Saturday 11 November – Gills 4 – 1 Bromley
Following last season’s Burscough debacle, the visitors lofty position in the Ryman Premier League, and the Gillingham defence’s penchant for shooting themselves in their collective foot, many had this down as most likely shock of the day. It’s pleasant to report, then, that the Gills sailed past this potential FA Cup first round banana skin with the minimum of alarms.
It has to be said though, that the first half was not exactly a thrill a minute spectacle. A combination of a difficult swirling wind (which obviously had the effect of being a great leveller – although no-one has ever successfully explained why adverse conditions should favour the smaller teams) and an over-fussy referee, meant that the opening 45 was a bit of a mess, punctuated regularly with free kicks and throw ins (many of which came via Kelvin Jack’s somewhat erratic kicking).
Clearly the Gills were up for the physical battle, and there were strong challenges going in all over the field, notably from midfield enforcer Alan Pouton. On 27 minutes Leon Johnson was injured and replaced by the returning Brent Sancho, something which will probably be welcomed by the vast majority of Gills fans (the replacement that is, not the injury!) although the loss of Johnson was described as a `blow` by manager Ronnie Jepson in his post-match interview.
The Gills took the lead just after the half hour, when a Matty Jarvis pass found Gary Mulligan, whose deflected cross fell invitingly to the unmarked Mark Bentley, who had the simple task of nodding into the empty net at the far post.
After the turn round it was noticeable that the Gills started to get the ball down and play. Presumably manager Jepson had informed the players, with visual aids such as thrown tea cups and a very red face, that their first half performance was below par. On 59 minutes, Bentley again managed to ghost into the box, and chested the ball down before firing home with a low shot from inside the six yard box. Game over, feet up, look forward to the next round we all thought.
Pouton was replaced by Andrew Crofts a minute later, and the Gills dropped a gear and seemed content to hold what they had. With 20 to go, the defence came up with their customary `let’s all go awol` moment, and Bromley top scorer Nic McDonnell was afforded time and space to fire past Jack. Suddenly we started to panic at the back (no, really) and for the first time Bromley sensed an opportunity. Fortunately, they were also tiring, and Matty Jarvis began to find space behind the Bromley defence. With six minutes left, he got behind the full back, and crossed low and hard for the unmarked Ndumbu Nsungu to slot home from a couple of yards out. How many times has Jarvis done that this season – and, more to the point, who else have we got to do it if Jarvis should depart?
As the game entered injury time Nbumbu Nsungu escaped his marker with a delightful turn and advanced in the box before finding the net with a gorgeous curler into the far corner. 4-1 probably flattered us, but then after then after last year no-one was complaining about that too much!
Champagne Moment Dean McDonald being felled by a strongly hit pass from a team mate which removed his legs from underneath him. Well, he is only little!