Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Summertime Blues 2015

As the clubs, usually followed by That’ll Be The Day go about their summer-time business, I will use this post to keep abreast of the news. Unlike last season when two of the three clubs were manager-less by the time the first post was made, this time Gillingham go into the summer with a relatively new manager in place and Steve McKimm is very much in situ at Tonbridge Angels. There is an element of doubt regarding Martin Larkin’s position at Tunbridge Wells and we await with interest the news of his end-of-season talks with the committee.

Friday, 24 July: Adedeji Oshilaja arrives at Priestfield on loan from Cardiff City. Known to Justin Edinburgh through a loan spell at his previous club Newport County, Oshilaja is a 22-year-old central defender who earned good reviews during a loan spell at AFC Wimbledon last season. The loan spell is through to 3 January 2016.

Monday, 20 July: Gillingham announce the exciting capture of Chelsea's under-21 captain Jordan Houghton on a loan deal through to 3 January 2016.

Sunday, 12 July: Two more players added to the Tunbridge Wells roster, John Sinclair, a central defender from East Grinstead and Luke Mathias, a full back once on Millwall's books.

Friday, 10 July: Mark Stapley will be Tunbridge Wells' new first team coach under Keith Bird, leaving Hastings United to take up the position.

Wednesday, 8 July: Tunbridge Wells announce a list of 18 players among which are old favourites returning to Culverden including Andy Irvine, Hooley Cornell and Jason Barton.

Monday, 6 July: Gillingham announce a new management structure under Justin Edinburgh, who will be assisted next season by David Kerslake, previously a caretaker manager at Cardiff City in the wake of Malky Mackay's departure. Similar to Edinburgh, Kerslake has links back to the Tottenham Hotspur academy and it would be nice to think that the next up-an-coming Gareth Bale might be loaned to Gillingham (we can but dream). Returning to Priestfield as goalkeeper coach is Jason Brown, who had signed a playing contract for next season at Sutton United. The youth team will be managed next season by Wayne Hatswell, who was previously with Edinburgh at Newport County and, finally, there is a new man with the bucket and sponge, Adam Roach.

Tunbridge Wells announce that they have registered 18 players for the coming season but continue to play their cards close to their chest by not saying who any of them are!

Friday, 3 July: Tunbridge Wells have their man. OK, so we've said that before, but this time everything seems to be in order. That man is the ex-Cray Wanderers manager, Keith Bird. Alongside him will be Jason Bourne giving the club the continuity that it would not have had with the previously announced. This time, the players appear to be on-board, although Bird has said that only six or seven of last year's squad are likely to remain. Bird made his name as a successful youth team coach at Bromley before moving on to Cray, where, it has to be said, he time wasn't quite so good. Photo below courtesy of Victor Bethell.

Thursday, 2 July: I've said more than once on social media during the summer that whilst regretting the return to Millwall of John Marquis, if I could be granted one wish in terms of transfer activity it would be that Max Ehmer returned to Gillingham on a permanent basis. Today, Justin Edinburgh granted that wish. Ehmer has signed on a three-year deal and alongside John Egan (second wish now required that he signs a longer deal) forms a solid partnership that will get better as they are both relatively young players. For Edinburgh, you have to say, this has been a good summer so far. Apart from Marquis, he has identified targets and the chairman has made it possible to go out and get them. Edinburgh says he would like another four through the door. A central midfield playmaker and I will be happy with what we've got.

Move away from the keyboards for a couple of days and all hell lets loose ...

Monday, 29 June: Early morning browse and not expecting to find anything significant when news leaps out at me from Gillingham. Andy Hessenthaler has left the club to take up the assistant manager's position at Leyton Orient alongside Ian Hendon. This was a complete surprise and nothing something that I saw coming at all. Moving on a couple of days, a couple of people, rumoured to be ex-Gillingham player, Michael Flynn and Wayne Hatswell, both of whom worked under Justin Edinburgh at Newport, have been interviewed for the vacant position.

