Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tonbridge 4 Dover Athletic 1

Match 37/15/1242 - Tuesday, 27th October 2015 - Friendly

Tonbridge (2) 4 Pinnock 11, 65, Brown 27, Parkinson 80
Dover (1) 1 #9 10
Attendance Quess: 120

Entrance: By donation
Programme: None produced
Mileage: 36/2,249

I wasn't convinced as to the value of a friendly fixture towards the end of October and, for much of the day, was going somewhere else for Tuesday night football, but time constraints took me to Longmead and in terms of what Steve McKimm and myself got out of the evening, I think we can both be reasonably satisfied.

Tonbridge have had an odd start to the season in terms of postponements due to their opposition's cup commitments and even at this relatively early time stand five games adrift of league leaders Dulwich Hamlet and others. Another postponement on Saturday coupled with Wednesday's game at Grays falling victim of their cup replay at Welling, led to the late arrangement of this friendly against Dover Athletic. With no team sheet available, it was difficult to gauge the strength of the Conference National side with only Ricky Modeste instantly recognisable and Tyrone Sterling and Chris Kinnear Jnr being identified. Tonbridge, over the course of both halves, fielded their entire first team minus the long-term injured.

For some while, as a group, we have discussed the idea of playing James Folkes further forward and McKimm tried this out during the first half, playing Folkes in front of Charlie Webster. Personally, I thought it worked well and could have some mileage should it be needed. Modeste gave Webster a fair testing and if he is struggling to get a place in the team down at Crabble, he would represent a good loan signing for a club that could afford his wages.

Modeste laid on a plate a tap-in for an unknown centre forward after 10 minutes. Tonbridge were level within 60 seconds with an exquisite lob from Mitchell Pinnock. The on-loan Maidstone winger has looked a little rusty since his return but his form in this game was more like the Pinnock of last season, even taking into account the unknown strength of Dover.

Ellis Brown has been a regular substitute that has come off the bench and had the odd chance or two but hasn't always had the best of luck in front of goal, but his finish from the edge of the box showed after 25 minutes was clinical.

Tonbridge created the best of the chances with the goalkeeper saving from Folkes whilst Anthony Di Bernardo was stretched to turn over a Modeste lob.

In the second half, Nick Wheeler was introduced and from one of his trademark runs to the bye-line, he pulled back a pass for Tom Parkinson to poke the ball home from close range.

Time remained for Pinnock to produce another superb lobbed finish to round of a good evening for him and the sparse, but entertained attendance.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Gillingham 1 Southend United 1

Match 36/15/1241 - Saturday, 24th October 2015 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Loft 89
Southend United (1) 1 McLaughlin 11
Attendance: 6,981

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/2,213

Match Report

Ex-Gillingham defender Joe Martin seemingly drew much self-satisfaction in a recent tweet proclaiming "that he had got under the skin of Gillingham supporters" after a previous tweet in which he dismissed his old club's top-of-the-table status and described them as "lucky". Perhaps Martin had gained a new found confidence after finally breaking into the Millwall side now the season is two months old. If he had been using his twitter account to reflect on this Gillingham performance in isolation, then his 140 characters would have had a bit more credibility.

This was the poorest performance from Gillingham that I've seen this season, but with the aid of a bizarre Doug Loft goal they have scratched a point. In the last eight days they have pinched a win at Crewe with a 93rd minute goal, beaten Scunthorpe with a 91st minute goal and in this game salvaged a point in the 89th minute. The timing of those goals should tell you something about the player's fitness, it certainly tells you everything about the spirit within the camp.

Whether it was the formation that Justin Edinburgh chose to play with two outright wingers or just one of those days without taking the credit away from Southend but, defensively, Gillingham were a shambles in the first half. I cannot remember John Egan having "one of those days" but the warning had already been posted before he failed to make a clearance, leaving Joe Pigott to send Steve McLaughlin through on goal and to lift the ball over the advancing Stuart Nelson for the opening goal after 11 minutes.

