Tuesday 26 December – Gills 2-1 Leyton Orient
Another bizarre homecoming….all the goals are crashing in during the away games but you can’t deny that life at Priestfield is dull. For a long time this had all the makings of classic Gillingham – life breathed into our campaign with a highly unexpected win at Tranmere, followed by the hurrumph of flopping at home in front of a season’s best crowd (when did that last happen against Orient?).
First off, I clearly don’t want to dwell on anything that happened the last time the two teams met (the shock, the nausea, the fucktardiness), but it’s safe to say that the O’s have improved beyond recognition. They are rather more than a happy-go-lucky left back now, as recent results have demonstrated. That said the Gills dominated the first half and should never have trailed at the interval, a fact audibly illustrated by applause instead of boos as they trudged off. Three things stood out : a seemingly endless supply of chances somehow conconcted without Jarvis being involved thanks to the willingness of Mulligan and the, the, well, I’m not quite sure what from Savage (Orient snuffed out Jarvis far more effectively than they did the flailing Bas); a farcically whistle-happy referee who had been told that contact of any kind was banned; and a brilliant finish from James Walker, a finish he nonetheless should not have been allowed the space to execute.
With Flynn off and Pouton on – injury induced, though not a change I’m adverse to – we utterly lost our way in the second half, and went long periods unable to get hold of the ball at all. Ronnie remains effusively popular at the club, but I think it’s fair to say that a lot are yet to be convinced of his tactical nous. Guy for Jupp looked a little like desperation to me – pound them when that was pretty much our only tactic anyway with rather too many long balls aimed at Savage.
But you can’t argue with the result, though the turning point was a superlative piece of self-destruction from the idiot Gutteridge. From the moment he needlessly goaded the Rainham End following the O’s opener, we were out for him. Booked in the first half for shirt tugging, as soon as he sliced down a none-too-penetrating Mulligan the baying crowd had him. Out came the red one and it was a long, long walk of shame back to the tunnel, “Wanker, wanker, wanker” echoing in his ears. Merry Christmas. Ronnie changed the shape, and within moments the keeper – who was having a fine game but time-wasting way beyond the call of duty – was wrong-footed by a deflected Crofts header.
Big Bas provoked brief delerium when he turned in a Mulligan cross, the latter having been in an offside position, but it looked like we would run out of time. The beauty of it was Orient were now stretched, and you can’t keep Jarvis quiet for 90 minutes even with 11 men. He won the penalty with supreme simplicity : run at pace into the box, dangle the ball for the defender, and use speed of thought and feet to clip it away in the nick of time. The result is a horribly mis-timed tackle. And after a bout of shuffling and arguing, Guylain laid the ghost of Boxing Day missed penalties to rest. On came Sancho for Bas, and Jepson’s second substitution carried the simplicity of closing out the game (not that Sancho stuck to his defensive duties even in the few moments he was on the pitch).
A brief word of appreciation for O’s keeper Glyn Gardner. He pulled off a number of excellent saves but earned no credit (not even a clap to his goal for the start of the second half) due to his constant whingeing and gamesmanship. So hat’s off at the end for gratiously applauding the merry-making Gills fans as he made his way back to pick up his belongings after marauding up front for a last ditch free-kick. He saved himself from being crucified (are you allowed to use terms like that at Christmas?).
Luke Gutteridge, when will you learn? We’re in charge. Wind us up, and you’ll get sent-off. The idiot lost his team the game the moment he leered and shook his fists from the back of the Gills net after the opening goal.
The Morty Vicker