The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: Sixer on Gillingham.

Malcolm Dawson writes…..I reckon I have seen Sunderland play Gillingham on four occasions. I must have seen them at home in 2004 and 2005 as I had a season ticket, but I don’t recall much of those games. The first time I went to the Priestfield was in September 2004, when we coasted to a 4-0 win early in a season when we finished top of what had become known as The Championship. I went down with some of my mates from the Heart of England Branch and we had such a good time in the pub pre-match, chatting with Gills’ fans who were enjoying the dizzy heights of the second tier that we decided to go back another time and in 2006 returned in our Sunderland shirts to see them play Walsall. Pete Sixsmith admits he hasn’t seen that much of them but has seen them at Roker Park and other assorted North Eastern football grounds as well as the Stadium of Light and down in Kent. I’ll let him take up the story.

Sixer by Jake

TFTEISYT GILLINGHAM

Kent’s finest, some would say only, Football League team, have not much appeared on the radar at Sixsmith Towers over the years. I have seen them three times at Sunderland, have visited Priestfield twice and have caught them at Feethams and Victoria Park. So, this piece may well be a short one (“Thank goodness” say the readers)

My first sight of them was on the 22nd October 1966 at Darlington. Our home game with Stoke City had been postponed due to the opening games of the Home International Championship being played on that day and we had three players involved.

John Parke and Martin Harvey played for Northern Ireland in their 2-0 defeat to England, the World Cup winners turning out the same XI that had triumphed at Wembley three months earlier. Second half goals from Roger Hunt and Martin Peters saw England defeat the home side in front of a huge Windsor Park crowd of 47,897.

John Parke
Martin Harvey

Meanwhile, in South Wales, Jim Baxter was strutting his stuff for Scotland at Ninian Park in a 1-1 draw. Ron Davies’s opener was cancelled out with four minutes remaining, by Dennis Law, and that was the only point dropped by Slim Jim and his mates as they defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 in Glasgow and then went on to win 3-2 at Wembley where Baxter played keepy-uppy and the Tartan Army, with whisky fuelled logic, proclaimed themselves “World Champions.”

So, with my paper round money sewn into my mittens, I caught the No.1 bus from Byerley Road and handed over a bawbee to the gateman at Feethams in order to watch Darlington play Gillingham, a town of whose location I had only a vague idea. A grammar school education in Geography focused on ox bow lakes, the economy of Nigeria and the rivers of Canada, rather than useful things like where on earth were places like Gillingham, Stockport and Cowdenbeath.

Thanks to an excellent website called “Gillingham Scrapbook” I was able to find out what the teams were that day and a report on the game. It was an undistinguished 1-1 draw which confirmed that the Quakers were struggling in Division Three (they were relegated at the end of the season), with the goals coming within 90 seconds of each other and both containing goalkeeping errors.

Darlington stopper Tony Moore failed to come for a cross and Brian Gibbs headed in but 90 seconds later stalwart Gills keeper John Simpson, a native of Appleby who made 571 appearances for them, let slip a fierce shot from Quakers full back John Peverell and the ball slid over the line.

John Simpson

The game had been held up in the first half when Darlington winger George McGeachie suffered a serious injury, the entire crowd heard his knee cartilage snap as it made a sound like a bullet being fired and there was a long wait while he was moved and taken to hospital. McGeachie had played for Dundee when they won the Scottish League in 1962 and ended up at Darlington as he worked as a chemist for ICI on Teesside. He never played again.

There was a crowd of 5,819 and I remember walking around the cricket pitch and back to the bus station, pleased as the proverbial punch that I had managed to exchange a Sunderland badge for a Gillingham one from a travelling Kentish Man (or is it Man of Kent?), replete with Invicta, the rearing white horse.

The last time I saw them was a few months ago at Hartlepool where they were seconds away from being dumped out of the FA Cup by a National League side. Pools had drawn 1-1 at Priestfield and, with seconds left, were 2-1 up in the replay. Goals by Carl Magnay and Paddy McLaughlin in the first half had put Pools in control, but Max Ehmer had pulled one back.

