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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gills dampen my Christmas cheer

After polishing off a few of the day before's leftovers it was the beginning of the traditional Boxing Day football.   I've got to admit, I've never really been a fan of the swish dinners and the gallons of drink and festive cheer that Christmas time brings, but instead just look forward to the mass influx of games that my team are going to undertake in a short period of time.
Anyway, after the day started so well with AFC losing to Oxford at home and my old man spotting in the front garden two magpies (Something about seeing one for sorrow and two for joy) I was looking forward to a game which saw top of the table Crawley host the play-off chasing Gills.  Hessenthaler's men naming a a couple of ex-Crawley transfer targets in their starting eleven with former Peterborough winger Chris Whelpdale lining up on the right hand side of a four man midfield and striker Danny Kedwell, an ex-Wimbledon and Grays forward that always seemed to play well against us.
Kedwell was made welcome by the home fans
Our line up looked strong even without the influential loanee Andy Drury who had returned to Ipswich following his three month loan spell; another loan ranger, this time Michael Doughty replacing Drury in a midfield diamond that saw defender Kyle McFadzean play in the defensive position, Sergio Torres and Dannie Bulman in the middle and QPR man Doughty in the attacking position.
Opposite where I was standing behind the goal, The Gills had packed out their end; 1,300 hardy souls made the short trek from Kent.
An even first eighteen minutes occured before a shambolic backpass from the usually reliable McFadzean saw Jo Kuffour take a touch only to be taken down by Claude Davis and with little hesitation referee Darren Sheldrake showed red to the Jamaican centre back.  McFadzean then was moved to centre back alongside Pablo Mills; a partnership that worked so well during the promotion winning campaign of last season.
OFF: Davis is shown red from Sheldrake
The sending off looked to fire our boys up.  David Hunt's long throw went past everyone before trickling past Ross Flitney's post and Torres also fired wide after a loose ball dropped to his feet.
The breakthrough wasn't soon after when, after winning one header, McFadzean stooped for another only to be clipped on the head by a high Matt Lawrence boot.  Penalty to Crawley and up stepped the in form Matt Tubbs to smash the ball home for his 16th goal in all competitions.  Gillingham then had a little spell straight after the goal that lasted about 3 minutes where they tried to grab themselves a quick reply however we went in at half time a man down but one goal up.
Matt Tubbs smashes home the penalty
The second half saw our visitors come flying out of the blocks and after Chris Whelpdale's ball in, Jo Kuffour sneaked in at the back post before scoring with what looked as if it hit his stomach; the ball squirming past Scott Shearer in the Crawley goal.
Whilst on the subject of Whelpdale's balls, after the game it was confirmed that, after a high challenge where David Hunt was booked, the Gills winger had split his scrotum - an injury that makes every grown man wince!
YELP-DALE!: Winger needed stitches after his unfortunate injury
Kuffour's brace was completed minutes later when, after a Crawley attack, Gillingham caught the Red Devils on the break and after Kedwell fed his strike partner (Strange considering that it’s normally Kedwell the one getting fed) the ball around thirty yards out before the on loan Bristol Rovers man ran and ran and ran at McFadzean, beat the defender before firing past Shearer at his near post from inside the box.
Kuffour has 7 goals in 11 games for the Gills
From here, Crawley huffed and puffed without really earning themselves any noteworthy chances, Mills' effort from twenty yards was comfortably saved by Flitney and, during the five minutes of added time, Gillingham outcast Luke Rooney, who boss Hesenthaler said would never play for the club again after a contract dispute , was sent off after a second booking.
One last chance then occurred for the home side; Josh Simpson's cross was headed into the corner by Tubbs only to see his effort smashed off the line by visiting defender Garry Richards.
The defeat ends our fifteen game unbeaten run as Gillingham extend their to ten
Disappointing result.  We seemed to lack width the whole game.  The diamond never worked at the start of the season before Steve Evans changed the system to the basic 4-4-2 system with wingers.  We definitely missed Drury on the left.  In the 14 games he was here we never lost - He gets recalled and we are defeated!  After the game, I read a worrying stat that Crawley last won a game on Boxing Day against Welling United ten years ago so maybe the omens weren't with us.  
However, onto the next one (As Jay-Z's song goes).  Strugglers Barnet are next to the Broadfield on Friday.  Although they have picked up in recent weeks, I'm quietly confident of a win.

Photos courtesy of

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Clinical Striker Needed For Reds

With January approaching fast and the re-opening of that winter transfer window once again the focus is on Liverpool and where I believe they need to strengthen if they are to achieve a top four place at the end of the season.

It's been just under a year since Kenny Dalglish sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea and at the same time bringing in Luis Suarez from Ajax along with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll.