Tuesday, 30 June: A new man at the helm is announced at Tunbridge Wells and then situations unfolded at great speed coupled with confusion and no little amount of embarrassment. At lunchtime, Mike Maher, ex-Redhill boss was declared the man the board had chosen to succeed Martin Larkin and whilst it wasn't a universally popular decision with supporters, that was the choice and we would have to live with it. But fast forward to the evening and social media is buzzing that all was not well with the appointment, the players were unhappy with the choice and there was an emergency board meeting already happening. Glenn Garrett, of the Kent and Sussex Courier was tweeting that very few of Larkin's squad would remain at Culverden.

Wednesday, 1 July: I'm actually in the sweltering heat at Wimbledon when the mobile dings its text alert with the news that the club are now announcing that Maher would not be taking the position after all. What ensued was a question of who said what, who posted too quickly etc. Maher's side of the argument is that he had already agreed to take the manager's position at Cray Valley when the Tunbridge Wells offer was made. Tunbridge Wells were far too quick out of the traps to announce that they had their man when no agreement was actually in place. All of which has left the club with a lot of egg on its face and no manager to show for the indignity. In the meantime, Cray Valley were making an announcement of their own to confirm that Maher would be their manager for the coming season. Was it player power that brought about Maher's u-turn or was he never going to accept the position, only Mike Maher knows and he is not going to say. In what might have been an aside, or a consequence of the confusion, one of Tunbridge Wells' better players, Jake Beecroft, was announced by Nick Davis as a signing for Sittingbourne. How many more are going to follow Beecroft out of the door, we can only wait and see.

Friday, 26 June: Gillingham add to their striking options with the signing of 23-year-old Rory Donnelly, who was released by Swansea City at the end of last season. A prolific goalscorer in the Irish League for Cliftonville, Donnelly found his opportunities limited at Premiership Swansea, but during a loan move to Tranmere Rovers, he showed that there are goals in him in English football.

Monday, 22 June: Tonbridge complete what might be considered their marquee signing of the summer with the signature of Tom Phipp. I always liked Phipp when he was with Ebbsfleet but he didn't enjoy the best of luck with injury following his transfer to Margate, from whom he was released at the end of the season. If he stays fit, this is a very significant signing for the club.

Sunday, 21 June: It's my birthday and just when I was thinking that I was deserving of being the centre of attention there is the shock news from Culverden Stadium that manager Martin Larkin had resigned his position. Reasons given were a change of work circumstances meant that he could no longer devote the time that was needed to drive the club forward. The club statement made reference to Martin calling the decision he was faced with as "horrific". Joe Fuller has been asked to step in as caretaker for the early part of pre-season training whilst a new manager is sought. Martin Larkin will always be remembered as the man that took Tunbridge Wells to Wembley and consolidated the club's support over the last couple of seasons, but a failure to challenge for promotion has brought criticism with a few calling for a change for the up-coming season. That change will now happen and it will be a massive indication of the club's ambition with the choice that is made. Martin has left the club in a position that will be attractive to some well-known names in Kent and Sussex football, those names will not come cheap and it will be interesting to see whether the Tunbridge Wells budget can match the names that apply.

Wednesday, 17 June: Football League's Fixture Release Day and the planning for the next ten months can begin. Gillingham open up at Priestfield on August 8 with a game that will test their credentials against a side that will undoubtedly challenge at the top, Sheffield United. I'm relieved that Doncaster Rovers away has avoided one of the couple of "can't do" dates and will be ticked of the list. People looking for a weekend away in Blackpool will be disappointed with a late January fixture, whilst Boxing Day throws up a spicy affair down at Swindon. Millwall supporters will be expecting Gillingham to form a guard of honour at Priestfield as we host their championship-winning knees-up on the final day of the season, let them count a few chickens.