The first half progressed with Gillingham frustratingly giving the ball away with careless abandon and creating very little for Rory Donnelly to feed off. Meanwhile Southend were continuing in the driving seat and, had they not been so wasteful, could have put the game beyond their hosts before the break.

Bookings for Gary Deegan and McLaughlin for a poor challenges did little to lighten the mood of Gillingham's supporters, frustrated by their own side's performance.

Edinburgh's half-time team talk at least brought a bit of forward momentum, but the lack of quality resulted in very little being created. Deegan, very visible with a heavy beard, chipping away in midfield, was lucky to try the patience of the referee once more with a foul on Bradley Dack as the youngster surged towards the visitor's penalty area.

As the game entered its last ten minutes, Gillingham through caution to the wind in an effort to salvage something out of the game. Dack narrowly missed the left hand post with a shot from outside the box and the Shrimpers' keeper, Daniel Bentley, made a good plunging save to push away a close range effort from Harry Lennon.

With just a minute left on the clock before entering time added, Loft produced an equaliser which would have definitely resided in Joe Martin's "lucky" box. Dickenson took a throw-in back to the Gills' club captain who lofted an intended cross into the box. For reasons best known only to him self, Bentley had strayed four or five yards from his line and the ball sailed straight over his head and into the net.

It was a fluke, and without question Gillingham have continued their unbeaten run of seven games with more than a hint of good fortune. We know that, and we don't need Martin to inform of us it. See you in December, Joe. That is, if you are still in the Millwall team.

Quirky Priestfield picture: No. 2

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Leatherhead 0 Tonbridge 2

Match 35/15/1240 - Wednesday, 21st October 2015 - Ryman Premier

Leatherhead (0) 0
Tonbridge (2) 2 Wheeler 3, Miles 45+1
Attendance: 291

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 104/2,157

Match Report

In life, I'm far from a pessimist but not really an optimist and, in football, would classify myself firmly as a realist. This season is going so well, I'm going to have to turn myself in a glass half full kind of guy. With both Gillingham and Tonbridge continuing to challenge at the right end of their respective divisions, come March time, I can see myself having to make difficult choices on a Saturday afternoon as to where to watch my football. I will cross fingers and toes that I am forced to make those choices.

This game was a perfect example of Tonbridge's credentials to be around the top end of the table, not only now in October, but also in April of next year. They opened the scoring early, dominated the first half before adding a second and throttled the life out of any second half revival from a disappointing Leatherhead side.

Tonbridge's away form so far this term is outstanding, seven games have yielded 18 points with a single goal conceded at Harrow Borough back in August. The dominance of the visiting back line, coupled with the ineffectiveness of the hosts, gave the impression that Leatherhead could have played until next August and still not scored.

On a pitch that could have passed for a bowling green, Mitchell Pinnock's cross field pass from left to right would have befitted any top class bowler landing at the feet of Nicky Wheeler who produced an unerring strike from the edge of the box into the bottom corner to open the scoring after just three minutes.

Tonbridge dominated the first half to the dismay of the home support who were labelling their team, "weak, feeble, useless and embarrassing" after 20 minutes of chasing the ball without success. The Leatherhead manager, Richard Brady, obviously concurred with the viewpoint making a double substitution after just half-an-hour.

Louis Wells, in the Tanners' goal, made a comfortable save from Jack Parter and Nathan Elder also saw a header from a Wheeler cross saved. Luke Blewden was narrowly wide after a surging run. Just when it seemed that Tonbridge's first half efforts were going to yield just the single goal they doubled their lead in the time added on. A Wheeler corner was headed on at the near post to the far, from where Sonny Miles had the simple chance to head home.

The second half became a non event as Leatherhead had neither the craft or the cutting edge to mount any sort of comeback. In the 91st minute, a free kick saw Anthony Di Barnardo make his first comfortable save of the match. Luke Blewden may have put a cherry on the top of the cake with a final surge on goal but this was a very professional performance.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Gillingham 2 Scunthorpe United 1

Match 34/15/1239 - Tuesday, 20th October 2015 - League One

Gillingham (0) 2 Dickenson 59, Lennon 90+1
Scunthorpe United (0) 1 Laird 53
Attendance: 4,823

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/2,053

Match Report

A 92nd minute defeat for the home town football club, 216 miles south would have barely registered on a day when the catastrophic loss of 900 jobs at the Indian-owned Tata steelworks had occupied the minds of the people of Scunthorpe. A message of support was fitting and appeciated with applause from the 150 or so hardy Iron supporters that had made the journey. Heavy job losses have been suffered by the Medway towns in the past with the closure of the dockyard in Chatham, which makes it all the more embarrassing that some took to social media to poke fun rather than offer sympathy.

