Sat 15 Nov – Gills 4 – 0 Rotherham United
If you squinted a bit this felt like a decade ago, with the night drawing in, the opposition in disarray, the Rainham End baying for blood and four goals dispatched with gusto into the net you could have been mistaken Hessenthaler, Super Bob, Asaba, Smith and Ashby were still in their pomp. Sadly this is 2008 and a division lower and rather than the norm arguably the best home game of 2008 thus far. Still it was a thoroughly enjoyable romp which makes a change from low key narrow wins against plodding opponents.
There was little to suggest before kick-off that there would be so much fun to be had, United were one of the form teams in the division and without their points deduction would be right in amongst the clutch of teams jostling for a play-off place. With four wins, two draws and just the one defeat from the previous seven game the Gills had certainly perked up results-wise even if some of the performances had been unconvincing. The best news before kick-off saw the long awaited return of Jackson up front plus Royce in goal. The strangest that the floodlight at the Town End on the Gordon Road side had gone pop and was out of action. The referee and opposition okayed the alternative with the Gordon Road lights on plus the exit lights in the Brian Moore Stand which made for a dim but acceptable corner…
The game began brightly and six minutes in the Gills had scored. A Southall free-kick was headed into the far corner by King, a bit loopy but he didn‘t care, his first at the right end in a Gills shirt. With such an early advantage the Gills could relax a little, the boost to confidence helping them to get stuck in. However Rotherham showed themselves to be one of the better teams in the Division gradually battling back into the contest and Royce had to be alert to deny Fenton’s shot with a smart tip-over. The game took another turn in favour of the Gills on 35 minutes when with the ball squirting loose in midfield Harrison and Fuller went for the ball. The United player’s challenge was late, high and dangerous and referee Beeby (usually a total twat) had little option to pull out the big red juicy one. In fact Beeby favoured the Gills with most of the fifty-fifty decisions on the afternoon, probably attempting to make up for all the times he’s stitched us up in style. However he still contrived to not give us a blatant penalty just before half-time when Miller was spectacularly brought down by keeper Warrington – bizarrely he played the “advantage” but Weston’s shot was blocked on the line…
So 1-0 up at the break and against ten men, we all hoped the Gills would finish Rotherham off but the nagging doubt was that we’d let them off the hook and fall for a sucker punch… We can thank the Rainham End stewards for that because they sparked the Rainham End into life and the atmosphere was transformed into a bear-pit. Tension had been simmering for weeks since the closure of the Town End and the migration of the stewards from the Brian Moore Stand. Their subsequent conduct was a disgrace, they were provocative in the extreme, rude, abrasive, cocky, incompetent, confrontational, belligerent and downright antagonistic. The tall steward in the red jacket with the radio clamped to his ear was the main protagonist but they contrived to enrage even the most mild mannered law abiding Gills fan to vein-bursting, foul-mouthed, arm-waving abuse. The whole end stood up and chanted “you’re just a bunch of wankers“ at them, the last vestiges of any legitimacy or authority shredded by their shameful antics. The stadium manager and safety officer need to reassess the situation and fast, it was on the verge of anarchy in the second half, which meant the ordinary stewards couldn’t even carry out their routine duties without an ear bashing and everyone standing up in defiance the moment anyone in a day glow jacket came near them.
Back on the pitch and Royce had to be quick off the mark to smother one chance whilst at the other a Southall cross just eluded Barcham. The crucial second goal arrived on 58 minutes, Miller’s cute through-ball sent substitute McCammon through on goal, his rather feeble effort was parried by the keeper but fell to Miller to run into the net before being engulfed by rather excitable Rainham Enders…
To their credit United continued to make a game of it, Barker missing when put though but at the other end the momentum was with us and the chances began to stack up. Barcham and Bentley went close before a very well worked free-kick from out by the Main Stand saw Nutter send in a peach of a cross for Richards to nod home. Game over. The Gills should have added a fourth amid a crazy scramble, Barcham was injured in the melee but most sympathy went to Warrington in the United goal, having initially made a save he was lying in a prone position with his legs akimbo, the rebound was blasted along the ground right into his groin. A super block, but not one he’d have chosen to make! Warrington had also injured his arm but with all their substitutes already used and not wishing to go down to ten men he soldiered on.
Against ten men and a broken keeper with three goals in the bank the Gills went in search of a fourth which duly arrived in the 88th minute, Warrington helpless to prevent Nutter’s low cross finding young Cumbers on the goal line to tap home. 4-0, what a super afternoon at Priestfield, the best performance-wise since we tonked Forest 3-0 back in December. It was a tonic to everyone and lifted the Gills up to 7th, level with five other teams on 27 points and just four off the top in such a topsy-turvy League.
Champagne Moment:- The vibrant atmosphere, winning 4-0 helps and the stewarding sparked off the initial bout of singing, but it was just great to hear Priestfield rocking again.
The Happy Binman.