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The Art Of Winning Ugly

Tuesday 9th September 2014

—Margate FC 2 Witham Town 1—

The most fitting way I can describe the last two games, comes courtesy of a quote from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (who seems to be looking more and more like Swiss Toni of the Fast Show fame as time goes by!)

"Managing a football team, is very much like making love to a beautiful woman..."

“Managing a football team, is very much like making love to a beautiful woman…”

Swiss Toni

Swiss Toni

He once said that “If you eat caviar every day, it’s difficult to return to sausages”.

Not to drum home the point too finely, but I’d definitely say our two 5-1 victories over Billericay and Lewes have been the caviar performances, and although we’ve had a slight blip (if you can call drawing with a well-drilled Leiston side & being unlucky enough to lose with the last kick of the game against Dulwich Hamlet, who are a superb footballing side themselves, a blip) it’s definitely pleasing to see Margate pull together and return to winning ways, even if the performances have been somewhat sausage-like!

Last Saturday was definitely a day to remember – foolishly believing I could lug Gary Gator on a roasting morning was a mistake though, although thankfully Dan Boyle saw me huffing and puffing, and ordered us a cab to Hartsdown Park – a true gent!

Ted Pittman was good enough to allow Gary his own seat for the journey, and as we set off for the early kick-off in Essex, talk turned to familiar matters.

As Dan perused my copy of FHM (just to clarify – it isn’t a dodgy magazine!) Steve Furlong decided to play matchmaker once again for the physio-loving lothario (I’m expecting to see Steve hosting Take Me Out or Blind Date any day now!)

Various possibilities were mooted, but sadly Dan declined all offers – even an old flame of mine in Ramsgate (which is quite an appropriate phrase, seeing as she’d probably set my place alight, given half the chance!)

But I digress.

Dan was content to take whatever life threw at him, whether it be local singers, female physios or Margate ladies’ team members, and closed the subject by kindly passing his Haribos around.

As the journey continued, the other highlights were Andrew Ganderton expressing his opinion that there was an actual person inside Gary Gator, and Terry’s son Arthur challenging me to beat his high score on the Nokia Snake game – I’d like to say I gave him a run for his money, but I hadn’t played it for ages (Well, that was my excuse anyway!)

We reached Hornchurch in what seemed like no time at all, and after picking up a programme (which I later managed to leave on the train back – Mr Forgetful here!) Terry & I left Gary Gator plonked on the nearest seat, and while the good lady retired for a beer and a hot dog (accompanied by some superb banter from Rick, I’m saying no more!) I wandered round the stadium, doing my pre-match geekery routine of taking photos.

It was almost like doing a lap of the track at Sports Day, in fairness – although sadly on this visit, coach Simon Pridmore didn’t do his Usain Bolt impression, this time round!

Gator at the Turnstiles!

Gator at the Turnstiles!

Egg & Spoon race, anyone?

Egg & Spoon race, anyone?

 

When I got back from my wanderings, I bumped into Annie from the Hornchurch forum, and exchanged cheerful hellos, before noticing that Gary Gator had already found himself a fan club, courtesy of a mum and her young son, who enjoyed taking photos of him – thankfully, fame hasn’t gone to Gary’s head just yet!

Before the game kicked off, Jim worryingly chose to use me as a visual guide to how Lewis Taylor broke his cheekbone against Dulwich – although I’m thankful to say he stopped short of elbowing me in the face! I also bored all and sundry with the fact that I’d been in the same school class as Hornchurch’s number 8, Tom Davis.

Kick-off arrived, and sadly Margate started with all the speed and tenacity of myself after a Doner Kebab – if this wasn’t bad enough, we had a few Hornchurch fans feeling the need to criticise our support and indulge in the ‘moneybags’ jibes – to be fair, this atmosphere wasn’t helped by me asking one of the men if they were on crack, after he applauded one of the many nonsensical decisions from the referee.

Thankfully, this didn’t go any further – next time I’ll do the right thing like Terry did, and simply walk away.

Presumably getting a rollicking from Terry Brown helped the players in the second half, as Gate started with a lot more purpose. In truth, Hornchurch had a few chances throughout the game too, seeing a goalbound shot blocked by their own man, and hitting the post.

