Saturday 4 November – Gillingham 2-1 Chesterfield
The story of the season so far has undoubtedly been late goals – mainly past a disorganised rabble masquerading as the Gillingham defence in another points tossing away piece of shenanigans. What a rare and sumptuous delight, then, to witness the previously goal shy Gills attack inflicting similar misery on the hardworking Chesterfield back-line.
It’s remarkable how a few brief seconds can completely alter the mood of your entire weekend. Up until the final knockings this had been an afternoon of utter and total frustration. The Spireites had taken the lead with a deflected shot which snuck under the outstretched hand of Kelvin Jack (who later made amends with an absolutely blinding save to prevent us turning round two goals to the bad) and had then preceded to out-muscle the Gills in most areas of the pitch.
What has become obvious throughout this campaign is that if you can stop Matt Jarvis you have gone a long way to emasculating the Gills. Chesterfield had obviously done their homework, putting two, sometimes three men on young Matty, and effectively keeping him quiet for long periods. That we appear to have no plan B in these circumstances is something that Ronnie Jepson really needs to work on.
The game meandered by to no apparent purpose. We noted that the referee bore an uncanny resemblance to the barman out of Only Fools and Horses and spent several minutes trying to remember his name – during which time we managed to name just about every character until someone finally worked out that it was Mike. Then someone else pointed out he’d been dead for 5 years and we unfortunately had to go back to concentrating on the game.
Credit to Rocket Ronnie, though, for his second half substitutions. The introduction of Alan Pouton and Dean McDonald for the ineffective Crofts and Ndumbo Nsungo saw the balance of power shift more to the Gills as the half progressed. It really is a crying shame that Pouton seems unable to maintain his fitness for more than a few games at a time, because fit and on song he is a high quality performer who, at this level anyway, is capable of dominating and running the game from midfield.
Frustration mounted as the Gills huffed and puffed – visiting keeper Barry Roche provoking much ire with his practice of walking to the far side of the six yard box to take goal kicks. Personally, I find it difficult to get too hot under the collar over this practice, given that it is a completely stupid rule that allows keepers to do this, and it should have been rescinded long ago. Precisely what benefit ending the practice of making goalkicks be taken from the side the ball went out was meant to bring I’m not quite sure.
As the game entered the last 15 minutes frustration levels nosed dangerously the red as we contrived to create and miss several chances. Gary Mulligan’s effort was bound for the top corner before being turned over by Roche, while Cox and McDonald should have done better with headers which hit the bar and looped over respectively. Matt Jarvis finally got behind the visiting defence, but unusually elected to shoot for the near post and fired meekly wide.
As the game entered time added on Jarvis again escaped the clutches of the massed ranks of the Chesterfield defence, and this time he sent in a low cross which was deliciously tucked just inside the far post by the not very prolific until the other week Gary Mulligan. Before the Gills defence had even had time to consider fucking up at the other end we were back in the Chesterfield box, and the ball fell to the diminutive McDonald, whose volley simply screamed into the net to clinch the three points. It was difficult to work out who was more stunned, the Chesterfield team, or the Gills support, who were experiencing the simlutaneous thought `but we don’t do things like that…`
Champagne Moment The Chesterfield keeper, who’d previously taken every goalkick from the far side, having the slavering masses of the Rainham End behind him helpfully pointing out from where he should take the one just after his team had gone 2-1 behind