LINES FROM LONDON V GILLINGHAM



Spirits are low after the last two games in which our watertight defence has suddenly started to look like a colander. A win today would be a great boost before we take on Ipswich on Tuesday but it's going to be hard as Gillingham have become something of a bogey side recently. The last time I saw us play in the flesh was against them back in early March and when they equalized in the ninety-sixth minute, somehow I wasn't surprised. I hope Willis will be starting as he was missed against Rochdale and I'd be happier if Leadbitter started too as he stabilises our midfield – okay he made a big mistake against Portsmouth but that was unusual for him. I'm not sure if O'Nien will be back but I certainly hope so as he's the first name on the sheet for me. It's pouring down here in London so I imagine it'll be wetter and windier over in Gillingham, making for mistakes. One thing in our favour is that Gillingham have lost their last four league games without scoring. Can we make it five? Much as I'd like that, I think we'll have to settle for another draw and my match prediction is 1-1.

I was almost caught on the hop as I didn't realise we were kicking off at 1.00 so I got SAFSEE on and awaited developments. There were a number of changes with Leadbitter and O'Nien starting, as I'd hoped, while Maguire and Power were on the bench being replaced by Scowen and O'Brien. Willis and Dobson were off the map. It was a more attacking line-up so that gave me a bit of hope and we were in red and white too, which is always a good thing.

Hume skipped down the flank and put a cross in very early on and that was promising. We had several more promising ventures upfront in the opening five minutes but in the ninth Samuel had a great chance for them but shot over after we'd given him too much space. Next thing they won the first corner of the game and after continuing to attack swiftly they won two more on the trot. As the quarter-hour mark passed we hadn't done much attacking for ages and the omens weren't good. Commentator Benno said it was ugly football. We were conceding plenty of free-kicks and any kind of set piece was giving me the jitters. Midway through the half Gooch was yellow-carded for a foul and that was about the first mention he'd had. We conceded our sixth corner and with Gillingham's two big strikers Samuel and Oliver putting themselves about something would surely have to give. In the twenty-sixth O'Nien put a great header into the net but he was ruled just offside. That was more like it at any rate and it clearly gave us some impetus as the action moved to the Gillingham end and Scowen missed a great chance as he skied it from close range. Two minutes later Scowen did the same again so I was hoping for third time lucky. Things had livened up and ten minutes to the break we won our first corner. Things got lively on the touchline too in the closing minutes as both managers mouthed off and pointed fingers, mainly at the ref Sam Purkiss apparently. Well, it was cold and very wet so they had to keep warmed up somehow. There were two minutes of stoppage-time but it remained goalless at the break. We'd had the best chances and had defended corners and free-kicks well on the whole but it looked like one goal would probably win it so I hoped we could go that extra yard.

As we started the second half the skies were brightening in Gillingham but I wasn't feeling too optimistic about our chances of winning it. Very little of note happened until the fifty-eighth minute when Jackson was judged by the assistant-referee to have been fouled in the box by Flanagan but when Graham, I think, took the resultant kick, Burge made a great save. It had sounded a soft penna so justice was done. Things got even hotter when a dirty tackle on O'Nien by MacDonald resulted in a red card. Suddenly, after it had looked like we'd be one down we were in an advantageous position. If we brought on Maguire and/or Diamond, we could attack more and get that winner. O'Brien had a great opportunity to do just that but under pressure he hammered his effort wide of the post and for the third time Scowen shot over the bar from a good position. Graham came on for O'Brien in the seventieth and with around fifteen minutes to go commentator Benno said we should bring Grigg on but I couldn't say I shared his enthusiasm. Wyke had a good shot that was turned out for a corner as we piled the presure on. Maguire replaced Scowen with nine minutes left and I looked for a bit of magic. Next thing Medley fouled Wyke in the box and again an assistant-referee awarded a penalty. Maguire took it and smashed it into the corner to put us ahead. Grigg had been waiting to come on but that was shelved. A glancing Graham header went just wide of the post and that would have been the icing on the cake. There were five minutes of stoppage-time and I could have done with less but I needn't have worried as right near the end we broke from our own box and after Maguire fed Gooch he went one on one with Lumley in goal and put it under him to guarantee us the win. We conceded two corners in a row but it soon ended 2-0.

This didn't sound pretty but it was a great win and we're back to our old tight-arsed ways. Bring on Ipswich.


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