In London or Manchester, where their football clubs are offered such wealth through television, such an event would barely cause a ripple on the company accounts, but in towns such as Scunthorpe, and indeed Gillingham, where each person through the gate is a cherished supporter rather than a irritating customer, the effect on the club's resource will be felt for a long time to come.

This will effect, probably quadruple the 900 people that are about to lose their jobs, from the suppliers through the local shops to the tea ladies that watered the workforce. Many would support Scunthorpe United and many will no longer be able to afford their matchday ticket.

Of course, none of this would happen in China, whose dumping of cheap steel has caused the value to slump. We need to protect our industries and their communities and whilst we are looking at the bigger picture, we would also protect the likes of Scunthorpe United, for whom the Government and the Football Association will show little interest.

In truth, this was a game which Gillingham didn’t deserve the three points, but nobody can deny the spirit shown after going a goal down and reduced to ten men with the sending-off of Josh Wright with nine minutes remaining.

Scunthorpe, who came into the match on the back of three successive victories, were the better side in a first half largely devoid of chances and any great excitement. The much-travelled Gary McSheffrey fired marginally wide off the far post with a curling shot and went closer still when he stretched Stuart Nelson with a free kick from the right hand side.

Gillingham’s only chance of a poor half fell to Jake Hessenthaler who headed a Bradley Dack free kick wide.

Justin Edinburgh brought Brennan Dickenson and Jermaine McGlashen into the action at the start of the second half to inject a bit of life into the lacklustre performance. Their introduction and the start of the second half were delayed for a couple of minutes as the officials wrestled with a malfunctioning indicator board, which all seemed a bit pedantic.

When the game finally restarted there was, at least, a bit more intent from both sides.

After eight minutes of the second half, Scunthorpe opened the scoring. A right wing cross from Scott Wiseman cleared the aerial efforts of both attackers and defenders at the near post and as the ball bounced, left back Scott Laird fired in with a meaty volley that gave Nelson no chance.

Gillingham responded within five minutes when a Dack corner was sent to the far post from where Dickenson climbed the highest to head into the bottom corner.

Referee Lee Swaby, an inexperienced official, was already taking rather too much of centre stage when with nine minutes remaining he reduced the home side to 10 men after deeming that Wright’s challenge had been dangerous. It seemed a very harsh decision.

Sensing their opportunity, the Iron poured forward in search of a winner but solid defending reduced them to a single pot shot that was well over and with the clock having entered the time added on, a free kick from the left sailed all the way to the far post and, initially it was thought straight into the net, but Harry Lennon was credited with a touch.

There remained time for a final head in hands moment when an instinctive save from Stuart Nelson from a close range Murray Wallace header following a corner. For the Scunthorpe supporters, faced with the long journey home, it must have seemed the inevitable conclusion to a very bad day. One can only hope that the town recovers from this major setback thus allowing their local club to prosper.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Tonbridge 1 Kingstonian 1

Match 33/15/1238 - Saturday, 17th October 2015 - Ryman League Premier

Tonbridge (1) 1 Elder 45+1
Kingstonian (1) 1 Kempton 28
Attendance: 545

Entrance: £10
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 36/1,997

Match Report

If you are under the age 34, you will know no different other than the points system that awards three points for a win. The reward for winning games was increased from two to three in 1981 in order to devalue the 0-0 draw away from home that was stagnating the game. Over the years it has largely been considered a success, although, evidently, statistics show there are no less draws per season than there was back then. A draw at home, therefore, is almost always considered two points lost rather than one gained, but there are days when you look back and think to yourself, I'll take that.

