John McCormick writes: when the fixtures came out this one was on my list, though as things turned out I never had a chance of making it. From this report, by the much-travelled and ever-present Bob Chapman, I don’t appear to have missed anything. Would that the team could play as well as Bob can write.
I have no doubt many of our readers will have something to say after reading Bob’s report. Alas, our site seems to be as unfixable as our team. If you do wish to leave a comment of your own please visit the bottom of the page
I had a poor night’s sleep yesterday. One of our two cats is a keen hunter and every so often will bring back gifts in the middle of the night. To please her masters she will make this meowing noise under our bed as she plays with her victims. This perfectly normal activity can last as long as a typical football match before the victim is finally dispatched, as indicated by a crunching sound. Occasionally the mouse will escape and seek refuge under a chest of drawers, Toffee will lose interest and I will rescue the poor thing and put it outside in the morning to live another day.
Yesterday’s match was a bit like that. Gillingham toyed with us for 90 minutes before yet again finishing us off in the final minutes. I could have predicted that, having witnessed the awful 1st round FA Cup capitulation last month.
Once I did get out of bed after last night’s stop start sleep I checked my phone for messages and emails. There is always a message from lastminute.com to delete. Due to various circumstances my wife and I haven’t been away for over six months. As I deleted the email it made me realise that it was time to get something sorted on the holiday front. That would solve two problems. It would give us a much needed break from the drab winter weather. However, more importantly it would allow me to escape what I described to my good mate John Marshall as the worst team we have ever had and as typical 3rd division mid table dross. John was more forthright and described Sunderland in just one word beginning with S!
The one comment we were able to see, before the usual message warning of a ‘critical error’ on the site appeared, came from ‘Andy’ and sympathised with Bob’s cat: ‘Very mellow and passionless at a critical time for the football club and its supporters. Why even bother? Hope you have a great holiday and the cat gets to keep the mouse next time.‘
Steve Evans, the Gillingham manager is not everybody’s cup of tea. A rather rotund figure on the touchline, you can hear him barking his orders, industrial style, to get the ball forward as quickly as possible into the opposing penalty area. His long ball style is not pretty to watch but is sometimes effective in grinding out results, keeping the demon of relegation at bay. The chances of getting promoted using this style is pretty remote. Having seen Gillingham twice already this season I knew exactly the kind of game I was going to see. We got beaten in the replay because we tried to match their «hoof it » style using smaller players, instead of using better technique to play round them.
What approach would we use?, I wondered as I sat with Mick and his son Luke as we enjoyed our full English in The Tavistock in Bedford before getting the train into London and then again out into Kent. Arriving in Gillingham we headed to the Canterbury Tales. Just over half a mile from the ground we were the only matchgoers in there. With no food on offer, the landlady playing darts and the locals serving themselves you get some idea of the place. At least it was quiet and you could get a seat with decent beer, so it ticked all the boxes for me.
Sat at a table we checked the team news. Horror selection I thought; the manager, with five at the back is going to try to weather the storm and hopefully nick one. No Watmore, McGeady or McGuire; there must be something fundamentally wrong with this club, I thought. You hear rumours of split dressing rooms and I am beginning to wonder where this is all going to end. It’s a bit like the current political situation in that nobody has a clue what is going to happen next, but you know things are only going one way and that is backwards.
As for the football, I didn’t really see much to be honest. In the first half, the back five looked pretty solid. The middle three passed the ball sideways or backwards pretty well and the front two put the yards in, in the hope they might be in with the chance of a decent ball being delivered up to them. In truth it was shocking stuff as we tried to play Gillingham at their own game. Half time came with us lucky not to be trailing by two goals as both the bar and post were hit. By this time a number of fans were already leaving as they had seen enough and obviously knew how it was going to end.
With no change of tactics it was back to the hoof it and see approach as the second half kicked off. Wyke came on with 30 minutes to play and almost gave us a shock lead as his shot narrowly went wide of the post. If he was fit then why didn’t he start, I thought, especially in this type of game. Wyke then gave us hope as he nodded home a cross from Grigg. Offside, rightly given but it seemed an injustice at the time. We had played well for 10 minutes but had been awful for the other 80!
So, as expected with time running out Gillingham snatched the winner. Their style is awful but they deserved the win. For our manager to suggest otherwise is delusional. He hasn’t watched them as long as I have and I know for sure this is the worst side that has ever played for the club.
After I have finished writing this I will definitely be going on the travel websites to sort something out in the near future that will give me a small break from this awful season.
Something has to change, we just can’t carry on like this!
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