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Meet the Feebles: Gillingham Report
By: Tony Butcher
A GREY, overcast afternoon with a biting wind tickling the ears of around 100 Town fans stood in their usual hunched positions on the terrace. The pitch was very sandy, with clumps of mud all over the place, even before the warm up started, and the opposition were, as usual, very big.
Gillingham 3 Grimsby Town 0
15 Feb 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
But hey, Town know all about inhospitable afternoons in towns with no National Trust properties within the council boundaries. We patented that particular mould. Thereâ€™s no way theyâ€™d play like big city johnnies, wishing theyâ€™d rather be at home in front of the open fire, with chestnuts roasting and two cats in the yard. Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s a very, very, very nice house.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation, as shown. In other words, the same starting XI as last week, except Coldicott for Pouton. Perhaps it was Stacyâ€™s kinda game, letâ€™s get ready to rumble, or in Galliâ€™s case, crumble. Some cynics had already decided Gallimore was for the tumbrel, as his demeanour on running out was not that of a hyped up athlete, more a confused tourist whoâ€™d left his "25 useful English phrases" book on the coach. And the coach had broken down in Belgium. Santos looked very relaxed, giving a thumbs up and knowing wink to the Town support as he ambled by. Suspicions were aroused by his sporting of dainty black gloves, identical to those worm by Ford. Real men donâ€™t wear gloves, said the man with two jumpers, three pairs of socks, thick scarf and woolly mittens.
You have to hand it to Gillingham, year on year they have some of the finest names in football on their teamsheets. The wonderful Nyron Nosworthy (where did the "a" go?) and now Jones Awuah, a Hawaiian greeting, surely. Isnâ€™t their chairman small.
One of the teams kicked off and nothing happened. It was probably Town, who were kicking away from the extreme diehards who had set aside a full human day and billions of Euros to support those individuals who receive money to represent us. Nothing more happened for a couple of minutes. Tackles, schmackles, punts, schpunts. Shapeless, artless, Gillingham huffed and the rest writes itself. This was the flip side of the game at Blundell Park, where Town overpowered and outplayed them.
Town just looked small, puny, feeble, physically so inferior it was like those games at school where the juniors take on the seniors. It didnâ€™t help that the long ball upfield was the weapon of choice for Townâ€™s defenders, and yes, I do refer to our beleaguered (officially sanctioned silent adjective to precede any mention of Mr A Gallimore from now on) left back who was beguiled by the dumpy pitch into thinking our twiggy twosome in attack could outjump and outmuscle a pair of sturdy oaks.
Yes, you could tell this from the first few minutes. It took four minutes for Gillingham to get near goal. A simple process really. Their players ran forward, ours ran around in circles. The ball was played down their left hand side for Shaw, who had made a diagonal run from the centre to somewhere behind McDermott. He turned, and dribbled into the penalty area, attracting three or four defenders, including the centre backs. The ball stuck to his boot, despite some tackles that varied between effete and dandy, and with a leap he was free. He passed sideways to an unmarked fellow traveller, in the centre about 15 yards out, who awaited the arrival of the 9:23 stopper from Grimsby Town station, the Flying Gallimore. Oh dear, another unmarked player was waiting, about a dozen yards out just to the right of the penalty spot. WALLACE received the pass, took one touch, and drilled a low shot to Coyneâ€™s right, the ball rippling in the back of the net before even the most morose Town supporter had time to groan. And we are very practiced in anticipatory groaning.
The Gillingham players and fans celebrated like it was an achievement, the Town fans started to get out their train timetables, they could be at Kings Cross by the time the game finished. Oh, silly us, it had already. The next five minutes contained nothing of any interest. The pattern of the game had been set. Small Town give ball away, big Gillingham knock it forward quickly. Ford panics, Santos heads the ball. Letâ€™s take it as read that all the bits that arenâ€™t described were just Santos heading the ball away, itâ€™s easier that way for you to picture the game. After about 10 minutes, something nearly happened. Town strung three passes together in what only the most skilled of football reporters would describe as "a move". Boulding was released down the left hand touchline, probably by Campbell. Boulding bounded down the line, cut in and crossed from the bye-line to the near post. A defender scuffed a clearance straight to Groves 25 yards out in the centre. Groves suddenly had visions of his younger self. It often happens when men reach a certain age; for what are the memories of an old man, but the deeds of a man in his prime. It was Peterborough 1992, Luton 1994, it was a scorching, pile driving, thwacking great shot which zoomed towards the top centre left of the goal. Brown shuffled to his right and spectacularly tipped the ball over, a little too theatrically mind, as he didnâ€™t have to move that far to get to it. A corner to Town, which provided a perfect platform for a Gillingham attack. No effort on goal, just loads of blue giants pounding towards Coyne.
