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MEMS Priestfield Stadium
  Gillingham v
Dagenham & Redbridge
League One
Monday, April 9th 2012, 3pm
Jonathan Bennett

(Dagenham & Redbridge fan)

Easter Monday is either warm and sunny, or cold and wet. Unfortunately it was cold and wet for my trip to Gillingham. As a ‘local’ match I thought it was worth the trek. With Dagenham on a five match unbeaten run to avoid the drop, and having beaten Gillingham earlier in the season at Victoria Road I fancied our chances, predicting a 2-1 win.

I do my match day travelling by train. Purfleet (where I live) to Gillingham was just under 2.5 hours each way on a Sunday service timetable. I would imagine from Dagenham on any other day it would not be much quicker. Got c2c to Barking then West Ham, Jubilee Line to London Bridge where I got the Southeastern Charing Cross to Gillingham Service. Time from London Bridge to Gillingham was 1 hour 12 minutes.

At Gillingham Station the exit on the left hand side handily has a signpost for Priestfield Stadium directly outside. There is another one further down the road, but by then the stadium is nearly in sight. The walk from station to stadium is approximately 10 minutes. So to be exact, you exit the station and turn left onto Balmoral Road. At the crossroad with Gillingham Road you can continue straight on to Priestfield Road which leads directly to the away turnstiles, or turn right for the Livingstone Arms pub just a few minutes down the road.

The pub is away friendly and is where I found the ‘Barmy Army’ as I call them, basically the guys who go to every single game. Selection and prices in the pub were average, and although there were a few Gillingham supporters there as well there was absolutely no trouble. An interesting feature of the pub is the wide collection of football shirts pinned to the walls and ceilings.

Entrance into the ground is simple enough as is finding your seat, with stewards on stand-by to assist. The stand itself is nothing more then a scaffolding structure with seats. All the seats were wet with the rain still coming down. Although some fans came prepared with towels and plastic covers I opted to stand, as did most fans. The away stand is in complete contrast to the rest of the ground which is quite modern all seated covered stands.

View From The Away Section

View From
                    The Away Section, Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham

We did not have much trouble making noise, but given there is no surrounding structure there is nothing for the noise to bounce back off, so some away supporters could have trouble generating an atmosphere...Dagenham fans never fail to create an atmosphere. I could not hear much off the Gillingham fans, but given their most vocal supporters were behind the opposite goal that was understandable.

First half was a pretty even affair. We had to voice our disapproval a few times at Dagenham when they tried the long ball when there was no one to receive it, and also at the ref when he gave a goal kick despite the Gills keeper getting his hand to a Brian Woodall shot. However on the 37th minute Dagenham took the lead. Mickey Spillane fed through Josh Parker down the right flank who from a tight angle just inside the 18-yard box tried his luck. The keeper spilled Parker’s effort and Woodall was lurking to put away the rebound. Cue chants of ‘Who are you?’ from the Dagenham fans.

Half time Dagenham 1 Gillingham 0 and time to see what refreshments were on offer. Burgers and Hot dogs were available for £3.30, bottled drinks were a bit steep at £1.70, but given the hot food was freshly prepared rather then kept warm like some other grounds I have been too I did not grumble too much.

Second half and as you were team wise, but we grew restless as Dagenham started to take their foot off the accelerator and let Gillingham take control of the game. We were punished in the 57th minute when Rouen Vine curled a fine effort round Chris Lewington into the corner of the net...gutted. But we deserved that for letting them play the way they wanted. However it was a wake up call for the Dagenham players to get on with it.

Changes were afoot as the underwhelming and slip prone Parker was replaced by Dominic Green. Suddenly we were much livelier down the flanks, and Green was nearly straight on the score sheet when Medy Elito broke from a Gillingham attack and fed him through the middle, but the Gillingham defence got back well to limit Green to a long range punt at goal. However on 72 he did better. Sprinting down the right he beat a couple of defenders before cutting inside to his favoured left foot and drilling the ball into the back of the net. Suddenly we were all doing The Poznań! Mainly I think to rock the stand as it was prone to shacking if we jumped en-masse.

Full time Dagenham 2 Gillingham 1. Unbeaten run now stood at 6 games, and while not mathematically safe it would take a miracle from Hereford or Macclesfield to see us take the dreaded drop to non-league.

Had no trouble getting back to the station, but with the roads surrounding Priestfield mainly backstreets I would not like to try getting home by car! I even ended up chatting to a couple of Gillingham fans on the train before they got off at Rochester.

For Away fans, Priestfield is a bit disappointing. When the wind picked up it was cold and we all got wet when it rained. Like I mentioned before the rain made all the seats wet so if you needed to sit down you would get a wet backside. However the fans were good mannered, the staff helpful and the ground is easy to get to by train. If Gillingham are to stay at Priestfield I would hope they build a new away stand because that is the only area I will mark them down for.

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Guide to Priestfield Stadium: Gillingham FC

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