Thursday, 30 November 2017

Forest Hill Park 0 Snodland Town 3

Match 65/17/1515 - Wednesday, 29th November 2017 - SCEFL League Cup

Forest Hill Park (0) 0
Snodland Town (0) 3 Sherwood 56 Clarke 60 Harrison 80
Headcount: 18
New Ground: 320

Entrance: £5 Senior
Programme: Included
Mileage: 80/4,183

After 20 years working in Bermondsey, any trip into south London leaves me with a little fear of parking the car and returning to find the wheels missing, or worse, the entire car missing. A tweet from Forest Hill Park assured me that after 7 p.m. there was free, on the road, parking directly outside of the Ladywell Arena.

On a bitterly cold evening, I duly arrived at around 7.20 and found a space easily and my spirits as to my car’s safety was lifted as the area seemed respectable. By the time I had donned several extra layers of clothing the clock had ticked on to 7.30 as I entered the Arena. I was aware of the running track so that came as no surprise as was the rest of the athletics paraphernalia.

There was just the one stand in view and given the cold it seemed the most appropriate place to position myself. We were now slightly less than 10 minutes from kick-off time and tucked into the far end of the stand, bizarrely wearing a Tonbridge Angels jacket, was a lone spectator. The young man had crutches lent up against the stand wall and was talking animatedly into his mobile. He renewed his conversation during the half-time break, so I was never able to ask him about his association with my club.

For five minutes I thought my season low attendance of three was to be beaten until another hopper arrived. As the teams lined up outside of the pavilion to take to the field another 14 people, mostly from Snodland it seemed, emerged from the warmth of the bar to brave the elements.

The view across the six lane track from the a position close to the half-way line was good and considering the pitch probably had a summer pounded by shot and hammer throwers it did not appear to be in a bad condition.

The first half started with Forest Hill on the front foot having the ball in the net after 10 minutes but the goal was disallowed. No team sheet or white board was available, so knowledge of the players was almost at zero. From a previous Snodland game, the mature frame of Dave Sherwood was recognisable and from the support of my Tonbridge Angels friend in the front row, his mate on the pitch, Nick Clarke took the eye with his busy endeavour.

Snodland grew into the game and Reece Gillies struck the bar with a shot from 20 yards that saw the rebound knocked in but, once more, the goal was not allowed to stand.

As the cold began to take hold, one wished for a shot to be lashed into the top corner, even if it was only to be into the hammer thrower’s pen and the threat of extra-time already loomed large as half-time was reached with the game goalless.

The Snodland left back, who had shown a great deal of resourcefulness going forward was brought down in the box after 54 minutes leaving the portly Sherwood to stroke home the spot kick to delight the visiting contingent.

The threat of extra-time receded even further with a curious goal four minutes later when the Forest Hill goalkeeper was clearly impeded before the ball fell to Clarke to neatly lob into the unguarded net.

Snodland thankfully put the game to bed five minutes from time when the ball was touched home from close range after a free kick had been parried by the goalkeeper.

A hasty retreat on the final whistle found the car perfectly intact with the heater soon being put to full use. In the end, I didn’t mind the Ladywell Arena and probably won’t despair in the same way when I return for the bracketed tick of Lewisham Borough.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Gillingham 0 Oldham Athletic 0

Match 64/17/1514 - Saturday, 25th November 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 0
Oldham Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 4,364

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/4,103

I made my way to Priestfield with a sense of optimism, something that has not been the norm this season. A reasonable upturn in form, including three wins on the road, has resulted in Steve Lovell being awarded the manager’s job until the end of the season and Mr Scally’s court case with Centreplate has finally been concluded with the chairman trousering £1.4 million. How much of this will find its way into playing resources is open to conjecture, but my guess is the wad in Scally’s pocket won’t be diminishing by too much.

My optimistic outlook was not shared by others as, take away the 200-odd Oldham supporters down from Lancashire, there was barely 4,000 hardy souls supporting the Gills. It was a raw, cold afternoon, one worthy of the heaviest coat coming out of the wardrobe, so with the free ticket contingent seemingly being given a week off, it was not really surprising.

That was a shame really, as this was a good 0-0 draw that was always interesting. There was a lack of quality from both sides; they are not both in the lower reaches without reason, and what little there was came from the visitors. But the endeavour shown from Gillingham is not to be scoffed at, given that previous regimes have presided over teams that have failed to display the pre-requisite of any professional footballers: 100% effort.

