Thanks for the memories, Justin

As birthday presents go, it was perhaps one of the most bittersweet, but when I woke up to the news this morning that Justin Endinburgh had been relieved of his duties at Gillingham, I couldn’t help but raise a smile.

When Justin was appointed Gills manager in February 2015, the style and approach he brought to the team provided entertainment and promise. Becoming one of the dominant forces at the top of the league by the end of that year gave us fans hope that we could find ourselves back in the Championship, for only the second time in our history.

Then, when I returned from Barcelona that Christmas, everything started going downhill. It’s impossible to say with certainty what triggered our collapse from top to an ultimate ninth-placed finish, but an injury to our star-player Bradley Dack, a confidence-collapsing loss at Wigan Athletic and a seeming inability for Edinburgh to change his tactics after teams had worked out how to beat us all played a part.

Nobody with a heart would act with malicious glee at somebody losing their job, but when this season started in the same way as the last had ended, it was clear Edinburgh was on borrowed time. I became a convert to the “JED out” cause in October, but was less vocal than others, believing the most important thing is always to support my team.

Edinburgh’s time was perhaps extended by virtue of our Chairman’s major heart operation, an assumption all the more feasible by the fact that today is Mr Scally’s first day back at work. He did not hold back in his assessment of our performance:

I don’t believe that the players weren’t trying, I just don’t think they felt comfortable with the way we were trying to play, or how we were trying to play. I am not sure they even understood exactly how we were supposed to be trying to play.

Yesterday, I was sat in the block next to the Directors and immediately glanced at Mr Scally at full time. I had a hunch, just by the expression on his face, that Edinburgh had managed his last game, something I mentioned on one of the Gills forums on Facebook.

Now that Edinburgh has gone, I would like to thank him for his hard work at Gillingham, and for some special memories, but hope that a new manager can turn our form around permanently and help us start pushing towards the top of the table again.

Next manager

Mr Scally has said that he started working on the new management team last night, and does not want to have a drawn-out interview process (like the five weeks it took to appoint Edinburgh). With no game this weekend, he has some time to find the right man before the next match at Oldham.

The Sky Bet odds on the next manager, as at 12:30 today, are:

Ady Pennock 1/3
Dennis Wise 10/1
Kenny Jackett 10/1
Nigel Adkins 11/1
Steven Pressley 12/1
Steve Cotterill 12/1

Well that was embarrassing, wasn’t it?

Before today’s top-of-the-table clash, Gillingham were in the number one spot by the skin of their teeth.

Level on points with second-placed Coventry City – superior on goal difference by just one goal – and two points ahead of Walsall – who still have a game in hand – today’s visit to the Ricoh was bound to be crucial.

P GD Pts
1 Gillingham 17 15 34
2 Coventry 17 14 34
3 Walsall 16 14 32

After half an hour, the top two were still level, while Walsall were also goalless against Sheffield United. But then all hell broke loose. With the Gills having held firm against pressure from the Sky Blues, suddenly the floodgates opened and, in the space of ten minutes, the league leaders had conceded four goals: the hosts’ Jacob Murphy netted a hat trick with Ben Turner completing the rout.

Going into the break Gillingham were 4-0 down and had given a very poor account of themselves.

The second half proved to be quieter. The Gills had tightened up and Coventry took their foot off the gas a little. Just after the hour mark, Bradley Dack – our top scorer – gave the visitors a little bit of hope but it was, alas, to no avail. When the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read:

Coventry City 4
Gillingham 1

and the top two teams had reversed their roles:

P GD Pts
1 Coventry 18 17 37
2 Gillingham 18 12 34
3 Walsall 17 14 33

All things considered, a disappointing result for Gillingham – and a long journey home for the 857 visiting fans who made the journey. The discussion on social media was not a happy one for some: Continue reading

The Gills go marching on

One of the hardest things to leave behind in Blighty, which I deliberately did not mention in my Farewell post, was the mighty Gills.

Since I returned to Medway in January 2012, I can count on one hand the number of home games I have missed every season. I have witnessed my home team win their first league title in half a century, as well as the departure of three underperforming managers (one of whom had previously won said title).

