Saturday 14th January – Gills 3-0 Swindon
After a gap of over 18 years, the Gillingham – Swindon fixture made its long awaited return. Clearly many people were keen to rekindle the bad blood that marred the fixtures in 1987, and internet message boards oozed bile as keyboard warriors across the land stoked the cyber flames of hatred.
The end result was, that for the first time in recent memory, an opposition team turned up with a `firm`. Barely credible as it seems in the year 2006, there are still grown men who are prepared to face off with opposition supporters.
The atmosphere outside the ground was tense, with various groups being herded this way and that by the police. Once the game kicked off events in the away section quickly degenerated into farce. The Swindon end could be divided into two distinct sections. To the left the normal fans, decked out in shirts, scarves and lots of red. To the right the `firm`, with not a single item of red to be seen.
Within minutes this group was on the move, first moving to unoccupied section at the back of the stand, then edging over towards the netting which divided the home and away fans. It was like the bad old days of `taking ends` only in slow motion. Which was about the speed at which the stewards and police clicked into action. A nervous looking line of about half a dozen stewards attempted to stop the gradual movement of the Swindon mob towards the Gillingham support. This potentially dangerous situation went on for several minutes before police started arriving and shunting the Swindon ‘fans` back to the other side of the stand.
Meanwhile, on the pitch (hey, did I mention there was a game going on) the visitors were giving a clear indication of just why they are struggling so badly. Manager Iffy Onoura had already received a rousing welcome from the Priestfield faithful (including a chorus of Aye Aye Iffy!), but he must have been distinctly worried by his team’s alarming tendencies when defending corners and crosses (helped in no small measure by a severely flapping goalkeeper) which saw the Gills create several opening before finally taking the lead on 20 minutes. Alan Pouton’s shot was deflected up in the air, and keeper Rhys Evans was too slow to react, allowing Darren Byfield to out jump him and send his header looping apologetically into the net.
After dominating the opening half it seemed likely that the visitors would show a little more after the break, but at he other end their defence continued to creak and groan. On 73 minutes they were completely undone by Danny Spiller, who skipped along the by-line and crossed low for Michael Flynn to sweep home a low first time shot.
Seven minutes from time it was all over, as Danny Jackman`s corner whizzed across the six yard box, and fell to an unmarked Neil Harris, who poked home from close range.
Predictably, after the game all hell broke lose and the Swindon mob, having failed to find a similar organisation represent ting the cream of Medway youth, took on all comers outside the Medway Stand.
Champagne Moment: Swindon’s new signing Paul Smith horribly slicing a shot into the Rainham End then looking up with a cheeky grin which said “You’ve seen me do that before haven’t you”