Royle enraged by his inept Ipswich

Gillingham 0 - Ipswich Town 0
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The Independent Football

The six-goal trouncing that Ipswich inflicted upon Nottingham Forest a week ago seemed far removed from their inept performance at Priestfield Stadium yesterday, which assisted Gillingham in their new-found optimism that relegation can be avoided, especially as they are now out of the bottom three.

The six-goal trouncing that Ipswich inflicted upon Nottingham Forest a week ago seemed far removed from their inept performance at Priestfield Stadium yesterday, which assisted Gillingham in their new-found optimism that relegation can be avoided, especially as they are now out of the bottom three.

Gillingham had been getting quite excited after a 2-1 win over Stoke had put them in a wider field of relegation-threatened candidates. Hopes had already been given a boost by the loan signings of James McEveley and Jonathan Douglas from Blackburn, both useful at this level.

The spirit of revival was certainly apparent as Gillingham more than held their own in an impressive opening half. Michael Flynn, Mamady Sidibe and Darius Henderson all caused Kelvin Davis, in the Ipswich goal, to be thankful they were not more accurate with their initial finishing. Henderson also got a bit over-enthusiastic, throwing himself to the ground in a vain penalty appeal when Davis dived to clutch the ball at his feet. The referee, correctly, took Henderson's name for cheating.

Little in Ipswich's attacking gave any hint that this would be another high-scoring performance. The quick Darren Bent was rarely allowed to get into his stride and Shefki Kuqi was hustled and chased.

On balance, Gillingham deserved to hold a first-half lead, and would have done so had Davis not been alert to a long drive from Douglas that he managed to deflect over the bar. On occasions, defensive errors looked likely to cost them their dominance, but this was developing into a display that could only add to their confidence. Put another way, however, Ipswich were negligent in closing them down, weak at the front, and none too tight at the back.

The visitors' 3-5-2 formation, which had been so successful in their last two games, was abandoned after half-time, when Jim Magilton replaced the ineffective Matt Richards.

That Gillingham's right-back, Nyron Nosworthy, should be guilty of a litany of errors, yet get away with them, seemed an indication that their luck was changing. On the hour, they were denied a goal only by a good save from Davis to thwart Flynn.

Possibly their goalkeeper, Jason Brown, was a shade fortunate to stay on the field when he chased out of the penalty area to intercept Bent with a misjudged tackle. Bent was felled, but was not on a direct course towards goal. Brown escaped with a caution.

Ipswich continued to ring the changes, bringing on Kevin Horlock for Ian Westlake and Jamie Scowcroft for Kuqi, but there was still a lethargy about them that frustrated the manager, Joe Royle.

Gillingham were still defying a team reckoned to be capable of survival in the Premiership. Here, that appeared to be wishful thinking. Indeed, Ipswich should have lost by two late goals when Sidibe broke away only to have Davis stifle the ball, then Douglas clipped the crossbar.

"There will be more twists and turns this season but now we have added confidence to our will and desire," Stan Ternent, the Gillingham manager, said afterwards. Defiance and caution - sensible man.

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