I’ve been boosted by the two signings we’ve made this week and with the recent good results, if not performances, things are starting to feel good. I’m a bit wary of Winchester, though, as getting booked in less than two whole games and looking like a workiticket when the ref was dishing out his yellow card the other night does not bode well. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the early start and I’m hoping this afternoon will turn into a day of celebration with my fellow bubblers. Gillingham are mid-table and appropriately they have a goal-difference of 0. They’ve had a recent good run and given our mixed home form, we may well be in for another ugly game. It looks like Willis might miss the match but I don’t know of any other team-news. Presumably it’ll be too soon for either of the new boys to feature. Four teams above us are playing each other today so something will have to give there and a win, however gruesome would move us into the play-off zone. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.
I got to the bubble-house about ten minutes before kick-off and got the team-news – Flanagan and Diamond were in for Wright and Winchester and new boy Vokins was on the bench but Maguire was nowhere. I deferred having a can of Guinness till we got our first goal but I didn’t have long to wait as in the sixth minute McGeady had a bit of a shuffle at the left angle of their box and his shot took a generous deflection into the net to put us ahead. One of these days when we take the lead we’ll continue to press for a second but again we allowed Gillingham to take the ascendency with Jackson especially looking menacing. This continued till the midpoint of the half and then it looked like Ogilvie was going to equalize after turning us inside out in our box but it was scrambled away. It looked like only a matter of time before Gillingham equalized and they promptly did when MacDonald fired in a low shot from outside the box following a throw-in from their right. He nearly made it 2-1 a few minutes later when he received the ball on the left and he lashed it against the crossbar. We won our first corner in the thirty-eighth minute following a cross from Power that O’Neill and Wyke just failed to connect with. We promptly won a second corner and had Gillingham rattled at last. With three minutes to the break when McGeady was bursting into the box when he was felled. Leadbitter took the resultant penalty and after Bonham in goal blocked it he was in the right place to head the rebound into the net to put us ahead. Wyke had been battered all over the place without winning any free-kicks as compensation and then Willis got smacked in the gob again so he had to go off briefly in stoppage-time. When the whistle went, we were still winning but definitely on the ugly side.
We wondered if we might see Sanderson on to shore things up a bit but when we kicked off again, there were no changes. Twenty seconds in, a Wyke header skimmed the top of their bar and that was promising. Next thing Ogilvie was appealing for a penalty but all they got was a corner. Wyke got what looked like a knee in the head but again there was no card issued. His good form has clearly made him a marked man. O’Keefe replaced their captain Dempsey who looked injured. Very soon we brought on Gooch for Diamond and I always like to see him on but almost immediately Gillingham had a really good chance to get level but the ball trickled wide of our left post. Gooch promptly showed us what he can do by dribbling his way into their box and having a shot (okay, wide) – in the build-up to that Wyke was clearly splattered again with impunity. MacDonald was subbed just after the hour and I was glad to see him go and we at once had a decent move down the right that resulted in a McGeady shot on target. Next minute Lee hit a powerful shot but Burge, who’d looked hesitant at times, had well covered. With twenty minutes to go we were enjoying a decent period of pressure. Gillingham had been playing it dirty and MacFadzean got trampled by Jackson but somehow no cards had been issued yet. With twelve minutes to go Gillingham hit our woodwork again and we in the bubble were feeling decidedly edgy. We were often resorting to the big welly upfield to clear their attacks and those last ten minutes were going to feel like a very long time. I was just asking the bubblers if we’d only made one substitution when the commentator said that Sanderson and O’Nien were about to come on. They finally replaced Wyke and Leadbitter with three minutes to go. O’Brien was set up with a great opportunity but his shot was blocked. We soon regretted that as Gillingham broke and Graham blasted it home to equalise. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced but we didn’t get close to a winner and that was that.
This feels like a defeat. We really must learn to put games to bed after taking the lead.