Saturday 25 Oct – Gills 2 – 0 Chester City
I think sometimes Gillingham fans forget where we are and a significant minority appear to have caught (relative) “Massive-club” disease. The Chester game was a case in point, Chester were recently in the Conference, have a capacity of 5300, average around 2,000 and (not for the first time this season were on the wrong end of a drubbing) losing 6-1 at Rochdale on the Tuesday preceding their first trip to Priestfield since 1996. The 4800 Gills fans that turned up were largely subdued and appeared to plonk themselves down in their seats demanding to be entertained and that Chester be ritually disembowelled. They wanted silky, flowing football, they wanted a romp, a rout, a drubbing, they demanded nothing less and some even expected it.
Back in the real world and some people appear unaware that we are also a League Two side, perhaps an above average one, but not the finished article and without the totemic Jackson, so maliciously clobbered at Bradford, goals were never going to flow freely. There will be teams like Chester that come to Priestfield and we should beat them on paper but on grass, well you have to earn the right to play and to battle, teams aren’t just going to roll over because some of our fans feel superior – we spent five years doing the precisely the opposite to West Ham, Portsmouth, West Brom and Blackburn in the Championship so you’d think people would understand but they don’t.
I think it is mostly due to the hangover from relegation last season, none of us want to be in League Two and aren’t happy about the current situation but we all need to get our heads round it sooner rather than later because that is our predicament. If the young team in transition wearing the blue shirts is to rectify the situation this season then we all have a role to play which goes beyond turning up and glumly grumbling our way through another mundane afternoon of scrappy football. Some of the abuse directed at certain players isn’t helping, no they’re not as good as Super Bob or Hess or Marlon or even Guy Butters but tough shit! Either support the team or stay away. The negativity, cynicism and downright hostility to a team (our team!) in contention for promotion illustrates the understandable anger at what has befallen us but the childish sulking needs to stop – we‘ve got the message! The team now needs our support and enthusiasm. They don’t always deserve it and a couple of the performances have been fucking disgusting but in such a mediocre division with no outstanding teams we should all be a little more pragmatic and try to seize the opportunity.
As for the match, well is wasn’t a classic, not as achingly dull as the Port Vale game but for an hour it was well, err, typical old style Fourth Division stuff which plenty of effort and sweat but where on occasions the ball appeared to master the players rather than visa versa. What we did learn during a disappointing first half was threefold. Firstly Garry Richards is not a full-back. He was horribly exposed again and again down the wing once City had cottoned-on to the possibilities. Ellison ran him ragged and most of Chester’s best chances came down his wing. Secondly Mulligan and McCammon do not work well as a pair. It has to be one or the other, with Barcham sidelined to the wing we looked toothless and lumbering up front. Thirdly Chester couldn’t shoot straight. They certainly edged the first period but their composure and finishing was woeful. Against a better side we’d have been in trouble. Ellison hooked their best moment over the bar…
Thankfully the second half was all together more pleasurable. We weren’t stunning, but Barcham came more into it and Southall was involved with some of our better passing and movement. The real turning point for the afternoon was the introduction of Jarrett ten minutes into the second half in place of the less than dynamic McCammon. With Barcham more central and some more vibrant wing play the balance of power shifted into our favour and the sullen crowd finally stirred. Barcham caught the eye with some infuriating runs, thrilling mazy dribbles from the halfway line are ideal for breaking the deadlock but not if your final ball is muffed or not even attempted and you get snuffed out by sheer weight of numbers. A couple of times he should have slipped the ball to a team mate but instead opted for glory. The one time he really should have let rip he passed the responsibility off but he would get his reward eventually…
With eighteen minutes left the Gills finally scored albeit at the end of the mother of all penalty box scrambles. The ball looped tantalizingly back and forth across the face of the Chester goal via various parts of both home and away player’s anatomies, the Rainham End screaming for somebody, anybody to get the decisive touch, finally at the second time of asking Southall bravely got his head to the ball at the far post and nodded it across the face of goal to be deflected over the line by Barcham. Relief all round. Two minutes later and the points were secure, a simple header from a routine Nutter corner buried emphatically by the lively Mills. 2-0 to the Tottenham? Their first League win of the season until ’arry came to their rescue.
With the tension gone three more goals could and should have been scored. Barcham embarked on another mazy dribble only to send the ball screaming inches wide of the post and then Jarrett fluffed a simple one-on-one with the keeper having been put clean through but smashed the ball straight at the City keeper. We were spared any last minute nerve jangling by a magnificent last ditch block by Richards that denied Ellison. The dying seconds saw sixteen year old Jack Payne make his Gills debut. Hopefully Arsenal were watching… Job done.
Champagne Moment:- Relations between the inhabitants of the Rainham End and the stewards have plummeted recently with the closure of the Town End. Along with the familiar mixture of incompetent buffoons and jumped up jobsworths we’d all grown to love (well hate or ridicule actually) we now have a new group, presumably ex-Town End, who strut round eyeballing everyone and making people feel uncomfortable or provoking them. Utter, utter cunts the lot of them. Hence the peaceful, harmless and humorous protests by a section of those at the back of block 4 who donned shirts, ties and orange hi-viz jackets to make their point. The resident fucktards wearing their own shirts, ties and luminous jackets didn’t see the funny side but we all did, jeering at their tragic/comedic mixture of stroppy aggression and bemused confusion that so sums up their sad, pathetic lives.
The Pragmatic Binman.