Oldham started well and their leading goalscorer Eoin Doyle and Craig Davies combined to send the latter through on goal but Tomas Holy did well to save with his feet.

A long stoppage ensued when Lee Martin took the full force of a clearance to his head. After lengthy treatment the Gills skipper was stretchered to a waiting ambulance. Thankfully, it was reported that Martin was back in the dressing room at the end of the game having been given the all clear at the hospital.

The game was very open with the visitors creating several half chances whilst Tom Eaves produced a powerful run to set up Scott Wagstaff for a low cross that eluded Josh Parker.

But it was Holy that was producing the saves that mattered to deny Jack Byrne and Doyle to preserve a goal-less parity at the break.

The second half began in much the same vein, the game quite open and end-to-end but with Holy being asked to make the saves.

The best chance of the match, so far, fell to the Latics when Queensy Menig rounded Holy but saw his shot on goal cleared from the line by Mark Byrne.

As the game entered its closing stages, Eaves was proving a real handful for the visitors with their goalkeeper Johny Placide saving low as he powered through.

Placide then made the save of the match when he tipped a free kick from Luke O’Neill onto the underside of the bar, and whether more by luck than judgement, managed to shepherd the ball to safety as the rebound came off his back.

For Gillingham, reasons to be cheerful, well yes.

Matches against Oldham will always bring to mind my good friend, John Gilmour, sadly taken from us six years ago. RIP John.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Rochester United 1 Deal Town 4

Match 63/17/1513 - Wednesday, 22nd November 2017 - SCEFL

Rochester United (0) 1 Gross 88
Deal Town (2) 4 Foster 39 Coyne 42 Paxman 78 Cook 81
Attendance: 52

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £1.50
Mileage: 39/4,045

Evenings like this one test your resolve as a groundhopper, games accumulator, whichever handle you would like to place on this strange hobby. The wind howled, and even standing under the stand it nearly blew me off my feet, and would have tested the quality of a lot better teams than Rochester United or Deal Town.

The latter of which dealt with the conditions and were thoroughly deserving of their comfortable win.

Some observations were that Deal’s right back Jack Paxman took the eye with some surging forays down the right hand side and capped a fine display with a goal.

Moses Ashikodi was spotted, evidently playing for this 30th club in the colours of Rochester. One can only imagine that number 31 won’t be too far away.

The match details are an unashamed cut and paste from Deal’s Facebook page, mainly because my resolve is tired!

Two goals in a three-minute spell just before half-time set up the Hoops’ third away league win of the season on Wednesday night.

A strong wind swirling around the Rede Court Road pitch inevitably influenced the pattern of the game and it was a credit to both teams that they still managed to produce some decent football in the difficult conditions.

Deal were in control for most of the 90 minutes against a Rochester side struggling at the bottom of the table but a combination of several near misses, including Danny Smith striking the underside of the bar with an early free kick, and some brave goalkeeping by Rochester’s Dan Coxall meant the Hoops’ had to wait until close to the interval before making the breakthrough.

It was provided by Andy Miller whose shot took a slight deflection off Alfie Foster on its way into the net, and three minutes later it was a similar story as Connor Coyne’s effort again took another deflection past the unfortunate Coxall to give the Hoops’ a two-goal interval cushion.

With Rochester re-emerging with the strengthening wind now mostly in their faces, and possessing the worst “goals for” record in the league, the home side knew they had a mountain to climb against Deal’s resilient backline.

But the Spartans stuck to their task well and, with Coxall producing another fine save to keep out Danny Smith’s fierce half volley and Harry Alexander also hitting the Rochester woodwork, the Hoops again had to wait until the half’s closing stages before stamping their authority.

And, for the third time, the ball found its way into the Rochester net with the help of a minor deflection, this time from Jack Paxman’s low 79th-minute cross. Then, two minutes later, Dan Adams set up Sam Wilson for his 13th goal of the season before the home side earned some reward for their spirited efforts with an injury-time header from substitute Paul Gross.

Tonbridge Angels 2 Thurrock 1

Match 62/17/1512 - Tuesday, 21st November 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (1) 2 Elder 42 Akrofi 51
Thurrock (0) 1 Spence 90+1
Attendance: 251

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/4,006

After the thrills and spills of Saturday's encounter with Needham Market, this may have seemed routine, perhaps even drab, but achieving back-to-back wins for only the second time this season might prove to be significant as Steve McKimm endeavours to put this season back on track.

