Well November appears to have brought more of the same to the good ship Gillingham. The late, late show against Chesterfield certainly got the month off to an exciting start (well the last ten minutes anyway), then we had the fairly comfortable win over Bromley in the FA Cup, an entertaining but ultimately pointless trip to Ashton Gate in the League, an encouraging win and clean sheet against in-form Rotherham (at home naturally), a schizophrenic 4-3 loss at “Ashton Gate – The Sequel” in the Cup and a truly pitiful loss to a less than ordinary Port Vale side on Tuesday night.
The upshot of all this is that the Gills remain stuck in 13th, four points off the play-offs and nine points above the dreaded drop zone. We still haven’t kept a clean sheet away from home since Good Friday at Southend and with Jack’s appalling kicking become more apparent by the day in conjunction with the well known defensive frailties of Johnson, Sancho, Easton and Jupp fans are calling for Jackman’s return and for Jepson to sign a keeper capable of kicking the round thing, an essential skill for a professional keeper in this era, the last keeper we had that couldn’t kick it, Harvey Lim, had his career all but ended by the change to the back pass law. Even the uncomplicated Chorley can’t do it all on his own, and with his loan due to expire in January and his promising performances thus far for us, we could find ourselves in competition for his signature on a permanent basis which could prove to be a problem given our inability to pay a transfer fee or offer competitive wages.
Even more depressing is the fact that Matty Jarvis has been attracting serious attention from bigger clubs, Gills fans will be hoping and praying he stays until the end of the season because without him and Chorley a headlong plunge down the table would be all but assured. The nine point cushion could come in handy if we aren’t to be heading for Accrington in August…
On a more promising note, if, (a BIG IF), but if we do keep Jarvis until May and sign Chorley then IF we can just stem the cascade of goals going into our net not to mention improve our away record significantly then a play-offs place would be within reach due almost entirely to the poor quality of the division as a whole.
For the long suffering fans that travel away the last month has been pretty depressing, we took the lead with another Flynn screamer at Bristol City, top scorer now with nine goals, all away from home, from which we have managed just one win, one draw and lost the rest… but unfortunately City proved to be too strong, we were asleep for their equaliser from a short corner just before half-time and got caught gamely pushing for an equaliser in the dying moments for their third but City did just edge it.
The return two weeks later was a very curious contest. With half the crowd of the League game both the intensity and atmosphere was lacking for our Sunday lunch time date with defeat. The first half defending would have embarrassed a Sunday morning pub side, Jupp had an absolute shocker and with Jack getting clattered our options looked limited. Leon Johnson was an absolute liability and Sancho didn’t look up to speed after injury. 3-0 game over by half time, an insult to over 400 travelling fans who’d made the trip twice in a fortnight.
The second half surge forward brought some respectability to the score and if one of the two late chances in the dying seconds had made it 4-4 we’d still be going wibble now, but we didn’t. The defending in the second half was equally as bad, it was just that City missed a couple of sitters, Jack saved a couple and the home side smashed the easiest opportunity of the lot against the post. We simply didn’t deserve anything out of a game where we had defended so poorly… out hopes of a much needed financial boost from a big Cup tie over for another year – I bet the bank were really chuffed!
Worst of the lot though was the Port Vale debacle. The place is a shit hole, Port Vale a weak side there for the taking and yet we were second best all night. The defence were a shambles and going forward we lacked ideas. It was a real insult to the 165 masochists that made the long trek on a weekday evening in December full in the knowledge that the “team” would let them down because that is what they do. For the last two years our away form has been nothing short of a fecking disgrace. Call themselves professionals? Some of our team don’t seem to care, we know we can beat virtually anyone in this division at home but away they don’t seem to have the passion, the confidence, the mental toughness or the basic ability to function. Perhaps it is time some of them were shown the door and Ronnie got someone else in who has the guts, the skill, the motivation and the will to end our away nightmare. Until they do we will continue to flatter to deceive and rely on home form to keep us away from relegation trouble. We are just a couple of away wins from mounting a genuine push for the play-offs but at the moment it is two steps forwards, two steps back depending on whether we’re playing at home or away.
The supporters have been remarkably supportive throughout given the inconsistency displayed thus far, we all appreciate the financial plight Scally has got us in and the slender resources Jepson has to work with but as professionals they need to work on their defensive play day in, day out until they begin to resemble a professional football team rather than a shambolic rabble. Jack needs to spend the next two weeks learning how to kick the fecking ball or be replaced. Any number of non-league players are almost as good shot stoppers as Jack with the added bonus they can kick properly. The ghost of Jason Brown continued to haunt Priestfield at the moment…
The one bright spark amongst all the woe has been the form of the much-maligned Gary Mulligan. Now he will never be a world-beater but he tries hard. That isn’t quite enough but now miracle of miracles he has started to score goals. You wouldn’t say he was prolific but the three goals in the last three home League games have all been significant. It is now time Guy and McDonald did likewise because we can’t just rely on the midfield to score enough goals to make up for the ones our defence are gaily giving away at the other end!
So with tough trips to Yeovil and Tranmere before the festivities begin more anguish is on the cards for the travelling fans. They might have a bit more fun on Saturday evening if they take in Gillingham Town’s game at 7.00 vs. Sturminster Newton to remind themselves of the simple joys of football and Tranmere could be a pre-Christmas piss-up but if you ask any Gills fan at the moment about our chances of picking up many points away from home and keeping the odd clean sheet they will simply shake their head and smile wryly, no chance mate, we aren’t quite good enough… again.
Up The Gills!