Friday, 20 January 2012

Gillingham - Priestfield

Gillingham FC
Priestfield Stadium
Redfern Avenue

01634 300000
Official Website

Ground Number: 113
Tuesday 22nd November 2005
Gillingham 2-2 Wycombe Wanderers (Wycombe won 3-1 on penalties)
LDV Vans Trophy


1 The club was formed in 1893 but was originally known as New Brompton up until they changed their name to Gillingham in 1912.

2 The club was founder members of the Southern League in 1894, starting in Division 2 which they would win at the first attempt. They weren't overly successful in Division 1 with the highest finish being 6th. Despite finishing bottom of the table in 1920, they were invited to join the Football League that year. They'd return to the Southern League in 1938, this time a lot more successfully as won the title on three occasions before leaving again in 1950.

3 The poor form continued in their first season in the Football League as they finished bottom of Division 3 South. Poor finishes continued, with their best effort being 7th in 1933 and they would end their first spell in 1938 after another bottom finish. They'd rejoin the Football League in 1950 where they remain to this day. Since the league expanded to four national divisions, finishes have ranged from 20th in Division 4 in 1962 to a high of 22nd in the Championship in 2005 which remains their only season at tier 2 of the Football League.

4 Gillingham enjoyed their best run in the FA Cup in the 1999/2000 season. Starting in the 1st Round they overcame Cheltenham, Darlington, Walsall, Bradford City and Sheffield Wednesday prior to a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea in the Quarter Final. Recent seasons have seen a number of humblings by non-league sides - going out to Brackley Town in 2013 and 2016 as well as Dover Athletic in 2010.

5 The League Cup 4th Round has been reached twice - losing 4-1 at Leicester in 1963 and 1-0 at Ipswich in 1996.

6 Local cup wins include the Kent League Cup in 1946, the Southern League Cup in 1947 and the Kent Senior Cup in 1946 and 1948.

7 The most famous Gillingham fan is football commentator Brian Moore, now sadly dead. His support even inspired a supporters fanzine - Brian Moore's Head Looks Uncannily Like The London Planetarium. Sky Sports reporter Nick Collins is also a Gills fan.

8 The town of Gillingham has a poulation of around 104,000. Famous people to be associated with the town include TV presenter David Frost, chef Gary Rhodes, reality TV 'star' Rik Waller, footballer Ryan Bertrand and as previously mentioned, football commentator Brian Moore.

9: Goalkeeper Ron Hillyard is the record appearance holder for the Gills with 563 outings between 1974 and 1991. Brian Yeo is record goalscorer with 149 goals in 387 appearances between 1963 and 1975. The most they have spent on a player is £600,000 for Carl Asaba from Reading in August 1998 with them selling Robert Taylor to Man City for £1.5m in November 1999. The record win of 12-1 came against Gloucester City in a 1946 Southern League match whilst they lost 8-0 to Luton Town in 1929.

10: The best players to play for both Gillingham and Wycombe include Adebayo Akinfenwa and Leon Johnson. Meetings between the two sides have provided mixed results with each winning 8 games and 7 games ending in draws.


My first visit to Gillingham came in November 2005. Wycombe had been relegated to League 2 a couple of seasons previously, whilst Gillingham were still in the league above. Being the home side, this made them considerable favourites for the game. I went on the supporters coach, due to not fancying the slog round the M25 and was treated to a great game. Matt Jarvis put Gillingham 2-0 up within 27 minutes and the game looked dead and buried, especially as Wycombe had rested a few players. But Wycombe striker Charlie Griffin popped up with a brace of his own, the second from the penalty spot, this all before the end of the first half. There were no further goals despite chances for both sides and so after two hours, it was down to the lottery of a penalty shoot out and it was hardly an example of vintage finishing. Things started badly for Wycombe, Griffin, who had scored from the spot in normal time missed the first penalty. However, Gillingham were even worse and only scored 1 out of 5 penalties. So despite a miss from Matt Bloomfield, successful conversions from Kevin Betsy, Clint Easton and Roger Johnson were enough to win it for Wycombe with future Wycombe player Tom Williams the only one to score for the Gills. Wycombe's keeper was Iain Turner, on loan from Everton and he was the hero with a number of good saves.

I made two further visits to Gillingham before my latest one. Firstly in 2008 Wycombe travelled to Gillingham around the Christmas period and secured a 1-1 draw. Ahead through an own goal by keeper Simon Royce, an 85th minute equaliser from Curtis Weston cut Wycombe's lead at the top of the table. Under Peter Talor, who would go to Gillingham, the football was awful, but the promotion bid would ultimately be successful, albeit scraping over the line on the last day of the season after a home defeat. I'd travel to Gillingham again in November 2010, this time in League 2 following our relegation. Under Gary Waddock, this was our most routine victory with goals from current boss Gareth Ainsworth and Kevin Betsy either side of half time gave us a 2-0 win for our fourth away win in a row. The end of that season would see us promoted again, this time more convincingly, but again we went back down straight away.

