Saturday 29 April – Bournemouth 1-1 Gills
We’ve moaned for nine months about the grim mediocrity of this season. but come the final songs of the Fat Lady, we should all be grateful that it didn’t work out worse. After the Rotherham defeat I was seriously worried where the next win would come from, but we’ve been unbeaten since. I still don’t know how we’ve done it, but we’ve cobbled together the points necessary not just to avoid relegation but to haul us into the fuzzy mid-table world of wandering around in the sunshine looking happy during the final three fixtures.
This was a pretty awful game but that’s not the point, the afternoon spent by the Dorset seaside was one of the highlights of the season. The match won’t take long to describe for those who weren’t there : we played with no strikeforce other than the hardworking but limited Danny Spiller (a hopeless strategy, but I personally think he’s shown enough to earn a new contract); Craig Stone played in midfield and turned in a very tidy performance, doing all the basics well (which has been beyond much of the squad for most of the season), setting up the opening goal for Crofts (a downward header, obviously); Bournemouth equalised on the stroke of half time when Gills went to sleep and allowed Haytor way too much space on the edge of the area; Jarvis came on in the second half but was never given the ball and didn’t really look fully fit; Royce made a couple of decent saves but generally neither keeper was troubled again; the home fans gave an appreciative welcome to former favourite Ian Cox, and we gave a half-hearted round of polite applause for Marcus Browning, pleased to still he’s still dancing his unique dance.
But the point is most people were there. The Gills travelling support numbered around 1400 in emphatic party mood, swelling the attendance to the highest of the season at Dean Court and drawing praise from a number of Bournemouth fans for the volume of both numbers and noise. Maybe they were just giddy from gaining the point required to confirm their status, as there hasn’t been a lot of love lost between us since our tumultuous clashes in the late 90s and the considerable lingering bitterness that we went on to enjoy the high life in the Championship while they sunk without trace has festered in all subsequant encounters.
Some of us have questioned why we can’t support the club like that more often – well, that should be obvious : we can all rally for one final hurrah by the seaside (especially knowing we won’t have a weekend wrecked by a misplaced Cox header or a moment of supreme clumsy thuggery by Sancho for at least two months) but the performances on the pitch haven’t merited that level of passion for the entire slog. Nevertheless it made for a hugely enjoyable afternoon as Ring of Fire rang out across the countryside for a couple of hours, drowning out the customary birdsong and neighing of New Forest ponies. All was generally peaceful outside the ground as well, despite some childish antics by local chavs on the wind-up in the pub pre-match and a mildly provocative pitch invasion at the end. But with Fred Flintstone among the Gills ranks they were never likely to kick up a stink for long. Let’s hope Matty Jarvis is up for one breathtaking last appearance and we can end on a real high against Yeovil to take us into a summer rest of pretence that all is on-track at Planet Priestfield while we await those creative season ticket prices.
Relentless second half support from the sold out away end, that bore no relation to anything that was happening on the pitch.
The Morty Vicker