmead car park, formulating in my head how I would write up the afternoon’s events, one thing was at the forefront of my mind . . . I was immensely proud of my Tonbridge club.

The thrilling, heartbreaking climax to this game was set up in the opening minutes. The Ryman Premier League leaders, Margate, with all their wealth borne of a sugar daddy that other supporters loathe until their club is the beneficiary, should not have been in need of a helping hand on their way to an expected three points to keep their noses in front of Maidstone at the summit of the table.

But a helping hand was offered after just three minutes when the Tonbridge Angels centre half, Laurence Ball, was shown a red card for a professional foul as Jamie Taylor bore down on goal. At first look, from a distance of 50 yards, it looked a straightforward decision for the referee, but doubt has since been cast whether Taylor was offside in the first place and also to amount of contact Ball actually made. But red it was, and what was always going to be an uphill struggle became just a little steeper.

As Tonbridge struggled to reorganise, Taylor clipped the bar before, in the 17th minute, Ryan Moss looped a header over Tom Hadler for the opening goal. It was a goal that you felt the young keeper could have done better with, but that is probably the first goal that he can be criticised for since his arrival.

One suspected that this would be the beginning of potential hammering for the Angels and those thoughts were further compounded when after 25 minutes, Jerrome Sobers went down injured and the physio quickly signaled that his game was over. A man light, no recognised centre half, this game could only have one conclusion.

Margate dominated, but the makeshift defence were standing their ground and limiting the visitors to just the odd moment that sent the heart fluttering. Then, as the clock ticked to the last minute of the first half and out of nowhere, Dee Okojie receiving the ball 25 yards from goal, produced the most delightful chip over the head of Nikki Bull, who was little more than a yard off his line, for an unexpected equaliser that must have changed the drift of Steve McKimm’s half-time talk as he sprinted towards the dressing room.

The early part of the second half took its expected course with Margate continuing to dominate, but signs were there that the pace of Marvin Williams was presenting them with problems and as their possession wasn’t really leading to chances let along goals, the more frustrated they became. All of a sudden the referee was brandishing yellow cards and it was the visitors that were receiving them.

After 71 minutes, the Tonbridge support was pinching themselves in disbelief as their side took the lead. Williams was sent clear, leaving Lewis Taylor in his wake before the former Tonbridge favourite clipped his feet for a penalty which was confidently converted by Lee Carey. The only regret was there was the best part of 20 minutes remaining and a siege on the Tonbridge goal was a certainty.

And so it was, but once again the chances were limited, a header that drifted wide and Hadler made a plunging save at his near post, but overall Tonbridge looked quite sure footed with their central defensive pairing of Tom Parkinson, a midfielder and Charlie Slocombe, a full back repelling all that was thrown at them.

The game entered its time added on period of four minutes and more than three of those had elapsed when Margate won a corner. Up came goalkeeper Bull and the corner from the right was cleared only to produce another corner from the left. This time the delivery required a positive clearance but the ball only found its way to the feet of Bull who produced a shot of a seasoned striker before running to the visiting supporters in a celebration reminiscent of Jimmy Glass.

In the cold light of reflection, would we have taken a point before a ball was kicked, probably; would we have taken a point after Ball’s sending off, most definitely. But to be denied victory so late and in such bizarre circumstances was heartbreaking.

These are the afternoons that make football the game it is. Unexpected, unpredictable and thrilling.

Colchester United 1 Gillingham 2

Match 50/14/1159 - Boxing Day, 26th December 2014 - League One

Colchester United (0) 1 Szmodics 51
Gillingham (2) 2 Martin 25, Dack 34
Att. 4,544

Entrance: £16 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 162/3,726

Match Report

Somewhere in the bowels of your digital television menu an obscure movie channel will be showing The Great Escape. Steve McQueen will, once again, clear the fence on a motor cycle and Dickie Attenborough will be there masterminding the plot. Gillingham enacted their own version of the storyline on Boxing Day at the Weston Homes Community Stadium with Stuart Nelson cast in the role of hero with the unlikely compatriot of the linesman who carried the red and orange flag.

Having rode their luck in the opening minutes, Gillingham grew into the game and by half-time had established a two goal lead before being pegged back early in the second period, but going on to survive an onslaught on their goal that resembled that of another feature film, The Alamo.