With six minutes left and the visitors desperately looking for salvation, Pools manager took off forward Luke James and sent on defender Conor Newton to shore up the back four. There was a rumbling of discontent amongst the home support as James was perfectly placed to take advantage of the gaps that Gillingham were leaving in their quest for the equaliser and their fears were founded as keeper Scott Loach missed a cross and Carl Magnay handled to stop the ball going in. Impressive striker Tom Eaves rattled home the penalty and the Gills went on to win 4-3 in extra time.

As far as Sunderland goes, I first saw them in a Division Three game at Roker on the 30th January, 1988, just over 31 years ago. I had missed the play off game as I was committed to taking the Aged P’s to East Midlands airport for what turned out to be my mother’s last foreign holiday before she died and I remember picking up scores from it on the Radio 2 news as I sat in the passenger seat of the Mini Metro and my father drove and dropped lighted cigarettes on the floor.

That day in 1988 ended in a 2-1 win for us, with Gary Bennett opening the scoring in the 9th minute and Marco doubling the lead in the 27th before he went off ten minutes later. Mark Cooper, then Gillingham’s record signing, pulled one back in the second half but we saw the game out (would that we could do that now!!!) to remain top of the pile.

Marco and Benno in their Quaker days

The teams who performed that day, in front of 16,195 people were’

Ian Hesford; John Kay, Gary Bennett, John McPhail, Reuben Agboola; Paul Atkinson, Paul Lemon, Steve Doyle, Gordon Armstrong; Eric Gates, Marco Gabbiadini subs; Frank Gray, Keith Bertschin (for Marco 36)

Ron Hillyard (who ended up 8 appearances behind John Simpson); Karl Elsey, Graham Pearce, Gavin Peacock (ex Mag, now a pastor in Calgary), Gary West, Colin Greenall (713 games for various clubs including Blackpool, Bury and Chester) Howard Pritchard, Trevor Quow, Steve Lovell (their current manager), Mark Cooper, David Smith subs; Les Berry, Irvin Gernon.

They have slipped a bit recently and could well be in the relegation places when they pitch up at the Stadium. This is their fourth visit in the league and they have lost two and drawn one. That was in 2003-04 and was a 1-1 draw.

You knew that was coming didn’t you…….

If there is any copyright claim on the images used in this report, not answered by “fair comment” please let us know and we will remove or acknowledge as requested

Sixer’s pre-season soapbox: normal service resumes at Darlington

Malcolm Dawson writes….I was in the environs of Darlington yesterday afternoon and pondered whether to hang about and take advantage of the cash turnstiles to get my first look at the revamped (work in progress) Sunderland AFC but decided that whilst my mobility is a lot better than it was this time last year, my knees are still not up to a couple of hours of standing, so I went home and defrosted the freezer. Try as I might I couldn’t find any reference to the use of the essential tools in the instruction manual, but aren’t you supposed to use a bread knife and 12lb lump hammer? The France/Belgium commentary played in the background and Pete Sixsmith‘s short and sweet texts brought me up to date on events at Blackwell Meadows, whilst I worked feverishly chipping and thawing and wondering why I have so many tortilla wraps, hidden away amongst the frozen prawns and mixed veg?

This morning Peter brings me and you a more detailed view of last night’s proceedings and here it is……

Read moreSixer’s pre-season soapbox: normal service resumes at Darlington

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: QPR cup glory, Rodney Marsh’s Darlington night out

Rodney Marsh: ‘you kick me about all afternoon and then follow me to the night club’ (see footnote*)

Pete Sixsmith‘s first encounter with QPR was not against Sunderland but Darlington shortly after Rodney Marsh had scored one of the three goals that won a side then in the Third Division the league cup final against top flight opponents, WBA, despite having been two down at half time. The game at Feethams is largely forgettable, but Sixer recalls with a grumpy harrumph the din made by Hoops fans with a drum and shares a delightful anecdote about Marsh’s post-match evening out.

This is the latest instalment in our Memory Man’s entertaining and rightly acclaimed twin series on Sunderland opponents: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team (for SAFC home games)/The First Time Ever I saw Your Ground (when we’re away) …

Read moreThe First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: QPR cup glory, Rodney Marsh’s Darlington night out

Sixer’s Travels: Shildon and Kidderminster, Oswestry and Airbus, thanks to international break

Pete Sixsmith: 'sir, you look just like a real author!'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘sir, you look just like a real author!’