Whatever the reason, Champions League on television, leaving aside Saturday recent poor form, the turn out of just 251 was desperately disappointing.

After just 20 seconds Ryan Worrall struck a shot at Thurrock goalkeeper, Jake Jessie and after three minutes, Reece Morgan went into the referee’s notebook in a portent of what was too come in a first half in which the visitors can only be politely described as robust.

Nathan Elder saw his seventh minute header hit the top of the bar followed quickly by Alex Akrofi rounding Jessup, who had strayed a long way from home, but firing his shot across the face of goal.

Every now and then Thurrock put together a few passes that belied their away form of not a single point and when Dennis Oli was through on goal it took a fine save at the ex-Gillingham striker’s feet to stop the Essex side taking the lead.

Akrofi’s livewire performance was undoing Thurrock time and again and their yellow card count rose to four as they struggled to contain him.

Despite their dominance, it took until three minutes before the break for Tonbridge to break the deadlock. A free kick was delivered into the box by Joe Turner that was flapped away by Jessup on to the unwitting head of a defender with the rebound falling kindly for Elder to hook the ball home.

Just six minutes into the second half, the Angels doubled their advantage when a low, driven cross from Jack Parter was met by Akrofi who got in front of his marker to touch the ball home.

Tonbridge were in cruise control and chances to put the game to bed came and went and then, into added time, a cross to the far post found Lewwis Spence free to head home and set up a twitchy few minutes that really should not have happened.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Tonbridge Angels 5 Needham Market 4

Match 61/17/1511 - Saturday, 18th November 2017 - Bostik Premier

Tonbridge Angels (2) 5 Turner 9 (pen) Elder 41,60 Akrofi 48 Kwayie 90+2
Needham Market (2) 4 Wright 17 Harrison 32 Morphew 71 (pen) Griffiths 85
Attendance: 383

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 38/3,968

Match Report

If you like your football with thud and blunder and plenty of goals, then this is the fixture to pencil into the diary for next season; on the other hand, if you are of a nervous disposition, better leave it.

In the last three seasons this fixture has yielded 22 goals, produced some remarkable comebacks, woeful defending and with a win for both sides plus a draw, a share of the spoils. In August 2015, the sides shared six goals with some controversial refereeing decisions at the heart of result. Last season saw Tonbridge leading 2-0 and 3-1 but an injury to goalkeeper Anthony Di Bernardo saw coach Stewart Copeland take over between the sticks with a disastrous outcome that saw Ugo Udoji sent off and the Suffolk side recovering to win 4-3.

And so to today; once more the game switched back and forth to be finally decided with an own goal by any other name than the one that will enter into the record books.

Suspensions to Sonny Miles and George Beaven resulted in a makeshift central defensive pairing of Craig Stone and Tom Jelley, who was making his home debut following his arrival from Tooting and Mitcham.

The game started with two early efforts from Joe Turner that did not unduly trouble the Needham Market goalkeeper, Danny Gay, but it signalled an intensity in Turner’s game that was to continue throughout the 90 minutes.

It was, though, a darting run from Alex Akrofi that brought a challenge that saw him tumble in the penalty area which the referee saw as a foul. Turner struck the spot kick straight down the middle to give the Angels a ninth minute lead.

The Suffolk side were to respond with immediate effect with a Gareth Heath corner being met at the near post by Luke Ingram but narrowly wide.

It was a warning shot across the bows for the home side though as a free kick from Heath found the head of Callum Harrison, who might have meant to direct it goalwards but it went across the face to Diaz Wright who volleyed home.

The game continued to be end-to-end with Akrofi being denied by the feet of Gay, quickly followed by the left hand post.

But it was the visitors who went in front just past the half-hour when a shot from Harrison towards the far post took a wicked deflection off Jelley to give Jonny Henly no chance.

Four minutes before the break, Tonbridge gained parity with a well struck, and well directed, shot from Nathan Elder creeping in at the far post.

The second half was barely three minutes old when good work between Jack Parter and Turner ended with the latter producing an inch perfect cross for the diminutive Akrofi to finish with a close range header.

On the hour it was game over, or so we thought, when a corner from Ryan Worrall, also making his home debut following his loan arrival from Eastbourne Borough, was met with a powerful header from Elder to make it 4-2.

Memories of last season meant nerves were beginning to jangle when Needham also were given a penalty following a foul by Stone on Jamie Griffiths which was noticed by the linesman allowing Danny Morphew to reduce the deficit from the spot.

