Gills go for broke

Gillingham 3 Foster 1, Pike pen 42, Butler 61 Exeter City 0 Attenda nce: 3,332
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a peaceful scene at Priestfield, where Gillingham were competing with Exeter at the bottom of the Third Division. Sunshine glinted on roofs, washing dried in a nearby garden and fathers lifted toddlers high on their shoulders to cheer Adrian Foster's goal.

The carnage was taking place elsewhere, in the receivers' office where Gillingham have been trying to save themselves from extinction. On the broader scale of things it hardly matters that the Gills won 3-0, when every match they play could be their last. A not too sweet irony is that Exeter are in similar trouble. Or as one Exeter fan put it: "Also got the receivers in. Also crap."

The events of the last week have had their comic moments - literally. One of those allegedly involved in a bid to save Gillingham is Freddie Starr, who once figured in the famous tabloid headline, "Freddie Starr ate my hamster." Maybe we can look forward to a Medway Standard back page: "Freddie Starr ate my centre-forward."

The name of Malcolm Allison has also been mentioned and there are rumours that a fax has been sent to Mick Jagger. Other consortia are said to be interested but according to the receivers, no one has put anything on the table yet. The message to those throwing money into buckets down at the local SavaCentre is "keep fund-raising".

Among yesterday's 3,332 crowd there was much craning of necks to spot celebrity rescuers, but none had turned up to watch the Gills run rampant. Perhaps intoxicated by the glamour of all those names being bandied around, Gillingham scored within 44 seconds, when Chris Pike headed down from Neil Smith's long throw and Foster hit the back of the net.

Exeter nearly pulled a goal back shortly after through Mike Cecere, and there then ensued one of those sublime moments never encountered in the loftier reaches of the game when a hearty clearance broke the upper window of a house in the street alongside. After that, though, everything went Gillingham's way. Pike thumped home a penalty in the 40th minute, and Tony Butler made it 3-0 midway through the second half when he knocked in a cross from Foster.

The awful thing about Gillingham's plight is that it is so common to little clubs where you may not see great football but you do get warmth and a sense of belonging. As the tentacles of clubs like Manchester United reach out and grab your children's hearts, you remember that there is nothing like having football at the end of the road. Even if your windows do get broken.