Saturday 31 March 2007 – Gills 2-1 Brentford
It’s been a controversial week with regard to slagging off underachieving players. “Back them to the hilt,” the purists cry. “They need our support during the game, give them grief at the end if it all goes wrong” is a logical and admirable plea. But for the 20 minutes or so between Kuffour helping himself to yet another soft goal and Crofts heading an equaliser, virtually every cry from the stands used the word “cunt” and an associated adjective (gutless, lazy, useless and fucking being the more common) to describe one of Gills’ toiling pros.
And even after the equaliser, there was very little to crow about. First things first, the three points all but save our skins and for that we should be thankful. I really don’t want to be constantly miserable about all this but the late winner hardly set the stadium alight as there is so little to be optimistic about – let’s face it, staving off relegation merely papers over the cracks and on the field the club is still going backwards. With half our squad out of contract, we have a huge opportunity to rebuild during the summer, but few of us have any faith that 1) the resources will be available to do anything other than cobble together another ramshackle gaggle of has-beens and unlikely-to-bes and 2) even if Jepson is given £20m pounds, he won’t go and blow it on Stewart Downing and play him at centre-half. But that’s the summer’s problem, when we can draw a line under a season in which we’ve already shipped nearly 70 goals, and could easily have conceded four or more to the bottom of the table club.
Brentford’s goal was pathetic. A hoof from the keeper, one bounce (I was always told never to allow a hoof down the middle to bounce, but to deal with it, and that was playing Sunday League football at the age of 11), catastrophic indecisiveness and a failure to deal with a routine clearance and the ball was lobbed into our net. For Ronnie to say he was pleased with the defence was ludicrous (and to describe Brentford’s strikers as more lively than Carlisle’s, given that Carlisle scored five and Brentford’s included Neil Shipperly who clearly has the mobility of Kilamanjaro, was worse than ludicrous). Leon Johnson and Brent Sancho were sacrificed after the Brunton Park debacle but it really doesn’t matter how much we tinker, none of our central defenders are good enough and our full-backs are mostly flawed as well when it comes to the job of defending.
We clawed our way back into it through another Crofts header, and the absentee Welsh international was certainly welcomed back into the side. Meanwhile the only other player to really shine was Bastians, who at least introduced some flair and had the ability to whip in early crosses that eliminated the keeper. But no-one else was anything above adequate and we spent much of the second half on the back foot as Brentford twice hit the woodwork and we had a late wonder save from French Larry to thank for keeping us in the game.
There were only two ways we were going to win this game : a wonder strike out of nothing or the sort of defensive calamity that bugs teams struggling against relegation. It turned out to be the former, and if Jackman can conjure up that sort of effort then perhaps he should venture forward more often. I get the impression that we saw a little insight into The Bees’ season – plenty of endeavour, a lack of quality, a performance that deserved at least a draw but ultimately they were undone by something beyond their control. The Gills were cheered off – mission accomplished, but hardly with any kind of aplomb.
In a side clearly lacking in confidence, Jackman had the belief to try something different and it paid off handsomely.
The Morty Vicker