From Villains To Heroes
Saturday 14th September 2013
—Margate FC 2 Kingstonian 1—
Perhaps a strongly worded title for this weeks blog about Margate FC, but an apt one for how quickly this group of players can turn mutterings of discontent into real optimism for the season ahead.
After a lackadaisical performance against Leiston, which has been mentioned in this blog previously, Margate then followed this up with a similar display against another midtable side in East Thurrock United. A surprising team selection which left players like Matt Bodkin, Jake Hessenthaler & Charles Ademeno on the bench (although there could be reasons for these changes which only the management are privy to) raised more than a few eyebrows, & ultimately culminated in a largely forgettable game which only sparked into life in the last five minutes.
East Thurrock scored first, (reliving memories of their smash & grab raid here last season) as their striker Leon McKenzie fired home after latching onto a rebound from Hollers’ save – only for this goal to spark the mighty Gate into action, with some quality reflex saves from their goalie keeping us at bay before Scott Kinch stole in like a thief in the night to notch a near post header from an excellent delivery by Matt Bodkin, who had come on as a late substitute.
While I applaud the character of the players to snatch a point, my general feeling was that it was a lacklustre performance – although waking up in the morning & realising we were 4th in the table did make me wonder what I had to criticise! There’s a lot to be said for supporters remaining optimistic, myself included. A lesson learned!
And so to the Kingstonian game on Saturday, an FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round tie. With other sides in our league playing such luminaries as Biggleswade Town, the Gate faithful could be forgiven for feeling that fate was against them, Kingstonian having started the season at a blistering pace, which leaves them 2nd in our league, despite having lost their last two games (against Maidstone United & Bognor Regis Town respectively)
On arrival at the ground, picking up a programme from the always cheerful & smiling Harvey – one of the friendliest guys I know – I glanced at the back & noted the name of Andre McCollin – Kingstonians danger man who has a knack of getting on the score sheet. One to be aware of I felt, although after hearing our team announced over the tannoy – starring Messrs Walsh, Ademeno & Vines (P.) up front, I wondered how nervous the K’s defenders were.. even more so after seeing Matt Bodkin also included in the starting XI I’d imagine!
As the teams trotted out to the familiar, comforting fanfare of ‘Singing The Blues’ and receiving a rapturous reception from the Choir & Mini Shark Lads, the stage was set for a pulsating encounter between the two sides. Margate started brightly, or to put it more eloquently, like a speeding train. Clearly having a point to prove after their indifferent displays in the last two home games, they hustled & harried, with even the early injury suffered by Richard Avery (Avo) due to a trailing elbow – a recurring theme throughout the match – failing to knock them out of their stride, creating some good opportunities which sadly came to nothing.
It’s hard to appreciate fully what ‘against the run of play’ means unless actually at a game.. After having the lions share of possession & chances, Margate fell behind when a ball behind the defence let in the pacey McCollin (would have to be him!) who slotted the ball past Holloway. 1-0 down for the third game in a row, but oddly, I didn’t feel disheartened.
Having previously given Kingstonian things to think about, Charles Ademeno showed his undoubted quality by flying down the left wing, before crossing the ball for Phil Walsh who calmly took the ball under control & curled a subime effort past the despairing dive of K’s keeper Rob Tolfrey. A superb goal which meant that the Blues were behind for just over ten minutes.
Having restored parity, Margate picked up where they left off, highlights including Paul Vines’ excellent hold up play & effort (once he scores his first goal, I have a feeling they’ll fly in!) and a gazelle like run by Ademeno which left Kingstonian’s defence all at sea, before Elliot Cox fired wide when the ball fell to him. The last moments of the first half involved a courageous dive from Tolfrey at Paul Vines’ feet, the keeper picking up an injury which kept him down for some time – & was graciously applauded by the Choir & fellow Gate fans when he was deemed OK to resume play.
As the half time whistle blew, the general consensus was that of positivity, the lads in blue having perked up considerably & showing the team they can be, & in all honesty, making the side two places above them in the League look a very ordinary outfit indeed, & the only deflated thing in the ground was the unfortunate Kevlar Shark, who rivals Darren Anderton or Kieron Dyer in the sicknote stakes, despite some sterling physio work from a certain Mrs T. Scott!
The second half began much the same as the first, Margate exerting all the pressure & rocking Kingstonian back on their heels (boxing analogy to keep you on your toes there!)
Gate’s dominance led to them taking a deserved lead – following a pinball like ricochet in the box, Charles Ademeno skilfully put his leg in the way, impudently deflecting the ball past the bamboozled Tolfrey… Tongue in cheek perhaps, but after he turned in his performance of the season so far, no-one would begrudge Charles his goal. They all count!
Kingstonian, stung by this setback, responded & McCollin had a chance to notch his & the K’s second goal, but for a great block by Hollers, who has a habit of pulling these out the bag in the most unlikely of situations! (one on ones, penalty kicks.. need I say more?)
A puzzling change (later found out this was due to injury) saw Joe Vines (who had been a colossus at the back yet again along with club captain John Beales) depart to be replaced by Warren Whitely, with Walshy dropping back to shore up defence, having played there for Ebbsfleet in the Blue Square Premier – now Skrill Premier- last season.
An excellent defensive display (credit must also go to Ryan Dolby & Eliot Cox for winning their battles all game) frustrated Kingstonian, to such a degree that their sub Ali Chaaban was sent off not long after coming on. Gone In 60 Seconds might be an appropriate summary of his performance, inexplicably lashing out at George Craddock & not endearing himself to the crowd with his conduct while walking off the pitch either.
With five minutes left to play, the referee (who it must be said was having a good game up until this point) decided to take it upon himself to send off the aforementioned Craddock for the heinous crime of contesting a 50/50 challenge. The agonized yell & drop to the ground produced by the K’s number 4 was a masterclass in acting, & George was on his way following his second booking for this incident.
Despite the five minutes of injury time (given I assume for Tolfrey’s injury & Chaaban’s rush of blood which led to him being restrained by some of his own players) Margate held out for a well deserved & excellent win. A competent performance which served as a timely reminder to me, & anyone else who might have had a grumble after Tuesday night – to never write off this team. The players applauded the Gate fans, who were excellent in supporting them throughout, & the Choir’s rendition of Que Sera, Sera was a joy to hear.
Some very useful prize money for the club, & a place in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round (draw to be made Monday) beckons, but most importantly – the team, to a man, put in a masterful performance which reminded every Margate fan just how good their team was.
Two tough away trips in the League are next on the agenda, to Grays (birthplace of Russell Brand) & Dulwich Hamlet – a place stalwart supporter Jim described with a slight shudder. On the plus side, he mentioned – it has got a good pub near the ground!
Here’s hoping for more of the same in both games, and a reason for Gate fans to take even more pride in their team!
Roll on next week…