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Gillingham Report

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 11/02/2001

An open terrace, a biting cold and swirling wind, sleet, grey skies, a heavily sanded pitch with ruts all over the place. You can guess the pattern of this game already. The Town end (or third of one end) slowly filled up in little huddles of apprehension, by kick off there were perhaps 200.

Gillingham 1 Grimsby Town 0
10 Feb 2001, Nationwide League Division 1

Every single one had that "I don't want to be here" look, as we all knew what we were about to see.

The team warmed up with a prolonged series of runs and stretches, followed by long hoof practising. The kick about consisted of 30 yard passes and chips down the channels, none of the triangles stuff we normally see. Again a bad sign. Burnett warmed up in tracksuit bottom and a woolly hat, though Gillingham won the hat count 3-1. Soft southerners, like it was cold?

The pre-match entertainment was the bog standard dozen teenage girls gyrating with pom-poms, this time to the club anthem, which I can remember laughing at, but not the "tune". Nothing exceptional happened, I am afraid. Unless you count the wonderful names the Gillingham players have - Nayron Nosworthy (wasn't he a Dickensian rogue?), Pinnock and Pennock (a pair of solicitors?), Charlie Mitten (an associate of Jack the Hat Macvitie?). I am, of course, leaving out Mr Iffy Onuora - that's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Grimsby Town
Enhuayellow card
D Smith
Burnettyellow card




C J Foy
(St Helens)

1st half

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. D Smith played at left back, Campbell wide on the left and Donovan as an unholy right-winger. It was immediately noticeable that Rowan has the same stature as Jeffrey, though his shorts were far too long and looked like culottes. Is it a rule that teenage Town player shall wear the longest shorts in the club, like a passing out ritual?

Town kicked off towards the Gillingham support, passing the ball pleasingly along the back line to McDermott, who chipped the ball upfield straight to a Gillingham player. The first 5 minutes were terrible, with Town being hustled off the ball in midfield and muscled off the ball up front. Gillingham played a 3-5-2 formation and simply out-manned Town in the centre, so that Burnett (especially) and Coldicott never had any time to control the ball before a scything sliding tackle whipped away their feet and ball.

Gillingham played a direct style to their big, fast number 16, King. Town didn't help themselves with some shockingly casual passing and control in defence. McDermott in particular had a torrid opening few minutes with passes to him being too short, too high, over-hit and/or when he already had a couple of players standing on his toes. Town had an obvious and deliberate ploy whenever Coyne had the ball - throw it to McDermott. Unfortunately, Gillingham were aware of this from the off. An example of the torture that we, the paying public, endured. Coyne picked up the ball and, seeing McDermott out to the right, 20 yards from goal, threw the ball firmly and high, despite Shaw being no more than a couple of yards away. McDermott could do no more than head the ball back in field - straight to a Gillingham player. Panic. Only a wayward pass saved Town from embarrassment.

First attack? After 5 minutes Gillingham won a corner right in front of the Town supporters, to the left of goal. It was swung in, half cleared to Southall, who tried a cross back, which was half cleared again. The ball pinged about with a few flying tackles and Southall, prostrate after a Coldicott crunch, swung a leg and crossed the ball back into the centre to an unmarked Gillingham striker. The ball zipped off his shins and out to the left hand side of the goal. King steamed in and Coyne came out and saved the shot with his left hand near the left hand post.

Nothing happened for another 5 minutes, in terms of goal mouth action, though Town were becoming more and more ragged. Coyne's fly kicking was atrocious and three times his miss-hacked straight to a Gillingham player less than 30 yards from goal. The ball was mainly in the Town half and, despite having two or three corners on the trot, Gillngham didn't get near goal. Mainly through their own ineptitude but also with Groves playing out of his skin to cover the holes that were appearing around him. King was super fast, but Groves still managed to ease him away from goal or hold him up. And King had Toblerone boots on - he wasted three good crossing opportunities by slicing the ball into the crowd.

