Saturday 18 November – Bristol City 3 – 1 Gillingham
This was never going to be an easy afternoon and so it proved. Once again the Gills took a spectacular lead away from home, once again they were sloppy at the back and once again conceded a late, late goal. Nevertheless this was an encouraging performance against one of the strongest teams in the division. It was no disgrace albeit more than a little too predictable. Even at 2-1 down in the 91st minute we were eagerly pressing to make it 2-2. Rationally it doesn’t bode too well for the FA Cup in two weeks time, but hey, that is the glorious unpredictability of football isn’t it? No – oh bugger then, we won’t be making the 3rd round!
After the abject 6-0 hammering last season City fans were probably rubbing their hands with gleeful anticipation, particularly with their supposedly biggest “joke” player of modern times, the striker responsible from preventing double figures back in the spring, a certain Baz Savage, was now on our books! Mind you they were quite realistic in the pub over a pre-match cider or two bemoaning their lack of goal power.
The game began brightly in a helter-skelter sort of fashion, ebbing and flowing although Jack was initially the busier of the two keepers. Things then suddenly changed after 15 minutes with another blistering belter from the boot of Flynn. As per usual the goal stemmed from some typically dynamic work on the wing by a certain Mr Jarvis, his run climaxed with an intelligent cross pulled back to the edge of the box, two players missed the ball allowing it to run invitingly into the path of Flynn to smash home from over 20 yards. This inevitably led to plenty of enthusiastic bouncing around at the other end from nearly 500 Gills supporters but in our heart of hearts I don’t think many fans thought that it marked the end of the scoring…
We were to be proved right on 29 minutes by a bit of really rather sleepy defending from the Gills. A quick short corner left us on the back foot somewhat; the ball was crossed in simply to the unmarked Keogh ten yards out to clinically slam into the net. The 11,000 home fans stirred into action, we glumly stared into the middle distance, another chance of a clean sheet gone and again not what you’d call top notch defending. We had been doing more than just hang on quite promisingly, Bentley saw a header go close too, so half-time at 1-1 wasn’t too bad but the vibes weren’t good. City appeared to be a cut above much of the dross in this most mediocre of divisions.
City began the second half with their intentions clear, Jack was soon forced to push one effort away in spectacular style single handed and Johnson put another effort across our bows. We still made a match of it, neutrals would have been entertained but the warning signs began to appear. With perhaps twenty minute remaining Flynn lost possession in midfield, City had a three-on-one but didn’t make the most of it. Sadly on 77 minutes a similar opportunity presented itself, Jevons took advantage of the space and played in the overlapping Showunmi to slot home from twelve yards. All the hard work was undone and yet another defeat on the road having held the lead loomed large.
The Gills did try their best, Ndumbu-Nsungu and then much to the amusement of the local yokels Big Bad Baz, came on to press for another goal. It did arrive in the 92nd minute but it was a red shirt doing the scoring. With the Gills fully committed up field, City broke, the ball was crossed in and the unmarked Murray slid in to crash home third. Game over.
Compared to previous defeats it wasn’t as painful, we had battled gamely and lost out to a marginally superior City side. The journey home once we’d negotiated Bristol town centre on a magical bus tour wasn’t too downbeat, but then again most of the people sitting next to me weren’t planning to be back at Ashton Gate a fortnight later for more punishment. Some of us have had quite enough thank you very much
Champagne Moment Most fans would understandably plump for Flynn’s splendid 25 yarder into the top corner of the City net, but for those queuing for refreshments at half-time and urgently getting asked to stand aside so that self-appointed tea boy to the stars, otherwise known as “Gobbo” could save Dean McDonald and Sean Clohessy from the humiliation of being at the back of the queue brought plenty of cheesy grins all round. Our hero returned with a tea and hot chocolate to rehydrate our shivering squad members, his only demand – that they pose for photos – now you wouldn’t get that in the Premiership would you?!?