Tuesday, 16 June: Gillingham's first announced competitive match of 2015-16 takes them as far west as you can go for their Capital One Cup First Round match against Plymouth Argyle. Split geographically, I'm sure lots of Gillingham supporters would have preferred a trip north to Barnsley, for example, to this difficult evening venue. One thing is for sure, it is out of my boundaries for a Tuesday night. League fixtures announced tomorrow, let's hope those balls fall a little more kindly.

Monday, 15 June: Gillingham announce the signings of Ben Williamson and Bradley Garmston. Williamson, a robust striker from Port Vale, of whom I wrote in November on his club's visit to Priestfield "had been a nuisance all afternoon". Garmston, a right back, who impressed on loan at Gillingham last season, arrives from West Bromwich Albion. Williamson has secured a two year contract while Garmston has signed for three years. Goalkeeper Glenn Morris has signed a one-year extension to his contract, whilst released players Joe Martin and Gavin Hoyte have linked up with Millwall and Barnet respectively.

Thursday, 11 June: Sad news from Tonbridge that Jon Heath has been forced into an all-too-early retirement at 29 years of age with a knee injury. The defender requires an operation and has taken the decision to put his football career on hold while he has that and recovers. A one club man held in great affection by supporters has been truly unfortunate throughout his time at the club with injury. Mr Tonbridge will back in some capacity, of that I'm sure, one day as manager of the club is my prediction.

Wednesday, 3 June: Tonbridge welcome back Sonny Miles, following his release from Maidstone. United that is, not the prison, although the difference is hardly noticeable! A lot of re-winding of the verbals that yours truly has bellowed is required now that he has seen the error of his ways and returned home. At least we will always have that priceless moment when his own goal gave us a point at the Gallagher on New Year's Day, proving he was always an Angel at heart!

Tuesday, 2 June: There is an certain amount of anguish among the supporters at Tunbridge Wells as another player announces his departure via social media. Chris Seenan has used Twitter to inform that he would be taking on a new challenge at an unnamed club in a different league. It is not the departures as such that are aggravating the support but that these moves are being played out with no official announcement from the club, who also are steadfastly stating that no signings of their own will be announced until 1 July when official papers can be signed.

Monday, 1 June: Tonbridge welcome new signing, Nick Wheeler, a winger from Lewes, whilst down the A26, Tunbridge Wells bid farewell to Brendan Cass who has joined Erith and Belvedere in a player/coach capacity.

Wednesday, 27 May: Gillingham supporters will be disappointed on hearing the news that John Marquis has opted to stay with his parent club, Millwall. Last season's loanee did well at Priestfield, but the plucking of the heartstrings of his boyhood club proved greater than the two-year deal that Gillingham were offering. Not surprised at his decision, but the fact that he has only managed to negotiate a one-year deal with another year's option is surprising. It was always going to be 50/50 and I would hope that Justin Edinburgh had others in his sight should this one go against him. Let's face it, he was a Championship striker that wasn't getting a game but did well in the division below, there have to be quite a few strikers on frees that fit that criteria.

Tuesday, 26 May: Gillingham's first senior signing of the summer is drafted in, unsurprisingly, from Newport County. Ryan Jackson, a 24-year-old, right-sided defender arrives from Wales on a two-year contract.

Thursday, 21 May: Luke Blewden has returned to Longmead from Lewes and the vacancy between the sticks has been filled by Peacehaven's Anthony Di Bernardo (left). Other transfer news of today is of players that might have interested going elsewhere.
Ex-Gillingham loanee, Amari'i Bell, has signed for Fleetwood Town and Lee Minshull, who was tenuously linked with Gillingham and, in our dreams, Tonbridge, has signed for Bromley.

Tuesday, 19 May: Released Gillingham defender, Leon Legge, has signed a two-year contract at Cambridge United.

Monday, 18 May: Real disappointment for Tonbridge supporters as Mitchell Pinnock opts to sign for Maidstone. I cannot blame the lad for wanting Conference South football, but why does it always have to be them?

