Forget your Christmas markets, your pantos, your carol singing, your festive films – December for the ‘die-hard’ football fans is all about the beautiful game.
A gluttonous buffet of the sport comes in tsunami form over the festive period and for those who follow the Gate it could not have got off to a better start on Tuesday (December 14) under the lights at Hartsdown Park.
Expectations going into the game against the side at the top of the league, Worthing, were far from optimistic, the consensus was a draw would be remarkable result. However after four minutes that mindset was given its marching orders when Margate attacked down the left, through the ever-reliable Anderson, then the gifted Godo who delivered a ball that Vance Bola met with a striker’s conviction. 1-0.
Worthing tapped it about nicely for a period after the opener, and even an ignorant fan like myself could see that they were a good footballing side, tidy passing and good movement off the ball.
Margate however had a togetherness and a passion about them, and when Greenhalgh’s corner was whipped in and Bola’s resulting attempt parried, it was marvellous Monty who was first to react. 2-0.
“What’s going on here?” “Too early to start singing top of the league you’re having a laugh?” The jubilant but still sceptical Margate faithful quizzed. A fear of the unknown may have been getting the grip of some fans but there was absolutely no fear from the Gate players.
The remaining minutes of the first half were industrious ones, they held a good shape, appeared to be comfortable knowing that they could hurt Worthing on the break. 2-0 is the most dangerous score in football so they rather illogically say, so it was crucial that Margate kept it that way going into the half time break.
A free kick was awarded right on the edge of Margate’s box, this felt massive, and as the often deadly Oliver Pearce stepped up, an intake of breathe as the ball looped over the wall and dipped into the top corner only to be met by the gloves of Margate’s new number 1 Bridle-Card. A terrific stop to cap off a terrific half of football.
The second half got underway and Margate looked settled, committed to seeing the job through and battled with desire for every ball all over the pitch. As well as a bags of desire, Saunders men clearly had a plan and that involved deploying the pace of Bessey-Saldanha on the break. The tricky little maestro was released by Godo’s cross field pass and set to work dribbling at defenders who couldn’t get near him. Bessey delivered a deadly cross into the box which Vance Bolo plucked from the air with the calm of Berbatov before hammering it home with the power of a Shearer. It was in the many ways the perfect goal 3-0.Fever pitch in the stands.
There was no stopping chants of “top of the league you’re having a laugh” now. That arrogance and dream-like feeling was forced to sober sharpish nine minutes later as Oliver Pearce pulled one back for the lads from Sussex. For a few minutes after that goal there was a slight angst in the air, as Worthing attacked with cutthroat purpose but the Gate battled through and maintained the levels of commitment and quality that they had set in the previous hour or so.
Margate came again with James Bessey-Saldanha being compared to Greavsie in the stands, we were all getting a little carried away at this point. He was terrific, though his dribbling, close control and pace make him a certified headache for any defender at this level. Margate came and came, they wanted a fourth, a fourth goal against the top of the league side!
A series of corners saw Worthing unable to clear their lines, Margate refusing to retreat from their opponent’s box. It was the third corner in the series that was the most memorable as Greenhalgh, an expert set piece taker, whipped one straight past everyone and into the goal. 4-1.
The aesthetic of the goal was slightly hampered by the fact a defender headed it out before it could ripple the net but there was no complaint in the stands. Joyous, the atmosphere at HDP was as jovial as one of Downing Street’s Christmas parties.
What an advert for local football we’d witnessed, before the game was over fans were conceding this had been one of the best games they’d seen, not just all season but in years perhaps.
Worthing had played their part in making it such a fine encounter and so had their fans, who kept in good voice despite the score, they also brought with them some of the finest away support banners you’ll likely to see at this level. The travelling support were treated to another late consolation, that pesky Pearce striking again, with one of the finest lobbed finishes I’ve ever seen……maybe I can’t be completely sure as the most merry of beers had been jubilantly flowing by this point. 4-2.
A mighty Margate performance and hopefully the first of many festive treats at HDP.