Saturday 19 January – Gills 0 -1 Northampton
Who remembers that episode of Red Dwarf where everything runs backwards? Well it appears that is what has happened to the Gills season. After years of failure away from home, balanced by a relatively strong showing at home, we have developed the somewhat irritating habit of following up an away win with a home defeat. It’s difficult to decide which is the more annoying – although those poor souls who have continued to traipse around the country in support of the team would probably be prepared to trade off a few home defeats for some joy on the road.
For those who are left just viewing Stimson’s charges at Priestfield, it really is all rather mystifying. Clearly there is has been a major improvement in both attitude and fitness, but equally clearly we are still chronically lacking quality in certain key areas – notably in defence and up front. In many respects, it is probably in the club’s interests that we don’t go shooting up the table too quickly, and end up blagging our way into the play-offs. Personally I think it would be far better if Mark Stimson is allowed time to shape his squad, sort the wheat from the chaff, and hopefully build a team that can have a serious tilt at promotion next time out. Of course, the downside of this is that we are still far too close to the relegation zone, and a promotion campaign from League 2 is not exactly what I had in mind.
So what of Saturday? Well, to cut a long story short – there was one genuine moment of quality in the 90 minutes, which was the free kick into the top corner of Simon Royce’s goal in minute 3. The rest of the game was largely thud and blunder, with the vistors coming closer to doubling their advantage than the Gills did to nullifying it. Our only serious attempt on goal was Windy Miller’s smart turn and shot against the bar. Aside from that it was directionless and frustrating, with a seemingly endless supply of crosses and corners despatched unerringly into the waiting hands of the Wobblers keeper.
Well, I think I have done quite well to get to word 387 in this report without mentioning someone, but I can hold out no longer. Ian Cox. There, I’ve said it. One of the features of recent performances has been the stirling efforts of Simon King and Adam Bygrave in the centre of defence. So it was an unwanted surprise to discover Bygrave replaced by Cox in the starting line-up. Questions were asked of Stimson’s sanity – although it later transpired that Bygrave was late, not arriving at the ground until after the team sheet had been handed in. Given the abject nature of Cox’s performance maybe we would have been better served leaving one place blank (or couldn’t we just have written `to be announced`.) Something, anything – just don’t make me watch this man play for Gillingham ever ever again (I expressed a similar desire after Cox’s humiliation in the 4-0 defeat at home to Sunderland in September 2004 – and I really do think we’ve suffered enough now, don’t you?!)
I heard Cox described recently as an accident waiting to happen, but really, we’ve seen so many multiple pile-ups now that its just too cruel to behold. Ian Cox was a fine player in his time, but his legs have gone. In fact, his legs have been gone these three years past. If he was a horse he’d have been holding up someone’s living room wallpaper long since.
Of course, I can’t end without mentioning the referee – our old friend Mr Andy D’Urso (anagram Do Dry Anus). He amused us in the first half hour by averaging a free kick every minute, and, of course made two result changing decisions. The first, the handball decision against Simon King was, in my opinion, correct. The second, a handball shout against a Wobblers defender in the penalty area was, also in my opinion (and I’m probably going to cause a storm of negative comment here) also correct, given that the ball was struck at the defender very hard from point blank range. Obviously, this doesn’t alter the fact that Mr Andy D’Urso is a cunt. Some things just are as they are.
So, where do we go from here? Hopefully upwards is the answer. Despite the recent setbacks at home, I do believe Mark Stimson has us moving in the right direction. What we need to take into account is that he has inherited a football club (club, not team) that has been on the slide for the last four years. Rome, as the saying very nearly goes, was not entirely conceived and constructed in a 24 hour period.
Champagne Moment:- Childish I know, but honestly, what are the chances of a linesman being hit on the head by the ball twice in one season?