The heatwave had broken, for a tiny window in what had been a stifling week of hot weather and some welcome rain fell as I arrived at the ground. The coolest evening of the week, saw Chatham Town welcome a Gillingham XI FC to the Bauvill Stadium, for a pre season friendly.
The last time the sides met, they had been separated by two further leagues, with Gillingham being relegated from League 1 to League 2 last season and Chatham rising from the SCEFL premier league to the Isthmian South East league. The local rivalry between the sides, drew a decent crowd to the Bauvill, with over 800 in attendance.
Since my last visit to the Bauvill there had been some improvements, with the Jerk Shack being sensibly relocated to the end of the ground, rather than causing a bottleneck by the entrance. There is also evidence of building next to the Chatham Town Academy building, which will see a gym and further academy space, as the club further develops its high quality youth provision.
Chatham’s pre season has been intensive, with four games in a week and plenty of opportunities for young and older players alike, to get game time. Some astute signings have been added and Kevin Hake has also added to his coaching squad, in what promises to be a really exciting season at the higher level for the home side.
Gillingham sent a young development side across to Chatham Town for this fixture. The club has been steadily rebuilding under manager Neil Harris, following the disappointment of a final day relegation last season, following a televised home defeat by Rotherham. Coach Mark Moss brought a young but highly skilled side across to Chatham, for this game between the two local rivals.
The Chatham Town starting eleven showed a mixture of new and familiar names. Top scorer in recent seasons, Dan Bradshaw played upfront, but fans were keen to see how regally named, Prince William Domafriye, a forward signed this week, from Waltham Abbey FC and Ainsley Everett, a midfielder who has previously played for both Sevenoaks Town and Glebe FC, would perform.
The game had hardly kicked off when, in the 5th minute, Chatham Town gave away a free kick outside their box. The kick was, to the shock of the home supporters, curled beautifully into the net, by Gillingham’s Matt MacArthur.
Chatham came back into the game, beginning to take a better grip of midfield possession, but on 24 minutes, Matt McArthur created a chance out of nothing, to double his tally and put Gillingham 0-2 up.
Manager Kevin Hake and his coaching team really worked hard on the sidelines to get some sense of order back into the home team’s defence. Butler and Sheminant at the back for Chatham, began to play the ball out with more confidence. Chatham’s Dan Bradshaw had a couple of decent chances and it looked as though the home side would claw a goal back before the break. Gillingham’s defence, however, had other ideas and the whistle for the break came with the score still Chatham Town 0, Gillingham FC 2.
The second half opened with Chatham Town pushing as hard for their first goal, but it was Gillingham who scored again, to make it 0-3 with a close range finish from Ronald Sithole, in the 50th minute.
Chatham again regrouped and making substitutions throughout the half, found some rhythm, creating good chances without being able to convert them.
There were plenty of opportunities for both sides to add to the scoreline but at the final whistle it was Gillingham who left with the win. They have a fine and confident crop of young players in this side, which must give them hope for the future.
Chatham were able to give time to a wide range of players and began, as the game went on to find their usual patterns of play, looking much more threatening. They do however need to secure some success as the pre season continues as they will want to enter the new league and the new season, with some confidence.