Sunday, 10 October 2010

Gillingham 2 Stockport County 1

Match 23/10/841 - Saturday, 9th October 2010 - League Two

Gillingham (2) 2 McDonald 2, J Payne 38
Stockport County (0) 1 Pulis 81
Att. 4,755

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 45/3,610

Match Report

One of the most common excuses for poor form and lack of consistency are injuries. Andy Hessenthaler has commented, but not used it as an excuse for Gillingham’s indifferent start to the season. Fact is, Gillingham have had no luck with injuries in this early part of the season and today’s game against Stockport County was a perfect indication of the problems they have faced.

Following last week’s drubbing at the hands of Accrington Stanley, Danny Spiller was added to the list and Adebayo Akinfenwa and Curtis Weston were expected to sit out the game but passed fitness tests only to fail to make the full 90 minutes.

The indication of the disruption was the difference in the halves. In the first half Gillingham played some of the best football we have seen this season, they passed the ball well and scored two goals leaving them in complete control of the game. But the second half saw the departure of Akinfenwa, who pulled up presumably as a result of the groin strain he brought into the game and Weston, who has been the victim of flu as well as a thigh injury. Matt Lawrence was forced from the field for a 10 minute period to have a head wound stitched and the enforced changes produced a disjointed performance that had them hanging on desperately at the finish to claim the points.

Lance Cronin made way in goal for the returning Alan Julian, illness accounted for Josh Gowling’s absence from the bench, but after last week’s debacle he would surely have been dropped in favour of Tony Sinclair. Mark Bentley was suspended and replaced by Kevin Maher and John Nutter made a welcome return to left back allowing Chris Palmer to move forward into left midfield.

Gillingham started with a fluency that belied that performance at Accrington. In the opening seconds Cody McDonald, sent through by his partner Akinfenwa, was hacked down by Danny Swailes, who took a yellow card for the team. Palmer’s free kick was deflected over the bar but from the resultant corner McDonald got between two defenders to score with a firm header that went in off the post.

Palmer was showing the value of being played in midfield rather than at full back where he is a liability. His corner in the 22nd minute was met by Akinfenwa, whose header was cleared from the line by David Poole. But Palmer was not to be denied, another superb cross found McDonald in front of goal, the striker knocked the ball forward only for Matt Glennon to parry the ball into the path of Jack Payne who swept the ball home from close range for his first senior goal for the club.

The first substitution of the match was referee Graham Horwood who limped out of the action with a calf strain. His replacement took a farsical length of time and eventually a half time call for a qualified referee to take on the role as fourth official was answered by Gills kit man, Malcolm Stedman. The newly promoted referee’s first action involved the booking of Anthony Pulis, son of the ex-Gillingham manager, Tony for a agricultural sything tackle on Akinfenwa.

Gillingham’s second half problems started in the 52nd minute when Akinfenwa limped out of the action with a recurrence of his groin injury. Within a couple of minutes, Matt Lawrence sustained a head injury forcing him to the dressing room for stitches. Hessenthaler decided to play on with 10 men whilst the central defender was patched up. It was 12 minutes before Lawrence returned, head bandaged in true Terry Butcher fashion.

Stockport took advantage of the disruption to the home side’s ranks and exerted ever more pressure on a defence that had never looked completely assured. A mistake from Lawrence allowed George Donnelly a chance that was well saved by Julian, but with nine minutes remaining the striker set up Pulis to score and herald a nervy finale. The Gills kit man rebuffed calls for one minute to be shown on the board and a justified five minutes were added and that became six, but the home side survived without Julian being seriously tested in the remaining time.

The result puts Accrington and Bury behind us, but they are never going to be truly in the past until that away hoodoo is put to rest. Port Vale, top of the table, next week . . . a touch of Murphy's law perhaps?

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