Saturday, 13 January 2018

Gillingham 2 Rochdale 1

Match 81/17/1531 - Saturday, 13th January 2018 - League One

Gillingham (1) 2 Garmston 41 Martin 63
Rochdale (1) 1 Cannon 27
Attendance: 4,352

Entrance: Season Ticket
Programme: £3
Mileage: 58/5,349

It wasn’t pretty, indeed it was pretty ugly.

This was the first time I’ve seen Gillingham for six weeks, which in itself probably tell you a lot about my attitude towards the club, but, despite this being a sixth game without defeat, a crowd of just 4,352 tells you that indifference is not mine alone.

The win lifts Gillingham to 14th place, the relative sanctuary of mid-table and it can only be hoped that as their position of safety becomes a little bit more secure they might find it within themselves to embark on the lost art of entertainment.

More by accident than design, Chairman Scally has stumbled across a manager for whom the players want to play. Is he a master tactician (probably not); a man manager (certainly appears that way) or just a lucky blighter? Either way he is doing something right because on this performance nothing much has changed since early December but his side has won at Charlton (for the first time in history) and at Fleetwood.

In the middle of the field, for the first time (probably to my shame), I really got Mark Byrne who I thought put in a really good shift, but the others …

Upfront, Tom Eaves is willing and hardworking but for far too many minutes was isolated as Josh Parker seemed too deep and too far away from his partner.

Defensively, especially in the last half-hour when the negative feelings of their home record started to play on the mind, it was desperate at times but somehow they made it through to the final whistle. They dropped so deep the next stop was Gillingham High Street; invited Rochdale on and there was an inevitability that the visitors would snatch a late, deserved reward. But when the chance came, it fell to ex-Gillingham midfielder, Billy Knott to fire high over the bar.

The hosts carved out the early chances. They had the ball in the net but this was disallowed for offside; Rochdale goalkeeper, Josh Lillis made saves from Scott Wagstaff and Eaves, but it was the visitors that struck first after 27 minutes.

It’s no surprise when the butt of the home supporter’s abuse turns to bite them on the bum, because usually that player is, more often than not, a decent player. Step up Andy Cannon, who skipped his way through a couple of innocuous challenges to rifle a shot into the bottom corner.

Lifted by the goal, Rochdale took ascendancy for a period before a rasping free kick from 20 yards by Bradley Garmston found the bottom corner to bring the scores level.

Elliott List replaced the luckless Wagstaff during the half-time break and supplied first a cross that begged a touch but, just past the hour, his cross took a deflection that looped the ball invitingly into the path of Lee Martin to volley past a helpless Lillis.

The goal signalled the retreat and it was all hands to the pumps as possession of the football was conceded to the Lancastrians. It became a defensive masterclass in pumping the ball as far upfield and as far away from Eaves as possible. It was ugly, but it won the points. What more can be asked? Well, a whole lot more but for now, let us be grateful for the relative safe haven of lower mid-table.

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