Lewis Taylor gave us (and the Margate dugout) something to cheer about, by curling home a delightful effort after a clearance hit Charlie Allen and fell well for him, and Jason Prior notched his first goal for the club, with a well-placed strike late on, to seal a 2-0 win.

(While on the subject of goalscoring, I must say congratulations to Martin and Jo’s son Jack – who notched 5 goals in a 6-3 win in Margate U8’s game against Herne Bay Harriers – terrific stuff, mate!)

This never fails to make me smile! (All credit to Don Walker for this superb photo)

This never fails to make me smile! (All credit to Don Walker for this superb photo)

Walking out of the ground, the Hornchurch fans were all smiles as they graciously wished us the best for the season – and I was pleased to see them earn their first win at VCD last night – I can’t see them staying at the lower ends of the table for too much longer.

It was a contented coach journey back (despite Steve heartbreakingly losing his accumalator in the 90th minute) and even my disappointment at losing my programme on the train home didn’t dampen my spirit – apparently, this was the first time that we’d beaten Hornchurch at their ground.

And so to Tuesday night, where we took on newly promoted Witham Town. I learnt from past mistakes and took Gary Gator in the cab, although his presence seemed to unnerve the driver, as he decided to take me on a scenic route of St Peters and Cliftonville, before eventually arriving at Hartsdown Park.

Catching up with Fraser and Frankie was a pleasure, as was meeting up with Mel, Steve & his daughter Yasmin – who Dan charmed into the obligatory post-match photo (you smooth talker, you!) Ivesy couldn’t resist photobombing, but that made it an even cooler picture, in my eyes.

Smooth Operator!

Smooth Operator!

Game-wise, Margate couldn’t have started better – a strike by Luke Williams was parried out by the friendly Witham custodian (who had to put up with being called Chico all night!) and Ryan Moss slotted in the rebound.

Although defensively, Witham looked frail, they were a very pacy, counter-attacking side, and I thought their left winger was superb – a thorn in our side all game! Thankfully our lead was doubled, as Tom Phipp seemed to get a touch on a goalbound strike from Zac Attwood, and for the most part, Margate looked fairly comfortable.

Unfortunately, some injuries were picked up, which knocked us out of our stride a bit, and in between talking to Beth Marshall (who had made a heroic dash to the fives pitch to pick up some tracksuits for the Margate mascots – it was a bit chilly!) Witham pulled a goal back on the hour mark, their striker crashing an unstoppable volley past this month’s Ryman Golden Gloves winner, Nikki Bull, which made the last half hour a slightly tense one!

I felt Witham put in a good performance and could consider themselves unlucky not to gain a point – although thankfully our defence held strong, along with some superb saves by Nikki Bull – three points well earned, ahead of our trip to Folkestone Invicta in the FA Cup this weekend.

Rick Simmons was kind enough to organise a car pool for this game, and the club came up trumps in the end by offering coach travel for £5 – needless to say, thanks to Rick & the clubs generosity, I don’t think travel should be a problem!

Here’s hoping for a good result at the Fullicks Stadium, before Tuesday night sees us travel to North London, where we face Enfield Town – the games really are starting to come thick and fast!

Terry, Mel & Beth’s Away Keeper Arse-O-Meter

I was lucky enough to have Terry, Mel and Beth all give their views on the derriere of the Witham custodian (who definitely wasn’t called Chico and had superb banter throughout the game) their marks varied from a 6 to an 8, although they unanimously agreed that his banter pushed him up to full marks – giving him a 10 out of 10 on the Arse-O-Meter scale.

Post-match, Larry Lemur and Mel came into their own with their backing of the ‘Ryan Moss / #FearTheBeard’ campaign – the results of which are displayed below.

All I can say is, roll on Saturday.

Up The Gate!

#FearTheBeard

#FearTheBeard

#FearThe Beard / #CousinIt

#FearThe Beard / #CousinIt

Charlie Allen, is that you?

Charlie Allen, is that you?

 

 

Deflated In Dulwich

Tuesday 2nd September 2014

—Dulwich Hamlet 2 Margate FC 1—

Recently, some friends and I were discussing the possible outcome of the next two games (against Leiston and Dulwich Hamlet) and the overwhelming feeling was that we would be happy with four points from these two games.