It is particularly saddening to know that I have only been able to attend one home game this season – the incredible 4-0 win over promotion favourites Sheffield United on the opening day – and, as I sit in the sun watching Sky Sports Score Centre and Twitter for updates from the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, I wonder just how far the Gills can go this season – and just how much I will miss.

With help from the Gang of Four at the start of the year, and a small number of summer signings of his own, Justin Edinburgh has managed to turn Peter Taylor’s mediocre defensive squad into an unbeatable attacking force that currently occupies the top spot in League One, the only team in the division (and one of only six teams across the Football League’s 72 clubs) which has not been conquered after 7 games.

Today, the Gills notched up another home win, this time against strugglers Blackpool. Captain Doug Loft opened the scoring in the first half, before a second half own goal from Ryan Jackson gave the visitors hope. However, man of the moment Bradley Dack was able to put the home side ahead again in the last ten minutes, meaning the Gills continue to lead the league table:

P GD Pts
1 Gillingham 7 9 17
2 Walsall 7 9 16
3 Burton Albion 7 3 15

It is inevitable that Gillingham will lose, sooner or later, but with such a strong showing in the first seven games of the league campaign, this really could be another season of glory – and the long-awaited return to the Championship!

A good start

Gillingham are third in League One!

Ok, so it may only be after the second game of the season, but Justin Edinburgh’s men have carried on their excellent run of form from the end of last season, defying the expectations from their difficult opening match, to have won four points from two games.

The Gills started the season with what was billed as their toughest home game this term, hosting the favourites for promotion. Sheffield United came down expecting to return to Yorkshire with nothing less than three points in the bag. What their 1,800 travelling fans witnessed instead was absolute humiliation.

The season was less than ten minutes old before Luke Norris opened the Gills’ account, while loanee Deji Oshilaja doubled the lead shortly before the break. The second half saw an own goal, headed from a corner, credited to John Egan, before Bradley Dack made it four after going past two defenders and scoring a fantastic diagonal goal which is already in contention for goal of the season. Gillingham were, for one week at least, top of the league:

P GD Pts
1 Gillingham 1 4 3
2 Swindon 1 3 3
3 Chesterfield 1 2 3

Tuesday night saw the opening round of the Capital One Cup, with the Gills drawn away to Plymouth Argyle (an exhausting round-trip for players and supporters alike). Three goals, all in the final fifteen minutes, lifted an otherwise dull encounter.

The hosts struck first, with Craig Tanner putting the Pilgrims ahead on 78 minutes. Bradley Dack levelled the score for the Gills five minutes from time, while Jake Hessenthaler put the visitors ahead two minutes later. The Gills were rewarded for their efforts with an away draw against Championship side Birmingham City in Round 2, to take place on Tuesday, 25 August. This will be the Gills’ third Tuesday night away fixture in as many weeks, with a trip to Yorkshire against bottom-of-the-league Bradford City tomorrow.

League One action resumed on Saturday, with the Gills making the trip to Staffordshire for another tough match, this time against Port Vale, and once again it was Bradley Dack who was on the scoresheet for Gillingham. The Valiants’ goalkeeper, Jak Alnwick, was penalised for picking up a back pass, and Luke Norris rolled the indirect free kick to Dack, who powered the ball into the roof of the net.

Although Louis Dodds brought the hosts level in the 35th minute, it was referee Fred Graham who wrote the biggest storyline of the game, handing out seven cautions (six of which were against Gillingham players Ryan Jackson, Bradley Garmston, Jordan Houghton, Oshilaja, Dack and Egan). In a gritty encounter, the Gills managed to hold on for a point, finishing the day in third place:

P GD Pts
1 Coventry 2 6 6
2 Rochdale 2 4 6
3 Gillingham 2 4 4
4 Swindon 2 3 4
5 Walsall 2 2 4

All things considered, it was a good start to the season for Gillingham, although seven cautions in two games is a slightly concerning statistic. The Gills are continuing the form they finished last season with, not afraid to fight for a result, which is pleasing. Early signs are encouraging, but as a Gills supporter, with 44 games to go, one must never forget to expect that anything could happen!