Luis Cannon: The fiery Suarez hasn't been clinical
However, the partnership between the two hasn't really clicked, Carroll has been injured for most of his Liverpool career only playing 13 games since he arrived on Merseyside and although Suarez has shone, only has five goals to his name so far this season and doesn't look as if he is the 20 goal a season striker Liverpool need to break into the top four.

Everywhere else on the pitch they look solid; the backline Dalglish has the luxury of attacking full backs in Glen Johnson and another former Newcastle player, left back, Jose Enrique as well as picking two out of Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger.  With Pepe Reina between the sticks as well who I believe to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League.

In midfield there are a host of options for the Scousers; summer signing Jordan Henderson, work-horse Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, captain Steven Gerrard and a re-vitalised Lucas when fit fighting for places.  At this present time though, Lucas is out for the season and he will be a big miss for the club (Never EVER thought I would write/say that!)

Lucas is starting to prove his worth
The Reds have only scored more than two league goals once this season (At home to lowly Bolton) showing their lack of fire-power and the clubs in-ability to beat the so called lesser sides such as Norwich City (1-1) and Swansea (0-0) with both results occurring at Anfield.

Its not as if Dalglish has a lack of funds, unlike city rivals Everton.  With John W. Henry taking over the reigns from Tom Hicks and George Gillett last year and promising to trust Dalglish with his cash, the gaffer duly went out and signed Adam from Blackpool (£7m), Henderson from Sunderland (£20m), Downing from Aston Villa (£18m), Sebastian Coates from Uruguayan club Nacional (£7m) and Enrique for (£6m) as well as signing 'keeper Doni and Bellamy on free transfers.

Downing hasn't done the business so far
So, here we are, coming up to late December, almost half way through the 2011-2012 Premier League season and Liverpool are currently in 6th place along with only scoring 18 in 15 games.  I feel that Liverpool NEED top 4 and Champions League football if they are to attract the top quality players.

My message to Kenny - GET A STRIKER IN!

Someone like a Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Mario Gomez, Fernando Torres and, if they get Carlos Tevez, maybe AC Milan will be interested in flogging Alexandre Pato. Dalglish take note!

Pato: Knows where the net is

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cobblers Pin Hopes on Aidy

Northampton Town Football Club - one of those clubs that seem to underachieve season after season today installed former Watford gaffer Aidy Boothroyd as their new manager.

At the start of the season, many bookmakers predicted that The Cobblers would be up there around the top six in League 2 - However, they currently sit in 19th place, two places above the drop zone.

The Summer had been one of hope for Cobblers fans, Gary Johnson, the man who took Bristol City to the Championship play-off Final only three years previously was at the helm and signed some decent players such as Adebayo Akinfenwa for his second stint at the club, Ben Toxer, Aaron Davies and Jake Robinson. Everything was looking rosy until they starting kicking a ball on the pitch.

Johnson and Northampton soon parted company
A disappointing 0-0 bore draw at home to Accrington Stanley set them on their way to a misserable start in the league in what would have been Johnson's first full season as boss at the club.  Despite a 2-1 win away at Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup and beating Aldershot Town away in the same week, Johnson's side then went on a run of nine games without a win - Gaining just one point in this sequence!

Again, Northampton had another week where they won twice consecutively however that was soon halted by a 1-0 home defeat to Crawley Town - The following six games after that saw the side again pick up just one point in the league and getting knocked out by non-league Luton Town in the FA Cup - This was the final straw for Chairman David Cardozo who duly "Parted Company" with Johnson with former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers taking over as Caretaker Manager.

Flowers couldn't stop the rut - His two games in charge were both defeats - 7-2 at home to Shrewsbury Town and 4-1 away to Plymouth (The second half showing must have been better though as they were four down at half time).

So, fifteen points later since the well, it now must be said for Cobblers fans the "Pleasing"? draw against Accrington and two managers later here we are with Boothroyd now in charge of the same players that Johnson and Flowers had. 

This picture sums Northampton's season up
Bradford-born Boothroyd, who has managed in The Premier League with Watford, The Championship with Watford and Coventry and League 1 with Colchester is now in the bottom tier of the Football League with Northampton Town.  He has the job to firstly keep the Sixfields outfit in League 2 before aiming for the play-offs.  Cardozo, it has to be said has been clever in giving his new man at the helm a one year rolling contract which does change the Northampton way in giving managers longer contracts, the team don't perform and then the manager has been given a large pay-off before leaving - Sensible move.

Anyway, I for one wish Northampton luck with Boothroyd at the helm.  Apart from reaching the Premier League through the play-offs what now seems an eternity ago he has done very little else of note.  Still, It can't get much worse at Sixfields can it?!

Boothroyd: The new man at the helm