After quarter of an hour Gillingham had another attack, thatâ€™s their second attack I should stress. Ball watching as play was meandering on the right, Ipoua drifted away from Gallimore and then ran behind him. Galli had hung back and was the last man. The ball was simply knocked over the top, very high. Wallace sprinted, Ipoua zoomed, Ford loped back. Ipoua and Wallace, together, bothered Ford so much he crumpled in indecision. Coyne had half come off his line, hesitated then came again. WALLACE reached the ball first and lobbed the ball over Walesâ€™ number 1 (at Korfball?) and it slowly floated towards the left hand corner of the net. Ford and Ipoua ran after the ball and Ford fell into the goal after the ball had entered. Coyne bellowed, Gallimore raged, the rest looked around silently, eyebrows raised, shoulders hunched.
Dammit, weâ€™d just missed a fast train back to London Victoria.
The rest of the half was equally dire. Gillingham managed another shot, which should have been a third goal. Again a punt over the top down the centre right, again Ford being overpowered, again Coyne came out with no particular conviction. Wallace (I think) lifted the ball past Coyne, the ball hit his left hip and bumbled towards the bottom left hand corner. Santos ambled around and, inside the 6 yards box, scuffed a left footed clearance straight to McDermott, who stood next to Coyne, a dozen yards out way past the left hand post. There was panic in the streets of Dundee, as well as Humberside. After about 24 minutes Campbell was seen. A shot from some Town player or other hit him on the back. This is possibly being a little harsh on the man who can often only be contacted via a medium, as a few minutes earlier he had averted danger with an interception deep inside the Town penalty area. As had Gallimore too. Credit where credit is due, lord knows there are enough debit points on their chargecard. Where are we now? Still in Kent, unfortunately. Ah yes, 32 minutes and another Town shot. Normally I wouldnâ€™t bother describing such a dull, humdrum effort, but times are desperate. Thompson shimmied and swashbuckled through the centre, dummied left, swayed right and, from the very centre, 20 yards out, hit a soft shot which hit a defenderâ€™s shins and rolled gently through to Brown.
There was no atmosphere, no tension, nothing. The Gillingham supporters had long realised the afternoon was theirs, they couldnâ€™t be bothered taunting us, so they indulged themselves in personalised chanting for particular players. One or two Town fans tried to sing defiantly, but the acoustics on an open terrace were agin â€˜em. "Weâ€™re northern and weâ€™re proud if it" sounded more like "Weâ€™re gay and weâ€™re proud of it". Big Tom Robinson fans, perhaps? At last, itâ€™s half time. There was one additional minute, caused by an injury to Santos where he went over the top of Ipoua, landing on his back. Clutching his thigh and squealing like a pig, it looked terminal. But heâ€™s French, so we must allow him some slack. He got up and carried on. This added time dragged on a bit, like the referee was waiting for the next goal. Eventually Gillingham won the ball back and lobbed it down the Town left. Ipoua and Ford were just outside the penalty area, a few yards from the bye-line. Ipoua turned, stopped, turned again towards the bye line and fell. The referee was stood just three yards away and immediately gave a free kick and booked Ford. A rubbish decision, the Town fans couldnâ€™t have been closer to this incident, it being almost on the terrace. Southall chipped the free kick into the centre of the goal, about 6 yards out. HOPE rose alone and smacked a firm header into the top centre left of the goal. Town kicked off and the half ended within a second. The playersâ€™ tunnel is in the corner where the away fans gather, so on their way back to the dressing room the team received much detailed advice from eight or nine of the less sanguine members of the rag tag army. The referee was also flooded with suggestions, from both sets of supporters, for he had baffled all with his arbitrary decisions. He seemed to be anti-Gillingham mostly, bizarre as it may seem. Although my favourite rubbish decision of the first half was when Gallimore lobbed a free kick goalwards and Ipoua, stood about 6 yards away, jumped up and parried the ball, launching a counter-attack. It was so obvious even Gillingham fans shouted handball. Anyway, it was a fine effort at silly mid on by Ipoua, certainly stopping a boundary.
Half time: Gillingham 3 Grimsby Town 0
Analysis? Itâ€™s all there in black and white. Four shots, three goals, one messy defence with two flapping dandelions. An uncomplicated and committed opposition had simply overrun the reluctant daytrippers. Resilience is a word you wonâ€™t find in the A-Z of Town (2003 edition). I can think of another word beginning with "R", can you? Itâ€™ll be through the round window.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"You stood on my lucky crumbs!".
The report continues in the second half.
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