Somewhere between the 10th and 20th minute Town had a couple of efforts, both from Rowan. His first was Town's best chance of the game. A clearance from one of the Town defenders from near the half way line released Rowan on the edge of the area, about 10 yards from centre. The goalkeeper came off his line and Rowan decided to lob him. The ball went into the 4th row of the stand behind the goal. A few minutes later he twisted and turned, again on the right corner of the area and shot straight at the 'keeper, who had moved to his near post. A few minutes after that Burnett had a 25 yard pile driver which only just went over the angle of the 'keepers right hand post and bar. As far as Town attacking goes in the first half, that is it.

I distinctly remember that in the 20th minute the ball was passed to, and controlled by, a white male aged between 25 and 35, about 5 foot 8 inches, approximately 11 stone, proceeding in a southerly direction. He was dressed in a monochrome replica football shirt with number 7 and the name "Donovan" printed on the back. This man had not been seen on the pitch prior to that moment and was not seen again for another hour. Police are appealing for this man to come forward to eliminate him from enquiries.

A few minutes after the alleged Donovan was spotted, Gillingham should have scored. After some tough tackling on the Town left, about 30 yards out, the ball fell to a Gillingham midfielder, who tapped the ball down the line between D Smith and Zhang Enhua. Our Chinese Defective slipped, allowing Gooden to run on unimpeded towards the area. And keep on going. And keep on going until he got to within 8 yards of the goal. Coyne came off his line and stayed upright as Gooden attempted to lift the ball over him. The ball ricocheted off Coyne's chest for a corner. Soon after that another break down the town left saw a cross zip between Coyne and the defence with, fortunately, no Gillingham player anywhere near.

We then had to endure nearly 15 minutes of midfield scrapping, with tackles almost literally flying in, but no goal mouth action. The wind got windier, the rain got more intense and icier, the football got worse and worse. Then, with a couple of minutes to half time, Town were a little fortunate. A free kick on Town's left was chipped into the middle of the box. Shaw (I think), from near the penalty spot, looped a header over Coyne, who back-peddled furiously and tipped the ball onto the cross bar. The ball bounced out to the left of goal and King, from about 6 yards out, hit a bicycle kick across the goal mouth, going a couple of feet wide of Coyne's right hand post.

That's all for the first half. Apart from an Enhua booking for tripping over a Gillingham midfielder. A couple of big "OOOOOOooohs" from the crowd for Southall miss-hit crosses. A cross from the Town left into the centre of the 6 yard box which Groves headed away firmly, but right onto the bonce of an on-rushing midfielder. The ball plopped safely into Coyne's hands.

The first half had been awful to watch. Gillingham play directly with big, strong, fast strikers, flood the midfield and tackle anything that moves, generally hunting in packs. Town's midfield were reduced to matching tackle for tackle. Consequently the game had no shape, and no football at all. Jeffrey and Rowan were like big and little brother. Or more accurately little and littler brother, neither being a physical match for the Gillingham defence. They were unable to hold the ball for any length of time, though Rowan was marginally more successful. He did show glimmers of skill and hope (he did, after all, create a couple of opportunities for himself and did one excellent lay off for the doppelganger on the right). Jeffrey was on the pitch, much more I cannot say. Are we sure it was him playing against Portsmouth?

The defence (apart from Groves) looked shaky and very nervous, yet, curiously, defended well under the high ball, our traditional nemesis. The conditions and pitch were such that a cultured passing game was not called for from the defenders. Much to our annoyance they seemed determined to play total football from the back. All that can be said about the half time score is that we deserved the 0 much more than they did.

Half time: Gillingham 0 Grimsby Town 0

Stu's half time toilet talk

"Gillingham's like being in Grimsby, but without the glamour. It's flippin' cold. Which one is Jeffrey and which is Rowan? Someone should turn up the bottoms on Rowan's shorts. Where's Donovan? Is it safe? Why isn't Handyside playing? Huxford is a midget. Didn't the tannoy say their number 5 is Laura Ashley?"

The report continues in the second half

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