Over the course of 90 minutes Tonbridge edged this game and if one team deserved the spoils then it was them, but prior to kick-off I had a gut feeling that I might have to be satisfied with a point and there were periods in the first half when I was definitely settling for a draw.

Kingstonian, who came into the game on the back of an unbeaten run of eight games, but were also on a run of drawn games with three consecutively, started brightly and there was an early scare for the hosts as a corner flashed across the face of goal and ended with an agricultural blast high and wide from Alan Inns.

Jake Kempton, irritating and admirable in equal measure throughout the game, managed an eventful opening ten minutes, firstly latching on to a huge punt from K’s goalkeeper, Rob Tolfrey but firing hopelessly off target and then picking up an eighth minute yellow card for a poor challenge.

Tonbridge started to work their way into the game and a free kick from Mitchell Pinnock found its way to Nick Wheeler, whose shot sailed over the bar. This was quickly followed by a blinding save from Tolfrey, who clawed a Nathan Elder header out of the top corner.

The end-to-end nature of the game continued when Dan Bennett struck a post and Luke Blewden drove in a shot that was deflected wide. The match had set itself for an intriguing muscular battle between the Tonbridge front pairing of Elder and Blewden and the mountainous, solid defensive duo of Inns and Sam Page and when the attack won the day, there was the excellent goalkeeping of Tolfrey to come to the Kings aid.

Kingstonian eventually opened the scoring after 28 minutes. A driving run from Bennett ended with a one-two and a shot that could only be parried by Anthony Di Barnardo into the path of Kempton who was left with an easy touch home.

Tonbridge responded immediately but a poor finish from Elder was scant reward for the driving run of Jack Parter.

On the stroke of half-time, a long ball into the channel was chased down by Blewden and his dragged back pass to the edge of the box brought a clinical finish from Elder.

The second half saw a complete change in the momentum of the game. It was as if the Kingstonian half-time team talk had taken the course of “we have a point, let’s keep it” and they went into a defensive shell, rarely threatening the Tonbridge goal in a one-way second half.

The wave after wave of Tonbridge attacks foundered ultimately on the agility of Tolfrey. The goalkeeper comfortably saved an Elder header, but his plunging save to deny a close range shot from Elder was brilliant.

James Folkes, who had another good afternoon, ended a mazy run with a shot that was touched over by Tolfrey before the Elder-Tolfrey competition ended with the goalkeeper coming out on top once more with a diving save.

Kingstonian are in the last throes of losing their home ground at Kingsmeadow, but the constant bad natured, verbal abuse of an obviously old adversary in Steve McKimm from the visiting support made it very hard to engender sympathy for their plight.

Points lost, or one gained depends on the old glass half full attitude. A point won, from a highly entertaining game, would be my take.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Tonbridge 2 Hastings United 2

Match 32/15/1237 - Tuesday, 13th October 2015 - Ryman League Cup

Tonbridge (1) 2 Brown 1, Folkes 25
Hastings United (1) 2 Temba 11, Richardson-Brown 50
Hastings United won 3-0 on penalties
Attendance: 294

Entrance: £10
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 36/1,961

Match Report

I noticed a few people leaving the ground as the final whistle blew on this Ryman League Cup tie. Perhaps they were unaware that the game would be going to straight to penalties, or perhaps, they were very much aware of Tonbridge's abysmal record in penalty shoot-outs.

Without a game in the last 10 days Steve McKimm opted for a strong line-up with Sonny Miles, Nick Wheeler and Luke Blewden sitting on the bench. Hastings meanwhile, rested to their bench Sam Crabb, Sam Adams, ex-Angel Billy Medlock and ex-Tunbridge Wells' Jack Harris, all players whom I presume are considered first team regulars.

Given their lofty league position, the Ryman League Cup was a competition where there was a genuine chance of Tonbridge making good progress, if not winning it.

On the top of the new media suite a scoreboard has been introduced and it didn’t take long, less than a minute, for it to be put to good use. Ellis Brown outmuscled a defender, or was it a blatant shove, at the far post to drill a shot past the despairing Josh Pelling.