Leiston proved to be a very hard nut to crack, with their goalkeeper and defence in particular putting in superb performances, although I felt Margate were worth at least a draw – which was gained courtesy of a late equaliser from talismanic midfielder Charlie Allen.

The Gate faithful, who had once again turned up in their droves (another 700+ attendance, many wearing costume beards in honour of prolific striker Ryan Moss – these were kindly purchased by Margate Youth Secretary Beth Marshall) recognised that the team had put in a superb performance, which was reflected as they applauded the players from the pitch.

Fear The Beard! (All credit to Beth Marshall for the photo)

Fear The Beard! (All credit to Beth Marshall for the photo)

It was superb to hear the Choir in full voice, and there was an excellent atmosphere at Hartsdown Park, one which I hope can be continued at future games – I genuinely feel it does make a big difference.

There was another reason to feel proud of the Margate supporters last Saturday, and it really showed the ‘friendly family club’ image that makes me proud to be a Margate fan.

At our home game against Billericay, a young girl unfortunately was hit by a football, following a clearance by an opposition defender – after concerned enquiries regarding her wellbeing on Facebook, the girl’s mother was pleased to say that her daughter (Abby) was fine, and already looking forward to the next Margate game!

A whip-round last Saturday to get Abby a Margate home shirt was promptly organised, with many fans chipping in – coach Simon Pridmore offered to get the shirt signed by the squad too, which really went down well – Abby’s mother referred to Margate fans as ‘true stars’, and I really would have to echo her sentiments there!

Our point gained against Leiston kept us top of the League by a point, although this was soon relinquished following a difficult away trip to Dulwich Hamlet on Tuesday night.

Meeting up with Dan Boyle beforehand was a pleasure – and the young man was in fine spirits as he recounted the Interseptors gig he’d attended at the Britannia recently – to say he enjoyed it was an understatement!

Someone's back on form!

Someone’s back on form!

I must confess to feeling nervous before our journey to South London – although the Dulwich fans are a great bunch, the memory of losing to them three times last season still weighed heavily on my mind – I was definitely hoping we could break the hoodoo!

As Dan & I met Wendy at Whitstable station, before she picked up Finney (much to Dan’s delight!) we ended up talking about my birthday that had just passed – it really was a brilliant night, and Pridders’ feeding Dan ice-cream in the time honoured plane fashion will live long in the memory!

*Insert plane noises here*

*Insert plane noises here*

On our way through Whitstable, in which the always delightful and mild-mannered Wendy didn’t have a single attack of road rage at all, we were soon cruising down the motorway to meet Chris & David.

Despite Wendy offering to share the back seat with me and Dan (or a rose between two thorns, as she kindly put it) David was a true gentleman, and offered her the front seat with Chris.

The journey up to South London was mainly spent discussing our hopes for the game ahead, not to mention that the cabbage patch at Aveley would work against Maidstone, as they played Hornchurch – but not even the crop circles at the Mill Field could stop the fellow Kent side winning 2-0.

On arrival at Champion Hill, after Chris had negotiated Sainsbury’s car park, both Wendy and I were lucky enough to get in as concessions – I knew my student card would be good for something!

I indulged in my usual pre-match geekery and took some pictures of the ground, a couple of which are included below –

Champion Hill - home of Dulwich Hamlet

Champion Hill – home of Dulwich Hamlet

Dulwich Hamlet - Main Stand

Dulwich Hamlet – Main Stand

All this before I was greeted by a friendly rugby tackle by Stu, not to mention catching up with the familiar faces of the Gate faithful – it was great to see Jake and Mark there in particular, as they led the singing in the second half. They were also joined by Ivesy, Sarah & Ivesy’s new beachball, which just so happens to have a rather artistic picture of Mickey Mouse on it!

Before kick-off, I had to apologise to Wendy, as it turned out that Inigo Echepare, Dulwich’s Spanish keeper, wasn’t playing – he was replaced by the friendly blonde chunk Phil Wilson – he still claims he’s 30!

As the game kicked off, Margate were playing some beautiful football, pinging the ball about almost at will, and showing why so many people have backed them to win this League – a good start was made even better, as Lewis Taylor curled a sublime effort past the despairing dive of Wilson – we even had time for a quick Poznan!

