Thursday, 12 March 2009

Medway Misery

I was a little early at London Bridge for my train to Gillingham and as I was a bit peckish, I got the opportunity to visit what is supposed to be the oldest pie and mash shop in London, Manze's on Tower Bridge Road.

Apparently the liquor here is "uniquely different" (err...of course) to other pie and mash shops due to some secret ingredients - I suspect that it's something that removes the flavour as this was probably the most tasteless I've ever had. I'm beginning to think that my local shop rules...

A nice quiet journey down to the Medway - just before the rush hour - and not one I've made for many years. The town of Rochester is the highlight and since it apparently has some decent pubs, it could be somewhere we'll be popping to in the close season.

For today though it's Gillingham and on arrival I head off to the Frog and Toad - just two guest beers on, Fullers Pride and Otter Amber. I have a couple of pints of the latter and listen to the handful of locals bemoan the lack of business (they're builders) - seems a friendly enough place though.

My next port of call is closed but I had expected that - it's the Roseneath on Arden Street - this was a nostaligic visit to a pub that we used a lot when we came to games here in the 90s - the highlight of which was the 4-0 thrashing of Brighton in 1999 which saw a Gabbiadini hat-trick - the beer tasted great that day.

Sadly the place is now closed, one of the many pubs now heading for redevelopment into private residences - once they're gone, they're gone for good.

The next venue, the Will Adams, is closed when I get there - ever prepared though, I've got the number of the pub and give them a call - I'm told it will be open at 5:30pm as there's a match on and so I have a wander for 15 mins. There's not a lot to see in Gillingham, believe me.

Just two beers on in the Will Adams when I finally get in - Landlord and Summer Ligtning - but the landlord Peter is putting on a new barrel which turns out to be Harveys Best.

Peter is a keen Gills fan and like we in DAFTs, he's a veteran of many way trips in the lower leagues and inevitably we end comparing our experiences from our away visits this season.

After a few pints, I'm joined by Iain Swalwell and then John Wilson and after a couple more pints of Harveys we trundle off to Priestfield.

This is a ground that has undergone quite a lot of development since my last visit - the FA Cup defeat in 1999 when we were given another chance as the lucky losers and ended up with a plum tie at Villa Park. Gillingham for their part had a great cup run that season which ended in a 5-0 quarter-final defeat away at Stamford Bridge.

The away end is at one side of the Brian Moore stand - an open terrace of the temporary sort you see at the major tennis and golf events - thankfully the forecasted rain holds off for the game as we'd have got soaked.

That was the only luck we got though - a bit of a cobbled together side with players playing out of position - put in a very hard-working performance, frustrated the Gills for most of the game, defended well and even had a few chances of their own.

It is debateable whether we had an element of luck after the ref blew for a foul by Valentine whilst Gillingham had played on and scored.

But to lose in the last minute of injury time was so cruel - a very harsh penalty after the ball seemed to bounce up and hit White's hand - hardly deliberate - but it summed up the lack of luck we've had this season.

Not surprisingly, the players looked utterly dejected as they trooped off at the final whistle but were still heartily cheered by the 70 or so Darlo fans who'd made the trip to this distant corner.

Let's hope they can pick themselves up for Saturday's game at Vale Park - we need to nip this losing streak in the bud.

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