Thursday, 14 May: Gillingham sign Emanuel Osadebe, an 18-year-old right back/central midfielder, from Tottenham's Development squad. He previously had a spell with Dundalk. Chatham Town received the news they have waited for as they are placed in Ryman South for next season.

Tuesday, 12 May: The element of doubt mentioned above is removed as Tunbridge Wells announce that Martin Larkin will continue as their manager.

Previously: Steve McKimm was especially quick out of the blocks and his retained list was announced a little over a week after the last game. It is:

Laurence Ball
Lee Carey
James Folkes
Royce Greenidge
Jon Heath
Tom Parkinson
Jack Parter
Jerrome Sobers
Tommy Whitnell

Billy Bishop
Dee Okojie
Dan Parkinson
Flavio Tavares
Joe Taylor
Marvin Williams (Retired)

Nathan Elder
Charlie Webster

Stand out, of course, are the signing of two of the four loanees from the end of last season. Billy Medlock is on the retained list at parent club, Sutton United, whilst we await with particular interest news of Mitchell Pinnock.

At Gillingham, there have been four departures announced. Leaving the club are Joe Martin, Leon Legge, Danny Galbraith and Gavin Hoyte.

Pre-season friendlies have also been announced and I will be updating the list as when they are announced.

Tuesday, 7 July Folkestone Invicta (a)
Saturday, 11 July Tonbridge Angels (a)
Tuesday, 21 July Bromley (a)
Saturday, 25 July Dover (a)
Wednesday, 29 July Brighton & Hove Albion (h)
Saturday, 1 August Portsmouth (h)
Tuesday, 4 August Faversham Town (a)

Tuesday, 7 July Whyteleafe (a)
Saturday, 11 July Gillingham (h)
Tuesday, 14 July Sevenoaks (a)
Saturday, 18 July AFC Wimbledon XI (h)
Tuesday, 21 July Ebbsfleet (h)
Saturday, 25 July Fisher (h)
Saturday, 01 August Dorking Wanderers (a)

Tunbridge Wells
Saturday, 11 July Crockenhill (a)
Tuesday, 14 July Lydd Town (a)
Saturday, 18 July Chatham Town (a)
Tuesday, 21 July Rusthall (a)
Saturday, 25 July Sittingbourne (h)
Tuesday, 4 August Hildenborough (h)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Metropolitan Police 2 Tonbridge 5

Match 96/14/1205 - Saturday, 16th May 2015 - Suburban Shield Final

Metropolitan Police (2) 2 Onwarchu 7, Kozakis 17
Tonbridge (0) 5 Brett Milham (pen) 75, Pearson 88, 110, Quintyne 95, Osborne 100
After extra-time, 2-2 at 90 minutes
Headcount 60
Played at Gay Dawn Farm, Corinthian FC

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 71/6,650

Tonbridge Reserves dragged themselves from 2-0 down and then stormed through extra-time to send their manager, Chris Hollyoak, on his way to a new job as First Team Manager at Rusthall of the Kent Invicta League with the Suburban Shield as the spoils of his last game in charge.

On a beautiful afternoon, in a rural setting befitting an afternoon’s cricket, Corinthian FC played host an entertaining final. With its pavilion at a 45 degree angle to a lush playing surface and the sun shining brightly, it almost seemed sacrilege to being playing football.

Chris Hollyoak might take the viewpoint that his side also preferred to take in a few of the rays and top up the tan as the Metropolitan Police took an early control on the game.

Having spurned an early chance, the Met took the lead on seven minutes when Iffy Onwarchu, offered an acre of space down the right hand side, fired in a low shot into the bottom corner.

Tonbridge failed to awake from their slumbers and ten minutes later found themselves 2-0 down. A cross from the left, once more found its target, Alex Kazakis, in space to bury a simple header.

Jack Kelly, Tonbridge’s goalkeeper, was brought into action on several occasions as the Police continued to dominate the game. Tom Pearson dragged a shot wide and James Philpott directed a header wide being Tonbridge’s sparse first half offerings.