It must be said that Dulwich grew into the game, as time went on – our cause wasn’t halped by Lewis Taylor having to depart the field due to a facial injury – I felt this disrupted the rhythm of the team, somewhat.

Worse was to follow, as a hot-dog deprived Ivesy vented his frustration by tipping my rather stylish cap (ahem) onto the pitch – cue the tweet below!

As the half time whistle blew, Dulwich custodian Phil Wilson kindly handed me back my cap, as Dan and myself made our way to the other end of the pitch, indulging in some random Inbetweeners impressions on our way – well hey, it kept us entertained, anyway!

(Just to clear up any misunderstandings, we didn't jump on any cars, unfortunately)

(Just to clear up any misunderstandings, we didn’t jump on any cars, unfortunately)

In truth, the second half seemed to go by with a bit of a blur – although this might still be the heartbreak talking, and I have no doubt that I’ll be re-telling this story on a therapists couch, in the distant future.

"You see, we were 1-0 up, and then..."

“You see, we were 1-0 up, and then…”

Dulwich continued where they’d left off in the first half, and snatched a deserved equaliser, when their player ghosted past a static Gate defence, who were left appealing for an offside flag that never came, and slotted the ball calmly past Nikki Bull.

Many of the Gate faithful weren’t impressed with the referee’s performance, and let him know in no uncertain terms – this later led to me having a rather odd dream that night about screaming at the referee for awarding Dulwich goal after goal for no reason at all, and I believe we were 705 goals down while Mark Sandwell and myself discussed these events while sitting on a bridge, in the middle of the pitch.

But I digress.

Stu and I were both praying for the final whistle, when in slow motion, this happened;

* A long, somewhat hopeful clearance upfield*

*An otherwise solid Charlie Wassmer letting the ball bounce, before a weak header back to Nikki Bull allowed the Dulwich striker to nip in*

*The Dulwich fans roar of delight, as their striker finished calmly*

*Margate having just enough time to kick off, before the ref blew his whistle – we had lost with the last kick of the game*

As the Dulwich players celebrated a touch too emphatically for my taste, especially as we’ve only just reached September (Although this might be me being a tad bitter!) I have vague memories of shuffling to the exit, passing our beaming ex-player Dean McDonald, and wishing him and a couple of Dulwich fans the best for the season, before I passed a pink & blue blur which made up ‘The Rabble’ (Dulwich’s most fanatical supporters)

Reality hit when we reached the sanctuary of Chris’ car, and the normally cheerful & chirpy occupants were utterly deflated – the silence was occasionally broken by a mournful sigh from one of us, and not even Dan’s good-natured attempts at lifting my mood helped – Dan, I can only apologise for sulking, mate!

Reading Facebook when I got in helped a little, and I managed to send a congratulatory tweet to the friendly Dulwich fan I met last season – and possibly the only football fan I know that has been banned from Kingstonian, for rubbing his nipples at one of their matchday stewards – he was in Budapest at the time, but I thought I should congratulate him all the same – stiff upper lip & all that!

While I have to credit the Dulwich fans (811 really is a superb attendance for a midweek game, not to mention the carnival atmosphere they created) it really was heartbreaking to lose the match with the last kick of the game.

In a way, I feel this could well be a blessing in disguise – if any of the Margate fans and players thought that winning the League was but a mere formality, think again – to say getting promotion won’t be easy is an understatement.

I can only echo the wise words of the MFC Beach Ball – with a game against Hornchurch at the weekend, before a Tuesday night home fixture against Witham Town (Olly Murs’ ex-club, no less!) it really is important that we pump ourselves up, ready again for our promotion push.

Up The Gate!

*Many thanks to Wendy Malkinson for her help with the Away Day Keeper Arse-O-Meter*

Wendy’s Away Day Keeper Arse-O-Meter

“He was a big lad, but had good banter and was friendly – 7 out of 10

Drumming Delight In The Driving Rain

Monday 25th August 2014

—Lewes 1 Margate FC 5—

Firstly, I’d like to thank Terry Scott for her help with the latest blog title – with my mind and imagination slightly frazzled by a long day out and a celebratory kebab, she kindly stepped into the breach, & gave me some inspiration.

