The Start Of A New Era
Saturday 12th July 2014
—Margate FC 3 AFC Wimbledon 0—
Last Friday, there was an exciting Fans Forum – in which chairman Bob Laslett treated us to a presentation of what changes he had made & what ones would continue to work on – new seating was mentioned, along with various other ground improvements, ranging from changes to the car park and the club shop.
This was swiftly followed by manager Terry Brown informing the fans about Margate’s latest signings, and his outlook for the season ahead.
He pulled no punches, and while I feel we should remain grounded, it really does promise to be an exciting time for Margate Football Club.
Luckily we didn’t have too long to wait to see football back at Hartsdown Park, with League Two side AFC Wimbledon the opposition, in Margate’s first home pre-season friendly.
With both Terry Brown & assistant manager Stuart Cash having an illustrious history with our opponents, as well as our current squad containing a fair number of ex-Dons, I think it’s fair to say that our fans were looking forward to this fixture with some relish.
Indeed, there was a palpable air of excitement as soon as I entered the bar, where stalwart fan Dan Boyle was sat with a huge grin on his face – although it was hard to tell if it was due to the match, or AFC Wimbledon’s physio turning out to be a rather attractive blonde!
In all seriousness, it was great to catch up with Dan & other fans such as Harvey, Dave Miles & Keith Lewis, not to mention Stu, who attended with his girlfriend Shannon & his dad, whom it was a pleasure to meet.
Shannon didn’t seem to approve of my cap sadly, and her point was later driven home by an ever cheerful Rick, who gave me a big smile and enquired “What the hell is that on your head?”
Safe to say I’ll be leaving it at home next time round!
I wandered down to pick up the fantastic new-look programme & take a glance at the club shop – it’s fair to say my jaw dropped open in amazement (I vaguely remember picking it up again some time after the game ended)
The amount of Margate merchandise was truly astonishing, from new polo shirts, combined home & away scarves, mugs, hoodies.. it’d be impossible to do the shop justice in print, but needless to say it’s worth checking out – truly a MFC treasure trove!
I was under orders from Press Officer Ryan Day to not leave without spending at least £500, but owing to finance issues (which mainly involved not having that amount of money in my wallet) I settled for treating myself to a new scarf & polo shirt.
The friendly young lady behind the counter told me that the new replica shirts were likely to be in within a week or two – so even more to look forward to there!
Rick & Harvey both popped in as well, Rick kindly handing me a leaflet in regards to away travel next season.
I’ll let the picture speak for itself, but it really is a bargain – I hope the Mini Shark Lads in particular take advantage of this great offer, as they once again did themselves proud in cheering the team on yesterday, and it’d be great if the lads could make it to some away games as well.
Harvey also came bearing a gift, as we looked at old MFC programmes, he kindly gave me a copy of ‘Blues News’ which was a superb matchday magazine put together by the members of MISA (or MSC, as they are now known)
It might not be my place to say, but if that was to get going again, I know our supporters would be very lucky – I particularly enjoyed reading the interviews with a quartet of players Margate had at the time (these being Aaron Beech, Dan Young, Lloyd Blackman & Sam Cliff) as well as the light-hearted jokes & famous player quotes section of the magazine.
As various other familiar faces flooded into the ground, it was almost like coming home, in a way – I can only apologise if that sounds a bit corny or sentimental!
Wimbledon had brought a good number of fans down, and the attendance of 747 was a very impressive one.
Time does seem to fly before Margate games, and yesterday was no exception – there was just enough time to catch up with Mel and her husband Steve (not to mention Larry Lemur!) before George accidentally copped a football full in the face, and to see the introduction of our two new mascots, Margator & Alice Gator (I’d like to point out that these two incidents were in no way related) before we made our customary dash to the new & improved Coffin End, as Margate kicked off.
For a temporary stand, I was really impressed by the new seating – although it did seem to put us off singing, for some unknown reason! In the words of Stu, “You can’t sing sitting down” although I’d have to disagree with him there – I’m sure we’ll get used to it!
With so much going on off the pitch, the game was a welcome return to reality – Margate fielded a strong lineup (although we were without Luke Williams & Jack Bennett)
Wimbledon also fielded a strong side – you know your defence is in for a tough time when they’re facing the likes of Adebayo Akinfenwa (or ‘Beast’ as he likes to be known!) Charlie, who was sitting in front of me & looking remarkably like Joey Essex with his latest hairstyle, observed that Akinfenwa was a one-man wall – I honestly couldn’t disagree with him there!
Despite the obvious disadvantage of facing a side three rungs above them in the football pyramid, Margate took the game to Wimbledon, with Ryan Moss & Jason Prior toiling well together up front.
At the back, Charlie Wassmer & Brett Johnson looked resolute, and with both Charlie Allen & Kane Wills pulling the strings in midfield, I was very impressed with our playing style.
With half an hour gone, Gate’s mecurial right back Mitchell Nelson fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off – his replacement, Adam Cash, filled in admirably though.
Margate continued to dominate possession, and deservedly took the lead, when a cross-cum-shot from Sam Rents evaded the diving Dons custodian – my first impression was that Sam definitely went for goal – I didn’t get the chance to ask him after the game, sadly!
On the stroke of half-time, Gate went two up, with Brett Johnson seizing on some hesitancy in the Dons defence to slot home.
As the half time whistle blew, I think it’s fair to say that we were all a bit shell-shocked (and impressed!) by the performance & scoreline – as Andy Payne said after the game, it was definitely the boys in blue & white who were looking very much the League Two side!
Both sides made changes at the break, with young keeper Tommy Beadle replacing Nikki Bull, with Jamie Stuart & Tom Phipp also coming on, to replace Brett Johnson & Jason Prior respectively.
Cultured midfielder Phipp had an almost immediate impact, as his slide-rule pass put Luke Moore through – after waltzing past the Wimbledon defence, he calmly finished to make it 3-0 to the Gate, and to put the home fans in dreamland (no pun intended!)
In truth, Wimbledon had the better of the second 45, and Tommy Beadle did well to repel the shots that were coming his way – he fully deserved his clean sheet – and there was also time for young prospect Joshua ‘JJ’ Donnelly to come on & show some excellent aerial ability, cheered on by the Choir & Mini Shark lads, who definitely found their voices in the second half!
We also found time to serenade chairman Bob Laslett, who looked as pleased as punch with Margate’s performance, and in time-honoured fashion, we also serenaded Larry Lemur.
Before long, the final whistle blew to end what was an incredible performance by Margate – a well deserved victory, and although it’s only pre-season, I feel the squad have given the Gate faithful much to look forward to, for the season ahead.
The Ryman League fixtures come out on Monday, and it’ll be interesting to see who we line up against first – not to mention who we play over the Christmas & New Year period.
As for myself, I’ll definitely be checking to see when we have Bognor Regis Town away – really hoping for another weekender there!
I’d like to finish off this blog by mentioning Terry – her sponsor lounge hoodoo was broken in the most spectacular of fashions, and we could still hear her dulcet tones from the Coffin End!
In Terry’s absence, Mel graciously took over the Away Keeper Arse-O-Meter; with Wimbledon changing their goalie at halftime, it was truly “An arse of two halves” in her words!
Mel’s Away Keeper Arse-O-Meter –
“The first one got a 7 for his banter, and the sub got a 6 – nothing special really”
Although it’s early days, there seems to be a huge feel-good factor around the club at the moment, with the Margate fans very much looking forward to the season ahead.
Up The Gate!