Tonbridge looked in complete control of the game when the ball was cleared from the line to deny them a two goal lead before a weak back pass from Lawrence Ball allowed Bright Temba to nip in and round Anthony Di Bernardo to place the ball into an empty net.

Nathan Elder headed a James Folkes cross wide before, in the 25th minute, Folkes began and finished a splendid move with a shot from inside the box after linking up with Brown to open up the opportunity.

The opportunity was there for Tonbridge to put the game to bed, but Hastings were not prepared to lay down and Simon Johnson fired wastefully over as did Tyrell Richardson-Brown. Just prior to the break, Folkes was needed to clear the ball from the line as Temba once again rounded Di Bernardo.

Five minutes into the second half the visitors were rewarded for their attacking intentions. A cross from Sam Cole was met cleanly on the volley by Richardson-Brown to level the score.

A couple of minutes later, a Richardson-Brown lob had Di Bernardo acrobatically clawing the ball to safety.

Wheeler and Blewden were introduced as Tom Parkinson, back from injury, ran out of steam and the ineffective Mitchell Pinnock were replaced. Immediately the tempo was increased and Tonbridge started to look the likely winners. Jack Parter ended a surge from the back with a shot over the bar and, with five minutes remaining, Blewden opted for power rather than placement when sent clear and blasted his shot high, wide and not too handsome.

One final chance saw Charlie Webster create an opportunity for Brown but Pelling was equal to the effort.

And so to penalties and the continuance of Tonbridge’s wait for a winning tie-breaker. Medlock stepped up first for Hastings and confidently buried his effort and when Pelling saved Lee Carey’s spot kick it was advantage to the Sussex side.

Cole made it 2-0 before Blewden drove his kick straight at the keeper. Ollie Rowe missed Hastings’ third kick but this was immediately cancelled out as Wheeler saw Pelling dive to his right to push away his effort.

Chris Cumming-Bart completed the penalty spot rout to condemn Tonbridge to a fifth shoot-out defeat and the unenviable record of having never won one.

A month on, and with some difficult league fixtures behind them, Tonbridge might look back on this defeat as a blessing, but for now it feels like an opportunity for silverware lost.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Tunbridge Wells 1 Canterbury City 2

Match 31/15/1236 - Saturday, 10th October 2015 - SCEL

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Griffiths 33
Canterbury City (0) 2 R Lawrence 69, D Lawrence 84
Attendance: 312

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 36/1,925

Match Report

Non-League Day didn't quite bring the entertainment or the result that the majority of a large crowd at Culverden had wished for.

Since their return to Kent League football in 2011, Canterbury have managed mid-table finishes each season but in that time they have become the whipping boys for Tunbridge Wells having conceded six goals twice at Culverden and once when they played their home games at Herne Bay.

Recovering from a goal down at the break, Canterbury dominated the second period to record their fifth win on the trot and move into fifth place in the SCEL.

The afternoon began with some head scratching regarding the omission from the team sheet of the influential Lee Radford. It was explained that the sending off of Chris Seenan in a recent match against Lordswood had been recorded by the referee as that of Radford and he is consequently serving the suspension for Seenan!

After the boredom of Wembley the previous evening, the entertainment I hoped for was a long time coming at Culverden with neither side threatening to break the deadlock in the opening half-hour.

Ben Hunt had the first clear cut opportunity for the home side after 26 minutes but he failed to test the City goalkeeper, Shannon Harris, with a shot that found the side netting. But it was Hunt that opened the visiting defence five minutes later with a run and pass that gave Seenan a shooting opportunity that was parried by Harris to the feet of Hakim Griffiths who tapped in from close range.

The Wells dominated the remaining minutes of the first period and went into the break fully deserving of their advantage.

The second half saw a complete transformation of the game. Canterbury, orchestrated by the excellent Dan Lawrence, started getting some real joy down their right hand side with Tom Bryant, already on a booking, struggling to contain a City substitute.

Just over 20 minutes remained when a cross from the bye-line was turned against the bar with the rebound being bundled over the line by a combination Rob Lawrence and a Tunbridge Wells defender.