My Bank Holiday started in familiar fashion – meeting Dan Boyle at Broadstairs station, while silently hoping the game would still be on, owing to the rain in Sussex (and pretty much everywhere else – two Ryman Premier games were postponed yesterday – Kingstonian v VCD, and Met Police v Hampton & Richmond)

Compared to recent excursions, the journey up to Hartsdown Park was pretty uneventful, if truth be told – this mainly owed to us not carrying Gary Gator (Terry kindly offering to escort him) and me not mistaking any bibs on goalposts for Margator.

We were grateful to board the very executive-looking coach, and get in out of the rain – there was a brilliant turnout of fans on there, as the coach was pretty full – although credit to Terry for landing Gary Gator a seat – he had a better view than I did!

As we left at half 11, we were barely into our journey (although there was still time for Ted Pittman to do the football team scratchcard draw, and be accused of fixing it by the otherwise jolly chaps known as Luke, Brad, Justice & a guy who I only ever heard addressed as ‘The Major’ – all top blokes though) when disaster struck.

A loud bang was heard as we were leaving Thanet, which left many of us puzzled – my first guess was that either Rik Waller (or the slightly portly lady from TOWIE* that reminds me of Miss Piggy) had spontaneously combusted.

"Stupid frawwwg!"

“Stupid frawwwg!”

* Disclaimer – I don’t watch the aforementioned show*

Sadly, it turned out to be coach related – I’ve forgotten the details already, but I think it might’ve had something to do with a gasket.

Either way, the end result was that we had to spend some time at Farthing Corner services in Medway, while a replacement coach came to meet us.

This appeared in what seemed like no time at all, leading Luke & Brad to loudly wonder if it was being driven by The Stig, of Top Gear fame.

And so our journey continued, with Terry continuing to look for llamas, and Ted (allegedly) yet again fixing the scratchcard results.

In all the excitement, by not looking at my phone for a while, I had missed out on the thrilling adventures of Ivesy, Alex & Sarah, who were making the journey up by train – with a beach ball that Ivesy had purchased, seemingly on a whim.

Within no time at all, the beach ball had managed to commandeer Ivesy’s phone, and create itself a Twitter account – some of its adventures and meanderings are detailed below.

 

As the beach ball enjoyed a morning beer and meeting MFC Chairman Bob Laslett, we continued to make our way into Sussex – although time was sadly not on our side, and the weather appeared to be worsening outside, leading to speculation that we might miss the kick-off.

Thankfully this wasn’t the case, as we arrived at 2:45, at a rather wet Dripping Pan – home of Lewes FC.

Lewes FC

Lewes FC

 

Making our way down the rather steep terracing, Terry kindly entrusted me with looking after Gary Gator, while she took the chance to grab a well deserved beer and a burger.

Yet again, there was an incredible turn-out of Gate fans – by my estimate, I’d say between 80 and 90 hardy souls made the journey to Sussex – these included Stu, George & their respective dads – George’s dad Nik showed me his purchase of a drum, but sadly remarked that it didn’t come with drumsticks – however he improvised superbly with his umbrella!

Martin Parrish was also there with his family, and a mini version of Gary Gator, who definitely looked the business – there was even time for a couple of Gator selfies before kick-off!

Gary Gator Selfie #1

Gary Gator Selfie #1

Gary Gator Selfie #2

Gary Gator Selfie #2

As the teams came out, cheered on by the vociferous Gate faithful, before long we were underway.

It must be said that I don’t have fond memories of The Dripping Pan – purely because a nonsensical decision early on in this fixture last season reduced us to ten men, and we ended up losing 3-0.

Thankfullly, within five minutes, these memories were starting to be erased, as a clinical finish from goal machine Ryan Moss put us 1-0 up – sadly, this was cancelled out about five minutes later, as some slack defending allowed a Lewes Fellaini lookalike to equalise.

Despite the conditions, Gate were continuing to play their brand of stylish passing football, and we deservedly went 2-1 up, with Moss again on the scoresheet, after expertly flicking home Kane Wills’ well placed free kick.

Controversy was to follow after, as Lewes this time were reduced to ten men – their number 4 being perhaps harshly dismissed for a professional foul – the referee seemed to play advantage as Jason Prior managed to stay on his feet, but eventually pulled play back and sent the protesting defender off.

