Little too late as Gillingham resist

Gillingham 0 - Reading 0
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The Independent Football

An abominable day. An abominable match on an abominable pitch. But Gillingham will take slightly more warmth out of the perishing day in their battle to get out of the relegation trough, while Reading failed to help themselves by losing sight of the basic need to keep the ball at ground level and out of the clutches of the gale.

An abominable day. An abominable match on an abominable pitch. But Gillingham will take slightly more warmth out of the perishing day in their battle to get out of the relegation trough, while Reading failed to help themselves by losing sight of the basic need to keep the ball at ground level and out of the clutches of the gale.

A club in as much trouble as Gillingham will always look at the odd victory, like the one against Coventry on Tuesday, as a step up on the ladder. A club riding with the leading pack, such as Reading, will survey a worrying defeat (3-0 at Preston on the same day) as something that quickly needs to be forgotten before talk of a crisis nags at confidence. Consequently, their combined situations promised a taut match, not a terrible one.

Gillingham's manager, Stan Ternent, said the results of the past two games had given him "something to work on". Turning their advances into advantages, however, is not being made any easier by fellow strugglers also getting points. Here, Gillingham often kept Reading under pressure, defended securely and tackled well when Reading countered, but getting Mamady Sidibe into a position to break his four-month spell without a goal was another matter.

For their part, Reading's finishing, when it occurred, lacked penetration. Generally, Nicky Forster, a former Gillingham player, found the defenders of his former club quicker to the ball and too strong for him. And even the heavier Lloyd Owusu did not have better luck.

Perhaps Reading could claim that the swirling wind and the continuing absence of Dave Kitson contributed to their failure to produce much in the way of joined-up football in a first half of much ball-chasing and no art. At least Gillingham had the excuse that impressing people was not high on their list of priorities. But why did either side think that in the testing conditions, flying the ball high was the right tactic?

As the wind gathered pace and the rain came down, so the game became increasingly awful. Obviously the two were connected. In addition, the pitch had more divots than a practice tee. The stewards facing the crowds were the lucky ones.

The only complimentary thing that could be said about the whole match was that both defences stuck to their task with considerable concentration. The ball often twisted and turned unpredictably, and both goalkeepers must have been grateful that almost every shot sailed away like an untethered kite.

It was not until the 72nd minute that a chance of any consequence arrived. Reading's substitute Dean Morgan centred and the midfielder Glen Little, approaching the far post, headed down. John Hills stuck out a foot as Gillingham's goalkeeper, Steve Banks, prepared to make a hurried intervention and the ball was cleared.

Little managed to improve on his earlier header with another that beat Banks, but the referee turned him down because of an earlier foul.

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