Monday 1 January – Millwall 4 – 1 Gills
Having said “Good Riddance” to 2006 with a comprehensive stuffing by in-form Oldham at Priestfield, 2007 served up a great big raspberry for the 1,200 Gills that made their way to the New Den for a cheeky New Years knees up. It was a case of same old, same old really, you know the story by now, start brightly, take the lead, miss chances to make the game safe, concede a soft equaliser and then collapse emphatically to a humiliating defeat at the feet of an ex-player in a shambolic second half…
It all began so promisingly too… the early play suggested that Millwall were happy to allow Jarvis free reign to cause his own particular brand of mischief down the flanks, it was an open contest which contradicted pre-match expectations of a dour affair given Millwall’s inability to score more than two at home all season and our dodgy away form. With Jarvis looking lively and Crofts crashing one wide early on at one end and Brill denying Byfield and then seeing a second chance cleared off the line it was abundantly clear it wasn’t going to end 0-0.
The Gills duly took the lead on ten minutes via a rather soft goal, a long throw by Flynn flicked into the range of Mulligan who simply hooked the dropping ball into the net from eight yards with the Lions defence seemingly asleep. Cue plenty of hangover-busting happiness in the away end and juvenile taunting of the dischuffed locals. However it has to be said that some younger, more excitable members of the away support need to learn two invaluable lessons, one not to chant “Easy, Easy” at opponents when you only lead by one goal away from home with eighty minutes remaining and two, the more you bait ex-Gillingham strikers, the more likely they are to come back to bite you on the bum and score.
Now Darren Byfield was always going to get some abuse because he left the Gills on a free to go to our nearest rivals in the same division for money. His Gills career had been one of frustrating underachievement, too many injuries, too many games where he “didn’t fancy it” and went missing and too much petulance, not enough effort. He had the ability, well, lots by League One standards, but not the passion or the consistency, and whisper it, perhaps not the commitment. Baz Savage might only have the tenth of his ability and is incapable of scoring goals but Gills fans love a trier and appreciate effort from the less gifted when contrasted with skilful wasters. Gills fans ran out of patience with Byfield despite the magnificent goals he scored because he went missing too often when it came to the crunch, most notably in our relegation season…
Back at the New Den and we were all busy taunting the knuckle-dragging locals, particularly one gentleman in a pastel pink jumper, presumably given to him by his mum, who liked gesturing and waving his arms about. Some of their nutters appeared to have migrated from, as we look, top left to bottom right, but the comic book posturing is still the same that we rather foolhardily ripped the piss out of by chanting, “You’re not scary anymore!”
We were able to luxuriate in the lead until the 38th minute because we were largely on top but a second goal never materialised and hey presto at the other end more sloppiness at the back brought Millwall an equaliser and changed the whole pattern of the game. With Easton and Jupp both looking shaky (what the feck do Jackman and Clohessy need to do to get back in the team Ronnie?), hesitation as ever allowed a simple ball in to reach Zebroski and he had time to steer home from six yards. Jarvis fluffed a great chance to regain the lead but half-time came with most Gills fans mildly optimistic but rueing not doing more damage to a fragile Millwall side with their notoriously impatient fans on their backs.
The second period began badly and just got worse. Five minutes in and slow coach Jupp found himself out paced and out of position, with Byfield away he resorted to a hospital challenge, clumsy, stupid and from our angle a blatant penalty. Byfield (who else?) coolly slotted home the kick to leave us with that all too familiar hollow sinking feeling.
More chances came and went at both ends, but it gradually became evident that Brill wasn’t exactly living up to his surname. We finally caved in with eleven minutes remaining, conceding two more and very nearly four… to leave the locals in full gloating mode.
The third killer goal arrived when our offside trap malfunctioned spectacularly (or heaven forbid, the linesman got it wrong), either way Byfield found himself in our half with only the ball and Brill for company. He naturally raced goalwards, Brill tried to deny him but lying down on the ground before Byfield had even arrived and letting him walk the ball round you and into an empty net was hardly top quality goalkeeping.
The Gills threw men forward in a last grasp effort to save something form the afternoon, a blatant foul on Easton should have brought a penalty and perhaps an exciting finale but the referee ignored our claims and whilst we were still steaming with indignity Byfield was away again thanks to a catastrophic Sancho backpass (look what you’re doing you dozy twat!) which allowed our ex-striker to run at the hapless Brill and contrive to run right through him with the ball, empty net, three goals for Byfield, happy days for Jamelia and cue mass exit from a disgruntled away end. Byfield never managed to score three in a Gills shirt, but then again he never came up against a defence as dodgy as ours when wearing one either!
Millwall then had two more chances to really rub salt into gaping wounds but one effort smashed against the bar and Brill brilliantly denied Byfield an individual fourth at the death. We retired to a pub near London Bridge to digest what had just happened. It hadn’t been the ideal start to the New Year at the New Den. Calls for Jackman and Clohessy to return were the order of the day, plus the need to sign another central defender and a goalkeeper. However, even with the limited players at his disposal Ronnie Jepson needs to sort things out and fast. Otherwise the fans will begin to ask whether he really is the right man for the job. I’ve got to say I’m beginning to have my doubts.
Champagne Moment:-Gills fans singing, “You’re not scary anymore” at the local pond life in the pink before the wheels fell off on the pitch so spectacularly.