Tuesday 13 November – Gills 4 – 0 Dagenham & Redbridge JPTQFS
Strange days indeed. With the malaise hanging over the club threatening to dissipate, almost 3,000 people turned up for a Johnstones Paint Trophy game against not exactly exulted opposition. This appeared to catch the club out (understandably for once) and they were forced to open the upper tier of the Medway Stand to accommodate the slavering hordes.
The first surprise of the evening came in the shape of the team sheet. Out went most of the old under achieving lags, and in came youngsters Clohessey, Stone, Hamilton, Howard and 15 year old wunderkid Luke Freeman, bringing youthful vigour and enthusiasm to our collection of tired old men.
It would be nice to report that we overran the opposition like some kind of latter day Busby Babes, but in truth much of the first period belonged to the visitors, who created numerous chances, but somehow contrived to not get any of them on target. Meanwhile, at the other end they were handed a masterclass in finishing from… er… Craig Armstrong. The much maligned left back had ventured forward, cut inside two defenders and sent a 25 yard effort beyond Daggers keeper Tony Roberts (who must be 40 now if he’s a day) and into the net. This was described as a mishit cross in some reports, but given Armstrong’s central position and the fact that he was the most advanced Gills player when he shot it is hard to see precisely who he would have been crossing to.
If the visitors felt aggrieved by a goal against the run of play, they would have been even more so shortly after when Aaron Brown volleyed home an excellent second after some superb set up play from Chris Dickson. Bizarrely some supporters appear to believe that Dickson is ‘lazy’. Myself, I prefer the adjectives, quick, skilful and prolific. If you don’t find watching a player like him a pleasure you really might as well give up going to football fullstop.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with Dagenham making most of the running, but on the hour the game was ended as a contest when Daggers defender Rainford blocked Chris Dickson’s goalbound effort with his hand – red card and penalty! Step forward Dickson to coolly slot home his 7th goal in 9 appearances.
By this stage the Daggers support were becoming increasingly tetchy, suggesting in somewhat vocal terms that the referee, Mr Trevor Kettle, wasn’t very good (which, in fairness, he isn’t). As tempers became frayed one cheeky chappy returned the ball to Sean Clohessy by lobbing it rather hard in his general direction. Clohessy responded, presumably with a comment along the lines of ‘I say old chap, do calm down or I shall be forced to administer a sound thrashing`. From that moment, Clohessy’s every move was greeted with a chorus of boos. Fortunately, those lovable scamps the Gillingham stewards intervened to calm the situation…. I’m sorry, I’ll read that again – The Gillingham stewards further inflamed the situation by wading in and forcibly removing a couple of Dagenham fans. Well done chaps, for once again exacerbating a situation that could have been controlled by calming words and gestures. But of course, as we know, our stewards are incapable of sensible behaviour like that, preferring confrontation and bad feeling.
With 20 minutes to go new signing Dennis Oli marked his debut with a goal, getting on the end of Barry Cogan’s free kick to slot home from close range. The final quarter of an hour witnessed a delightful little cameo from little Luke Freeman, who showed enough to answer anyone who may have doubted the wisdom of putting a 15 year old in the first team. So an entertaining evening all round, helped in no small part by a manager who is not afraid to take risks, and will not put up with players simply going through the motions. More power to your elbow sir!
Champagne Moment:- I couldn’t help admiring the visitors vocal backing for their team, in the face of one of those ‘everything is conspiring against us` evenings, and having witnessed the referee not exactly doing their team any favours for most of the game I did like their chant of `You’ve only got 12 men!`