Saturday 26 April – Gills 1-1 Swindon Town
Whether they’re a bunch of disinterested interlopers ruining David Brent’s Office, or rubbing further salt into the wounds they first inflicted in 1979 and have been inflaming ever since, there really is very little to love about Swindon. Having witnessed a side clinch promotion at Priestfield a fortnight earlier, only some basic mathematics prevented us witnessing our own condemned to a second relegation in four years. But no matter how much we all hate the Wiltshire inbreds, we really only have ourselves to blame.
I was late arriving to sell the Head, thanks to it taking well over half an hour to get from the Black Lion to my usual parking spot. This was largely a result of police vans being stationed in particularly inappropriate spots, police horses lolloping with gay abandon around the streets of Gillingham and a police helicopter fully equipped with the latest air-to-ground weaponry, randomly blowing up public houses and innocent bystanders. Some have been miffed at a rather heavy handed approach shown by the local plod, but it has to be said that they were woefully underprepared the last time Swindon were in town and there were so many casually dressed mobs roaming the streets that no-one knew who was on who’s side until they opened their mouths.
“All roit my luvverrrr?”
“Fahk off you caaaahnts!”
I personally didn’t see any bother but I did rather skirt around the obvious hotspots. There were a lot of annoyed people wandering round outside the ground having discovered that there was no option to pay on the day – was this publicised anywhere? – but other than that all seemed quiet.
And so to the game. What is there to say? The fact that we led for 88 minutes says it all. Our inability to hold a lead in any of our last four games will ultimately cost us, but that just represents a chance at salvation that we weren’t good enough to grasp. We deserve to go down, and our failure to beat the largely unambitious visitors shows why. I think the side we are now putting out is the best we’ve had all season (admittedly without Royce, Dickson and Miller) and with some cohesion and stabability it would probably be good enough to finish in lower mid-table (whoopee), but it wasn’t enough.
We should have built on that early goal, and we had enough opportunities to seal the points in the first half alone. Jackson panicked attempting an overhead kick with the goal at his mercy, one header flashed narrowly wide and it looked from where I sat that we should have had a penalty. Even as the game ambled to its conclusion I wanted time to slow down so perhaps we could clinch that crucial second and third goal which could have built our hopes. The shoddiness of the equaliser was wholly predictable, and was greeted by cavorting and gloating from the top corner of the Town End and near silence everywhere else. I say near slience, as with everyone staring open-mouthed at the pitch my good friend Cliff erupted in a frothing orgy of rage, kicking his seat and using the bluest of blue language. He then calmed down, marched out, stopping only to arrange to meet in Leeds.
Some think Stimson has let us down, bringing in a crock of shite and getting the tactics wrong. I can understand why people hold that view but I disagree. Before Stimson, relegation was inevitable. He had too much to change and couldn’t pull it off. He’s made plenty of mistakes (persevering with Facey being one, chopping and changing things rather too often, and misjudging the capability of some of his signings) but to call for his head is crazy in my opinion. I actually think we’ll do fine next year with a fit and motivated squad on the back of a creditable pre-season. It’s still bloody pants though, one of the worst and joyless campaigns I can remember.
Scally’s end of season address to the masses from the pitch? Scally’s triumphant post-match lap of honour, “Walking in a Scally wonderland” ringing out from his adoring admirers? Oh I forget, he doesn’t do that anymore. Bit worried all those anonymous cybergeeks might let him know exactly what they think.
The Morty Vicker (aka Chris Lynham when not clouded in cowardly anonymity)