A great save low to his left from Henly held up Needham’s charge but with five minutes remaining they got the equaliser that their contribution to this thriller deserved but it was poor defending that gave Heath time and room to fire a cross to the far post for Griffiths to be allowed a virtual tap-in.

It seemed hard to believe that Needham had produced an unlikely comeback for the second year running but on this occasion there was to be one final act. A shot from substitute Tashi-Jay Kwayie deflected off the head of Wright to loop over Gay. It was a lucky break but one which was overdue. Perhaps you make your own luck but Tonbridge were certainly due their rub of the green.

Pictures: David Couldridge

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Bearsted 0 Lordswood 1

Match 60/17/1510 - Wednesday, 15th November 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Bearsted (0) 0
Lordswood (1) 1 Griffin 35
Attendance: 63

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: Included
Mileage: 15/3,930

Bearsted are my local club, just 7.5 miles from home, so it is probably a little shameful that this was just my second visit. This was also a visit that was not scheduled but a delay leaving home, plus a 19:30 kick-off put the intended game at Bridon Ropes out of reach.

The visiting hopperatti swelled the attendance to 63 and their tales of where they had been; this ground and that helped pass a first half of very few chances.

Bearsted’s Reece Collins had a couple of efforts that didn’t test Lordswood’s goalkeeper, Ryan Chandler before Frank Griffin put the visitors in front with a shot into the bottom corner from the defensively unmanned right side of the box after 33 minutes.

The second period was one of frustration for the cluster of Lordswood supporters as their side wasted chance after chance to put the game to bed.

Bearsted goalkeeper, Scott Andrews excelled as Helge Orome, Jack Mahon and Charlie Plummer contrived to keep the game alive for the hosts.

In one instance, eight minutes from time, Andrews saved three times with his feet to deny Mahon twice and Plummer in the space of around 10 seconds.

Bearsted's Honey Lane is not an easy place to find, it is actually in Otham, and the long track to the ground tests the car suspension to the limit, but once there it has a rural charm that makes the visit worthwhile. Added to that, I was home in 15 minutes!

Tunbridge Wells 1 Erith Town 2

Match 59/17/1509 - Tuesday, 14th November 2017 - SCEFL Premier

Tunbridge Wells (1) 1 Ita 33
Erith Town (0) 2 Jeffrey 75 Cooper 90+2
Attendance: 89

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 38/3,915

Adam Woodward doesn’t strike you as silver-tongued and the noise that reverberated out of the Erith Town dug-out throughout the game didn’t suggest that they were an arm around the shoulder type of staff. So, one can only make the assumption that the half-time team talk was one from the kick up the backside variety. Whatever, it worked. Erith Town emerged from the dressing room a different team and with a 92nd minute goal turned around the game and if they took the bollocking as a team, boy did they celebrate as one.

Tunbridge Wells started the game on the front foot with Steven Ita bringing a save out of the Dockers goalkeeper, Adam Molloy low to his left. This was followed in the 21st minute with Jack Harris seeing his effort come back from the crossbar for John Shea to fire the rebound wide.

After 33 minutes the Wells got a goal their efforts had deserved when Ita curled a free kick into the top right corner of the net.

A poor back pass allowed Harris an opportunity but he put his shot wide.

With the flea in their ear, the visitors were a different animal from the outset of the second half, completely dominating. But it took until 15 minutes from time for Erith to finally breakthrough with a route one goal. A single punt through the centre from Miles Keiser-Burrows sent Aaron Jeffrey clear to finish into the bottom corner.

The one-way traffic continued with Sid Warden forcing Mohammed Otayo to save low plus Danny Gannon blasting over and sending another opportunity wide.

Jon Pilbeam might have relieved some of the pressure but his touch past the goalkeeper didn’t have quite enough weight to beat an Erith defender on the line.

As the game entered its added time, Erith forced another corner, from which substitute Jack Hooper rose highest, and unchallenged, to plant a firm header home.

England versus Brazil on terrestrial challenge seriously depleted the usual attendance at Culverden with the figure of 83 representing the lowest since 2013.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Gillingham 1 Bury 1

Match 58/17/1508 - Saturday, 11th November 2017 - League One

Gillingham (0) 1 Parker 85
Bury (1) 1 Danns 39
Attendance: 4,364

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Mileage: 58/3,877

Match Report

If spirit alone can assure Gillingham's League One future, then they will be fine. What they have is a group of players that put in a shift full of honest endeavour, what they lack is quality and unless this is addressed, I fear that spirit will not be enough.