The second half introduction of Franco Mici brought a change in the direction of the game and Jermeille Johnson also started to weave a bit of his magic.

On 75 minutes, Johnson was felled in the box and Brett Milham converted the penalty to bring the Angels back into the game.

Two minutes from time and Johnson jinked his way to the bye-line to cross low into the path of the hard-working Pearson, who sent the game into extra time from close range.

The momentum was now completely with Tonbridge and after five minutes of extra time they were ahead for the first time. Mici crossed from the left, Pearson brought a save but Gavin Quintyne was on hand to tuck in the rebound at the far post. Five minutes later, a stunning volley from 17-year-old Harry Osborne extended the lead and in the second period Brett Milham pulled a pass back from the bye-line for Pearson to complete the scoring, although the striker was offered several opportunities to complete his hat trick.

So that is season's end and time for a review of the ten months that have passed by at a fair old rate of knots. Ninety-six games attended, where, oh where, can I find that extra four games next season!

I managed 19 new grounds in the season among them the Nou Camp, Barcelona and the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal, I’m not going to choose between them as to which is best. Such is my passion for non-league stadiums though, I was equally excited by the art-deco grandstand at Wingate and Finchley and it was nice to get to Aveley before they shut the doors at the end of the season.

I was looking for improvement at Gillingham as a minimum requirement and this was achieved although relegation looked a distinct possibility until the Gang of Four took over from Peter Taylor and, subsequently, Justin Edinburgh taking on the manager’s role. Their season was mid-table in terms of finishing position and entertainment and, consequently, the highlights of my personal season will come from elsewhere.

The best games of the season were the home and away encounters between Tonbridge and Margate with the addition of Tunbridge Wells’ 3-3 home draw with Greenwich Borough. Tonbridge’s home game against Margate produced the most dramatic finish with Margate goalkeeper, Nikki Bull, plundering an equaliser in the 93rd minute. In the reverse fixture, Mitchell Pinnock scored one of the two contenders for my goal of the season with a 25 yard strike. Dee Okojie’s screamer in Tonbridge’s home win against Canvey Island being the other.

The most satisfying games of the season were the three games in which Tonbridge remained unbeaten against Maidstone United and Sonny Miles’ own goal at the Gallagher producing the champagne moment.

Biggest disappointment of the season has to be Tonbridge’s FA Cup defeat at Redhill. A first half performance that was quite dreadful and although they may have deserved to come away from Redhill still in the competition with a improved second half, it was following the draw, away to Greenwich Borough, that the realisation that a door had been opened to the First Round for the first time since 1975 which produced that disappointment.

Overall, a season of more lows than highs, although Gillingham and Tonbridge emerged unscathed after flirting with relegation and despite Tunbridge Wells having another decent run in the Vase they never really challenged at the top end of the SECL table which had to be their ultimate goal.

Pre-season starts 4 July, whether one of my teams are playing or not, I’ll be looking for a game by then!

Lifetime match total: 2,455
Number of grounds: 276

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Staplehurst Monarchs 6 Erith 147 Sports 1

Match 95/14/1204 - Saturday, 9th May 2015 - Kent County League Premier

Staplehurst Monarchs (1) 6 Ashton 4,70 Terry 48, Simpson 52,72, Anderson 90+3
Erith 147 Sports (0) 1 Scored on 51 (#5)
Headcount 15

Entrance: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 1/6,579
New Ground: 276

I am squeezing the last pips out of the season and a first visit to my local Kent County League club served its purpose very well. Only six-tenths of a mile from home any self-respecting person with two legs would have walked to Jubilee Fields, but the car on the drive proved too easy. I nearly paid for this decision as, to my surprise, the car park (a decent sized one at that) was almost full.

The reservations that I had regarding a dip into Step 7 was that the football was going to be akin to the standard that I played in my time, which wasn't very good, and that because of that, it wouldn't be enjoyed. On both counts I need not have worried. The standard was much better than I played (that wasn't difficult) and consequently the afternoon was most enjoyable.

