Saturday 8th April – Gills 2-0 Huddersfield
Two and a half weeks earlier no-one would have believed that we could have gone into this fixture requiring just one win to secure our League One status. However, three consecutive victories had taken us to the 50 point mark, propelled us up the table to 15th and, more importantly, had opened a significant gap between our selves and the relegation zone.
Peter Jackson’s Huddersfield side arrived in third place, but boasted only a moderate away record, and had only won one of the last 12 on their travels. Bearing this in mind, and added to the Gills new found confidence, there seemed a reasonable chance that we would be able to gain a positive result.
Four minutes in and the chances were even better. Town failed to clear and Gary Mulligan slotted home his first Gills goal from close range. The hard working Mulligan had proved a hit with the Gills fans despite so far failing to find the net, so it was nice to see him find the net.
It was quickly clear that Huddersfield were the most physical team we have met this season. They quickly seemed to twig that our central defensive partnership of Cox and Sancho were vulnerable to the long punt down the middle (and I for one can’t wait to see what Wayne Rooney makes of them if they play in the World Cup) and the less than dynamic duo struggled to cope with the physical threat of the visitors.
Despite the fact that they enjoyed large slices of possession and played much of the first period in the Gills half, the visitors didn’t really carve out many noteworthy opportunities. The biggest scare came when Danny Schofield dashed into the box, and as Jason Brown dived to challenge he threw himself theatrically to the ground. Brown clearly did not make any contact, but an ambiguous signal from referee Joslin initially gave the impression he had given the penalty. However, he was quickly surrounded by protesting Huddersfield players as he called Schofield over and showed him a yellow card for diving.
The second half saw the game develop into an end to end attacking encounter, with both sides creating good situations, but somehow failing to turn them into clear cut chances. Jason Brown was at his imperious best, controlling his penalty area and covering for the defensive deficiencies of those in front of him. He made one blinding save from David Graham’s point black header, but made the rest look routine – the mark of the quality goalkeeper is so obviously is.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch Huddersfield keeper Rachubka was not having such a controlled afternoon. Yes, the wind was gusting awkwardly, but the Huddersfield custodian’s attempts at kicking turned into a one man comedy routine as seemingly every kick was sliced horribly into the Medway Stand. Often the opposing keeper gets some stick after a wayward clearance, but Ruchubka was enduring a personal nightmare of epic proportions as yet another one of his upfield punts disappeared into the Medway Stand upper, and the Rainham End’s cries of dodgy keeper became ever louder.
As the minutes ticked by an air of tension descended as the crowd realised how close we were to salvation. This was not helped by us giving away a series of free kicks and corners as the game entered its final stages. Throughout the second half Town had looked vulnerable on the break, but the Gills had failed to take advantage.
Finally, with the 4th official just about to put the board up, Matt Jarvis took possession and set off for goal. We knew what he wanted to do, he knew what he wanted to do, and the defender probably knew what he wanted to do – in the style that has become so familiar he jinked inside and sent a glorious curler over the keeper and into the far corner. Cue delirious celebrations and the chance to relax for the final five games of the season.
Champagne Moment: Keeper Rachubka, finally tiring of the piss taking , played a short pass to his defender and let him boot it forward instead – and was rewarded with further hoots of derision from the Rainham End.