Friday 26 January – Gills 2-0 Tranmere Rovers
First double of the season. A clean sheet. A first victory live on Sky since the Wembley triumph in 2000. And people reckon we’ve got problems? Well, this papered over a few of the cracks, and probably just as well for Mr Scally as – with dissent against Jepson building (albeit still somewhat isolated, though there were a few I-I-Iffy chants in the Rainham End….like that’s going to help….) – he could have been in for an uncomfortable evening in front of the cameras had we slumped to our 6th winless match.
There were a number of reasons for the improvement. Suddenly we were without 3/4 of our seemingly first choice hapless defence (Sancho, Jupp, Cox, Easton). Only Sancho survived, and given a job to do and an inclination to stick to it, he looks a half decent right-back. Cox was suspended, Jupp’s had a baby and I’m not sure what’s happened to Easton. But Johnson and Chorley, unshackled from the dysfunctionally erratic / hesitant Sancho and Cox as central defensive partners, took a grip of proceedings. And Jackman is simply the best left-back we have at the club.
Secondly, our umpteenth loan keeper of the season looks undoubtedly the best of the lot. Larrieu even prompted a few renditions of La Marseillaise as he flung himself around his goal area. He had plenty to do in the second half, but most importantly his decision making was spot-on – he claimed everything he went for, and commanded his defenders to deal with what he didn’t claim (“Chorley, ‘ed it away you Eeeengleeesh piiiig”). And his distribution, though a bit of a flap with his feet at times, held up ok and one bowl out to set Jarvis on his way had overtones of Schmeichel and Giggs in the late 90s. No, really. I had no problem with Brill, but keeping Larrieu a bit longer would be nice : Scally has pledged to use the loan system to good effect following the lack of permanent signings (now that targets Shipperley and Knight have joined multi-millionaires Brentford and MK Dons) so let’s hope he manages it. Or brings back Jason Brown.
Thirdly, Tranmere were hopeless in the first half and the Gills took full advantage. Our midfield took a comprehensive grip and we were 2-0 up within half an hour, thanks to a messy own goal and another brilliant diving header from Crofts. All very enjoyable, despite a fussy performance by the referee. What’s more, Matty Jarvis was actually cocking things up, which had the dual benefit of giving us faith that everyone else can be up to the job, and deterring any scouts among the few thousand watching at home. Three days to go, here’s hoping…
Following a polite interval chat over the price of peas with Ronnie Moore, Tranmere went for the throat in the second period and I have very little clue how they failed to score, hitting both posts and the bar. But ultimately, helped with a bit of timewasting (does Big Bas ever know where those lumbering runs are heading, or did he deliberately aim for the corner flags?), we held on comfortably and shot up the table to an artificially high position. Four more wins and a couple of draws and we should be safe for another season….
It should be the fantastic trademark header from Crofts, but as ever the misfortune of others brought me more joy. Oh how we laughed as Tranmere hit the woodwork for the third time in ten minutes.
The Morty Vicker