Monday 9 April 2007 – Gills 1-0 Bristol City
Well, I didn’t expect that. Immense performances throughout the side clinched safety against near-certs for promotion in the most exciting game of the season and left us all begging the question : why can’t you bastards play like that every week? After the scandalously lucklustre afternoon at Millmoor, they proved they can do it in the most testing of circumstances.
In the cold light of day this performance means very little – we are still following a fragile and disorganised side lacking quality and leadership, and major rebuilding is required. But the result means everything as we can finally relax through the run-in, when having been in South Yorkshire two days earlier I really couldn’t see where another point was coming from this season prior to kick-off. And most of all, it showed that they do care and show no little talent in punching above their weight. I know expectations were massively inflated by the whole Championship experience but that kind of display is all we ask for, as was demonstrated by the rapturous response the knackered troops received from an enthralled crowd.
Bristol City looked strong, broke quickly and were prepared to batter us. I can’t say that they looked especially impressive (their subdued following indicated an understandable nervousness) but we didn’t let them settle. Spiller probably deserved his man-of-the-match award for his workrate and enthusiasm (let’s forget his finishing, but then he’s not a striker), often charging about on his own upfront, but for me Ian Cox was the real wonder. Within 20 minutes it was obvious that he was having a blinder but no-one dared say it for fear of prompting an almighty swipe into his own net. But he won absolutely everything, helped out in attack when appropriate (and – note to Sancho – got back to mop up any breakaways) and is entitled to say he has emphatically answered his particularly vociferous critics. Maybe on Saturday he’ll be back to his lumbering recent self, but for now I love him and that shiny head that he put in front of everything for 90 minutes plus. Add impressive cameos from Little Dean, Frannie Collin and numerous others and it made for a lot of sunshine smiles at the end.
We were down to our bare bones, which were a bit fractured to start with, and with further injuries to McDonald and Bastiens and several players dead on their feet having played out of position, it was a wonderful victory. We couldn’t really have complained if City had escaped with a point (especially after that impressively comical exchange when they twice hit our crossbar in five seconds) but the whole experience restored some of the faith that had been sorely eroded over recent weeks.
Champagne Moment :
I keep banging on about it but Dean McDonald is a natural finisher. We’re not using him anything like well enough and this makes him an unaffordable luxury, but his strike rate for the minutes he’s spent on the pitch and the number of chances that have come his way is better than anything we’ve seen from any of our other strikers in the last 3 years. I screamed at Bentley not to loft his cross in – what’s the point with a single 4ft striker in the box? – but Deano read it perfectly, lost his man and nodded home clinically.
The Morty Vicker