Butler deflates Bournemouth

Gillingham 2 Bournemouth 1
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The Independent Online
Both clubs have had their financial problems in recent years, so it was somewhat ironic that the kick-off was delayed by crowd congestion. Crowds of 5,168 do not usually cause a hold-up; perhaps the officials at Priestfield Stadium thought there were better attractions draws in Gillingham.

There are times when Pele's description of football as the beautiful game is stretched to almost unrecognisable lengths. The first 45 minutes of this game was one of them.

Bournemouth's 44th-minute goal neatly summed up the football on offer. A harmless looking Jamie Vincent through ball caused chaos in the Gillingham defence. As both the goalkeeper, Neil Moss, and the central defender, Barry Ashby, waited for the other to take the initiative, Bournemouth's Steve Fletcher nipped in and lobbed the ball into an empty net for his second goal of the campaign.

The Cherries were probably just worth their half-time advantage as Fletcher had already had a header rather curiously disallowed for pushing.

We had to wait until the 20th minute for our first shot on target, and it came from the home side's captain, Andy Hessenthaler. That strike for footballing beauty inspired Gillingham to their most fluid spell of the match. Ade Akinbiyi headed a Simon Ratcliffe cross straight at goalkeeper Jimmy Glass a minute later, and Ratcliffe himself shot narrowly over on 27 minutes.

The second half started much more promisingly as Gillingham thumped the ball downfield in the general direction of Akinbiyi. The speedy forward showed strength to beat Bournemouth's captain, Ian Cox, for the ball, but then collapsed somewhat weakly once he reached the box. No matter, referee Steve Bennett pointed straight to the penalty spot and Guy Butters scored his first goal for Gillingham.

Gills fans thought their side had taken the lead in the 61st minute, but Akinbiyi was flagged offside before side footing in. The home fans' patience was finally rewarded on 76 minutes when 35-year-old Steve Butler drove a hard, low shot just inside Jimmy Glass's left-hand post. Butler's joy was evident to all, and his efforts sent the majority of the crowd home in high spirits.

Gillingham (4-3-3): Moss; Ratcliffe, Butters, Smith, Ashby; Gallaway, Hessenthaler, Statham; Bailey (Green, 74), Akinbiyi, Butler. Substitutes not used: Bryant, Piper.

Bournemouth (4-4-2): Glass; Young, Vincent, Rolling, Cox; O'Neill, Beardsmore, Robinson, Tomlinson (Murray, 63); Fletcher, Rawlinson. Substitutes not used: Harrington, Howe.

Referee: S G Bennett (Redhill).

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