Saturday 25 August – Luton Town 3 – 1 Gills
Sheesh, say it ain’t so somebody PLEASE! Gillingham Football Club are officially in the shit big time. A 3-1 loss at Luton in itself shouldn’t be cause for wholesale panic, Sunderland lost 3-0 at Kenilworth Road only a few days later, but the whole manner of the “performance” will have sent alarm bells ringing loud and clear in the heads of not just Scally and Jepson, but the entire Gillingham support
Anyone can have an off day, but four out of four from the start of the season? It doesn’t bode well does it. The end saw 500 Gillingham fans as one chanting “FUCK OFF JEPSON” in angry unison. Not like Hessenthaler’s exit, an apologetic “Hessy Hessy time to go” – no, this was the tipping point, Jepson has lost the crowd, the hardcore loyalists, just like it is rumoured he has lost the dressing room.
On paper a 3-1 defeat with a late penalty sealing things doesn’t look that bad but anyone who was there, having paid £23.50 for the privilege of contorting themselves into the seats in the away end will tell you we could have been 5, 6 or even 7-1 down at the break, our goal coming somewhat out of the blue from a brief foray out of our half amid a period of almost continuous Luton pressure. Only Mark Bentley came out with any credit from a woebegone shambles of brain-meltingly embarrassing proportions
If this was the team “Jepson built” then he is a madman – the slowest team in Gillingham history lacking in a plan, or even any sign of even mediocre competence. “Tactics? What are those? I’ll just shout and rant and rave and go red”, that will work… We set the tone messing up kick-off necessitating a rushed punt straight down field to the Luton keeper – bloody brilliant
With Sodje, Mulligan and King missing (so called crucial players, but genius Jepson dropped two of them for the opening game), we were down to bare bones with youth team irregulars filling the bench in the absence of a decent sized squad or even a reserve team for them to gain experience against the big boys. Perhaps the players want Jepson out too, the certainly played like they wanted to sabotage his last vestige of hope of keeping the job beyond the end of the cricket season
The first half saw Luton stage wave after wave after wave of attack. Royce looked dodgy and the defence creaked and groaned. The midfield surrendered any semblance of a challenge in the middle of the pitch and Luton were able to swing the ball out wide and run riot down the wings with impunity. It has to be said Luton played some attractive football, pace, pattern, everything we lacked, oh and width? Did I mention width? They killed us down the flanks.
Bell opened the floodgates on 17 minutes with a similar goal to Tranmere’s second the week before. The defence stood off, dithered, Southall went to sleep and Royce was beaten at his near post again by a hard shot in off the post from the edge of the box. No more than we deserved but it ended the defiant and positive chanting from the 503 Gills fans, resignation giving way soon to contempt and then anger
The one bright spark was Bentley; filling in as emergency centre-back he showed plenty of passion and guts if nothing else. Shame his colleagues couldn’t be arsed. Speaking of arses Facey did go on one lumbering run and earned a corner. Respite at last we murmured, but it ushered in our first goal of the season, Southall’s 22nd minute corner nodded smartly into the net by Bentley. We cheered enthusiastically enough but with little conviction that it would mean much at the end.
Royce then got clattered amid several hairy scrambles in the box which probably helps explain the rush of blood moments after which saw him try to collect a deflected shot on the edge of the box, he was always going to come a distant second and unfortunately Spring kept his head to chip back across goal for Furlong to out muscle Cox to bundle home. 26 minutes gone, 2-1 down, any neutrals would have enjoyed it… we weren’t.
The rest of the half was like Custer’s Last Stand, the Gillingham goal leading a charmed life as Luton squandered chance after chance whacking one open goal against the ancient roof causing stray bits of crap to land on a bemused steward
The second half was a distinct improvement, because Luton failed to get out of second gear, content to coast. Even when they were down to ten men for ten minutes in the second half due to injury we failed to even test their keeper. It was heading for one of the most one sided 2-1 wins in history until the 78th minute when Bentley went shoulder to shoulder with McVeigh in the box, a bit soft but referee Penn pointed to the spot and Spring coolly put the ball away despite Royce getting two hands to his effort.
Game over. It was just left to the livid Gills fans to let Jepson et al know precisely what they thought of them with “What a load of rubbish” followed by “Championship you’re having a laugh” and then “Fuck off Jepson”. It that doesn’t tell Scally something I’m sure when he looked at the League table and evaluated our displays thus far he can come to only one conclusion, it is no longer a question of if but when Jepson goes. The sooner the better for all concerned
Champagne Moment:- Aside from the shock of finding a brilliant pub in Luton, yes Luton (!) – the Bricklayers Arms if we get to go back next season – it has to be the Gills fans singing “Championship you’re having a laugh!” in the general direction of a certain Mr Scally