Monsieur Salut writes: I almost disallowed the first line of Pete Sixsmith‘s latest piece. Turgid? Drivel? Snap out of it Sixer, a man I introduce to others as Salut! Sunderland‘s star writer: self-deprecation will get you nowhere though international breaks seem to get you to a lot of places (not necessarily including all the places mentioned above) …

Read moreSixer’s Travels: Shildon and Kidderminster, Oswestry and Airbus, thanks to international break

Sixer Says: SAFC off to a winning pre-season start vs Darlington

Pete Sixsmith: 'it's back and so am I'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘it’s back and so am I’

It seems a little too early for football but it’s back all the same and Pete Sixsmith was at Bishop Auckland to catch a 4-2 win for the Lads …

A pleasant evening in DL4 as the season opened at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park ground, where Darlington are tenants – and, if rumours are to be believed, tenants for a fair while as it looks like their ground share with Darlington RFC is very much on the back burner.

None of which worried Sunderland who have a fancy for playing some Under 21 or WSL games at Heritage Park in the near future. We like the set up and although the pitch has its problems, there is plenty of good shopping nearby.

Read moreSixer Says: SAFC off to a winning pre-season start vs Darlington

Sixer’s Darlington Soapbox: Sunderland home if not dry in five-goal romp

Pete Sixsmith gets the old Soapbox out once more
Pete Sixsmith gets the old Soapbox out once more

Pete Sixsmith, in the company of Salut! Sunderland’s deputy editor Malcom Dawson, had an enjoyable afternoon despite the rain, watching the first goals of SAFC’s pre-season programme in a 5-1 dismantling of Darlington, or rather the form Darlo now take after all the woes of recent seasons. That meant, for example, a trip to Bishop, not Darlington itself. Let Pete explain …

Read moreSixer’s Darlington Soapbox: Sunderland home if not dry in five-goal romp

Sunderland’s is best. Name the worst from Crystal Palace, Oxford United, Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers, Chelsea, Doncaster, Swansea, Darlington, Wimbledon and Southampton

Sixer by Jake


Pete Sixsmith
‘s bulky but now gym-honed frame has graced just about every ground known to football. Here’s his response to a highly personal survey naming the Stadium of Light as the best you’ll find …

Read moreSunderland’s is best. Name the worst from Crystal Palace, Oxford United, Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers, Chelsea, Doncaster, Swansea, Darlington, Wimbledon and Southampton

Darlington/Hartlepool Soapbox: upbeat vibes, glowing Steed tribute

Pete Sixsmith was indeed at both Hartlepool and Darlington – I can barely bring myself to write The Northern Echo Darlington Arena, even if I did work for that august journal in what I fondly imagine to have been its heyday – but was defeated by technology at Darlo (he’d left his phone at home). This, then, is his full account of two comfortable wins …

One game to go before the season opener at Anfield and at Sixsmith Towers there is a growing feeling of optimism for season 2011-12. The Easter Road workout will surely give the final pointers to the line up Steve Bruce will go for on August 13.

The two games this week will have given him much to think about and also much to be pleased with. Of the two, the Hartlepool one was of far more use than the trip to Darlington, with it being against a higher ranking club and with a more competitive edge.

Read moreDarlington/Hartlepool Soapbox: upbeat vibes, glowing Steed tribute

Soapbox: Darlington 0 SAFC 1 – the season starts here

soapbox


A short trip to Darlington, a modest win to maintain our pre-season run (that’s two wins in a row, rare enough for Sunderland in recent times) and Pete Sixsmith is purring contentedly into his ale …


Another visit
to the Darlington Arena (aka as Reynolds Folly) and another win, although by no means as comfortable as last years.

After a morning spent having my feet analysed in Sacriston, the afternoon in Darlo was a pleasant way to spend time in the run up to the end of term next week. Despite the Proprietor’s insistence that I would arrive on the No 1 bus, I drove over and parked just outside of the exclusion zone around Neasham Road, forgoing the chance to visit the Old People’s Home Summer Fayre as I walked to the ground. Time enough for those when I am in one!!

Read moreSoapbox: Darlington 0 SAFC 1 – the season starts here