The Dugout Diaries: Gills v Blackpool
With all the goings on at Priestfield over the past week the Blackpool game was eagerly awaited. Smudger back on loan from Walsall raised a few eyebrows. There were definitely two camps in the ground: Those happy to see him back, and those venomously against it. Me? I could see the pros and cons of both, and was going to reserve judgement. One supporter near the dugout suggested that Smudge is back with a possible view to a coaching role.
The unmistakable hairstyle of Colin Hendry arrives in the away dugout. Hendry was a familiar figure in the Premiership in the past decade winning the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers. I mostly remember him for being completely wrong footed on the Wembley turf by Gazza in Euro 1996 before THAT goal.
Getting stuck in is something Matty Jarvis seems to be having trouble with at the moment. On a couple of occasions he pulled out of 50:50 tackles. Cooper noticed this, and called to him:
“Got to get fookin’ stuck in there Matty!” Cooper wants commitment from his players.
It has been noted by several people that Jarvis sometimes goes AWOL in his defensive duties. One occasion where he didn’t track back to cover Jon Wallis led to the Blackpool goal. Neale was furious and reminded Matty about his defensive duties. Smudger also had a strong word with the young midfielder.
Michael Flynn was playing up front with Harris from the start. Not being a natural striker, it started to show.
“Flynny! You’ve got to get closer to Chopper’s flicks!” barked Ronnie.
The half time whistle blew, accompanied with boos from the assorted Waldorfs and Stadlers in the Medway Stand.
There was one change at the beginning of the second half. Jarvis and Flynn swapped places. This change gave us better attacking options with the added bonus of Flynn tracking back when necessary. It soon paid off when we were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Blackpool area. Instead of going for goal the ball is slotted through the defence to Crofts who squares the ball across the area...unfortunately behind all our attacking players. Ronnie was seething!
“It works every time in fookin’ training!” he said to the assembled substitutes in the dugout. Then just threw up his hands in disbelief with a smile!
Matty Jarvis was playing more comfortably in his forward position, and forced a corner from which Chris Hope rose and headed the ball home. The whole bench were on their feet. Ronnie and Neale hugging each other!
It wasn’t long until they were hugging again as Harris found the net from close range. Ronnie shouted to Smudger to tighten things up defensively. Smudge couldn’t hear him. What happened next was very revealing.
“Smudge... SMUDGE... SKIPPER!” A Freudian slip, or shape of things to come?
Throughout the afternoon the fourth official was handing out mints to Neale and Ronnie. Every time they contested a decision, the official got out the mints to pacify them. New UEFA regulations perhaps? Whilst it worked for the home team, Hendry wasn’t having any of it. After Keigan Parker was sent off, Hendry was arguing about the decision with the official...and out came the mints...
“Oh that makes it all better doesn’t it!” fumed the Scot. “I’ll tell you where you can stick them.”
The board signals four minutes for injury time. After four minutes we are still playing. Ronnie and Neale are furious and screaming at the ref. The ref comes over and in a patronising way points to his watch;
“I’ll tell you when it’s over!”
After SIX minutes of injury time, the final whistle blows. Relief all round! Paul Smith took the applause of the fans around the ground. Questions are still unanswered about his future contribution to the club. Watch this space.
Until next time though guys and gals...