Saturday 27 Oct – Gills 3-2 Bristol Rovers
Well, how peculiar. A decidedly odd game that left everyone slightly flummoxed but was highly entertaining all the same. For long periods it was lousy, with quality from both sides leaving everything to be desired, but that’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining. I think we shaded it – we certainly didn’t deserve to lose – and Bristol Rovers were incapable of showing much ambition, but you couldn’t get beyond the notion that it was all held together by plasters, elastic bands and a bit of fairy dust.
If you ask me, Iffy’s doing all right. I would say that, I love the man. If he approached me in a restaurant, chundered in my wine and pissed in my soup, I’d be delighted. I was seriously struggling to work out what he was playing at towards the end but he’s not afraid to throw everything forward to salvage a game or snatch a win, and quite frankly with the terminal state of our away record we have no option than going all out for three points in every home game.
The first half was only a little bit weird. Going forward we looked ok. Dickson and Facey have enough understanding and experience to more than hold their own in this division, the crucial element being that our loanee from “our friends from Charlton” (according to Scally in his programme notes : they’re our friends again now, are they?) is a goal-scorer. Facey and Mulligan together won’t get enough goals. And I like Graham but I’m not sure why. Even Brown looked a bit of a threat, and opened the scoring by blasting a freekick through a six man wall. Rovers, only wearing a slightly silly kit after some of their concoctions of the past, soon hit back. Simon King, who still has work to do to win everyone over though left back clearly isn’t his position, decapitated a forward fractionally outside the box. He was lucky to stay on the pitch, but the good fortune ran out when the deflected shot spooned over a stranded Royce and Sodje.
Dickheaded carelessness and some quality snoozing gifted Rovers the lead within seconds of half time, though it was still a cracking finish. It looked like it was going to be one of those days, and we sat back in morbid anticipation of an Ian Cox clearance bringing the brand new scoreboard crashing to the ground. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think Cox and Sodje work pretty well at the back. The key is that Sodje has sufficient pace and the reading of the game to cover young Ian, so at least if he feels the need to haul someone to the ground he is no longer the last man. The whole afternoon was summed up in two second half minutes as Cox fell over, leaving Williams with a clear run on goal but Royce saved brilliantly, leaving the Rovers striker to calmly sidefoot the rebound over the empty net to the back of the Town End. Pure theatre. Moments later our T&T international executed an outrageous turn on the edge of his own area – we shouldn’t be encouraging that sort of thing but it shows what he’s capable of.
Our problems at the back remain down the flanks, and Iffy recognised it by replacing both fullbacks – the lumbering Jupp to allow Southall to sit back and bring on Graham, and King made way for Cogan. With Mulligan on as well we flew forward as the game threatened to boil over, the referee paying for not clamping down earlier on. At the back we were all hurried wayward clearances, but up front we attacked with purpose, Brown put over a series of dangerous crosses and we forced a string of corners which Rovers did their utmost to put into their own net. Finally the equaliser we deserved, a simple yet clever header from Graham after great hold up play by Mulligan and Bentley.
The winner was still hugely unexpected, Dickson made great use of space opened up by Facey, smashing an unstoppable drive through the keeper. The Rovers travelling supporters must have been absolutely gutted, it was a game any semi-competent team would have closed out comfortably. Yet there was much to admire among the Gills team and at least the basics are coming together – and I think there may just be a spark of a bond between the players and fans again. Seven unbeaten at home, let’s just hope we can find it in us to stop playing like prats away from home.
The rousing last five minutes, topped off by Dickson’s goal. It had to be something special to beat the first sighting of the wonderful scoreboard. Could anyone in the ground read it? I know we play in blue and it’s a nice idea, but was blue lighting really sensible?
The Morty Vicker