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Bradford survive

Pre-season tour
Gallen signs
Hornets sting Town
Owls shot down
Gray returns
Wijnhard crashes out
Worthington woe
Ayre departs
First home point
Bye Bye Brucie
New manager announced
Fans show anger
9 points to safety
First home win
Ndlovu at first sight
Town leap to safety
Macari wins award
More cup woe
Ndlovu joins Blades
Jamie jumps ship
Town hit rock bottom again
Morris' McApline move
Prodigal son returns
Biggest win
QPR doomed
Nearly there
The bitter end

Saturday 17th February.

All good things must come to an end, or at least that’s always the case where Town are concerned, and our 10-game unbeaten sequence came to a sticky end today against a side who quite frankly weren’t particularly good.

With Jamie Vincent long gone, the side was the same as the one putting in such a creditable performance against Bolton last week and Steve Jenkins continued in the left-back slot with Adie Moses once again partnering Chris Lucketti in the centre of defence. Whether the Vincent move was tactical or not, the sooner Macari realises that Jenkins isn’t a left-back the better, because his right footedness stuck out like a sore thumb.

The match began in cagily and Gillingham had the look of a well-organised side that were quite prepared to get plenty of bodies behind the ball and settle for a point if necessary. Town pressed forward in the earlier stages without ever looking particularly incisive and our forwards (particularly Gallen) seemed to struggle to get to grips with the game, then out of the blue Town took the lead on the quarter hour through an unlikely source.

Kevin Gallen controlled a ball over the top before passing square to Facey on the right side who in turn laid the ball off to the overlapping (about time too) Thornley and his cross was smashed home on the half volley by Craig Armstrong. He did well to keep the shot down, and his 15-yard effort nestled sweetly in the top corner to give Town a 1-0 lead. Normal service was resumed and we could settle back and enjoy the next 75 minutes, not so, within 4 minutes we gifted the Gills an equaliser.

From a free kick wide on the left about 20 yards out Nico Vaesen came out to the edge of the 6-yard box to collect, unfortunately he seemed to misjudge the cross and failed to get a hand to the ball. The lurking Gillingham back marker collected the loose ball and played it back towards goal where it was met by the head of the onrushing Saunders. Worse was to come just 5 minutes later as the defence was caught napping with a ball played through on the right hand side, there were chances to intercept the ball but we failed to do so and it was crossed into the area. The defending would have been comical if it hadn’t been so awful as Lucketti failed to get a head on the ball and Ty Gooden attempted to slot it past the advancing Vaesen. His mis-kick was so bad it went almost square but unfortunately three Gillingham forwards were queuing up in front of goal with only Moses as cover and Saunders was the lucky recipient of the sliced shot making no mistake from 6 yards.

There were shades of the early season blues, as the player’s heads seemed to drop as they were being outfought by a side who were not particularly skilful, but were full of passion and commitment. It is precisely these qualities that have lifted Town back into a position where survival can be achieved, but today it seemed to have deserted them. They struggled to get any sort of grip in midfield and laboured to get any sort of service to the front men, yet despite flattering to deceive for the next 20 minutes they were given a lifeline just before half-time.

Craig Armstrong collected a ball from Chris Holland mid way into the Gillingham half and with the defence backing off threaded a ball towards the penalty area for the overlapping Steve Jenkins. The makeshift left back knocked the ball forward in the penalty area and as he ran on to collect the ball was caught by a Gillingham’s Nicky Southhall, and over he went. The referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. After last week’s failure, Martin Smith has been appointed penalty taker and he stepped up and stroked the ball wide of Bartram's left. It wasn’t the most convincing place kick I have ever seen, but was accurate enough to nestle in the back of the net. This was Town’s first successful penalty of the season and we could very possibly had 4 more points if the others had been converted. Goals just before half time are supposed to unsettle the conceding side (or at least they do with Town), and as the half time whistle blew we could look forward to the second half.

Unfortunately, Town weren’t any more convincing in the second half, looking decidedly edgy and I wonder if Macari had found one of Bruce’s half time team talk scripts, because there seemed to be no fire in the Town bellies and Gillingham looked the more positive side. Marcus Browning was introduced in the 50th minute to replace 2 goal hero Mark Saunders and I think most people in the crowd hoped he would be as ineffective as he was during his spell with Town.

Sadly this wasn’t to be the case as he picked up the ball on the halfway line in the 63rd minute and ran through the vacant area of the pitch supposed to be marshalled by Town’s midfield. He then played a defence splitting pass straight through to Marlon King who collected the ball about 25 yards from goal, and despite the modest attentions of Adie Moses (how much did he cost?) advanced in the penalty area and slid the ball under Nico Vaesen from about 15 yards out.

Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaller employed a strange tactic of substituting his goal scorers. Two-goal Mark Saunders was replaced by Browning early in the second half, and within a minute or so of scoring Marlon King was warming the bench, replaced by Carl Asaba. Perhaps it’s a special treat in Kent, score a goal or two and you can have a longer soak in the Radox for your efforts. King’s departure also saw the introduction of Iffy Onoura who received a reasonably warm welcome from the home supporters.

Town continued to look second best against a well drilled defence, and Dean Gorré having replaced the luckless Kevin Gallen in the 55th minute tried a number of probing runs but the supporting midfield players looked out of sorts and the visitors stood firm. Martin Smith was the liveliest striker and was denied by Bartram in the 70th minute, but the longer the game went on, the deeper the sense of frustration felt by the rapidly diminishing crowd.

We have 16 games still to play and will face far better teams than Gillingham in our quest for another 7 or 8 wins, if Barry Rubery thinks that the present side is good enough to keep us from the drop without investing any of the Jamie Vincent transfer fee then I think he is kidding himself. We need to rediscover the fighting spirit that was so evident in December, and by the sound of things very evident last week against Bolton. I would gladly have traded the Bolton draw for a win against Gillingham, and I just hope that this game was a one off aberration. I cannot understand why both Gray and Dyson were on the bench today and although Moses is OK as a makeweight to cover for injuries he lacks the commitment either or both of those players add to the team. Gray has hardly had a look in since his magnificent performance against Watford and I cannot understand why this is unless there is some kind of behind the scenes problem.

Today was a bad day in terms of results affecting other teams around us. Wins for Crewe, Grimsby and QPR all added to our woes by returning us to the bottom three for the first time since Boxing Day. Thank goodness Tranmere weren’t playing or we might have been propping up the division once again.

TOWN 2 (Armstrong 15, Smith 44 (pen))

Gillingham 3 (Saunders 19 & 24, King 63)

Position in table – 23rd

Town – Vaesen; Heary (Irons 79); Lucketti; Moses; Jenkins; Armstrong; Thornley; Holland; Gallen (Gorré 55); Facey (Dyson 90); Smith. Subs not used – Margetson; Gray.

Gillingham – Bartram; Edge; Smith; Ashby; Southall; Gooden; Saunders (Browning 50); King (Asaba 64); Pennock; Hope; Shaw (Onoura 64). Subs not used – Patterson; James.

Referee – Phil Richards (Preston). Attendance 10,576



All words and thoughts by Chris except where stated.

A big thank you to Machala for putting up with me doing this and Ian for his support and my Mum for her proof reading.

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