The visitors hit the crossbar again five minutes later when a header from central defender Ben Gorham found the woodwork.

But Canterbury were not to be denied. Dan Lawrence evaded a weak challenge on the edge of the box, committed Nic Taylor in the Wells goal before rounding him to slot into an empty net.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

England 2 Estonia 0

Match 30/15/1235 - Friday, 9th October 2015 - European Championship Q

England (1) 2 Walcott 45, Sterling 85
Estonia (01) 0
Attendance: 75,427

Entrance: £40
Programme: £6
Mileage: 100/1,889

Match Report

When grown men are reduced to flicking elastic bands to occupy themselves, you can safely assume the entertainment on offer is pretty damn awful. Using the old cliche, watching paint dry would have been a far preferable use of 90 minutes of my time.

This qualifying campaign will be my last as a member of the England Supporters Club, a membership that I've retained since before 1996 and the days when it was simply known as the England Travel Club. As a football team, England can only beat what is put before them and there is little room for complaint against a side carrying a perfect record going into their last fixture.

But UEFA and FIFA's desire to expand their competitions has diluted qualifying and meaningful games are becoming a rarity. Since Wembley reopened back in 2007, there have only been two such games both against Croatia and to a lesser extent, those against Montenegro and Poland in the last campaign.

England's sole threat in this group was Switzerland and when they were beaten in Berne in the opening match, the rest was a foregone conclusion.

I've made it no secret on this blog that I've long since fell out of love with Wembley. Thugs, drunks and lousy matches have turned it into an expensive chore.

The match itself did nothing more than prove my point. England won without breaking sweat. It took 30 minutes for Joe Hart to lay a glove on the ball and the biggest question mark against the home side was that they took 45 minutes to open the scoring.

A big plus was Ross Barkley, whose pass opened up the Estonians for Theo Walcott to break the offside trap and open the scoring.

Two rows in front, one couple wandered in with just 15 minutes of the first half remaining and departed after 15 of the second. By the 70th minute people were leaving in their droves and when I picked a random 82nd minute to leave, somebody in front said "turn the lights out when you go".

That 82nd minute departure meant I missed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's goal, but only having 20,000 in front of me in the queue for the tube rather than 75,000 made it worthwhile.

I'll continue to take in England games when, or more likely if, they are worthwhile. I just won't have the pressure of caps for tournaments to come in Russia and Qatar to worry about.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Gillingham 2 Luton Town 1

Match 29/15/1234 - Tuesday, 6th October 2015 - JPT 2nd Round

Gillingham (0) 23 Ehmer 65, Dack 83
Luton Town (1) 1 McGeehan 41
Attendance: 3,428

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: None purchased
Mileage: 56/1,789

Match Report

I've never been fully convinced of the value of the Football League Trophy to either the competing clubs or their supporters.

The clubs are hamstrung with the rules regarding weakened teams reducing the opportunity to assess the form of fringe players or blood youngsters whilst supporters seem, by evidence of low attendance figures, not to take the competition seriously until such time as Wembley is on the horizon.

Indeed, Gillingham's run last year to the Area Finals, left me rather embarrassingly contemplating a Wembley visit without having seen a round en-route.

On a personal basis, the competition can fill a empty Tuesday evening but without any enthusiasm for the event. This particular evening gave me the choice of the Paintpot or the Tinpot. The Paintpot won only by virtue of Tonbridge's Kent Senior Cup tie being at Margate, an extra 40 miles on the Tuesday night drive.

The League Two visitors acquited themselves well in a first half in which they shaded possession and earned a half-time lead just prior to the break with a good passing move that ended with a cross from left back Dan Potts meeting the head of Cameron McGeehan at the far post.

Luton stretched Stuart Nelson into a good diving save before conceding an equaliser on 65 minutes. Having failed to clear their lines following a corner, the ball was lofted back into the penalty area. The old adage of not letting the ball bounce was ignored and when Cody McDonald's shot was parried by the keeper, the ball found the feet of Max Ehmer and the German central defender made no mistake.

