It’s not too bad this League One lark, is it? 30,000 crowds, going into games with some expectation of winning, accurate passing, a goalie who’s not a clown, flowing moves, an air of positivity all around... Let’s just hope we don’t stick around here too long, though. I’ve lived in the south-east most of my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to Gillingham. I’ll be putting that right this evening when I take my unreserved seat in the Brian Moore Upper Stand. I had a lovely dream just before I woke up this morning that we won 3-0 but I’ll settle for 1-0. The Scunthorpe match was a joy, in the first-half at any rate, and if we can replicate that, I think we’ll win. Our passing is ten times better now that it’s been for years and if we don’t let the opposition get the ball, they’re not going to score. Gillingham have won two and lost one, so they’ll be no pushovers and the atmosphere, boosted by a big turnout of our lot, might well inspire them. There’s still over eight hours till kick-off so I’ve no idea what our starting line-up will be but with another match coming up in three days there could well be some squad rotation going on. Looking at the list of players who haven’t played for us yet due to injury (Wyke, Watmore, McGeouch et al) I can only expect that we’ll be able to improve on what we’ve achieved so far. A draw today would be okay, but my match prediction is a 2-1 win.
I had a troublesome journey that resulted in me getting into Gillingham at 7.35, much later than planned, and then it was time to play that well-known game ‘Find the Ground’. I ran quite a bit of the way in the company of a young bloke from Seaham Harbour and would have been there in time for the kick-off if I hadn’t almost completely circumnavigated the ground before I located our turnstile, just around the corner from where I’d started. I was inside just in time to hear Gillingham take the lead in the fourth minute. By the time I’d sat down in a very good seat just behind the goal, we’d equalized through a close-range header from Maguire. I’d got the team-news online on the train down and seen that Love and James were in for Matthews and Oviedo. I wasn’t pleased to see Oviedo missing as he played a stormer on Sunday but McGeouch was on the bench and that bucked me up a bit. I wasn’t acquainted with any of Gillingham’s players. We were passing the ball around great, as we’ve been largely doing so far, and it was a measure of Maguire’s confidence that he tried to do a Beckham and beat the goalie from the half-way line. Okay, he missed by a mile but it showed ambition. Two goals from us in two minutes completely turned the game on its head and the first was a great shot from Honeyman that Holy in goal could only help into the net, as they say. The second was from goal-machine Power, who smashed one in from just inside the box. I thought for a minute that it was Catts who’d scored but though the game was turning magical, it wasn’t quite that magical. I started stamping my feet on the ground but when I remembered how femmer the away stand looked on my way in, I decided to desist. In the second quarter Gillingham created some good chances and I was starting to feel uneasy that they were going to nick one before the break and make the second-half much more nerve-wracking. Ehmer and Parker both went very close with decent headers, but we held out and there was loud applause as the sides went off at half-time.
For most of the opening quarter of the second period Gillingham put us under pressure while winning a couple of corners and having what I thought was a penalty award, but which only resulted in a yellow-card for Eaves for presumably diving. We’d stopped playing our good passing game and had resorted to too many big punts upfield which were giving the opposition the ball. However, just before the hour-mark we put the game to bed and it was Maja who got it. We kept it on the ground again and after creating a zippy move down our left the ball came in low for Maja to hit it home from close range. After that it was just a question of whether we could put more icing on the cake or stop them from getting one back. Eaves was at the middle of some argy-bargy after they’d won a corner and when their fans had directed a chant of, “Off! Off!” at one of our players we responded with, “You’re just a shit Andy Carroll” directed at Eaves. Well, he does have one of those top-knot numbers going on. We replaced Maguire, Love and Power with McGeouch, Hume and O’Nien respectively and they all looked okay as well as getting in some valuable game-time. James had looked handy throughout and he kept lurking right on the touch-line for those wide balls so that I sometimes couldn’t see him against the backdrop of the crowd. Eaves was announced as Gilingham’s Man of the Match and of course this was the cue for another rendition of, “You’re just a crap etc.” Small grounds like the Priestfield are ideally suited for a burst of ‘My Garden Shed’ and this was appropriately sung midway through the half when the ball teetered along the roof of the smallest stand and ended in the guttering, much to the delight of our end. We didn’t have a roof on our end actually, but the weather was fine, and a bit of rain certainly wouldn’t have dampened our spirits. It ended in a 4-1 victory and there was great rapport between the team and our end as they trooped off right in front of us.
This was a night to remember and if we can get results like this without our best team by a long chalk, what are we going to do if/when everyone’s fit? See you at Wimbledon.