After polishing off a few of the day before's leftovers it was the beginning of the traditional Boxing Day football. I've got to admit, I've never really been a fan of the swish dinners and the gallons of drink and festive cheer that Christmas time brings, but instead just look forward to the mass influx of games that my team are going to undertake in a short period of time.
Anyway, after the day started so well with AFC losing to Oxford at home and my old man spotting in the front garden two magpies (Something about seeing one for sorrow and two for joy) I was looking forward to a game which saw top of the table Crawley host the play-off chasing Gills. Hessenthaler's men naming a a couple of ex-Crawley transfer targets in their starting eleven with former Peterborough winger Chris Whelpdale lining up on the right hand side of a four man midfield and striker Danny Kedwell, an ex-Wimbledon and Grays forward that always seemed to play well against us.
|Kedwell was made welcome by the home fans|
Our line up looked strong even without the influential loanee Andy Drury who had returned to Ipswich following his three month loan spell; another loan ranger, this time Michael Doughty replacing Drury in a midfield diamond that saw defender Kyle McFadzean play in the defensive position, Sergio Torres and Dannie Bulman in the middle and QPR man Doughty in the attacking position.
Opposite where I was standing behind the goal, The Gills had packed out their end; 1,300 hardy souls made the short trek from Kent.
An even first eighteen minutes occured before a shambolic backpass from the usually reliable McFadzean saw Jo Kuffour take a touch only to be taken down by Claude Davis and with little hesitation referee Darren Sheldrake showed red to the Jamaican centre back. McFadzean then was moved to centre back alongside Pablo Mills; a partnership that worked so well during the promotion winning campaign of last season.
|OFF: Davis is shown red from Sheldrake|
The sending off looked to fire our boys up. David Hunt's long throw went past everyone before trickling past Ross Flitney's post and Torres also fired wide after a loose ball dropped to his feet.
The breakthrough wasn't soon after when, after winning one header, McFadzean stooped for another only to be clipped on the head by a high Matt Lawrence boot. Penalty to Crawley and up stepped the in form Matt Tubbs to smash the ball home for his 16th goal in all competitions. Gillingham then had a little spell straight after the goal that lasted about 3 minutes where they tried to grab themselves a quick reply however we went in at half time a man down but one goal up.
|Matt Tubbs smashes home the penalty|
The second half saw our visitors come flying out of the blocks and after Chris Whelpdale's ball in, Jo Kuffour sneaked in at the back post before scoring with what looked as if it hit his stomach; the ball squirming past Scott Shearer in the Crawley goal.
Whilst on the subject of Whelpdale's balls, after the game it was confirmed that, after a high challenge where David Hunt was booked, the Gills winger had split his scrotum - an injury that makes every grown man wince!
|YELP-DALE!: Winger needed stitches after his unfortunate injury|
Kuffour's brace was completed minutes later when, after a Crawley attack, Gillingham caught the Red Devils on the break and after Kedwell fed his strike partner (Strange considering that it’s normally Kedwell the one getting fed) the ball around thirty yards out before the on loan Bristol Rovers man ran and ran and ran at McFadzean, beat the defender before firing past Shearer at his near post from inside the box.
|Kuffour has 7 goals in 11 games for the Gills|
From here, Crawley huffed and puffed without really earning themselves any noteworthy chances, Mills' effort from twenty yards was comfortably saved by Flitney and, during the five minutes of added time, Gillingham outcast Luke Rooney, who boss Hesenthaler said would never play for the club again after a contract dispute , was sent off after a second booking.
One last chance then occurred for the home side; Josh Simpson's cross was headed into the corner by Tubbs only to see his effort smashed off the line by visiting defender Garry Richards.
The defeat ends our fifteen game unbeaten run as Gillingham extend their to ten
Disappointing result. We seemed to lack width the whole game. The diamond never worked at the start of the season before Steve Evans changed the system to the basic 4-4-2 system with wingers. We definitely missed Drury on the left. In the 14 games he was here we never lost - He gets recalled and we are defeated! After the game, I read a worrying stat that Crawley last won a game on Boxing Day against Welling United ten years ago so maybe the omens weren't with us.
However, onto the next one (As Jay-Z's song goes). Strugglers Barnet are next to the Broadfield on Friday. Although they have picked up in recent weeks, I'm quietly confident of a win.
Photos courtesy of www.crawleytownfc.com
Photos courtesy of www.crawleytownfc.com