Seven minutes remained to avoid the penalty shoot-out when substitute Bradley Garmston made a surging run down the left to the bye-line his cross to the near post was just about blocked by Tyler, but Bradley Dack was on hand to touch in the rebound. If that brought a smile to the face of Gillingham supporters then the announcement of Man of the Match brought raucous laughter when Garmston was chosen for a mere 17 minutes worth of effort!

Luton spurned a late opportunity when Potts was free on the left side of the six yard box but his shot was hopelessly wide.

Paintpot or Tinpot, it's silverware and worth a decent shout. Might see you at Wembley!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Gillingham 3 Oldham Athletic 3

Match 28/15/1233 - Saturday, 3rd October 2015 - League One

Gillingham (2) 3 Donnelly 8,33 Hessenthaler 57
Oldham Athletic (2) 3 Dickenson (o.g.) 28 Poleon 36 Higdon 55
Attendance: 6,157

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 56/1,733

Match Report

At the beginning of the season I had not given a single thought to Gillingham being at the top of the table at any time; I didn't think that after nine games and successive defeats on the road they would still be sitting third in the table and I didn't dare dream of the play-offs. Now some would say they are the thought of a pessimist, perhaps, but I prefer realist. The reaction of some Gillingham supporters to this minor setback indicates there are more than a few non-realists in our midst.

It’s not that anybody has anything really to complain about. Yes, defensively this was a sloppy display and, agreed, when you looked at the league table, Oldham were supposedly there for the taking. But David Dunn has steadied the ship since taking over and they are the league’s draw specialists with eight in their eleven games played. Gillingham were on a run of eight consecutive wins at Priestfield dating back to April of last season and have now scored 17 goals in their six league games, so it’s not all bad.

But, for Justin Edinburgh, he now has the task of managing expectations as well as a football team. In these days of instant gratification, we now have a breed of supporter for whom a home draw is just not good enough, whatever the circumstances, however good their present form may be.

Not being one being one for confrontation, I was glad that somebody else took the initiative and shouted that the perpetrators should “get off the backs of the players”.

The game itself was very entertaining, albeit a bit of a disaster in terms of defending for both coaches. Gillingham were very quickly out of the blocks and ahead after just seven minutes with a wonderfully crafted goal. Superb link-up play between Brennan Dickenson and the much maligned Luke Norris finished with Dickenson crossing across the face of goal to the feet of Rory Donnelly, who had an easy finish from the right hand corner of the six yard box.

Oldham knocked on the door several times before finding an equaliser with the experienced Michael Higdon and the raw pace of Dominic Poleon proving a real handful. When the equaliser came, after 28 minutes, it was down to poor defending rather than any ingenuity on behalf of the Oldham front two. The home side were given plenty of opportunity to clear a cross into the box to safety, but when they failed a shot from Higdon took a deflection off Dickenson to find its way into the net. From my seat, it looked a bit harsh to deny Higdon the goal, but own goal is the official verdict.

Within five minutes Gillingham were in front once more, this time with question marks against the goalkeeping of David Cornell. A lofted cross into the box looked nothing more than catching practice for the keeper, but as he delayed his advance from the line, Donnelly was able to get to the ball first and direct a header past the stranded keeper.

Barely had the celebrations died down before the visitors were once more level. A loose clearance from John Egan only found Liam Kelly, whose slide-rule pass found the lightening quick Poleon to lift the ball over the on-rushing Stuart Nelson.

Poleon was very impressive and another example of the talent that has spent time rotting away in the outer reaches of the Chelsea extended squad.

Ten minutes into the second half and further nightmare defending saw the Lancastrians take the lead for the first time. A cross from the right from Poleon to the far post found the unmarked Higdon, who scored with a cushioned volley.

Once again a lead was short lived and 90 seconds later the home side were level. Josh Wright made a run to the edge of the box and from a tackle the ball found its way to the feet of substitute Jake Hessenthaler who buried a shot into the top corner.

At this point, I was guessing this game could go either way, with a 5-4 or similar not out of the question. But somewhere, out of a defensive shambles, both teams managed to lock the doors on any further goalscoring.

