Saturday 23 February – Gills 1 – 0 Huddersfield
Mark Stimson was heard to comment recently on his desire to `win ugly`. Coincidentally, Ryan Giggs also expressed similar feelings as Manchester United battle to retain the Premier League title. Clearly there are many parallels between the two clubs – often I have heard Adam Miller compared to Christiano Ronaldo….. On Saturday’s evidence, Stimson looks the more likely of the two to achieve his desire (so sorry United fans, you are just going to have to put up with scintillating football for now, ok).
There really was little to recommend this as a spectacle – it was one of those ninety minutes that have to be endured rather than enjoyed. Fair play to those at the rear of the Rainham End for attempting to create an atmosphere, even if some of their ditties lacked originality – it was a least preferable to the near silence that has characterised some home games this year.
The Gills defence had been bolstered by the signing of Danny Cullip which, together with a switch to the 5-3-2 formation that served us so well during much of the Pulis years, gave the team a much more solid look. The formation switch also allowed Andrew Crofts some more freedom in the middle, to which he responded with probably his best display of the season (although it has to be said that by this season’s standards that is not saying very much at all). He was joined in the middle by Stewart Lewis, who replaced Stuart Thurgood (about whom it has to be said that the jury is still very much out).
The improvement at the back and in the middle was not, sadly, matched by the front line. Simeon Jackson is looking an increasingly forlorn figure – hardly surprising given the lack of service he has received in his four appearances so far. It is slightly mystifying why you would sign a diminutive front man then expect him to battle for scraps against some of the hulking great brutes who inhabit League One defences. Clearly there is no point playing him unless we can figure out some way of getting him into the game (hey, how about like, you know, passing it to him on the ground, or perhaps even into space so he can use his pace against the aforementioned hulking great brutes – it’s a radical idea I know, but it could just work!)
Huddersfield had been on a good run, and were tipped as possible play-off contenders, but aside from a bright start which forced Simon Royce into early action, they offered little, apart from moaning and whingeing at the officials at every opportunity. After the turn round it was the Gills who were largely in the ascendancy, but if ever a game had nil – nil written all over it, this was it.
That the deadlock was finally broken was as much down to referee Steven Cook as anyone. Substitute Delroy Facey went down under challenge in the very far corner of the box and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. It was certainly a generous decision – you se them given, but mostly they are not. Adam Miller slotted the ball low into the corner, and we had two minutes plus stoppage time to see out. That we did owed more than a little to the profligate finishing of the visiting forwards who, having been largely comatose for the entire second half suddenly came to life and engineered a couple of decent chances.
So a first win in 7 lifted us out of the bottom 4 – or not, depending on which table you looked at. Gills and Crewe both stood on 35 points, with 31 goals scored and a goal difference of – 18. Some tables put Crewe above us alphabetically, whilst others put us higher by virtue of our 9 wins to their 8. Any such confusion was ended by Crewe’s midweek defeat to Carlisle.
The rest of the season is likely to produce more of the same, and the lack of a cutting edge means we are likely to continue to struggle up front. All of which does not exactly add up to hours of fun and amusement.
Champagne Moment:- Going for a piss in the immediate aftermath of the goal and hearing the bogs ringing with `That was never a penalty` comments.