Tuesday 17 September – Gills 1-2 Nottingham Forest
Oh well, dreams of a trip to Cardiff or perhaps a “ramp-up” event at the New Wembley over for another year then… unless something very strange happens and they bring in play-offs for teams in 15th place in League One that is… It has to be said that the newly renamed Associate Members Cup, now proudly the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, was hardly top priority for most Gills fans but with the club in dire need of extra funds a long run might bring, not to mention the potential of a Wembley Final the benefits were not to be sneezed at. Unfortunately Scott Flinders saw to the fact that our participation this season would be over before the clocks went back.
Clearly Scally assumed we wouldn’t be making progress and sought to fleece as much money out of people as possible. £15 per adult was insane, the same as getting into Charlton vs. Bolton in the 3rd round of the League Cup and a pound more than to watch the Netherlands play England next month in Amsterdam… the end result was significantly less people than bothered last season against mighty Crawley.
Now the powers that be see the competition as a way to encourage new fans for the future and the policy is of free tickets for all under-sixteens but strangely at the Gills this transformed into “one free child ticket with every adult” which meant that several parents were left facing extra expense on arrival if they happened to be in possession of more than one sprog – another public relations gaff from the mighty Gills!
As to the actual game well we were virtually at full-strength, they weren’t and seven minutes in poor old Scott Flinders made the first of his regularly cataclysmic errors on a wretched night for the poor chap. A routine ball was crossed in low, he hesitated fatally and allowed the ball to drift apologetically across the face of the goal and into the net, possibly via a little nick but it was a simple ball he should have routinely dealt with. Lester got the credit. COME BACK JASON BROWN – WE MISS YOU!
The Gills tried their best to get back in the game, several shots whistle over and Jarvis had the occasional flurry but it was all too reminiscent of the previous encounter four days earlier when Forest were nothing special but too organised for us to break down.
The second period saw the Gills up the tempo but then concede a second even more pitiful goal with Mr Flinders left to hang his head in shame. This time (55 minutes) Holt got free on the right and smacked a low shot straight at Flinders. He actually did quite well to get out of the way diving over the ball in a somewhat shoddy manner to kill the game off.
At the other end the Gills had three decent shouts for penalties, one earlier on Jarvis had been so blatant it was untrue, but attention gradually turned to the drama within a drama as Gary Mulligan went in search of a goal. With about 25 minutes to go the ball fell to him on the edge of the box and he spectacularly lashed a scissors kick back through a ruck of players (yes you read that correctly, he had a shot!) only to see it smack against the bar and out. He wasn’t to be denied though and on 73 minutes a neat near post cross was met first time with a delicate flick from his boot and miraculously it nestled in the net. At a stroke (well a nonchalant dink) he had doubled his Gillingham career total of goals and hopefully regained some of his sagging confidence.
The finale saw the Gills create quite a few chances but miss out on taking the game into a penalty shoot-out. Flinders continued to have a mixed night making the second of two brilliant saves amid the general chaos of a pretty convincing showing of a cat on hot bricks that was allergic to kicking the ball. Forest could have added to their lead late on but squandered a couple of opportunities but it didn’t matter, they won anyway. Good luck to them.
Credit to the 150 or so Forest fans who made the trip down and when 2-0 up singing “Can we play you twice a week?” – even the glummest Gills fans raised a wry smile to that one.