Saturday 14 October – Gills 0-1 Nottingham Forest
We’ve had some pretty momentous collisions with Forest over the last few years, ranging from rabidly passionate victories like the relegation dogfights featuring late winners from Danny Spiller and Tommy Johnson, to some fearful tonkings which usually involved Darren Huckerby or Jack Lester running riot. This season’s fixture was a massive anti-climax in comparison.
It was disappointing for so many reasons, but chiefly because Forest appeared to be there for the taking. There was nothing evident about their approach to the game that demonstrated that they are champions elect, though Agogo up front was a handful throughout. But the difference between the two sides was clear to all…the visitors showed a lack of ambition but were supremely organised defensively, where as we…we…well, recent capitulations tell the story.
We played ok, forced a hatful of corners and free-kicks (even showing some imagination in our movement from dead-balls in the early stages) but we never looked like breaking them down, our one good chance being Cox’s header cleared off the line by Southall. Normally I’d blame the idiot D’Urso in these circumstances, but though overly fussy on the easy decisions as ever and possibly bottling a penalty verdict for Guy, he had a quiet game and one of his assistants did his utmost to wind up the huge away following by giving everything our way.
Yet at the other end a clean sheet was never on the cards. Twice they broke through in the first half with simple hoofs over the top and the goal came from a clinical but simple move which pulled our defence all over the place. While there are severe problems with the centre back partnership and we should expect more protection from the rest of the side, it is alarming quite how often our full-backs end up in no man’s land and some goon is left in the sort of acres that Southall enjoyed to notch the winner.
The positive is that we are ahead of where we were this time last season – this side is definitely better and more entertaining. But it’s difficult to see where we’re going and it doesn’t exactly want to make you go swinging from the chandaliers in your pants. Will anyone be up for the second installment in the Paint Cup?
Southall’s goal. Ok, an opposition winner isn’t often cause for rejoicing, but the dignity with which he celebrated – or rather didn’t – brought great credit upon him. He might be as gormless as they come and played like a tit throughout his second spell at the club, but he’s a Gills legend and his conduct in this game demonstrates why. Though of course it would have been a lot more dignified to have slammed his tap-in over the Rainham End.
The Morty Vicker