Christmas has brought with it a blast of winter and a bitter wind that cut through however many layers of clothing with which you chose to protect yourself.

Colchester United’s out-of-town stadium retains the irritatingly expensive problem of parking, of which £6 for a space with a 15 minute walk has to be considered excessive. The parking fee was at least offset with a senior ticket £6 below the match price for adults and the welcome sight of a hot cup of tea for a princely quid!

Just five minutes had elapsed when Gavin Massey skipped past the challenge of John Egan, thankfully restored to the centre of the defence, before unleashing a shot the came back off the underside of the bar before being hoofed to safety.

After 25 minutes in which the visitors had been principally on the back foot, Gillingham fashioned an opening goal. Cody McDonald was set free down the right to cross in the general direction of the centre of the goal. Colchester’s Kasper Gorkss’ header did nothing more than loop the ball into the path of an unmarked Joe Martin whose clinical volley found the bottom corner. Quite how the Gillingham full back found so much space will be a matter of much consternation to the United management team.

One became two ten minutes later with once again McDonald the provider. A combination of passes between McDonald and Bradley opened the Colchester defence and although McDonald lost his footing after the first pass he got back up to dink a cross to the near post for Dack to convert.

It would be amiss to mention that, having slightly criticised Dack following the last home game, the youngster showed was Gillingham are missing with his usual energetic display.
Massey, who was the livewire of the home attack, brought a good save from Nelson, turning over the bar a well hit shot just prior to the break.

Gillingham were forced into a half-time substitution when Dack made way for Amine Linganzi and with it any control in the midfield was lost.

Linganzi proved to be particularly ineffective in the second half and I hope, for the lad’s sake that he is one of the players that Peter Taylor has earmarked to be moved out of Priestfield in the January transfer window. A combination of injury and poor form has not allowed Gillingham fans to see any of the expected potential and in this 45 minutes where he just tracked the ball without getting anywhere near it, his confidence looks absolutely shot.

Colchester quickly halved the deficit when ex-Gill Sean Clohessy crossed to the near post where a combination of Gillingham debutant Harry Lennon and the home side’s Sammie Szmodics forced the ball over the line setting up a siege that few of the 680 travelling fans would believe could be fought off.

Freddie Sears had the ball in the Gillingham net within 10 minutes, but the celebration was cut short with the sight of the red and yellow flag before the ever-dangerous Massey brought another good save from Nelson.

In the midst of the second half one-way traffic, McDonald appeared to have restored Gillingham’s two goal cushion but Trevor Kettle ruled out the goal for what could only have been the lightest of a push by the striker.

Nelson produced a blinding low, diving save to deny Sears before the game entered into the four minutes of added time. With less than one of those minutes remaining, Sears managed to steer a header over the line for what appeared to be a heart breaking equaliser before attention was,once again drawn to the red and yellow flag raised high to the joy of the travelling support.

The Great Escape was complete. League leaders Bristol City are next up in Sunday’s Priestfield fixture, now somewhere I should be able to find Mission Impossible.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Gillingham 2 Chesterfield 3

Match 49/14/1158 - Saturday, 20th December 2014 - League One

Gillingham (0) 2 McDonald 59, Egan 61
Chesterfield (1) 3 Clucas 22, Legge (o.g.) 54, Ryan 69
Att. 6,841

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 52/3,564

Match Report

Tis the season to be jolly . . .

Gillingham did their level best to enter into the spirit of the festive season with a ticket offer of just £10 for adults, the players throwing gifts to the crowd and a Christmas card on the turnstiles for everybody that wished to take one. Their generosity was extended, via a fragile defensive performance and a last kick of the match miss from Cody McDonald, to the gift of three points to the visitors who returned to Derbyshire fully deserving of their victory.

The afternoon culminated with a less than jolly 6,500 leaving Priestfield in a downcast mood, but not before venting their spleen with manager Peter Taylor bearing the brunt of the criticism, some of which was of an extremely hostile nature.

