Tuesday 25th November 2008 CCL2. Gills 1 Rochdale 1.
Well this was a pretty low key evening. With horrible weather and live Champions League on ITV it was a wonder 4029 (or 3,961) people bothered at all although Rochdale were obviously the best team to visit Priestfield thus far. Mind you given the quirky nature of the fixture list they are also the first team we’ve played at Priestfield who have nurtured any ambitions whatsoever beyond simply avoiding the drop. In the end we could have won, perhaps should have lost given the hairy second half, a hard point won I’d say and no little relief at the final whistle.
Both sides tried to play decent football in difficult conditions and it wasn’t a bad game but for whatever reason (7,500 empty seats? No stewards trying to start fights?) the atmosphere was decidedly flat. Rochdale should have taken the lead after an almighty scramble in the Gills’ box just past the quarter hour mark but we survived and seconds later man of the match Jarrett was bending over a sumptuous cross into the six yard box which Jackson dispatched with great alacrity. If only our other strikers could show such positional sense, timing and confidence… Mind you Jackson missed a one-on-one nine minutes later which the keeper smothered. Both sides could have added another goal before the break but King headed wide and Royce denied Keltie. We were chuffed to go in one up at the break.
Unfortunately Rochdale looked a different team in the second half, their neat passing had more direction and pace, we battled gamely but you could see why Dale had got to the play-off final last season (losing 3-2 to Stockport) and had recently surged up the table into contention for automatic promotion. You could sense the change in momentum, the optimism in the stands ebbed away to be replaced by tension, and after two shots across our bows Dale equalised. We were sloppy in midfield to lose the ball when on the attack but the visitors counter-attacked with verve and Le Fondre found time ands space on the edge of the box before curling a cute shot into the far right corner (61). The 100 or so visiting fans were happy enough whilst an already muted and frozen home crowd sighed with resignation. The last half an hour saw Dale largely on top, we had to battle hard to stop them but with five minutes to go we nearly snatched a lucky win. Nutter’s deadball found Mills, he headed it into the six yard box, amid the confusion Mulligan had a free header but he failed to get anything more than a powder-puff touch on the ball and it was agonizingly cleared off the line.
Still a point is a point is a point. A darn sight better than Bury on Saturday but the Gillingham strikers all had a night to forget because Jarrett peppered the danger zone with a whole series of inviting crosses only to see the opportunities spurned. If we’re serious about promotion then our forwards will have to be a whole lot sharper and ruthless in the coming games if the opposition is going to be as organised and fluid as Rochdale…
Champagne Moment:- A toss up between the Rainham End being left alone by the stewards (no shenanigans – what a surprise!) and seeing Jackson scoring again in a Gills shirt. I’ll got for Simeon’s neat finish.
The Relieved Binman.