Tuesday 1st June 2021 – Medway Tournament – Elite avenue, Gravesend
Despite what the media will tell you, the season hasn’t technically ended. My personal view has always been that the campaign ends on the 30th June and the new one starts the day after. That will mean this year, Lewes will play their first pre-season in one season, whilst the rest will be in the next. Likewise, Euro2020 (being held in 2021 – a favourite trivia question in the year 2050 I suspect) will start in June and end in July.
But there is football still going on if you look for it. The Medway Tournament started two weeks ago and is now at the half-way stage, with all five teams having played each other once, with goals galore in the eight games so far. Last week, Punjab went to Lordswood and won 8-0, whilst Sheppey United beat Rochester by five goals to nil. Results last weekend meant the average goals per game stood at 5.6. For an entry fee of £5, that is a bargain.
On one of the hottest days of the year it was perhaps understandable that along with goals in the game between Punjab United and Rochester United, we also saw temperatures boiling over on the pitch…and off it. As I approached the ground there were two men in the middle of the street fighting. At first I just thought they were having a bit of fun, pushing each other around and then punches were being thrown in earnest. Even sensing my car approaching they didn’t stop, simply moving to the pavement so I could pass. There was no gawping audience from any of the other houses, nor much shouting from either of them. A very strange incident.
Inside the Steve Cook Stadium, the sun was bathing half the ground, whilst the core of the supporters were sitting in the shade, soon regretting the shorts/t-shirts combination as the evening cooled rapidly. Punjab were looking to build on their big win last week at Lordswood, whilst the visitors were hoping to grab their first point of the competition as the game kicked off.
There wasn’t much surprise that most of the early action was in and around the Rochester United goal. There was no need for any commentator at the ground as the visitors keeper kept up a constant monologue of what was happening, whilst the Rochester centre-backs racked up a dozen shouts for offside before the five minute mark had been reached. Fair do’s to the linesman who patiently told them on each occasion why they were wrong.
One tactic that was interesting from the early stages was to put the Rochester keeper under pressure from set pieces. A few of the challenges on him were “robust” and one saw him and the ball in the back of the net, which was quite-rightly ruled out. One incident saw him require lengthy treatment although it was the collision with his own player rather than an attacker than warranted that.
He was well beaten though in the twentieth minute when a well struck free-kick from 25 yards from Punjab’s George Goodwin had him beaten all ends up. The visitors went straight up the other end though and equalised with one of their few chances of the half. The lead was restored soon after as the impressive Johnson-Cole slotted home from ten yards. There were a few dust ups before half time, one that saw a group of players end up in the back of the net, which led to some untangling before the referee, unsighted by what happened, lecturing anyone and everyone. On the sidelines the Rochester bench were given a stern talking to about their over use of the words “Fuck off”, “You are useless ref” and “You are having a laugh”. You could understand some of their frustration in a game that was constantly stop-start.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Goodwin helped himself to a second although didn’t appear to know much about it as he jumped in between two centre-backs to get something (a shoulder) onto the ball from a corner. The Rochester centre-back, shouted “who was supposed to be marking him”, unaware that he was standing right next to him when the ball was delivered. The fourth came in the final minutes and a second for Johnson-Cole.
Football, sunshine, a decent crowd and another five goals to witness. The Medway tournament is a gift that keeps on giving and with four rounds of games still to go, Punjab United will still fancy their chances of upsetting the pre-tournament form book of a Chatham Town vs Sheppey United final.