On Armistice Day, the club with the Royal Engineers produced a fitting act of remembrance with the sounding of the Last Post and a perfectly observed minute's silence.

Bury came to Priestfield in a similar position to Gillingham on and off the field, occupying one of the relegation places and under the stewardship of a caretaker manager in Ryan Lowe. They dominated the first half in which Gillingham were frankly woeful.

Gillingham started brightly with Sean Clare's run and shot that was narrowly wide but it was the visitors that carved out the better chances with Nicky Ajose failing to find the target following a cross from the right. Ajose then helped out the Gills by getting in the way of a shot from outside of the area.

Bury made the breakthrough six minute before the break when Neill Danns took a pass inside the right hand side of the box with time and space to pick his spot into the far corner.

The Lancastrians had further opportunities to open up a clear lead before half-time with Michael Smith wastefully turning a cross wide from close range.

Conor Wilkinson replaced Elliott List at the start of the second half and whilst he cannot hit a cow's arse with a banjo, the increased physical presence alongside Tom Eaves rattled the Bury back line.

Wilkinson blazed high and wide early in the half and Josh Parker did similarly 10 minutes later, but at least Gillingham were getting a sight of the visitor's goal.

Gillingham searched hard for that little bit of quality that would bring an equaliser but half chances came and went before, with 10 minutes remaining, Bury nearly put the game to bed with a shot from Tutte that came back off a post.

It spurred Gillingham on for a last ten minute onslaught that would finally bring reward when a corner from Lee Martin was met with a header from Parker for a well merited equaliser.

Wilkinson had the final attempt to win the game, but as usual, his shot was wayward.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Romford 1 Haringey Borough 1

Match 57/17/1507 - Wednesday, 8th November 2017 - Bostik North

Romford (1) 1 Hammond 9
Haringey Borough (0) 1 McDonald 83
Attendance: 115
Played at Thurrock FC

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £2.00
Mileage: 68/3,819

This was all about the groundhopper's infamous bracketed tick with Romford groundsharing at Thurrock.

On a cold evening, Romford rock bottom of Bostik North, fought a sterling rearguard effort to frustrate a Haringey Borough side that sit presently in one of the two promotion places.

With a little bit of laziness combined with writer's cramp, I have taken the liberty of using timmy tabby's excellent report from Tony Kempster's site:

An enjoyable evening also and an outcome most certainly not envisaged at the start of proceedings....

Prior to the start of proceedings, both teams lined up in perfect formation to honour the fallen, an occasion that was honourably conducted and was quite poignant.

Also good to see a contest in these parts that had minimal amounts of mutual antagonism, I like to think that both teams were on their best behaviour to honour the 500th match in charge of Romford for Paul Martin in these days when managers are dispensed with far too readily and then the new incumbent does not improve the situation the mutual loyalty between manager and club is one that is rarely seen.

Excellent contest assisted along with what was one of the best defensive displays seen from a bottom of the table team which clearly made even the obtaining of a single point for the visitors to maintain their unbeaten league record a very difficult task. Romford took a surprise early lead as a punt forward grazed backwards off of Yiga's head into the path of Hammond who read the situation perfectly and slipped a shot under Pajetat.

In response, Haringey dominated the remainder of the half, however at times their passing was not of the standard seen from them earlier in the season plus they often lacked the imagination required to try and break down a packed shoal of a defence. What chances Haringey created, fell into two categories. Firstly, the opportunities that really should have been converted namely from McDonald angling a clear header wide when almost completely unmarked in front of goal and also when Ademiluyi was sent clear on the right, but he took possession several steps too far and ended up shooting straight at the advancing Reynolds,

In the second category came those created chances where luck deserted as they struck the woodwork twice including an excellent drive from Richards which caused some reverberation. Stephen Reynolds in the Romford goal made some excellent saves as well including two in very quick succession, however at half time and given the nature of the first half, there were huge doubts as to whether the hosts would hold onto their surprise advantage.

Strangely, though as the second half progressed, the possibility of the hosts clinging on increased, There was far less in the way of possession for the visitors, who although had a growing number of corners did not create much in the way of opportunities. In fact if Djalo had more in the way of support than he actually had as he broke forward, we could have been looking at the hosts doubling their advantage. In the end he had little option to go alone and he shot straight at Pajetat.