VISIT 4: GILLINGHAM 2-2 WYCOMBE (L1, 15/12/18)

Priestfield was one of the away grounds that I'd planned in for a revisit, way back in May when Wycombe confirmed their promotion to League 1. It would be my first away game since Bradford, though that wasn't the plan. Originally I'd earmarked going to Plymouth, Portsmouth, Fleetwood and Sunderland with the Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club, but for a variety of reasons (mainly cost or them choosing a pub that I didn't fancy the look of for their pre-match stop) I had gone groundhopping on those days instead. However, with Gillingham being fairly close and them having selected a decent pub pre-match, I was happy to go on the coach for this one. I’d been planning to do a revisit to Harlow to watch Woodford Town v Southend Manor on Friday night, but owing to health and safety issues at the ground, it was called off. Instead, I had a night in with a few drinks and an early night, getting to bed around 9.30. I was annoyed to wake up at 5 am and unable to get back to sleep I caught up on my YouTube subscriptions. After breakfast and a bath, I went down our local shop to get a paper before meeting my parents at the coach pickup point at 9.45. Soon enough we were Kent bound with me pulling out a disappointing result in the Sweepstake of 4-0 to Gillingham. We got to the Kings Arms in Upnor at 12, with me opting for the Thai Green Curry for lunch. There was a good range of cider and I kicked off with a pint of Biddenden Red Love which was very good. was very nice. Further pints of Monks Delight and Frulli Strawberry Beer were enjoyed before we left at 2.

It was then 20 minutes to Gillingham's ground, it was then a 15-minute walk to the ground with the club not allowing coaches to park nearer. I was glad that our seats were under cover as most of the Wycombe fans were out in the open despite the sparsely populated home end. It couldn’t have been a better first half for Wycombe - an Adam El-Abd volley after a corner was not cleared on 13 minutes and then a Nathan Tyson finish from a Jason McCarthy cross putting us 2-0 up before Gillingham had even had a shot. They did eventually have an attempt on 25 minutes, but the first half belonged to Wycombe. When I went to the toilet at half time, the fans were in buoyant mood with all sorts of singing. I thought it strange that we were not moving and it turned out stewards were blocking the exit. Punches were thrown by both sides, but eventually, I got out after being stuck in the bog for 10 minutes. I’ve seen some poor stewarding in the past and this was up there with the worst with the away end stewards having a poor reputation amongst even the home support. It was a different game second half with Gillingham stepping up their efforts, but even so, Wycombe looked comfortable for a good while. A close-range effort from Tom Eaves reduced the arrears on 57 minutes but Alex Samuel should have made the game safe 5 minutes later when he blasted over after home keeper Thomas Holy could only parry the ball. The inevitable equaliser came on 75 minutes. Josh Parker who had made a single loan appearance for Wycombe in 2010 was left unmarked at a corner and he headed home. The remainder of the game saw half chances for both sides, but in the end, the game ended in stalemate. 

It was a result that I’d have been delighted with had it been offered before the game, but a disappointing one given our first half dominance. Another 15-minute walk back to the coach was required, but at least I had good news. I’d placed a fourfold accumulator, but it looked as if Tottenham were going to cost me the bet by going all ‘Spursy’ on me and failing to beat Burnley at home. Luckily Christian Eriksen popped up with a 92nd-minute winner to put me £40 up for the day. It was nice to be back on a warm coach and to get my thoughts written down in this blog. After catching up on Twitter, it was 6pm and so the phone in on Radio 5 kept me company. The journey home dragged a bit but we were back in Wycombe at 7.20  and after a couple of drop offs I was back home half an hour later. I had a couple of drinks while watching YouTube videos before Match Of Ther Day came on. It had been a good day, but I am happy to leave visiting Gillingham FC for a while. However, I would like to go to the town, the ideal opportunity will come when I groundhop Hollands & Blair FC.


PRIESTFIELD is excellent on 3 sides of the stadium. The 2 biggest and best looking sides are the 2 tiered Medway Stand which has executive boxes in the middle. And the Rainham End, which is a large all seated stand behind one goal. The 2 stands are joined in the corner by a building, which I am not sure what purpose it serves, but it blends in well nonetheless. Along the other side of the pitch is the Gordon Road Stand, another all seated stand, but this time a lot smaller. It looks pretty decent and has good views, as this is where Wycombe fans sat in the LDV Trophy game. It also has an electronic scoreboard on the roof. The one remaining end, the Brian Moore Stand is uncovered seating, basically a Meccano set! Typically the away fans get this, though they do hand out free plastic macs if it rains.  

There are a few pubs near the ground, though you are better off walking into the town centre to the excellent Will Adams pub, which does food and real ale and cider (albeit a limited selection from Westons), There is also the Past & Present Micropub which appears to do a larger range, but I've not yet visited. There is the usual range of takeaways and these are better than in the ground which is the usual standard offerings that you get in Football League grounds. 

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