Gillingham dropped a place to fourth in the table probably adding more ire to the moaning minnies. To them I would say, if you are not satisfied, then put yourself on a train to London and pay top dollar to watch Arsenal or Chelsea. But, do you know what, sometimes they don’t win either.

Quirky Priestfield Photo No. 1

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lewes 0 Tonbridge 1

Match 27/15/1232 - Wednesday, 30th September 2015 - Ryman Premier

Lewes (0) 0
Tonbridge (1) 1 Blewden 43
Attendance: 460

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 77/1,677
New Ground: 282

Match Report

Somehow, over the years, the Dripping Pan has eluded me. What a little gem!

I have to say I loved everything about this stadium. Built into a natural bowl, it has a blend of old and new with a quirkiness that can only be enjoyed in non-league football. The ground is entered at the top of the Philcox Terrace, a steep covered enclosure with an unusual corrugated-style roof reminiscent of the demolished stands at Watford and Coventry’s old Highfield Road ground. To the right is the full length, all-seated Rookery Stand and at the opposite end there is an area of uncovered terracing that covers half of the width of the pitch. The other length is a steep grass bank that only offers a walkway on the top for viewing, from where I watched this match. Four beach huts are utilised as sponsor’s boxes to add to the quirkiness to the ground. The infamous flint wall, that brought a planning refusal when Lewes were a conference club for a single season, proudly remains atop the grass bank.

Successive defeats at the hands of Leiston, alongside an injury list that had decimated the midfield, had dampened the optimism surrounding Tonbridge. Steve McKimm moved quickly to bolster his options with the loan signing of Mitchell Pinnock and Anthony Riviere. Pinnock was a great success at Longmead last season before signing for Maidstone during the summer whilst Riviere joins from Margate having previously served at Eastleigh, Sutton United and Welling.

Both players have not had a great deal of first team football this season and Pinnock, in particular, looked very rusty. Riviere, however, settled well and was extremely comfortable on the ball.

The game was a scrappy affair that was ultimately won with a goal that was in keeping with the majority of the match.

The game started slowly, very slowly, with little to excite either set of supporters. Tonbridge were marginally the brighter with ex-Lewes player of the year Nick Wheeler sending a couple of inviting crosses into the box but without anybody making the ground to attack the ball. In the meantime, a shot wide from ex-Tonbridge player, Henry Muggeridge was the best Lewes could muster.

The game meandered its way towards the break and a goal-less half when Tonbridge broke the deadlock. A cross from Wheeler was half cleared under a challenge from Nathan Elder to Luke Blewden, who from around the edge of the box, scuffed a shot towards goal. How the ball evaded the young Lewes goalkeeper, Nik Tzanev, goodness only knows as the ball limped apologetically over the line. The ex-Lewes striker didn’t celebrate; I’m not sure whether this was out of respect to his old club or embarrassment that his mishit shot had found the net!

The second half was marginally better inasmuch that Lewes had a far greater intent but were proving absolutely toothless in front of goal. If things don’t improve in that area of the pitch for the Rooks it is going to be a very long season.

The substitution of Elder for Ellis Brown after 56 minutes almost paid instant dividends when he narrowly missed the right hand post and after 61 minutes he sped away from the Lewes defence but was denied a shot on goal by a magnificent, last ditch challenge from Richie Welch.

This was proving a period when the visitors were in full sail. Pinnock shot wide right, Riviere did similarly and then Brown spurned his third chance, this time shooting wide left.

But the chance of the half came with six minutes remaining when Riviere dinked a cross towards Brown who saw his header come back off the post to the feet of Charlie Webster who missed his shot completely.

In the final moments, Tzanev atoned for his earlier error when he denied Blewden who had sped clear of the Lewes back line.

Later McKimm admitted that it was a game that was not pretty, but three points and leaping five places back to third was all the justification needed for the sizeable visiting support. League leaders Leiston and Grays Athletic both lost heavily in their midweek fixtures, leaving top spot just three points away with a game in hand.

If Tonbridge supporters wanted pretty on Wednesday night, it was the Dripping Pan that offered the beauty.