Saturday 29 September – Gills 1 – 1 Dirty Leeds
In the cool light of day being held to a 1-1 draw at home by nine men hardly ranks in the annals of great footballing achievements, but the utter bedlam that greeted Ian Cox’s dramatic 91st minute header as it hit the back of the net tells another story, mostly of high comedy thanks in main to the self-destructive streak of a petulant arrogant Leeds side that arrived at Priestfield chasing an eighth straight win.
After the latest debacle on the road at Forest few expected anything other than a comfortable win for our ever lovable visitors, the only straw to be clutched at being that the Gills used to be very good at putting one over the “big boys” and that perhaps, just perhaps we might contrive to do it again, for old times sake. There were certainly a few raised eyebrows at the change in personnel, with Hamilton drafted in at fullback along with starts for Nowland, Clohessy, Royce, Graham and Cogan.
With a decent crowd inside Priestfield and a lively atmosphere the Gills began brightly. It wasn’t exactly pretty and creatively the final ball was lacking (often abjectly so) but it felt more like a cup-tie and we huffed and puffed, harried and chased. The crowd couldn’t have asked for more in terms of effort, just quality, but at the moment we simply have to make the best of the shoddy hand Jepson’s judgement and Scally’s “budget” left us with.
Leeds did look sharp and confident but there was also an abrasive edge to their play from the off, it is all very well creating an “us against the rest of the world” siege mentality, Pulis was an expert in doing that, but very soon it became apparent that they had no respect for the referee or even our players. The Rainham End smelled blood… Leeds did have one effort chalked off for offside before they broke the stalemate on 28 minutes. It was either a brilliantly worked routine or our marking system broke down completely, either way Douglas crossed to the far post where two Leeds players were standing completely unmarked having danced round the blind side, Heath headed across goal and Carole nodded home via a deflection. Cue rather over the top celebrations from Wise and his cronies and many Gills fans slumped back in their seats silently bemoaning the fact that it was slightly against the run of play. Leeds fans responded with “Scally what’s the score?” which many in the Rainham joined in with a smirk… The Gills players could have then rolled over but instead defiantly dug in, battling hard, snapping at the heels of Leeds, Sodje and Cox were outstanding at the back, Hamilton slotted in confidently and Cogan looked promising in patches
The game reignited on 40 minutes due to a comical combination of bewildering stupidity from one of the Leeds strikers and strict refereeing. Kandol had earlier been booked for a bit of petulance but decided to push his luck when referee McDermid awarded Leeds a routine free kick in midfield. He thought it really sensible to sarcastically applaud the decision having moaned and groaned all afternoon and McDermid had little other option. Out came the big red juicy one and off he jolly well went. Leeds fans and staff were not happy but it was an entirely correct decision. We waved him on his way with much gusto and no little giggling. Pillock.
The second half was equally tight with the Gills defence holding out but at the other end the Gills remained uninspired. Royce tipped an acrobatic effort from Beckford over before seeing the same player kick the ball away (well lob it into the unguarded net long after play had been halted) and get booked. The silly Billy then topped it all off on 55 minutes with a clumsy and quite nasty lunge on Clohessy. Out came another yellow followed by a red and off Beckford trotted. The Leeds fans went mental, the Leeds bench went mental, we just lapped it up – eleven against nine? Fair sides at last! Amid the chaos keeper Ankergren kicked the ball over the Gordon Road Stand in another petulant act.
By now the whole ground was in a right old state of high excitement. For the first time in many months Priestfield was rocking, the only problem being despite the abundance of possession the final ball in was often hopeless. The over hit crosses and under hit passes served only to frustrate everyone. The lack of quality going forward was exposed for all to see. Even with Mulligan and Dickson on the Gills repeatedly fluffed their lines. We huffed and puffed and laid siege of a sort but it was unconvincing. Most of the efforts were of the powder-puff variety, or simply wide and in one case endangered inhabitants of the back row of the Rainham End.
We did start to get closer though, a classical Crofts near-post header zipped over, Cox lashed one wildly over the bar from six yards out amid an almighty scramble, Cogan cracked a couple of decent efforts in and keeper Ankergren (who was later booked) was forced to parry one smart effort from Graham. When the board went up for stoppage time indicating five minutes Priestfield stirred again. The Rainham End were begging for a goal and you could sense it still might happen.
One minute later the ball was in the net and people were cavorting manically in the six-yard box, scenes of delirious two-fingered delight were being pointed at the away end, Ian Cox the hero rather than zero for once. It was a simple goal (I don’t think we’re up to doing complicated just yet), Cogan curled over a splendid corner and Cox rose majestically to nod home before being engulfed by relieved team mates. The place went bonkers, we don’t really want to see fans invading the pitch but in such a febrile atmosphere it was understandably if not foolhardy.
The final frantic moments saw the Gills attacking once more, in search of a famous win. They mustered a couple of half-chances but had to settle for a point. The standing ovation showed the crowd had appreciated the blood and guts if not the quality. No doubt the players were happy to milk the adoration having slunk away with insults ringing in their ears too often already this season. The ever-charming Ankergren further endeared himself to the Rainham End gesturing and goading as he retreated in the direction of the tunnel – a bit unprofessional but given all the juicy abuse he’d had in the second half I couldn’t blame him really.
The cherry on the top of the cake saw the Leeds fans waiting to congratulate the referee on his fine afternoon’s work, the Rainham End singing “there’s only one referee!” (Where’s Kelvin Morton when you need him) serving only to wind up the visiting fans as they prepared to pelt the referee with anything they could get their hands on. After the game they attempted to re-enact the 1980’s with some good old-fashioned posturing, gesturing, aggression and bottle throwing by the Co-op. Lovely charming people – typical big club behaviour when doing a tour of duty in the lower divisions…
It later transpired that Dennis Wise was also sent to the stands at half-time – cue whining and moaning from the biggest whiners and moaners in the division. When the dust settles though any Leeds fans with half a brain cell who watched the game would have to concede that the referee got both key decision right and they should look closer to home for the true culprits. Kandol and Beckford behaved like spoilt brats and deserved to go. End of.
Champagne Moment:– So many to choose from! Chanting for the referee, manic injury-time pitch invading goal celebrations – it had everything, but getting sent off for sarcastically clapping the referee when he gives a free-kick to you… well that was pure genius!