Taylor has to make his own decisions of course, that is what he is paid for. The few that offended Taylor are a small minority and some people are able to form their opinions from good judgement, some were even decent players in their day (that doesn’t apply to me!). I’ve a problem with Max Ehmer, at this moment in time. Taylor has brought him to the club on loan from Queens Park Rangers and no doubt has an obligation to play him but, in my humble opinion, his inclusion has been at considerable expense. John Egan, has been Gillingham’s best player this season and will, almost without question with no other obvious contender, be crowned Player of the Year in May. He has earned these accolades as a central defender, so why waste that talent playing him at right back to accommodate Ehmer. The German has an unfortunate body language that makes his style look casual, in fact it looks lazy and when he ducked under Jimmy Ryan’s shot for Chesterfield’s winning goal, then his commitment to the cause could also be brought into question.

Taylor’s team selection has irritated me continually this season, but just occasionally a player produces a performance or lack of one that makes you think perhaps he has it right and I’ve been wrong all along. Bradley Dack, is my for instance. I like Dack’s energy; he’s good on the ball and has an eye for a goal, so why has he sat on the bench so many times this season? Perhaps his performance in this game explains Taylor’s thinking. Whilst Dack was his usual effervescent self, he failed to influence the game and was eventually substituted when Gillingham were chasing the game from two down. In fairness, his lack of influence wasn’t singular in a midfield that created very little from the centre of the park.

Gillingham, you would think, would have been buoyed by the sight of Chesterfield’s team sheet. Eoin Doyle, 19 goals this season, was declared unfit and only took his place on the bench because Paul Cook’s squad was so thin in numbers that he was among just four substitutes.

The home side could have gone behind in the opening five minutes when a header from Armand Gnanduillet was cleared from the line by Brennan Dickenson with Stuart Nelson a helpless bystander.

The visitor’s admirable ambition, given their problematic team selection, was finally rewarded after 22 minutes. Ryan swept the ball to Sam Clucas in acres of space wide on the left wing, the full back opted to try his luck from 20 yards with an angled shot that found the far corner, appearing to take a deflection off Egan, who had attempted to close down the initial space given.

Taylor opted to make early second half substitutions, Dack and Dickenson were replaced by McDonald and Jermain McGlashen, but within a minute of their appearance, the visitors doubled their lead. Tendayi Darikwa, who had looked mightily impressive going forward from his right back position, drove a hard, low cross towards the far post in the direction of Gnanduillet and was left to celebrate as Leon Legge inadvertently turned the ball into his own net for the third time this season. Gillingham have now conceded six own goals, even three would seem unlucky, six appears careless.

How often do we witness a poor Gillingham performance when a big crowd has assembled on the back of a ticket offer, almost always is the answer. But at least the home support were treated to a spirited comeback from their favourites. Five minutes after Chesterfield’s second, Doug Loft hoisted a pinpoint cross to the edge of the six yard box from where McDonald was able to steer a relatively unchallenged header past Tommy Lee.

Two minutes later and the home crowd were in full voice as Loft sent in another cross, this time to the far angle of the six yard box, to be met with a diving header from Egan into the bottom corner.

With half-an-hour remaining and the momentum entirely with the home side, Gillingham should have been expected to complete the comeback with a winning goal. But the culminating moment to 15 exhilarating minutes fell to Chesterfield. A ball into the box was miscontrolled; a half-hearted clearance found the dropping ball met with a sweet volley from Ryan, and with Ehmer ducking underneath the ball, it was to nestle in the corner.

Gillingham showed no sign of retrieving the situation in the remaining 20 minutes, until in the last seconds of four added minutes, a long clearance from Nelson was headed on by Danny Kedwell and it seemed a foregone conclusion that McDonald would save the day, the ball inexplicably at the time, went wide of the mark but later it was shown that it was the fingertips of Lee that had preserved the points for the Spireites.

The festive period is underway; Gillingham have exercised the spirit of giving. We can only hope that on Boxing Day they can deliver a knock-out punch.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Dulwich Hamlet 2 Tonbridge 0

Match 48/14/1157 - Tuesday, 9th December 2014 - Ryman Premier

Dulwich Hamlet (2) 2 Carew 18 (pen), Koroma 45
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 421

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 86/3,512

Match Report

An only to be expected but, nonetheless, awkward journey into south London was the precursor to a Tonbridge performance that had an encouraging opening ten minutes and a final ten in which they threw what they had left in an effort to retrieve a game that had been lost in the intervening time. An early two junction delay on the M20, followed by the tiresome stop-start nature of the south circular at rush hour (or any other hour, for that matter) eventually arriving at Champion Hill in good time for the kick-off but still half-an-hour later than the satnav had originally predicted.

