The fairy tale of Gillingham ended, like all good fairy tales, in dramatic fashion.
The blue boys, playing in red as they have done throughout their centenary season, only needed one point to secure the nPower League Two trophy but, after less than 23 minutes the thought of a draw was far from the minds of players and fans alike.
Veteran striker Deon Burton opened the scoring for the Gills early on with a strike that seemingly came from nowhere before former Don Danny Kedwell doubled the Gills’ lead heading in Chris Whelpdale’s cross.
The Gills kept pushing until the second half, when they returned from the dressing room playing like they’d OD’d on valium. AFC Wimbledon, fighting for Football League survival for the first time in their short history, saw their chance, with Jack Midson bringing them back into the game after the hour and Jon Meades levelling the scoring with less than ten minutes to play.
Every Gills fan knows that supporting the club is not easy, and were nervously watching the clock as referee Andy D’Urso seemed to drag out stoppage time. In the end, it need not have concerned Gillingham whether they won, lost or drew, as Port Vale dropped points at home to Northampton, securing the Gills’ League Two title as the sun shone on the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
In times of success, it is fashionable to congratulate those who made it happen – and it went without saying that on Saturday the Chairman, Paul Scally, the Manager, Martin Allen, the Assistant Manager, John Schofield, all the backroom staff, Captain Adam Barrett, the whole playing squad and, of course, the loyal fans, were all mentioned in dispatches.
Also worth giving thanks to, though, are the sponsors – those who, along with paying fans, fund the football club and have allowed such a successful squad to be built. To Medway Mowers, sponsors of the 37 goals scored at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Ah yes, to MEMS, who sponsor the club and the stadium, and whose logo has been seen across the country side-by-side with that of the Football League sponsors nPower (the irony of which I will let you research yourself). And to all those whose advertising space can be seen in matchday programmes and advertising boards around the ground.
There is now just one game of the season to go and Martin Allen may look to play those who have spent much of the season warming the bench. He is keeping his selection under wraps for now, but the Medway Messenger are reporting that Mad Dog is approaching the final game of the season differently.
Who knows, even Tommy Forecast might get his first league start for the champions before he returns to Southampton…