The majority of Haringey's decreasing number of attacks foundered against a surprisingly resolute Romford defence in which both Cossington and Finneran were seemingly impregnable. They had one narrow escape when after a rare lapse from Reynolds, a loose ball ran into the path of Fenton, however he slipped as he was lining up his shot and Cossington was on hand to clear off the line.

Given that the hosts defended so well, it was unfortunate that they conceded, however it was one of those scenario's given that the visitors had so much of the play and the vast majority of the chances that it would be cruel to deny them a share of the points. Finally with 7 minutes left Richards pulled a low cross back from the by line and it was a simple task for McDonald to atone for his earlier miss and side foot into a gaping net from close range. Clear on seeing Haringey this season that at current level they are a more than competent team, however clear on this occasion that the absence of Gabriel and Aristidou had a detrimental effect,

First seriously chilly evening of the season and the plunge in temperature was most noticeable during he course of proceedings.

Tonbridge Angels 0 Hythe Town 0

Match 56/17/1506 - Tuesday, 7th November 2017 - Isthmian League Cup 2R

Tonbridge Angels (0) 0
Hythe Town (0) 0
Hythe Town won 5-3 on penalties
Attendance: 173

Entrance: £6 Senior
Programme: £0.50
Mileage: 38/3,751

Match Report

Tonbridge crashed out of another, their last, cup competition to lower league opposition for the third time in the four competitions. This time last year we celebrated our first-ever win from a penalty shoot-out, but normal service was resumed as Alex Akrofi’s effort hit the bar and Hythe Town competently put all five of their penalties away.

On a night as dismal as the weather, the hardy 173 people endured a woeful first half in which the only shining lights were the bright new bulbs in the floodlights.

Two early substitutions, Luke Blewden taking a knock to a knee and requiring a replacement in Joe Turner after just eight minutes and six minutes later Chris Kinnear was replaced by Dominic Welsh.

Nathan Elder headed over and Hythe’s ex-Angels’ goalkeeper, Louis Lawlor saved well low to his left from Jack Parter. For their part, Ryan Palmer shot straight at Jonny Henly and Sid Sollis shot wide after Henly saved from Jerson Dos Santos. But the referee’s half-time whistle brought mostly sighs of relief.

If the weather got worse in the second half, the game improved … marginally.

Hythe created a couple of early chances before Tonbridge took control of the game and produced a grandstand finish from which they should have produced a winner but this was denied by a combination of poor finishing and some very good keeping from Lawlor.

In the final ten minutes, it became a contest between Akrofi and Lawlor with the goalkeeper coming out on top especially with a brilliant close range stop after a cross from Dan Thompson.

The penalty shoot-out, with Tonbridge’s history, was barely surprising. Akrofi’s miss came from the very first spot kick whilst Hythe’s five were faultless.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Dartford 1 Swindon Town 5

Match 55/17/1505 - Sunday, 5th November 2017 - FA Cup 1R

Dartford (0) 1 Murphy 83
Swindon Town (3) 5 Elsnik 13,26 Smith 24 Linganzi 47 Mullen 50
Attendance: 2,705

Entrance: £7 Senior
Programme: £2.50
Mileage: 62/3,713

Match Report

The magic of the FA Cup is principally founded on the upset result. That is why the BBC turned up at Hyde United on Friday and BT Sport at Chorley on Monday. MK Dons and Fleetwood might not represent the greatest scalps in the competition, but they are exactly that to the non-league clubs in opposition.

So it was, as a group of Gillingham supporters, that we turned up at Princes’ Park in the fervent hope that Dartford might turn over our long-term rivals Swindon Town. There was reason for optimism, Dartford top National League South but Swindon arrived in Kent with an impressive away record of six wins in eight.

But the visitors turned in a display of clinical finishing that blew away the hopes of Dartford.

Dartford started well and a cross from Alfie Pavey caused panic in the Swindon defence but, on 12 minutes, Amine Linganzi, who looked like the player Gillingham thought they had bought from Accrington in 2013 rather than the one they got, fired in a shot that Deren Ibrahim parried into the path of Timi Elsnik who powerfully drove the ball home from the edge of the box.

Swindon took control of the game and scored twice in four minutes to effectively end the game as a contest. Harry Smith, once a loanee at Tunbridge Wells, rifled home a shot into the top corner from 20 yards and Elsnik headed home a cross from Matt Taylor.

To their credit, Dartford’s heads didn’t go down and they created a couple of half chances before the break with Elliott Bradbrook bringing a save out of Reice Charles-Cook and Lee Noble firing narrowly wide.

