Saturday 7 April – Rotherham United 3 – 2 Gills
If ever a game summed up our wretched season it was this one. We arrived at Millmoor in search of the three points that would all but secure our status for another year against a side second from bottom, albeit due to a ten point penalty, but that are still destined for League Two. They had little to play for except impressing newly appointed manager Mark Robins and to be honest weren’t very good. We had more than a win bonus and a bit of pride to play for, potentially a defining match as the season came to its buttock-clenching crescendo, not to mention rewarding the away fans after nine months of shambolic defending and criminally incompetent gutless stupidity. It wasn’t to be…
We should have known it wasn’t going to be our day when on arrival outside the ground we found the regular away pub on the corner to be closed for “renovations”. It was never fancy, but had been friendly. We were then refused entry to the Rotherham social club and politely ushered in the direction of the away turnstiles with the promise of a drinking establishment just for us. What we got amid the scrap metal yards and scabby graffiti-strewn alleyways was a shed. Okay a bit bigger than your average garden shed and it did have a bar (the sort you find in the lounges of Blackpool bed and breakfasts), but with a poor and expensive choice of drinks and décor that even Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen would struggle to tart up with MDF and glitter, it was arguably the worst drinking establishment in the country.
The only high spot was the discovery that Wolfie had bunked off Gillingham duty despite previously booking a train ticket to South Yorkshire for the delights of Chelsea vs. Tottenham instead. Half the people in the shed responded to this Judas-esque betrayal with a carefully coordinated flood of simple and to the point text messages, “Judas cunt”… Wolfie, Wolfie, Wolfie, what were you thinking?
With Wolfie-baiting finished for the day we all supped up our pints and trudged wearily into the away end full in the knowledge that the Gills hadn’t kept a clean sheet away from home for fifty-one weeks. Failure to keep out the Millers would ensure the run would make it to 365 days at Chesterfield. Would this be the game when the Gills prevented the opposition banging at least one into our onion bag? Would we make it nine wins in eighty-four away games over three and a half seasons? Would we fuck! Perhaps we would have had half a chance with Larrieu in goal but the Frenchman injured his finger in the warm up and the accident waiting to happen known as Kelvin Jack took up the job
It took seven minutes for us to wilt under the incessant Rotherham pressure… okay, okay, it was their first significant attack, we failed to stop the cross from Woods out on the right, we left their bloke standing eight yards out unmarked and watched with a certain amount of déjà vu as he stooped to guide a soft header into the net. Facey looked happy enough, the sparely populated stands stirred; the locals murmured their approval in the sunshine and we, well we either berated Jack and his merry men for their incompetence, stared glumly at the ground wishing we were elsewhere or looked to the high heavens in search of some inspiration. Useless fuckers the lot of them.
With Mulligan leading the line on his own and Spiller playing off him our attacking options were somewhat limited but we surprised everyone, not least ourselves by equalising in some style after twenty-one minutes. Felix Bastiens received the ball out on the left wing, we moved into the United box before cutting smartly to his right and curling an exquisite shot into the top right hand corner of the net. A belter of a goal and a candidate for Gillingham goal of the season. We were still bouncing about with delight three minutes later when the Gills won a corner. Bastiens delivered with no little skill for Crofts to charge through a melee of players to head home. This changed everything in the away end, there was much jumping about and bruising of shins and the previously glum 350 travelling fans were soon serenading their heroes and encouraging them to add a third. A song in honour of our temporary German even got an airing, to the tune of “Ten German bombers” but with less controversial content!
With less than half an hour gone though it began to go wrong, Mulligan limped off to be replaced by the invariably rubbish Ndumbu-Nsungu who was not remotely up to the job at hand – could he actually care less? We failed to take advantage of any momentum the quick-fire salvo had given us but hey ho, coming back from a goal down to lead was more than enough to see plenty of smiles at the break although the consensus in the pie queue was that we had most certainly not seen the end of the scoring…
The beginning of the second half was delayed by Jack bringing to the attention of the unfortunately named referee Mr Bratt, the fact that he had been racially abused by some ignorant numpty behind the goal. Credit to the swift response from Rotherham who identified the culprit and subsequently banned the moron from Millmoor for life. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Jack was then forced into more conventional action tipping over a rocket of a shot from a Woods free-kick on 52 minutes. With the clock ticking down and the game meandering along the defining moment arrived. The Gills cobbled together a decent attack which culminated in Ndumbu-Nsungu finding himself through on goal, he hesitated and made a right dogs breakfast of his golden opportunity to win the game, Cutler parried the tardy shot straight to the onrushing Spiller who tried his best to miss before bundling the ball home. Cue pandemonium in the away end for two or three seconds until the grim, gut-churning realisation that the linesman had his flag in the air and it didn’t count. The offending official was a right pain in the arse all afternoon, getting numerous decisions wrong, that one included… but then when did officials ever give the benefit of the doubt to Gillingham away from home?
Soon after Bastiens was substituted for Easton by Ronnie leaving our attacking options even more threadbare and announcing to the Millers that we intended to hold what we had. Big mistake as anyone looking at our goals against record will confirm, we simply aren’t good enough to sit back and soak up pressure and so it came to pass that another away game was chucked away by the bunch of pathetic jokers that purport to be professional Gillingham footballers. You know the score by now, we invited them on to us, United attacked, we crumbled and gifted them victory when three points was ours for the taking had we the gumption, passion and ability to close a game out. I wasn’t Kelvin Jacks finest fifteen minutes either…
We should have heeded the warning, Jack was forced into action to deny Woods but we continued to meander carelessly towards the rocks. With fifteen minutes remaining United keeper Cutler lumped the ball down field, it was headed on and fell to O’Grady inside the box, he stuck out a hopeful toe and hooked the ball vaguely goalwards. A flat-footed Jack went down like a dead haddock and the ball trickled into the net. Chance of victory gone, chance of Bjorn buying celebratory champagne gone, chance of virtually ensuring safety gone and now even holding out for a point was looking dodgy. With four minutes remaining the inevitable happened, more sloppy defending allowed Woods time and space to cross to Newsham at the near post, unmarked he headed tamely at the goal, virtually straight at Jack but our World Cup star somehow contrived to let the ball beat him and hand United the softest of victories.
The finale saw some the Gills slump to a humiliating defeat once again, in its’ way worse than the Carlisle debacle. The away fans were livid, chanting “What a load of rubbish”, “You’re not fit to wear the shirts”, “Jepson out” and “Scally out” – many surging down the front to gesticulate at the players and scream abuse. Only three were brave enough to come anywhere near us, before scuttling away in shame, heads down hopefully to receive the biggest bollocking of the season so far from Jepson.
The trip back saw many harsh words said about the players, there are not many of the current squad Gills fans would keep, Jarvis (dream on), Crofts, Southall and at a push Mulligan (for effort). Assuming we don’t sign any of the current loan players then frankly the rest of the Muppets can just fuck off. We can all accept limited players if they put in the effort and show some commitment but at the moment the current mob look like they don’t give a flying fuck and Jepson is incapable of stopping the rot. A sad day for us all.
Champagne Moment:- Meeting the Newcastle fans celebrating their away win (what exactly is one of those?) at Sheffield United in a pub enroute home when waiting for the Sheffield to London train. They had a very funny song about Sunderland manager Keane and hit pet dog!