The Beachboys entertained League One Gillingham at Aspect Arena last night in what was a closely fought and excellent pre-season friendly.
The Beachboys started the game with new signings Rob Girdlestone and Dean Mason patrolling the right hand side, and Concord were hugely impressive in the opening stages of the game against their league opponents. It was good to see the boys passing to feet and not being over-awed by the opposition. For Gillingham, Bradley Dack was central to everything they did in the first half, in a free role behind the forwards. He was class in most things he did, and you could see why he was voted the League One player of the year last season.
It was Concord who took the lead when Steve King headed home a corner from Sam Collins on sixteen minutes. After a few lean seasons from heading in goals from corners, could this be the start of a goalscoring season for Steve, or has he used up all his goals already….time will tell!
Concord continued to press in the 1st half, and Jay Dowie was finding himself with plenty of shooting opportunities in the opening forty-five minutes, Jay however has yet to find his radar in pre-season. On the flanks Joao Carlos and Dean Mason were causing a quick and direct threat and were linking up with front-man Steve Cawley effectively. The Beachboys were certainly giving the Gills plenty to think about.
As the 1st half wore on Gillingham slowly passed their way into the game, and in the closing moments they penetrated the Concord backline, but stout defending and some last ditch blocking ensured Concord went into the break in front.
Early in the 2nd half, Gillingham made nine changes. Fortunately for our tannoy announcer he was still on his pre-season, so did not have the enviable task of reading out all the substitutions. Concord also made changes as the 2nd half wore on and a number of trialists were given their chance to impress.
Gillingham levelled up the match mid-way through the second half when a beautiful cross was diverted home by Luke Norris. He couldn’t miss. He didn’t. However the cross made the goal. You will be hard pushed to see a better cross all season.
The night was mainly about Concord testing themselves against a full League One side, however there was the sub-plot of Billy Knott returning to where it all began for him. Billy played the 2nd half at the Aspect Arena, and it was he who scored the decisive goal in this friendly. It came from the penalty spot in the final minute, as John Easterford was harshly judged to have impeded the on-rushing Gillingham forward. Billy stepped up and fired it into the right hand corner, despite Ben McNamara’s despairing dive.
The final whistle blew and Gillingham had won the game, but the Beachboys could take plenty of positives from this friendly.
Concord will next play Maidstone away on Saturday afternoon.
Match Report by Chris Clark.