With no entrance fee and no programme, I felt compelled to ask the luminaries of groundhopping whether I could count this as a ground visited or even a game (despite the fact that I don't consider myself a groundhopper). The posters of Tony Kempster's Forum and my three friends who, like myself, sadly care about these trivialities gave me the all clear!

It was a lovely afternoon that was pleasantly warm until the sun dipped behind the menacing black clouds as Erith 147 Sports took to the field with their captain exclaiming to his troops, "let's have some stretches, lads". As he undertook his routine, his pleas fell on deaf ears, and he continued alone.

Erith started the game much the brighter side and a first minute header narrowly cleared the crossbar before in the fourth minute the Staplehurst goalkeeper made a good parrying save after which his defence managed to smother a couple of efforts as the ball bobbed around the six-yard box.

Staplehurst grew into the game and hit the post, for the first of half-a-dozen occasions, after 13 minutes when, with only name-calling to go by, Nathan (nicknamed Irish) fired in a low shot. With the benefit of Twitter, I was later to glean that I am referring to Nathan Simpson.

The home side took the lead three minutes later when a cross to the far post was converted by Danny Ashton who took a blow to the head for his trouble.

Erith's stand-out player, a left winger called Arthur, was a constant thorn in the side to Staplehurst with the his jinking runs and also to the referee who took the odd bit of verbal as the visitors felt that the home side were getting the majority of the official's decisions.

The Erith goalkeeper was getting rather irritated by the lack of communication. "It's not difficult, man on, time, etc." However, when he got the communication he requested it was a volley of abuse between those at the front and those at the back. Not great for team spirit.

As the whistle blew for half-time I wandered across to a game that was being played on an adjoining pitch and, to my surprise, it involved my home village club, Marden. When I quizzed one of the Marden substitutes as to why they were playing a home match in Staplehurst, he explained that the council had failed to mow the pitch or clear dog's mess, so for their final game they decided to play at Jubilee Fields. If ever there was a confirmation that money from the obscene Premier League TV deal needs to trickle down to grassroots then that is one. For the records, the game finished 3-3 with the visitors Lenham Wanderers.

An early second half goal set Monarchs on the goal to a convincing victory. A very well engineered move eventually found the ball at the feet of Joe Terry who drove it into the net from 6 yards.

That breathing space was not to last long as a cross in the box was only partially cleared and the Erith No. 5 (who played mostly upfront), powerfully shot into the net from 12 yards.

A third goal in four minutes restored Staplehurst's two goal advantage when Irish headed home a cross from the right and after 70 minutes was extended with a good finish from Ashton.

A couple of minutes later and a superb finish from Irish brought Monarchs' fifth and his immediate substitution. "He ain't going to do that again, Irish off you come!" came from the bench!

There was time for Staplehurst to hit the post for the umpteenth time before, in time added, the impressive Jakob Anderson fired home a sixth after being set up by a substitute.

As said, the game produced a good standard and these two clubs are only positioned in the middle of the table, so I am left to contemplate how good are Metrogas who won the league by a street.

So this could be the end of season 2014-15. My cupboard is bare regarding Saturday fixtures, no doubt the missus is going to get frustrated with me under her feet until early July. There are a couple of midweek games that might become available if the FA and the Ryman League can sort out the Prmeier League play-off chaos and Tonbridge's Shield Final against Metropolitan Police.

Until then, keep logging in, this summer's "Summertime Blues" will follow the close-season comings and goings (of which some have already happened) at the clubs normally followed by this blog.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Tonbridge Angels Res 6 Welling United Res 1

Match 94/14/1203 - Wednesday, 6th May 2015 - Suburban League Shield SF

Tonbridge (4) 6 Pearson 23,39,88,90+3, Philpott 30, Coldicott 36
Welling United (0) 1 Scored on 81
Headcount 40

Entrance: £2 Senior
Programme: None, team sheet supplied
Mileage: 38/6,578

A performance from Tonbridge's reserve side that left me mystified as to their display in the Kent Intermediate Final against Faversham. Admittedly Faversham looked a decent side, whilst Welling, on this particular evening, were quite woeful.