Any hopes of respectability died early in the second period when Linganzi scored from outside the box in the first minute and a great run and cross from John Goddard gave Paul Mullin a tap in.

A goal, eight minutes from time, from Richard Sho-Silva, after Tom Murphy’s effort came back off the post was a worthy consolation for the Darts.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Gillingham 2 Leyton Orient 1

Match 54/17/1504 - Saturday, 4th November 2017 - FA Cup 1R

Gillingham (1) 2 Parker 20 Eaves 75
Leyton Orient (0) 1 Dayton 78
Attendance: 3,659

Entrance: £10.75 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 58/3,651

Match Report

No matter how bad your season has been, come November and the First Round of the FA Cup, you can begin to dream again. If, and this has not regularly been the case with Gillingham in recent years, you scratch your way through that opening hurdle, get a favourable home draw in the Second and, all of a sudden, Manchester United at Old Trafford or Tottenham at Wembley is a viable dream. Not that that ever happens to the Gills, they have never drawn United whilst clubs like Burton Albion have come out the hat twice in a relatively short time.

The first part has been achieved, it was indeed scratchy, and now we await the favourable draw, albeit with the knowledge of Gillingham and the FA Cup, that even that is no certainty of passage to Third Round Heaven.

Such is the public’s affection for the FA Cup these days, I was not able to purchase my normal Gordon Road Stand seat as this was given over to the Leyton Orient supporters, thus leaving the Brian Moore stand unoccupied. Not that I was even going to buy a ticket, only a last minute change of plan brought about by a lack of water supply at Enfield brought me the Rainham End.

There have been signs of improvement at Priestfield and Steve Lovell is staking claims to a permanent role as manager and, with Mr Scally’s love of a windfall, perhaps the £18,000 prize money will strengthen his hold on the job.

I must admit it is hard to acknowledge the fact that Orient came to Priestfield as a non-league side. A club that once graced the First Division (before its rebranding as the Premier, remember there was football pre-1992), it definitely shows that, despite my dislike for our chairman, you have to be very careful for what you wish. One bad owner, two bad seasons and you find yourselves out of the Football League, a salutary lesson.

The game was much like Gillingham's season so far, unpredictable. At half-time they were good value for their 20th minute lead acquired when Elliott List crossed for Josh Parker to head home.

First half dominance became a second half living on fragile nerves as Orient sought an equaliser. The Gills were indebted to Tomas Holy who made three spectacular saves in the space of five minutes turning aside a header from Macauley Bonne; a dipping volley from David Mooney and the best of the lot, spreading himself to keep out a close range header from Jamie Sendles-Wright.

When Tom Eaves shrugged off the attentions of Sendles-Wright to fire low into the far corner, the second round beckoned but Gillingham still deigned to make hard work of the final minutes conceding with 12 minutes to go when a free kick from James Dayton beat everybody in a crowded box to nestle in the corner of the net.

Leyton Orient sensed a way back into the tie but this disappeared with the dismissal of Joe Widdowson for two bookable offences in the space of six minutes.

Time for dreamers ...

Glebe 1 Beckenham Town 3

Match 53/17/1503 - Friday, 3rd November 2017 - SCEFL

Glebe (1) 1 Zeppo 40
Beckenham Town (1) 3 Atkins 25,75 Farrell 49
Attendance: 155
New Ground: 319

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 72/3,593

Match Report

The game was played to a backdrop of a local firework display that was impressive and worth the entrance free alone and the game on the pitch was not short of the odd incendiary that either.

Now, I’m not heading down the anti-Beckenham road as is commonplace in the SCEFL community but it does seem, whether they are the culprits or otherwise, that a little skirmish is part and parcel of every game. On this occasion, it was Glebe’s Max Fitzgerald that saw red after an exchange of pleasantries with Beckenham’s Al Hassan.

Beckenham have put in two decent performances that I have viewed in the last fortnight at Rusthall and this one at Foxbury Avenue. I don’t think they have the capability of challenging Crowborough or Sevenoaks for the title this term, but they are much improved from last season.

After abortive attempts through a pre-season friendly that wasn’t played in the main stadium to a waterlogged pitch, I was finally able to pay my money to the young lady stationed in her beehive hut. There is a 100-seat Atcost, a covered enclosure behind the far goal and the playing surface looked very good. All very tidy. Whilst I didn’t use the clubhouse, it looked from the outside an excellent and well-used facility.

