The Devil went down to Gillingham: Gillingham (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 September 2008

Gillingham 3 Grimsby Town 0

We never knew the old Vienna before the war with its Strauss music, glamour and easy charm; Gillingham suited us better. We really got to know it in the classic period of the Kingsley Black market: those faraway days when victory was more than a lozenge and standing was what you did at football matches, not on a train.

Ah, we're back in beautiful downtown Gillingham again. Kentish men and men of Kent, we salute you. I'll be eulogising next about the Dartford day trip to Maidstone in '89. Just one question remains from that deeply dippy day: Warren Barton, does your mother cut your hair?

Town lined up in the 5-3-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Heywood, Newey!, Hegggarty, Heslop, Hunt, Boshell, Till, Jarman. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, Vidal, Hope and North. Do I really need to tell you who stood where? They stood on the pitch in various pretty, swirling patterns.

A-ha, so the mobile hairdresser is back! He looks happy enough swotting flies as the Chrises cross. There is some hair in the Gillingham team. He'll need a step-ladder to cut it though.

Are we ready? It's windy, it's clear, so let the games begin.

First half
Gillingham kicked off with a hoik away from the 150 or so Town fans in the temporary seating surrounding the 18th green. At least it's not a sandpit or a mudheap, which is the usual carpet upon which Town are asked to dance at Gillingham.



Oli headed loopily at Barnes from oodles of yards away from anywhere. No danger, no worry, a nothingness. The ladies and gentlemen of Kentland made a noise. Perhaps they were choking on the cost of their living.

Town tapped on the typewriter, Gillingham got out the Tippex. Everyone knows who invented Tippex, don't they? Town re-wrote chapter one and took the last train to Clarkesville as we met him at the station, for his cross was diverted for a corner.

Town wound up the Mariners metronome: pass left, pass right, one touch, two touches, tick, tick, tick...

Tick, tick, tick...

Biddy, biddy, biddily-bum. The Gillymen worked out the conundrum and wellied the ball downfield. Someone local had a shot; it was rubbish.

Tick, tick, tick...

Jarman licked, Hegggarty slipped and Newey! overhit. Jarman flicked, Boshell tripped and Clarke flipped a cross behind all for Heslop to slurp wide. Town were digging a hole with a teaspoon. Would the warders notice?

Town are never more vulnerable than when they are comfortable. Gillingham slammed the ball down their left. A half-headed clearance fell to Charlie Daniels, a young man sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot, who whacked low from the corner of the penalty area, the ball ricocheting off Jackson's shins and two yards wide of the near post as Barnes crept towards Tunbridge Wells.

I didn't realise they had a Nutter playing for them.

Tick, tick, tick... Town Town Town. Jarman tumbled on the corner of the penalty area and Newey! tapped it quickly to the rising Jarm as the Gillymen fluttered just like a butterfly, all in a pickle while placing their bales of hay for the barn dance. While the King and his Nutter held hands, Jarman did the Demented Seagull to the bye-line and flicked the ball back to the edge of the area where Bennett was blocked, but possession was retained and ended up back on the halfway line. Let's start again, shall we. Take your strike partner by the hand and lead him through the streets of Gillingham, he'll show you something to make you change your mind.

Town are never more vulnerable than when Newey! is near. Town muddled and befuddled themselves over-indulgently with Newey! rolling the ball back to Barnes, who sliced dreadfully towards the small stand with the invisible scoreboard. The wind blew the ball back infield with Newey having turned his back expecting a throw-in. The ball dropped behind him, at Jackson's feet, who swizzled to the edge of the area and be-duffed a dipping, skipping shot towards the bottom right corner. Barnes opened his sluice gates and the full force of his river of experience gushed out as he flipped the ball up and over the crossbar. Now that was a save after a double Newey!! of an error.

Forget them, it's us again. Town this, Town that. Till, Till, Till and Till again, spinning and spurning the advances of unsuitable suitors, he opened his own casket to thwazzle a shot across Royce towards the right corner. Royce rolled and parried spectacularly with the ball drifting to Hegggarty, a dozen yards out, who made plain his intentions, but a Gillyleg crunched as the shot arrived, with the ball rebounding back on to little Nick's legs and away for a goal kick.

Jarman fell and tapped quickly to Newey, who ran on a step and bethwazzled a shot across Royce towards the left corner. Royce rolled again and parried aside... to a team-mate.

Gillingham cranked up their ego, walloping the ball upfield. It swirled and curled in the inconsistent breeze, dropping and slopping off a Town boot for a corner, then another corner, then a goal. Nutter coiled the corner in from their right and oily Oli leant above his marker to graze the ball on. Jackson, stood alone and still in the centre, five or six yards out, twisted his hips and steered the ball in to the net with his torso. Now that was an unsurprising surprise.

Five minutes of them, five minutes of Town sulking. Nothing happened. Bennett allowed the ball to drop, Mulligan whizzed away, Daniels shot, someone passed, someone shot, Town blocked, blocked and blocked again. The moment passed. Clarke crossed and a blue arm diverted for a corner, rather than a penalty. The moment passed.