But let's not take anything away from Tonbridge as, in a higher profile game, Tom Pearson would have taken all the plaudits for his four-goal haul, but a sparkling individual performance from Jermeille Johnson really caught the eye. At the back 17-year-old James Philpott confirmed all the good reports I have heard with an solid game (and a goal for good measure).

Onwards to another Final, against Metropolitan Police with date and venue to be confirmed and an opportunity to redeem that Faversham disappointment.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Gillingham 3 Notts County 1

Match 93/14/1202 - Sunday, 3rd May 2015 - League One

Gillingham (0) 3 Egan 88, Dickenson 90, Norris 90
Notts County (0) 1 Burke 61
Att. 8,453

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/6,592

Match Report

Three goals in the last seven minutes elevated Gillingham into the top half of the table whilst relegating their visitors, Notts County, to League Two.

I was indifferent towards County’s fate and whilst the game remained scoreless and they dipped in and out of the bottom four depending on scorelines coming in from elsewhere I felt happy for the 2,000-plus supporters that had descended on Priestfield in hope that they would see their club survive. After all, with Gillingham, we have been there before and lost the t-shirt.

But once Notts County took the lead with a driven shot from Graham Burke at the near post they become cynical in terms of foul play and time-wasting and quickly lost any sympathy for their situation.

Ten years ago when Gillingham were relegated from the Championship, their following of 5,000 in Nottingham, albeit at Forest, were mocked mercilessly at their fate, so when Gillingham made the game safe in time added with a third goal and the Brian Moore Stand emptied of visitors it felt like pay-back time for that city.

The header to this blog, penned at the beginning of the season, called for Peter Taylor’s minimum requirement to be an improvement. That improvement has been achieved but at the expense of Taylor with much of the credit going to the Gang of Four who oversaw the recovery from the bottom four whilst his successor was being sought.

Justin Edinburgh has maintained the improvement and 12th place is Gillingham’s best finish for 10 years.

John Egan, later to be named as Player of the Year, converted Doug Loft’s cross at the far post to level the score and drop County back into the bottom four and goals in time-added from Brennan Dickenson and an individual effort from Luke Norris sealed their fate.

When the header is written for next season in a couple of month’s time, I’m inclined to believe that more optimistic words than improvement will be used, but with it comes expectations and that is almost a dangerous word.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Tunbridge Wells 1 Greenwich Borough 2

Match 92/14/1201 - Saturday, 2nd May 2015 - SCEL Challenge Cup Final

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Luchford 41
Greenwich Borough (1) 2 Clark 26 Joe Vines 69
Played at Welling United FC
Att. 537

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: £1
Mileage: 76/6,536

Match Report

Each one of my clubs had a Cup Final to contest. Tonbridge lost, Gillingham lost and finally, Tunbridge Wells lost. Call me Jonah, if you like.

Two closely fought League encounters suggested that this League Cup Final would be of a similar nature and in that respect it did not disappoint. However, Tunbridge Wells, and their manager in particular, will bemoan that two sloppy goals handed the trophy to Greenwich Borough and left their season potless.

It wasn’t so many years ago that a season in which Tunbridge Wells finished fifth in the table and a reached a cup final would have been one to celebrate but to many this would be a season where the Wells have failed to meet raised expectations.

Greenwich started the game on the front foot and had two early chances to open the scoring with a pass across the face of the goal failing to find a finish and a shot from distance going wide of the post. Jack Clark, from a left back position, was causing the Wells’ defence all sorts of problems with his sorties forward.

The competitiveness of the game produced a series of fouls and bookings for Brad Potter and Dane Luchford. From one of these fouls, Greenwich opened the scoring on 25 minutes. Clark swung in the kick from the right to the near post and Steve Lawrence, possibly distracted by Joe Fuller’s attempt to clear, fumbled the ball into the net.

