Gillingham chairman Paul Scally delivers his latest set of programme notes.
Good evening everybody and welcome back to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for another Sky Bet League One home fixture, this time against Chesterfield.
I'm sure you'll all join me in welcoming the directors, management team, playing staff and loyal supporters from North Derbyshire, who will all travel great distances for tonight's game. Result aside, I trust that their visit to Kent will be an enjoyable and, most importantly, a safe one.
Every point in football is crucial, regardless of how they are gained. And while Port Vale may have felt that Josh Parker's last-minute goal against them here on Saturday was harsh, I felt it was a just reward for our team's effort and determination to fight until the final whistle.
In a season in which we've been on the wrong end of goals scored in the final 10 minutes of games, the never-say-die attitude on show three days ago was pleasing to see. I'm sure we've all watched matches on TV over the years in which teams have thrown in the towel long before the 90-minute mark; in the battle to improve our Sky Bet League One position over the coming weeks, that dogged determination will prove an invaluable asset.
It was great to see Josh Parker score the equaliser, two weeks to the day after he joined the club. Every time I have spoken to him, his exemplary attitude and his desire to do well for Gillingham have come across. He had sit patiently while we awaited the Serbian FA to authorise his international clearance with the relevant authorities, but I felt his substitute appearance gave everybody a glimpse of what he can do.
On a similar note, it was fantastic to see Lee Martin make his debut for the club, six-and-a-half-months after sustaining a serious injury in our pre-season friendly against Leyton Orient. Lee has returned to action long ahead of schedule, even though his rehabilitation process was thorough, complete and overseen by experts. Again, just like the fighting qualities of the team I mentioned earlier on in this set of notes, Lee's focus and belief during what I can only imagine was an incredibly difficult period of his life was that of a model professional.
I still believe that as soon as we pick up our first victory of 2017, more positive results will quickly follow. Momentum is such a big part of football, and given the players we have in the first-team squad, I have little doubt that we will earn three points sooner rather than later. Of course, Saturday's point now means we are four unbeaten going into this evening's game, which is a good platform to build upon going into a period of eight fixtures in the next month.
We have over 300 staff working in and around the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on matchdays, and Saturday proved to be a busy one for many of them. The ground staff, led by John Plummer, were out on the pitch several hours before kick-off doing everything they could to not only minimise the effect of the wintery weather, but also ensure the game went ahead without any problem.
The pitch was under covers for three days leading up to Saturday's match, so as to protect it as best as possible during this cold snap, and tonight will no doubt prove just as busy for them.
Also, our staff behind the scenes reacted well to the conditions, and ensured that all home and away supporters who had purchased tickets in the Brian Moore Stand were reallocated seats elsewhere around the ground to enable them to avoid the wintery weather and enjoy the game as best as possible.
This time next week we welcome AFC Wimbledon to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for a rearranged Sky Bet League One fixture. The previous game was postponed in January owing to a frozen pitch, but given it is the third of four home fixtures in a two-week period, it represents another good opportunity to claim maximum points in the fight to secure our status in this division.
Our pre-match Pie & Mash dining experience has nearly sold out, I'm delighted to report, but there is still limited availability for those wishing to purchase this hospitality package. The list of home-made pies on offer for it sound that good I may have to go and experience it myself!
Tonight's game is the fifth Category B match of the season, with our final such fixture coming on March 11, when title-chasing Scunthorpe United travel to Kent. The response to our season ticket holder incentive package for these games has been extremely positive, and I'd remind those yet to redeem their vouchers that they can still obtain two free tickets for next month's match. Call the club's Customer Service Centre on (01634) 300000 for more informaton.
This fixture will also be our second Kids 4 A Quid game of the season, as we continue to do all we can to make football affordable for families. We will market this promotion across all schools in the area, as well as those teams we are affiliated to as part of our partnership with the Kent Youth League.
Fan support is vitally important as we enter the business end of the season, so please tell everybody you know about this fantastic promotion and help us get as many supporters inside the stadium as possible.
As ever, the players need you to get behind them from the first minute to the last this evening – Saturday showed that anything can happen until the referee blows for full-time. Let's make some noise and help the team get that all-important victory.
Up the Gills!
Paul D P Scally