Match 12
29th September 1979
Gillingham (a)


Match Report by Tony Hudd

TONY Funnell beloved adopted son of Gillingham's Rainham Enders, Justified the faith of his following with a spectacular entry to the ranks of the club's goal scorers. In front of the very section of supporters who have championed his cause. Funnell finally exploded a stupendous first goal of the season. that was well worth the wait. He struck after 21 minutes, beating Exeter goalkeeper Vince O'Keefe with an overhead bicycle' kick that rocketed into the corner of the net. The goal drew a standing ovation from the crowd as Funnell stood to salute the Rainham Enders. Afterwards. his effort was best summed up by Brian Godrey. Exeter's bitterly disappointed manager who moaned: "If he lives to be 100, he'll never score one like that again." The goal and the undeserved victory it won for Gillingham, came as sweet vindication of manager Gerry Summers persistence in selecting Funnell, in spite of his lack of goals. "He's been working so hard. that he had to score at sometime or another and it was just as well that he chose today. in the cir cumstances" said the Gills' boss. Funnell, who has never been short on confidence, despite his lean spell, added: "Obviously I was concerned at going so long without scoring, but I think others were worrying more than I was. Last season when he opened his account, Funnell went on to drill home seven in eight games. So would the floodgates open once more? "I hope so" he said. "I feel better now that I've got off the mark." Funnell's goal was the lone highlight in what was a shambles of a match for Gillingham. At Hull last week they produced organisation without flair. On Saturday against Exeter, they were totally lacking on both counts. For the most part, they played without style, subtlety or any small spark of brilliance - save for Funnell's smart individualism. "It was the worst performance I can remember from us for a long time" said Mr Summers afterwards. "I can't wait for Monday to get them all back in and start banging a few heads against walls. "I just hope we've got it out of our systems. We just didn't settle and throughout lived dangerously." As the teams left the field at the end. Exeter manager Godfrey had to be restrained by his central defender Jimmy Giles for protesting to referee Alf Grey for disallowing an 18th minute "goal" by John Delve.  Looking up to see goalkeeper Ron Hillyard off his line, Delve beat him with a curling 25 yard drive, only to have the effort ruled out as Mr Grey judged Keith Bowker to be offside and interfering with play, "It was a diabolical decision' Godfrey fumed afterwards. "It was the best we've played this season and we certainly deserved something". Gerry Summers sympathised. "I would have been upset if we'd scored a goal like that and had it disallowed. "I couldn't see how Bowker could have been inteferring with play." Fresh from their mideweek League Cup triumph at Birmingham and now relishing the prospect of a trip to Anfield in the next round. Exeter always looked the better side. They were quicker to the ball and far more positive than jaded Gillingham who were without central defensive kingpin Mark Weatherly, suffering from a stomach bug. Charlie Young again proved with a vital asset he is to the squad by slotting in and doing an adequate job as Weatherly's replacement. But when it came to back four accolades, John Sharpe took the most with a solid performance. Generally, Gillingham tended to complicate their play while Exeter kept it simple and ef- fective, though they were woefully short of a class striker. Things started to go wrong for Gillingham in the sixth minute when Hillyard had to tip the ball over from a back pass by John Crabbe. After the escape of Delve's 'goal' being disallowed, followed by Funnell's moment of respite for the bored crowd, Gillingham failed lamentably to seize the iniative from Exeter. The closest they came to scoring again came in the 37th minute when O'Keefe did well to get down at his near post and turn aside a shot from Funnell. Young was fortunate to escape a caution seconds into the second. half when he handled. and then kicked the ball away. The crowd, by now restless for something positive from Gillingham, warmed to the sight of substitute Danny Westwood lim- bering up. He eventually replaced Damien Richardson, who was troubled by a hamstring strain, in the 64th minute and immediately pepped the attack. After Hillyard had snatched down a Jimmy Giles cross at the second attempt. Westwood let fly with a left foot shot that was tipped over the bar by O'Keefe in the 67th minute, then Young got Gillingham out of trouble At the other end, John Sims volleyed over and after skipper John Overton had slipped to let in Bowker. Young again intervened in the 83rd when Hillyard dropped Steve Nevill's corner as Exeter abandoned their man for man marking system in favour of a more positive approach. Nicholl was hopelessly wide with a good chance in the closing seconds and Gillingham were left as winners of a game in which for the most part they had played badly.

Gillingham: Hillyard: Sharpe. Young, Overton, Barker; Nicholl, Bruce, Crabbe; Richardson (64) minutes Westwood),
Funnell, Price.

O'Keefe; Mitchell, Hore, Giles, Hatch; Neville, Delve, Forbes; Bowker, Sims Pullar (P Rogers 78 minutes).

Referee: A. Grey (Great Yarmouth)

Attendance: 7,538.



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