To their credit, the Wells’ response was positive and they exerted significant pressure of their own before finding an equalising goal just before the break. From Ian Parsons’ cross into the box, Luchford took the ball down from his chest and crashed in a shot on the half volley to delight the masses of Tunbridge Wells’ supporters behind the goal.

The opening 20 minutes of the second half saw the Wells dominate possession but failing to create a chance of any significance before Greenwich re-took the lead on 70 minutes. A free kick into the box caused confusion and missed opportunities for a clearance that should have troubled the players on the adjoining cricket pitch, but the ball eventually fell to Joe Vines, who might just have back-heeled the ball into the net, it was difficult to see.

Greenwich were now in the ascendancy in terms of their goal advantage and control of the game. They had a goal ruled out for offside and Lawrence made a smart save at his near post.

Tunbridge Wells’ woes were compounded in the final minute when Potter saw red for a second bookable offence as Greenwich comfortably saw out the remaining time.

It is reported that in the coming fortnight discussions will be held between the board of Tunbridge Wells and Martin Larkin regarding next season's budget and, many would guess, his future as manager of the club.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Charlton Athletic 1 Gillingham 0

Match 91/14/1200 - Thursday, 30th April 2015 - Kent Senior Cup Final

Charlton Athletic (1) 1 Ahearne-Grant 37
Gillingham (0) 0
Played at Priestfield Stadium
Att. 1,268

Entrance: £2.50 Senior
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/6,460

Match Report

Gillingham's wait for a Kent Senior Cup win will go further than the present 66 years despite the protestations of Charlton Athletic that they had broken the spirit of entry into the competition by fielding seven players with League appearances this season against a Under-21 Development opposition.

And in fairness, given the strength of the Gillingham line-up the result was slightly embarrassing, but had Gillingham fielded their own Development team, then the 9-1 thrashing in a pre-season friendly they received from Charlton indicated that it would have been altogether more embarrassing.

As it was an entertaining and thoroughly competitive match resulted and one that spilt over a couple of times as Luke Norris and Harry Lennon, previously team-mates during the latter’s loan spell at Priestfield, squared up to one another and a particularly nasty tackle from Levander Pyke that dumped Callum Emptage into an advertising hoarding incurred the outrage of the home support situated in the Medway Stand.

Despite their tender years, Charlton looked the more cohesive of the two sides throughout the match and in 17-year-old Karlan Ahearne-Grant they had both the match winner and the man of the match. After 20 minutes Stuart Nelson was called upon to beat away a shot from the young striker.

It wasn’t one-way traffic though and Josh Pritchard brought a great save from Dillon Phillips whose fingertips diverted the ball onto the crossbar from around 35 yards and following a misplaced backpass from Harry Osborne that let in Greg Cundle, Phillips was off his line to block the effort on goal.

After 37 minutes, a suicidal back pass from Emptage was seized upon by Ahearne-Grant, who finished exquisitely with a chip over the advancing Nelson to give the Addicks a half-time lead.

Gillingham huffed and puffed their way through the second half and a couple of headed opportunties from Norris and Leon Legge, might have tied the game up.

One of a couple of 16-year-olds in the Charlton ranks, Joshua Umerah should have put the game to bed with 12 minutes remaining when, set up by Ahearne-Grant, his shot towards goal failed to carry enough weight to beat Gavin Hoyte who cleared from the line.

A couple of years ago, Charlton mauled Tonbridge Angels 7-1 in the Final of this competition and, on this performance, it would appear that their Academy is continuing to produce youngsters of much promise.

The emergence of Bradley Dack and Jake Hessenthaler serves to prove that Gillingham’s own Academy can also produce quality youngsters and hopefully the long wait for a Kent Senior Cup triumph will be ended in the not-too-distant future and achieved without the need to call on the senior team.