This was my first visit to Champion Hill in the lifetime of this blog and also a first with Dulwich Hamlet as the hosts. My only other visit was a memorable occasion back in 2005, when Tonbridge visited for an FA Cup tie against the then high-flying, big spending Fisher Athletic. Nobody expected Tonbridge to win on that day, but a couple of goals from Jay May and a solid backs-to-the-wall display in the last 20 minutes saw the visitors to a now almost legendary 3-2 victory.

Positioned at the rear of Sainsbury’s (which is very handy for parking) Champion Hill boasts a fine grandstand that incorporates the bar, changing rooms and offices and a covered terraced enclosure on the opposite side.

Dulwich Hamlet are, undoubtedly, a good side that chased the Ryman Premier League title last season alongside Maidstone United, before both were overhauled by Wealdstone and eventually failing to gain a play-off position. This season they have retained that impetus and currently sit in third place behind M&M (Margate and Maidstone) and a win for Tonbridge might have been considered as momentous as that 2005 victory.

The visitors started brightly with the wingers Dee Okojie and Flavio Tavares to the fore. The latter intercepted a poor pass back to the goalkeeper but pulled his shot wide after four minutes and then a fine move ended with Okojie shooting into the side netting. Tom Parkinson put a header over the bar before the hosts took the lead from the penalty spot against the run of play.

Jordan Hibbert took a pass into the box from where a challenge by Nathan Campbell brought the player down. It looked a clear penalty from my vantage point, but there were Tonbridge protests both at the time and after the match. Ashley Carew, a former Gillingham youngster, stepped up to convert the spot kick.

Dulwich Hamlet took control of the game for the remainder of the half with Tonbridge now reduced to sporadic attacks. As half-time approached, Dulwich added to their lead to give the Angels a second half mountain to climb. Hibbert caused further problems, but his cross into the box offered the Tonbridge defence a couple of opportunities to Row Z the ball, however these were not taken and the ball fell at the feet of Omar Koroma who stabbed it home.

Dulwich should have put the game to bed in the second half before Tonbridge rallied in the final quarter-hour. Harry Ottaway spurned a couple chances before Steve McKimm reinforced the front line with the introduction of Alex Teniola and Royce Greenidge. If nothing more a consolation goal was deserved from this final assault as Teniola saw his shot rebound off the goalkeeper’s legs and Parkinson put a header narrowly over. With five minutes remaining an Okojie cross was met with a Jack Parter header that was cleared from the line before the Angels’ despair at refereeing decisions doubled when Marvin Williams was brought down on the edge of the box, the official deeming that the foul had taken place outside, whilst the players claimed it was inside.

The journey home still found the south circular slow at 10 p.m. and another hold-up on the M20, it was just that sort of night.

Monday, 8 December 2014

AFC Portchester 0 Tunbridge Wells 1

Match 47/14/1156 - Saturday, 6th December 2014 - FA Vase 3R

AFC Portchester (0) 0
Tunbridge Wells (0) 1 Potter 72
Att. 454

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 224/3,426
New Ground: 270

Match Report

As the strong contingent of Tunbridge Wells supporters departed the Wicor Recreation Ground, a rather large man stood outside of the hospitality area shouting at them, you were [expletive] lucky, you [expletive] lucky [expletive]. If he hadn't enjoyed the game, he had certainly enjoyed the liquid buffet and one would guess, watched the second half through the bottom of his pint glass.

This was one of those days when I wanted to be in three different places but it was the magic of the FA Vase that lured me into deepest Hampshire and a pleasant little ground just outside Portsmouth. As has been previously documented, probably now far too many times, the Vase has a special place in the hearts of the Wells support and, once again, they turned up in big numbers and were very vocal.

With a place in the last 32 at stake, this was one of the biggest days in the history of AFC Portchester and the place had that feel of cup fever with stewards and ballboys that I daresay are not in evidence on any given Wessex League Saturday.

