15th November 1980
GILLS ARE CRUSHED
From the Gillingham Scrapbook
Gillingham 1 Exeter 5
Match Report by TONY SMITH
GILLINGHAM'S stuttering season hit a disastrous low on Saturday with this crushing defeat in front of the lowest crowd of the season at Priestfield Stadium. But maybe it was fortunate that more Gills supporters did not see the spectacle of their favourite team be- ing put through the mill by an impressive Exeter side, who chalked up their fifth away win of the season with a devastating second-half display. It was headlines all the way for the West country club with the win being the highest in the Football League, and striker Tony Kellow's hat-trick making him the country's leading league marksman. For Gills, however, it was all gloom and despair as they slumped to their second successive home defeat. Exeter threatened to do damage in the first half, then destroyed Gills in the second with four goals as they took them apart at the back. And it could have been even worse as they ran riot towards the end. The warning signals went out early as Exeter started positively, hitting the bar after only two minutes. From that moment, the visitors were never in any danger as Gillingham simply could not get their game together. They were loose at the back, uninspiring in mid-field, and almost non-existent up front. It was the first time this season that a side has come to Priestfield and dominated Gills so totally. Only one down at the interval, they were still in with a chance of saving the game, but they could not make any impression on the match. That was the sign for Exeter to turn on the power. It is easy to criticise yet Exeter must take a lot of the credit for their performance, which gives them a league double over Gillingham. They looked a very useful side indeed, strong at the back; inventive in midfield where John Delve was the catalyst for most of their clever moves; and very sharp up front with Kellow a killer in front of goal. The only surprise is that they are not higher up the Third Division table. After this defeat, Gillingham are 17th and, unless they really sort things out during the winter, will emerge in the spring having to fight a relegation battle.
The blunt truth is that Gillingham have not played up to their true potential once this season. They have played well in certain matches, produced some stirring football against Blackburn, Brentford and Sheffield United, but never comprehensively outplayed a team- not even Hull as Exeter did on Saturday. The match was only two minutes old when Steve Bruce tried a back pass which let in David Pullar. He steadied himself, chipped Ron Hillyard intelligently only to see the ball hit the bar and bounce away to be cleared. It was ten minutes before Gills got in a rare attack, Danny Westwood taking a pass from KennPrice and volleying over the top. Two minutes later. Exeter took the lead with a simple and coolly executed goal. A short corner on the right to full-back Peter Hatch, he crossed to the far side of the box and Delve, running in un- marked, hit a low drive which struck Hillyard on its way into the back of the net. From a Terry Nicholl corner at the other end, Steve Bruce got up well and headed over the bar. Exeter, with Delve posing plenty of problems in midfield, were now on top and running the game. They should have gone further ahead following a bad ball by Nicholl whose pass went straight to Kellow, who in turn slipped it through to Pearson. He was clear, but hesitated and, by making the angle a bit more difficult, allowed Hillyard to block. In the 43rd minute, Gills had another good chance from a corner, this time Dean White arriving at the right time but failing to direct his header downwards. That was the end of the first half action, a half totally belonging to Exeter.
In the second half Gills made a big effort to play themselves back into contention, but were too slow in everything they did. Exeter showed them how to do it in the 62nd minute with their second goal. Pullar sprinted away down the left wing before playing a ball in to Forbes on the by-line. He chipped it back into the box for an unmarked Kellow to ram home a flerce volley for his 16th goal of the season. That was the start of the goal rush. Two minutes later, Exeter scored number three, a breakaway from a Gills'
corner. Forbes pushed it on from the near post clearance to Peter Rogers, who beat John Sharpe and slotted the ball through for Kellow to shoot past the advancing Hillyard. Within a minute, Gills had scored, a low drive from Westwood going through a ruck of players and taking a slight deflection as it went just inside the post. White was booked and then, with 20 minutes left, Nicholl was replaced by Kevin Lloyd, making his first league appearance. As the action continued Exeter scored again following a cross which was not cut out. The original shot was blocked and Peter Rogers forced the ball in. In the 80th minute Exeter wrapped up the demolition job. Forbes took a free-kick to send Delve sprinting clear into the box, to set up Kellow for an open goal and his hat-trick. After Bruce had saved another possible goal, it was no surprise to hear a Gills fan in the stand plead "come on ref. blow for time"
Gillingham: Hillyard. Sharpe. Ford, Bruce, Weatherly. Duncan. White. Nicholl, Price. Westwood. Hughes Sub Lloyd
Exeter: Bond, M Rogers, Hatch Forbes. L Roberts, P Roberts. Pearson, P Rogers. Kellow. Delve. Pullar Sub: Mitchell
Referee: Ray Toseland (Market Harborough)