Friday night football brought a good crowd although my guesstimate was quite a long way in excess of the official given figure of 155.

Beckenham made much of the early running without particularly stretching Dean Nash in the Glebe goal but it was the visitors that took the lead after 19 minutes when a cross from the left found the head of Richard Atkins to glance the ball past Nash.

Shameek Farrell rattled the Glebe crossbar before the fracas that saw Fitzgerald seeing red. What actually happened in unclear, but a Becks player went to ground and needed treatment for what appeared to be a clash of heads before the referee consulted his assistant and handed out his punishment.

If there was any injustice it spurred Glebe into life and a fine run and shot from Brian Zepo into the bottom corner to level the scoreline at the break.

Beckenham quickly got their noses back in front when a shot from the edge of the box from Farrell found the bottom corner.

After 69 minutes the visitors as good as wrapped up the game when a shot from distance was spilt by Nash for Atkins to touch home the rebound.

Beckenham were good value as was the entertainment on the field and in the night sky.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Heybridge Swifts 2 Tonbridge Angels 1

Match 52/17/1502 - Tuesday, 31st October 2017 - FA Trophy 1R Replay

Heybridge Swifts (0) 2 Callander 48,58
Tonbridge Angels (0) 1 Akrofi 81
Attendance: 224
New Ground: 318

Entrance: £4 Senior
Programme: £2
Mileage: 146/3,521

These are troubled times at Tonbridge Angels. They may be only three points off the play-off zone but the style of football has not been to the liking of many and this Trophy defeat at the hands of Heybridge Swifts consigned the club to first round exits in both of the major FA competitions to lower level sides without a penny in prize money.

Saturday’s first encounter brought goals aplenty as both defences failed to cover themselves with much in the way of glory but at least the game was competitive throughout. In this replay, what concerned the travelling support most was their side’s lack of competitiveness. Alex Akrofi scored a goal with nine minutes to go and with four added minutes that stretched closer to six, there was time for a grandstand finish, but it never happened.

Tonbridge were fortunate to get to the break goalless as any hope that Heybridge’s attentions might be set on Sunday’s FA Cup First Round game at League Two Exeter City were dispelled.

Joun Luque set the template for the half when he shot over after five minutes but was to be the tormentor-in-chief for the entire 90 minutes.

Heybridge created a succession of chances with Luque at the heart of everything. He had a shot deflected onto the top of the net; a run and shot-cum-cross that begged a touch at the far post and another that brought a save out of Jonny Henly.

Added to Luque’s threat there was Luke Callender whose 28th minute header was tipped over by Henly and a free header that he steered wide six minutes before the break.

If all that sounds one-way traffic, it was.

Tonbridge’s first half good fortune (or Heybridge’s wastefulness) was not to last long into the second period. Callender rolled the ball across his body, took Callum Adonis-Taylor out of the game and fired into the far corner from a tight angle.

The visitors were sparked into a brief revival with Danny Thompson stretching Danny Sambrook for the first time followed by Xavier Vidal firing over.

But this fightback was brought to a halt when a cross from Harrison Chatting found the unchallenged head of Callender to double the Swifts advantage.

Tonbridge changed the strike force with the introduction of Akrofi and Nathan Elder in an effort to unsettle the central defensive partnership of Ryan Henshaw and Jack Cawley whose evening had been serenely untroubled.

A free kick from Joe Turner found the head of Elder and from the loose ball Akrofi fired goalwards with a defender on the line only helping the ball into the roof of the net.

It should have set-up a final onslaught but Sambrook wasn’t tested in those finals moments.

A dumbfounded Steve McKimm was almost at a loss to find answers for his side’s lack of competitiveness.

A cup defeat always sharpens opinions and losing to a lower league side, albeit that Tonbridge were Heybridge’s fourth higher league scalp of the season, only heightens the criticism. For some the knives are out; for others diamonds (in terms of formation) are not forever. Some good cheer is certainly needed quickly.

This was a first visit to Scraley Road and it was a pleasant place to visit leaving aside the result. The first thing that catches the eye is pitch, which not only looked a good surface but was large. Straddling the half-way line on both sides there are seating enclosures from which the view is probably (I didn't sit down) spoilt by the multitude of uprights supporting the roof. There was covered standing behind the far goal with the clubhouse and dressing rooms behind the other. The car parking was described as ample and I found a space relatively easy but I was actually glad to be hanging around for 30 minutes after the game because the exit looked like it was going chaotic.