For Portchester's manager it was probably a big day, but in fairness he has seen bigger. Graham Rix, was a FA Cup winner with Arsenal for whom he made 351 appearances alongside 17 caps for England. Unfortunately his life also has an important lowlight with a prison term served for a sex offence that doesn't go unnoticed by visiting supporters.

The game was a scrappy affair, not helped by an awkward looking pitch with grass a touch too long. Portchester enjoyed a good deal of early possession that was won with some aggressive tackling in the middle of the field. One such heavy challenge left Jason Bourne needing attention and a few minutes later the injury proved too much and his substitution led to a reshuffle of the Wells back line with Jake Beecroft switching to right back.

Ironically, it was Joe Fuller that was the first to see a yellow card after a challenge that clearly was a foul but no worse than any that had gone unpunished with a card previously. The card inhibited Fuller and a couple of challenges that he would have made later in the game he appeared to pull out of for fear of a second yellow.

Overall, the Wells would have been glad to get to the half-time whistle all-square, although the reshuffled defence had barely allowed their hosts a clear opportunity to test Steve Lawrence.

Martin Larkin made a second half tactical change pushing Danny Powell up front alongside Brendan Cass and the erstwhile winger's pace posed a new set of problems for the home defence and a series of corners followed.

After 72 minutes one of those corners finally bore fruit. Tom Davey directed the ball towards the near post and the head of Tom Bryant, his faintest of touches sent the ball to the feet of Brad Potter who swept the ball home from close range.

Portchester threw everything in an effort to rescue their FA Vase future, but the Wells back line stood firm with Perry Spackman and Potter, who had to leave the field at one point to replace a contact lens, outstanding. There were nervous moments but Lawrence was largely untroubled and the home side's frustration boiled over with a somewhat agricultural challenge on Powell.

The final whistle saw the Tunbridge Wells team celebrate with their fans in the now customary fashion for Vase victories and the magical mystery tour continues into Monday's draw.

Thankfully our friend wishing us a safe journey home was in a minority of one and the general opinion was that this was a game which might have gone either way with Potter capitalising on the one clear chance of the game.

The draw goes national on Monday and this tour can lead us on the road to anywhere (although a home draw is overdue); to be sure the Wells' love affair with this competition continues and their army of support will be alongside them every mile of the journey.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Maidstone United 0 Tonbridge 4

Match 46/14/1155 - Thursday, 4th December 2014 - Ryman League Cup 3R

Maidstone United (0) 0
Tonbridge (1) 4 Tavares 43 Rivelino 68 Quintyne (pen) 86 Mici 88
Att. 460

Entrance: £3 Senior
Programme: Free
Mileage: 30/3,202

The Robert Dyas Cup (the Ryman League Cup) is a competition that has largely been devalued by the playing of weakened teams was further denigrated by an agreement between Maidstone United and Tonbridge Angels to play this game on a Thursday evening in order to get a one-game suspension for Maidstone’s Jack Parkinson out of the way prior to their FA Cup Second Round tie at Wrexham. This, of course, has to be hearsay, as I would imagine that if that was made into some sort of an official notice, then a reprimand could be brought against both clubs.

In the circumstances with the aforementioned cup tie 48 hours away, it was obvious that Maidstone would be fielding a side based largely on academy players whilst Tonbridge have in previous rounds used the competition to assess young and fringe players. Much though it is said through gritted teeth, it is a great credit to the huge support that Maidstone enjoy that an attendance of 460 gathered with every last one of them aware of the circumstances.

It is also a compliment to Maidstone that they produced a programme, free of charge, unlike Bromley on Tuesday. Right, that’s enough of being nice to our fiercest rivals. I was not alone in the thought that why are we doing our bitterest rivals a favour?

This will be recorded, whatever the make-up of the teams, as a first team fixture and any win over Maidstone is to be enjoyed. A 4-0 demolition is to be savoured.

Tonbridge were able to call on reserves with some experience. Manny Monthe and Charlie Slocombe partnered in the centre of defence, whilst Jack Brivio and Flavio Tavares have seen first team playing time from the bench. Maidstone were only able to call on Phil Starkey, ironically an ex-Angel, who was ineligible for Saturday’s encounter, with any experience.

