Tuesday 22 January – Gills 0-0 Oldham Athletic
Over the years we’ve all enjoyed some beautiful evenings at Priestfield, but this one was nothing more than a grim puddle of arse gravy. An utterly dull fixture being played in front of a sparse and disengaged crowd was enlivened only by a pleb with a whistle, and in waking us up he destroyed any chance we had of winning a game from which we could ill-afford not to claim three points after the disappointment of the Northampton defeat.
Firstly, the worthy 4402. Our lowest league crowd for over ten years. And our lowest ever in an all-seater Priestfield, the plastic seats emphasising the vacuum far more vividly than the terraces used to. I think it would take very little to get attendances back up to the 7-8000 level on a regular basis if we started climbing the table through fair means or foul. But at present the results are insufficient to entice more than the hardy five thousand odd through the turnstiles. OK, patience is necessary to build momentum and remind the absentees we’re here, but why on earth was this game re-scheduled for a freezing mid-January night? The League are petrified of end-of-season fixture pile-ups and plead for the early completion of outstanding matches, but even if Oldham reach the quarter-finals of the cup with replays all the way, there would still be several free midweeks available, some of them during school holidays. But no, we and a tuk-tuk full of Oldham fans are dragged out in the deep mid winter, everyone of us wishing we were elsewhere.
The gathered few watched on sullenly through a lethargic opening half hour, only roused by Oldham hitting the post from distance. Suddenly Simon Royce rushed from his area to fling himself at the ball to defy an onrushing forward. As soon as the referee gave the freekick we knew Royce was off, and those who have seen replays seem to think it was pretty clear cut. The odd thing is that the referee looked at the linesman – who gave nothing – paused and despite there not being a single appeal from the opposition he got the red card out, and it was the manner of his doing it that shocked everyone.
Whether he got that right or not, he was a complete fucktard all night, hardly aided by flag-wielding imbeciles on the line. He seemed to put in one of those deliberately provocative displays in that whenever he gave a big decision against Gillingham (such as when Cumbers was brought down by the last man on the edge of the area in the second half), the next 50:50 would be given to Oldham simply to demonstrate that he was rising above the crowd’s abuse. He gave all the stupid fouls in the middle, but bottled all the braver decisions. At the weekend D’Urso demonstrated once again that he is just annoying – his games are always littered with petty offences and never have the chance to flow. This bloke Williamson is much more dangerous, just staggeringly inconsistent with seemingly no awareness that he is having a shocker.
Amidst the debris Stillie came on, Crofts was sacrificed (rightly it turned out as the game suited Thurgood perfectly, he seems to thrive when play needs breaking up and slowing down, and he deserved his man of the match award for his mighty fine bandage) and we dug in to get a point. I suspect we would have capitulated under Jepson. Oldham hit the bar from the resulting free-kick and hit the post again from a free header. They missed several more clearcut chances but lacked both the quality to attack with pace and the, ahem, killer instinct in front of goal. Hughes had a quiet evening, largely shepherded out of harm’s way by Bygrave who is acquiring confidence with each game and is beginning to look like a very accomplished defender. Let’s just hope the inconsistent run continues with a long overdue victory at The Bescott.
Two I guess : Leroy Griffiths’ hilarious cameo – bounding all over the pitch with all the style of Michael Johnson on the back straight; and listening on the radio to Swindon miss every one of their penalties in a shoot-out at Barnet
The Morty Vickers