The half passed away.

Town down, but generally ascendant. Town passed, Gillymen blasted to a blueprint. The difference? Gillingham were less diffident inside each penalty area and were not bothered at all about what happened between them. Town should not have been losing. How annoying.

Second half
Town replaced Heslop with North and they made a change too. Officially they changed some bloke for some other bloke.

Town kicked off with an 'orrible up and under, straight to their centre-back and 20 yards from the on-trotting slim Danny North. Would he be a tonic? A bit, for a while. North and Jarman started to twist and turn, causing minor mayhem on the halfway line, and Town won a series of throw-ins before Jarman felled a defender with a dipping volley on to the chin.

And then they wallied the ball upfield.

Jackson fleegled, Mulligan snorked to Daniels, who droopered a cross-shot and Barnes bingoed aside. The Sour Grapes Gang in the Town end muttered darkly about leaving when it got to 2-0. You know, I have a feeling I dropped one of them on his head the day Elvis died. Is that an excuse or a reason? Hold the bus!

Town calmly strolled the ball away from danger with Till turning on the halfway line on the left. On Till roamed, on, on and on. And on. And on. Till whirly gigged down the right, to the centre, twisted in from the left and scraggled a shot at Royce from the middle of the 'D'. It's the hope we can't stand, isn't it. That's the killer. Town utterly dominated for ten minutes. Till turned and didn't shoot. The Bosh breakdanced and didn't shoot. Hunt hurdled and didn't shoot. Jarman fiddled and Rome burned. North turned and hummed over the bar.

Tick, tick, tick...

Boshell swerved to the left to collect a loose clearance, spun and dinkled a perfectly weighted pass down the centre. North ran between the lines on their map which just moved from side to side as Royce stuttered out, then stuttered back. North saw Royce in no man's land and, from about 30 yards out, lofted a lob-volley dipping over the now irrelevant keeper. The ground hushed, the wind dropped and this was the moment... the ball drifted down, kissed the underside of the crossbar and bounced straight back into the keeper's hands.

On such small things life can change. The randomness of life... for if the wind had blown... if a picture paints a thousand words... if a man could be two places at once... if I were a swan, I'd be gone.

At this Clarke was replaced by Vidal, who was perfectly adequate, neither being fantastic nor flimsily foolish. He isn't Shaleum Logan, for he stood in the right places.

And if I were a good man, I'd understand the spaces between Heywood and Bennett that started to appear the moment the Gillymen brought on the lumbering giant McCammon with his mop and bucket. You remember him don't you? The man with the agility of a broken stick who was once safely ensconced within Mark Lever's pocket in a bygone age in a long-gone Town team. Is this what we are? A collection of great dance songs? Are we on the supper circuit of nostalgia and chicken-wings with side salad optional? Chicken in the bread bin pickin' out dough, Granny does your dog bite? No, child, no, they've done it again.

Town attacked, Gillingham whacked it back. Bennett allowed the ball to bounce and McCammon burleyed his way past to smirk a shot from just inside the area. Barnes fell right and blocked the ball away, but straight back to the prostrate McCammon, who swished a leg and prodded it to the bottom right corner. The ball bumbled in underneath Jackson, who leapt in front of Barnes, probably in an offside position.

The Sour Grapes Gang left, muttering darkly.

Llewellyn replaced Jarman and the last 20 or so minutes were an exercise in waiting for the rain. The clouds grew darker, the wind started to bellow and billow and Gillingham sensed a beaten foe. They continued to pepper spray Town: Jackson turned and gurned well over. Someone did a cross-shot which missed everything; McCammon creaked a header very wide and very over, and they had a couple of keystone cops attacks where their truncheons got sawn in half by a buzzsaw from Boshell.

In the meantime Town still tried, and still failed. Hunt crossed dangerously, North bumbled, Bosh missed and Till flickered.

And then the rain came. Can we go now? Yes, yes, yes, I know there was another goal but here's the beef: bad Town free kick welllied forward, no foul, free kick, goal. There, happy? Newey clipped a terrible free kick into their penalty area and from the clearance they had five against three. Heywood tackled, the ball went wide and a shot was blocked, but the referee gave a silly free kick in the centre 25 yards out. Daniels exquisitely curled the ball over the wall and into the very top right corner of the net for an extremely flattering and undeserved third.

Yes, yes, yes we can go home now.

Once the second goal went in, the game was easy for Gillingham, but before then Town were the more composed and the more controlling force. Barnes only made one save in the game, whereas Royce made three. North's volley was a critical moment, for the game swung away as the wind didn't blow the ball in. When Hope and Heywood are friends reunited then Town won't get squeezed by their pipkins so easily. Oh yes, and when we get a striker...

It was a typical Town performance, one of many hundreds over the decades where Town play relatively well but the scoreline suggests a 'thumping'. It's been a recurring theme for the last 20 years.

Perspective. Patience, and points later.