With no prior knowledge of Maidstone’s academy, other than local talk that it is highly regarded, a tough match was still expected, but after an initial 20 minutes in which both sides weighed each other up, Tonbridge began to take control with Brivio and George Craddock, recently released from Margate I’m told, pulling the strings. The pace of Tavares on one wing and Neville Rivelino on the other was a constant source of danger to the home side. After several near misses, the breakthrough finally came when Tavares cut in from the left and curled a beauty in off the far post.

The second half was completely one-way traffic. Rivelino drove in a second from inside the box and then was brought down for Gavin Quintyne to stroke home the penalty and late in the game Mici added a fourth.

The Robert Dyas Cup may only have its uses to serve suspensions or blood youngsters but it has served up a rich source of encouragement for Tonbridge. This talented bunch need to be tested at higher levels to see just how good they might be, but on the evidence of this game, the future looks bright.

As a postscript to this game, it has emerged that George Craddock was, in fact, an ineligible player having played as a substitute in a prior round for Merstham. A decision will be made at a Ryman League meeting on 18 January 2015 with the expected consequence being Tonbridge’s removal from the competition. This is so frustrating and you have to wonder how a player is unaware of the fact that he is cup-tied.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Bromley 3 Tonbridge 0

Match 45/14/1154 - Tuesday, 2nd December 2014 - FA Trophy 3QRR

Bromley (1) 3 Sobers (o.g.) 5, Ademola (pen) 58, Slabber 68
Tonbridge (0) 0
Att. 408

Entrance: £6
Programme: None produced
Mileage: 80/3,172

Match Report

More often than not in cup competitions the minnow has one chance to slay the giant and if they don’t seize the day then the opportunity passes. From all accounts, Tonbridge played really well in the initial game of this FA Trophy tie and fully deserved their replay against Conference South pacemakers Bromley, but on a cold night at an everlasting hoodoo ground, the opportunity had, indeed, passed.

Whether it was the heavy rain prior to kick off, a lack of interest in the qualifying rounds of the competition or a Crystal Palace home game on the same evening that restricted the attendance it was disappointing to see Hayes Lane so poorly populated. Even more annoying was the lack of a programme, evidently due to production difficulties, but even given that excuse, it is pretty shabby of a club of Bromley’s size to be unable to produce one.

Any hopes that Tonbridge’s lamentable record at Hayes Lane, no victory since a Kent Senior Cup tie 20 years ago, would be ended was immediately pushed to the back of the mind when, after five minutes, Jerrome Sobers turned a cross from Louis Dennis into his own net.

It was a tough start for the visitors and for 20 minutes they found it difficult to contain their hosts. Several goal scoring attempts were wasteful, but on 25 minutes, Damian Scannell was denied by a fantastic block from Laurence Ball.

In a torrid period just prior to the break, Bromley spurned three separate opportunities to go into half-time with a substantial advantage with Jordan Robertson the chief offender.

On the night, Tonbridge’s bench was probably as strong as it could be, but envious eyes would have been cast along the line to see Scannell, Jamie Slabber and Adam Birchall waiting in the wings.

Sobers, who probably was a long way short of being fully fit, was forced to make way on the hour and eight minutes later the game was effectively put to bed. Moses Ademola stepped inside Chris Piper and the Tonbridge midfielder clumsily brought him down. Ademola stroked home the penalty to double the advantage.

After 68 minutes, Slabber executed the final twist of the knife when he produced an outlandish finish from a cross by Ademola at the far post. The ball appeared to have eluded the substitute but with the tightest of angles he squeezed the ball into the net.

Adam Birchall made a substitute’s appearance with 15 minutes remaining and it is sad to see him play a peripheral role after his injury-wrecked spell at Gillingham.

Tonbridge did better than okay for periods in this game, but for all their craft and industry in the middle of the field it was in the final third where their lightweight attack foundered on the mountainous Rob Swaine.

With a night shift beckoning in deepest, darkest Bermondsey I took my leave with five minutes remaining. The drive to work took me through a brightly Christmas decorated Chislehurst and gave me time to reflect that despite the score line, Tonbridge had some bright spots of their own on the evening and perhaps Santa will bring them a much needed striker.