18th February – Northampton Town 1-1 Gills
A point stolen from the Sixfields, but it only really papers over the cracks for another week or so. It’s staggering that despite winning a grand total of ten points on our travels this season from sixteen games we nearly filled the away end on a Friday night, but there was very little to be upbeat about among the Gills support and the atmosphere was pretty flat all round. Let’s face it, another disjointed performance saw the midfield over-run, the attack showing no semblance of understanding and we only escaped with a draw because the home side were so limited in their approach that even our rearguard managed to cope.
Ok, a few positives : Larrieu had a blinder, can we keep him? The back four looked as solid as at any time this season. The Cobblers launched a constant physical assault but Chorley and Johnson batted back most of what was thrown at them – the simple fact that they held their positions and attacked aerial balls decisively was enough to keep Northampton at bay, and we probably would have fled with our first away clean sheet of the season but for one daft ricochet when Jackman should have cleared it. And despite that lapse, Jackman and Southall have already shown that they are the most effective full-back pairing at the club.
The midfield worked hard but never got hold of the ball. Part of the problem was the options ahead of them, the lack of understanding between McDonald and Mulligan – the former ran up a lot of blind alleys and was not surprisingly shrugged off the ball easily but I’d be happy to see us persevere a little longer. At some point we need to decide who our first choice front two is and stick with it – I don’t think Guy would improve things at this stage. Little Dean is already getting stick from the numpties among our support, but he has notched four goals in eight starts (14 appearances in total) which is better than we ever got out of Sidibe. And as for Jarvis…he’s not looked his usual self in recent weeks, and is either carrying an injury or is shattered. His energy seems to be channelled towards covering back rather than hacking past defenders. Northampton snuffed him out easily enough, admittedly with a few kicks which actually earned our winger boos from the home crowd. How very dare they.
Ten points from safety. If Northampton hadn’t twice hit the woodwork, fluffed a hatful of half chances or found a solid barrier in the shape of our French custodian it would have been eleven. We’re gonna get there, but it ain’t gonna be pretty.
Champagne Moment :
On a couple of occasions in the past, a fearful clobbering has been alleviated by going straight off to another game to forget about it (the “get straight back on the horse” theory). The dafter the game the better. Hence after a 4-0 whipping at Bournemouth on Boxing Day 1997 a car load of us sought therapy at Bashley v Weymouth deep in the New Forest (ponies and a six goal thriller). The day after a Carbone-inspired Bradford crushed us 5-1 in 2001, we craved refuge at Bradford Park Avenue, a surreal afternoon enlivened by the antics of a few choice nutters who follow non-league football.
And so it proved after the Friday night Cobblers, admittedly not a calamity on the scale of those at Dean Court or Valley Parade. An hour in the Sixfields car park, a curry with my Dad, lunch in Birmingham (actually a pub-free purpose built village called Dickens Heath, Stepford Wives territory if ever I saw it) and then off to see Redditch United v Kettering. Rock and roll. Except it was an anarchic 4-4 draw, the struggling home side coming from three down after Kettering’s keeper had been sent off. Not only that, but it was played out in front of an agitated crowd of around 700, 300 from the visitors, which made for a somewhat earthy atmosphere. Skill levels were lower than anything we witnessed in the 1992/93 season, but the explosion of passion and joy which greeted the late Redditch equaliser has been largely unmatched by anything at Priestfield this season. And there was a man with a huge beard and a hunting horn. And, best of all, it was a misty South Midlands derby and Big Ron (currently Director of Football at promotion-chasing Kettering) was wearing shades….possibly to hide his shame as the home support kept up a relentless barrage of “Big Fat Ron’s racist army”….
The Morty Vicker