Thursday 01st September 2005

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Saturday 5th
February 2005
FA Trophy
Fourth Round
Mike Green reports from Stonebridge Road
Gravesend & Northfleet 2 Saunders 58
Omoyinmi 69
Histon 1 Kennedy 12

Home truths help keep Fleet in the trophy


Before this fourth round Trophy clash, all the talk was of the potential new Gravesend and Northfleet managers. 

And that was fine for the two “Mac’s” currently charged with keeping the Fleets fortunes on track.  Whilst Paul McCarthy was leading on the pitch, the Fleets Mr Reliable skipper Steve McKimm was forced out of this tie by a combination of the flu and injury, and was “happy” (how a warrior like McKimm is ever happy sidelined I for one do not know) to be involved. 

However, at about ten to four on Saturday afternoon, McKimm plodded down the tunnel like a man with the world on his shoulders.  His mood an hour later was to be so different!


It really was a frustrating opening half for those fans who turned up rather than facing Bluewater shopping.  After an opening ten minutes bereft of… well anything really of note, Histon stung the Fleet by taking the lead. 

A long clearance out of defense from veteran Colin Vowden released Neil Kennedy, who was too strong and powerful for the Fleet defense, and showed just why he’d previously scored 18 goals this season, by firing high into Paul Wilkerson’s net from 20 yards.   


You would have hoped that the goal would have charged the Fleet into action but sadly their efforts were limp and tame and scarcely troubled veteran keeper Lance Key in the visitors goal.

Indeed Key’s first real scare came on 33 minutes.  James Pinnock created some room for himself on the edge of the box, only to see his shot blocked by Key.  The hurried clearance fell to Graham Porter (the defenders first game at home for a couple of months) who found Andy Drury in increasing space on the right wing!  Drury’s cross was unfortunately behind Roy Essendoh and his header flew over the bar. 


Now you know how when you look back at certain incidents at a seasons end, and you wonder out loud “I wonder if that’s where it turned?”  Well the Fleet had a moment like that in stoppage time! 

Another long ball released Robbie Nightingale, and as Wilkerson advanced to the very edges of his box, the winger tried to clip the ball past him.  Now dependant on you view (Gravesend or Histon) the game turned! 

The Histon players were insensed (as were a couple of their directors) that the assistant hadn’t waved his flag.  The Fleet and McKimm (who later admitted “that I haven't even spoken to Paul about it given that the referee didn’t do anything about”) headed off down the tunnel, leaving the Histon players, led by skipper Neil Andrews, surrounded Assistant and Referee Tomlinson to air their “displeasure”.


Now what was exactly said will never be known, but lets just say a few home truths were probably told in that Gravesend dressing room, and because of them, the Fleet responded to give themselves a lifeline to perhaps Trophy glory. 


After making a switch (bringing Manny Omoyinmi on for the miss firing Essendoh), the home side finally found their rhythm and levelled just before the hour with a goal straight from the training ground. 

Jimmy Jackson swung over a corner from the right for Jay Saunders to powerfully head home his seventh of the season into the top right corner of the net. 

Suddenly the Fleet showed why they are a Conference outfit and started to pull Histon all over Gravesham! 

Key was forced into palming a Drury cross shot away, only for substitute Mousa Sidibe (an attacking sub made by the bench immediately Saunders equalised – the Mail winger replacing full back Lee Gledhill) to weave his magic into the box, and fire goalwards. 

The keeper was well beaten but Vowden wasn’t hammering the ball into touch. 


What proved to be the winner on 69 minutes was as simple as it was brilliant!  Drury again got free down the left (he’d switched wingers with Sidibe’s arrival) leaving Matt Haniver in his wake.  His driven cross found Omoyinmi who’d timed his run perfectly – sweeping home his seventh goal of the season from six yards. 

Simple yet so effective – the Fleet had turned the game on its head and more importantly booked their place in the last 16 of the Trophy for the first time in more than a decade. 

The insurance of a third goal should have come, but didn’t – simply because Sidibe doesn’t own the long legs of his striker brother Mamady of Gillingham.  Had the giant striker rather than the speedy winger been the one lunging at Omoyinmi’s low cross (after yet more brilliant work from Drury) the ball would have surely gone in rather than whistling inches past the post. 

As it was a disappointing afternoon for Histon was complete when, with their ONLY chance of the second half top scorer Ian Cambridge sent a free kick straight into Wilkerson’s rather large midrift.


So Gravesend are into the last 16 – “a massive result for us” admitted chairman Brian Kilcullen afterwards, who when asked about Andy Ford's replacement, would only say that “there is a shortlist and it would be unfair to say who’s on it and who’s not!”  As for McKimm beaming afterwards despite the flu, he was more than happy “of course it’s a great win for us, and no I haven’t applied for the job.  I just want to get back playing.  I’ve enjoyed it but fully expect a new man in for next week.” 

If so the new boss begins with an easy game… a trip to Carlisle – but is also just three rounds from the FA Trophy final!  I wonder if what the assistant didn’t see could just turn the Fleets season… I wonder?!?


GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET:        Wilkerson; Protheroe, Porter, McCarthy, Gledhill (sub Sidibe); Drury, Saunders, Surey, Jackson; Essendon (sub Omoyinmi), Pinnock


HISTON:         Key;  Haniver (sub Coburn), Vowden, Hipperson, Knight – Percival; Nightingale, Adrian Cambridge, Andrews, Barker; Kennedy (sub Okay), Ian Cambridge

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