This only added to Margate’s domination (and obligatory chanting of ‘Super Bob’) at a cheerful and dapper Mr Laslett, although we couldn’t turn our possession and chances into goals, as the half-time whistle blew.

Nonetheless, it was a very happy Gate crowd that made their way to elsewhere in the stadium to watch the second half – most of the sensible Margate faithful took cover in the seated area, but exhilarated at being 2-1 up (that’s my excuse, anyway!) I made my way to the uncovered terrace behind the goal, with Terry, Gary and what ended up being a large number of hardy souls.

I must confess to being slightly worried about us throwing away our lead again, although Charlie Allen eased these fears, as he shot through a defenders legs past an unsighted, surly and short-sleeved Lewes custodian to put us 3-1 up.

By now, Ivesy reckoned, it was time to bring out the aforementioned beach ball.

Sadly, those who live hedonistic lifestyles seem to die by the sword (or in this case, the dog) as Finney mistook the ball for a tasty treat, and promptly deflated it with her teeth.

I decided to serenade our inflatable friend with a ditty of my own making, entitled  ‘Viva The Beach Ball’ but this seemed a hollow gesture – nonetheless, the words are included below for your pleasure (or anguish!)

“Viva the Beach Ball

Viva the Beach Ball

It was Ivesy’s joy

But it got destroyed

Viva the Beach Ball”

(I’m available for weddings, birthdays & bar mitzvahs, should you need me!)

Fortunately, our midfielder Tom Phipp distracted the Gate fans from my singing with a superlative effort that flew into the top corner, to put Margate 4-1 up.

By now, although it continued to pour down, it didn’t dampen our spirits, with Ivesy, Nik, George & Stu dictating various tunes, accompanied by the drum – Brad, Luke et al were welcome accompaniments, as well as Terry’s patented Banshee Shriek!

Singing In The Rain! (all credit to Don Walker for the photo)

Singing In The Rain! (all credit to Don Walker for the photo)

The rest of the game seemed to finish at a canter – I even had time to point out some corporate beach huts to Terry (I’ve got to say, I like the way Lewes think!)

Lewes FC Corporate Beach Huts

Lewes FC Corporate Beach Huts

There was still time for Ryan Moss to crash in a superb strike, following a beautiful assist from Ivesy, to make it 5-1 for the second game in a row.

As the final whistle went, I felt confident enough to start rubbing my hands together and plan my roly-poly down one of the grass banks – an ambition which I had informed many people of – unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to do this due to health and safety reasons (although the Lewes chap did cast me a sympathetic look – I like to think he understood my disappointment!)

One day, my friend... One day.

One day, my friend… One day.

I was also foiled on another ambition, as the electronic scoreboard was promptly reset at full time – fortunately Don Walker came up trumps again, with another terrific photo!

How sweet the sight! (All credit to Don Walker for the photo)

How sweet the sight! (All credit to Don Walker for the photo)

After a brief sojourn in the bar for many of the Gate supporters, I was lucky enough to catch up with Gareth and Alan Anstice, as well as meet a couple of really friendly and good-natured Lewes fans – I wish them all the best for the season (apart from when they visit Hartsdown Park, of course!)

To say it was an elated and musical coach back would be an understatement – with Andy Payne leading chants of “We are top of the league, say we are top of the league!” (accompanied by a couple of the younger lads screeching “Say whaaaat?” as well as indulging in some toilet karaoke, it made for a cheerful journey back – and hearing that the unholy trinity of Maidstone, Dover & Ramsgate had all lost really did top it off – not to mention the gingerbread man that Terry kindly gave me!

I’d like to thank Terry & Andy Payne for helping Dan and I get back to Broadstairs, via cab – as well of course, the Margate Supporters Club & Bayliss Travel for an amazing day out, in the best of company.

Apart from providing Terry’s buttock & burger reviews, what else is there to say but…

Up The Gate!

Terry’s Away Day Keeper Arse-O-Meter

“I’d say about a 5, as he didn’t really have a huge amount of banter – what WAS with those sleeves?! 5 out of 10

Terry’s Away Day Burger Review

“Burger was very tasty, and prepared with somewhat of a flourish – excellent cheese (might have been Emmental?) Salad was good, and the gherkin was a nice added touch – 9.5 out of 10