Sunday, 7 August 2011

One goal at Gills

In summary, our game at Gillingham was 90 minutes of low quality between two sides, neither of whom created very much, settled by a half-chance.
We weren't terrible, and we weren't great either - just sort of 'OK' really, and as you would expect after the first game of the season, there is plenty for Mark Yates to work on, and plenty to improve.
Gillingham were the same - I thought it was an even game where neither side can say they had a concerted spell of pressure and neither side can say they really got on top.
My main worry was that we failed to create a real clear-cut chance in the 90 minutes.
I can't remember Ross Flitney having a shot to save until a Danny Andrew shot in the last few minutes.
Scott Brown wasn't exactly over-employed - he saved a free header from Andrew Frampton and turned two Curtis Weston shots round the post and that was about it.
The journey to Kent was horrendous. We left at 9.30am and it was plain sailing until we hit the anti-clockwise M25, and at 1.30pm we were stuck in the queue for the Dartford crossing.
We were slightly fearful about missing kick-off and therefore the start of the commentary, but managed to get through and reached Priestfield at about 2.15pm - before the poor supporters' bus, which had to stop for the driver to take a break.
We arrived to the team news, which had two real surprises for me - Russ Penn being on the bench and Kaid Mohamed getting the nod.
Our newest recruit Luke Summerfield's selection ahead of Penn can only have been due to Penn's recent lack of match practice after his thigh injury - and I feel that might also have given Kaid his chance.
I thought Yatesy might have played Marlon Pack, Penn and Summerfield, and thought he might have tried 4-5-1 to match Gillingham's set-up, with Smikle and Josh Low joining them.
But the back five which picked itself - Brown, Keith Lowe, Alan Bennett, Steve Elliott and Danny Andrew - lined up with Low and Kaid wide, Pack and Summerfield in the middle and Jeff Goulding with Jimmy Spencer up front.
There was no goalkeeper named on the bench, with Dave Bird, Darryl Duffy, Penn, Smikle and Sido Jombati getting the nod, while Bags Graham, Harry Hooman and Theo Lewis also travelled.
In the first half, I felt the front two were left a little isolated, with at times a gap of 20-25 yards between them and the midfield.
We struggled to get the ball wide, hence Low and Kaid had little impact in the game, bar one run from Kaid which saw Flitney come out and save at his feet.
Pack and Summerfield have not played together much in pre-season and it looked that way as their passing was off radar and they struggled at times against Gillingham's three-man centre midfield.
It was an off-target Pack pass which led to the goal.
He tried to find Summerfield, but the pass went behind him and Gillingham exploited that space with Summerfield taken out of the game to break on us.
Joe Martin got the ball wide, the initial cross was cleared, then the ball was played into the box by Jack Payne and Danny Kedwell's dummy attempt rebounded off Bennett's legs straight to our former loanee Lewis Montrose. He turned and evaded Elliott's attempted block to steer it past Scot Brown.
Our first-half goal attempts were few and far between, a Pack free-kick went wide and Spencer had a volley attempt which he didn't catch properly and it skewed wide off the outside of his foot.
We were the better side in the second half, but Gillingham were happy to let us have the ball 30 yards from goal and soak up the pressure.
Again, our possession was bitty and were unable to string a move together and did not have the nous to find that killer ball to give our strikers any decent service.
Spencer had been booked in the first half and was taken off - probably to save him from being sent off - and Russ Penn came on.
To be honest, I thought this was a slightly strange change - I felt Darryl Duffy should have come on as it left us looking slightly unbalanced for a few minutes.
But Duffy did come on with Smikle for the last 12 minutes and we were back at 4-4-2 - and played against 10 for the last eight minutes.
Gillingham sub Luke Rooney sent Smikle flying on the edge of the box and it looked a bad challenge. Our players - especially Alan Bennett - were furious and Rooney was sent off.
Junior got straight up and did not make a meal of it, but was still ridiculously booed for the last few minutes.
However- we did not look like exploiting our one-man advantage despite winning a few corners and free-kicks and Gillingham held on quite comfortably - Brown's two saves from Weston saving us from losing by more.

Player-by-player
Scott Brown - No chance with the goal and did everything he had to. Kicking was better than it has been and made two good late saves.
Keith Lowe - His usual steady self. Had one chance with a header from a corner but could not get it on target.
Danny Andrew - Coped adequately with Danny Spiller and made some good forward runs. A bit rusty with his corner and free-kick delivery.
Alan Bennett - Thought he had a solid game. He and Elliott only had one striker in Kedwell to deal with, but think their partnership worked well.
Steve Elliott - See Bennett.
Josh Low - Disappointing. Never really got into the game at all. Can't remember him having a decent run or getting a cross in.
Marlon Pack - Unable to influence the game as we would have hoped. Passing a bit 'off' and gave away possession which led to the goal. Also off radar from set-pieces.
Luke Summerfield - Started with a cracking tackle in the opening 15 seconds of the game, but faded as the game went on - a match-fitness issue.
Kaid Mohamed - One or two decent runs and sent a shot over the bar, but had few chances to use his pace and get behind his full-back to cause problems.
Jimmy Spencer - Willing worker and got under the skin of the Gills' defenders, which wasn't a bad thing. Picked up a needless booking in frustration and was taken off partly for his own good.
Jeff Goulding - Worked hard but unable to influence the game or provide the link-up between midfield and attack, and didn't have a shot in the 90 minutes.
Subs - Russ Penn - replaced Spencer, 67 - Keen to make up for lost time when he came on! Flew into tackles from the off, notably one on Jack Payne which may have been a little too exuberant...
Junior Smikle - replaced Low, 79 - Usual effort when he came on. Was fouled for the sending-off.
Darryl Duffy - replaced Summerfield, 79 - Didn't really get into the game.

Managers' views
Mark Yates - "I thought we were the better team and very unlucky not to get anything from it. We had a couple of shots on the break but we dominated in the second half but we fell into the trap of just slinging it into the box when we had that extra man. But overall I'm pleased with the performance and the effort and some of the football we played."
Andy Hessenthaler - "Nice to get off to a winning start. We didn't really get our passing game together but at times you have to grind results out. They came and made it very difficult for us. To keep a clean sheet and three points, we're delighted. We're delighted for Lewis Montrose. He said he could get goals and he did that today.  Second half they played from back to front quickly and made it difficult for us. We're not going to throw negatives at them, but you have to give the opposition credit."

Positives - I thought we competed well and there was good effort and commitment throughout. Defensively, we looked sound and defended better from set-pieces.
Negatives - Lack of threat out wide, hence lack of service for the front two, who looked isolated at times. Passing not good in midfield so we struggled to put many good moves together.

Summary - Disappointing to lose of course, but it's only the first game. We had four debutants in the side (one of whom only signed on Thursday) and two more came off the bench, so it will take a bit of time to gel. Yes, I know they have played together in pre-season, but this is a different intensity. Biggest worry was our lack of goal threat but that will improve as time goes on. I feel Gillingham will still be up near the top as they too get used to each other (they had 6 debutants in the starting side), and I felt we matched them for the majority of the game so I don't feel there is a need to be too downhearted.