Saturday 8 December – Gills 1 – 2 Port Vale
A home game against the bottom team following two wins on the spin including (whisper it gently) an away win (at Crewe, mark you) and a new sense of optimism amongst the faithful – what could possibly go wrong? Hmmmm, well.. come on, this is still Gillingham we are talking about here. New improved Stimson led version they may be, but this defeat was classic Gills.
In many ways, it might not be a bad thing that we suffered a reverse at this stage. Some supporters (not to mention Chairmen) were getting carried away with talk of the play-offs and promotion, and it really is ridiculously early to be thinking along those lines. However, that is a measure of the spirit which Mark Stimson has re-ignited in his short time at the club.
A combination of the new mood and a kid for a quid deal saw over 7,000 people pass through the turnstiles for the first time this campaign, which the exception of the visit of Dirty Leeds. This was doubly impressive given the atrocious conditions (very wet and extremely windy) and the absence of a large away support (Vale appeared to have well under a 100 drenched souls in the away section).
Unfortunately, the larger than normal crowd witnessed a stuttering Gills performance, whilst tail end charlies Vale (also now managed by a former non-league boss in the shape of Lee Sinnott) gave every impression of a side at the opposite end of the table, and on this showing will surely not be hanging around in the relegation zone for too much longer.
The Gills defence looked rather porous, and were led a merry dance all afternoon by the diminutive Lee Rodgers. Chris Dickson’s goal just after the half hour was certainly against the run of play, but it was another quality strike, as he despatched Adam Miller’s through ball home from 20 yards with the minimum of fuss. There is an air of confidence about this young man that certainly suggests he can go on to greater things, and in all honesty he never looked like he was going to miss once the chance presented itself.
Unfortunately, within two minutes Vale equalised, Craig Armstrong allowing David McGoldrick time and space to find Callum Willock’s head at the near post. Simon Royce was less than impressed, and he and Armstrong partook in an animated argument in the six yard box, containing much shouting and pointing (and probably gnashing of teeth.
If Royce was less wasn’t happy with the defending for the first goal, he must have been totally dumbstruck by the back line’s efforts for the second. On this occasion, it was probably only Armstrong who wasn’t at fault. First Adam Bygrave allowed Callum Willock to run unchecked into the area, and then Sean Clohessey failed to get tight enough, allowing Willock to send an apologetic effort dribbling across goal, where Simon King got somehow contrived to slide in and deflect the ball in slow motion over the line. To be truthful, it was no more than the visitors deserved, as they had largely dictated the tempo of the game.
Those who expected a half time tea cup throwing rant would spur the Gills into life after the turnaround were sadly mistaken. Again we failed to get to grips with the conditions, and it was only the final twenty minutes which saw us manage to put the Valiants under any kind of pressure. And even then it was largely huff and puff, as we struggled to break down a resolute defence in the face of monsoon like conditions. A few corners and free kicks, a Dickson cross shot that fizzed across the face of goal, and a Miller header that dropped wide were about the sum of the attacking efforts. Maybe we could just about have sneaked a draw, but in all honesty it would have been underserved.
So a reality check for everyone, but clearly this team is a work in progress, and we will suffer days like this on what will hopefully be a journey upwards.
Champagne Moment:- Dennis Oli’s attempted flick on which skimmed off his head at right angles into the Gordon Road stand was a moment of quality, but personally I liked Adam Miller’s unerring ability to slide 20 yards on his arse.