I was at the Gillingham match back in August and though we came away with a great 4-1 win, Gillingham nearly scored three more goals and Eaves was a threat upfront. I can see us conceding again this evening but if we have Maguire on from the start, I think we'll score more than them. Hoofing endless long balls upfield against giant centre-backs isn't going to work for us, especially if Wyke is the target man, but keeping it on the ground and having both Maguire and McGeady slotting in low crosses will bring some reward. In defence of Wyke, he often holds the ball up well but that's not enough. Hopefully he'll get his mojo back, as clearly he has scored goals at this level, but at the moment it isn't working. Grigg made a couple of great zippy turns against Accrington which showed what he's capable of and once he gets that first goal, I think he'll be fine. Back around 1970 we had a striker called Joe Baker who didn't score for ages and looked a right plank but once he managed to scramble one in he started scoring regularly and became a fans' favourite. Of course we really need a win this evening and with both Portsmouth and Barnsley also having very winnable home games, this gives us an even greater impetus to get it. I think we're finally going to get one and my match prediction is 2-1.
I didn't get back from work till a few minutes before kick-off and when I got the game online I heard that Catts, Flanagan and Maguire were all starting while Baldwin was nowhere to be seen. The crowd sounded lively and I hoped there'd be no booing and no reason for booing either. In the fourth minute we won the first corner of the game and from Leadbitter's kick Catts fired it home from six yards after there was a bit of dithering about a penalty shout. Just like in the away fixture, except in reverse, Gillingham promptly got an equalizer and it was dangerman Eaves who squeezed it into the bottom right corner after what commentator Gary Bennett called comical defending. It certainly felt like it wouldn't end 1-1. In the tenth minute we went ahead and it was from another corner; that's the fourth in recent games and since Leadbitter's arrival. This time it was a powerful header from Flanagan which was deflected into the net by a defender. All we needed was for Maguire to get one and Ross's three changes would be very well justified. Sadly Maguire was off injured for a minute or two and then had to be substituted, with Gooch replacing him. He received a great ripple form our fans as he limped off. The half-hour mark came and went and we hadn't been threatened, nor had we created another serious chance. Not long after that Burke received the first yellow of the match for a foul on Gooch. Catts was limping a bit as half-time approached but he battled on. Five minutes before the break Hanlan got an equalizer for Gillingham following a corner after more lax defending. I could see it ending 4-2...to somebody. Anyway, it remained 2-2 at the break and I couldn't ear any booing coming across the ether, quite a lot of applause in fact. Portsmouth were losing to Bristol Rovers, which made the break go more pleasantly.
I was pleased to hear that Catts was still on as we kicked off again. In the opening ten minutes or so Gillingham seemed to be growing in confidence while we were sounding nervy at the back and things weren't helped by Honeyman being booked but our fans were in great voice. The crowd was announced and all things considered 28,364 was very good. We were totting up the corners and it was nice to anticipate them instead of just expecting them to be wasted as so many have been this season. In the sixty-sixth minute we were awarded a penalty when O'Nien was brought down and Grigg put it away to the great relief of everyone, especially himself. Could we keep our concentration and hold out or even get another? There was a long time to go. Lopes was subbed by Cook and I was glad to see him go as he'd sounded a handful. With just less than fifteen minutes to go O'Nien was again brought down in the box and this time it was McGeady who rolled the resultant penalty into the net to make it 4-2. The ref Donohue was a good lad! Just before the second pen he'd allowed us an advantage that produced a good McGeady shot which Holy in goal did well to save. Elsewhere both Portsmouth and Barnsley were drawing and with ten minutes to go the evening was proceeding very well. McGeouch replaced Leadbitter to much applause and there was a lovely warm feeling as we appeared to be coasting to victory. Power came on for Catts, to more clapping and chanting, and then we were into three minutes of stoppage-time. Gillingham kept battling away but there were no further goal attempts of note and it ended in a victory at last.
Three points, four goals, goal difference improved by two, two points gained on each of two rivals. It's been a while coming so it's all the more enjoyable. Oh, and we're back up to third spot with a game in hand still. Deep joy!