Match 37
16th February 1980
Gillingham (h)

ECFC 3-1 Gillingham 
Exeter Scorers: Delve, Hatch, P.Rogers
Attendance: 3,466

Report by Tony Hudd

GILLINGHAM would do well to take a long hard look over their shoulder at the titanic struggle developing down among the Third Division's 'dead men' - and take note. As they stumble around in midtable limbo in this season of enor mous anti climax, they are, on current form, far from immune from the panic to escape the four unwanted vancancies for the grim journey to the Fourth Division. Two defeats in five days, at Wimbledon and now Exeter, crushed the last vestige of hope held by manager Gerry Summers that his men could yet turn a few heads with a bold eleventh hour promotion bid. Indeed, if Gills are to avoid that sinking feeling and reach the sanc- tuary of another season in the Third Division, and that must surely be their sole ambition then they will need a dramatic improvement on Saturday's form. At Exeter, they were beaten not by superior opposition, but their total failure to adapt to a stoggy surface, combined with the home side's well renowned art of getting the most from set-piece free kicks. Gillingham became the reluctant victims of two absolute gems in the sixth and 35th minutes as the Devon club proved the value of having such a reportoire to fall back on. First John Delve, still smarting from having what looked a perfectly good goal disallowed at Priestfield in September, extracted full revenge with a 25 yard free kick tapped to him by Peter Hatch. Steve Bruce, who had a forgettable afternoon, had earlier been penalised for handling. It was from an almost identical position that Exeter added their se- cond with a real 'sucker punch'. Bruce was again the offender, being punished for a push on Lee Roberts. Delve ran forward screaming at referee Vic Callow to move the Gillingham wall of defenders back. And while he took everyone's attention, up stepped Hatch to bend the free kick wide of Ron Hillyard. In between, and afterwards, Gillingham enjoyed a large slice of possession, but apart from Ken Price, posed the Exeter defence few problems. Exeter goalkeeper Ian Main, one of six players, under the threat of the axe, saved bravely from the Gillingham striker in the 16th minute and in the 21st pulled off a superb save to deny Terry Nicholl. When Main was beaten by Price, who cut in past two defenders, John Hore was on hand to clear off the line. Phil Roberts, once on loan at Dartford, kicked another goalbound effort, this time from John Crabbe off the line before Bruce collected another caution for a foul on Delve. After Exeter's second had looked to demoralise Gillingham, the battling Price gave them fresh hope with a marvellous goal, his 16th of the season. Colin Duncan drilled in a low hard cross which Price controlled first time, turned two defenders before thump- ing the ball wide of the diving Main in the all im- portant 44th minute. But the anticipated second half onslaught from Gillingham proved totally ill-founded and it was Exeter who nearly added a third, again from a set-piece free kick when Steve Neville powered a header against a post. They seldom tested Main, wasting a good deal of possession with some woeful passing, which was once the hallmark of their game. There was little to rouse the crowd, apart from frequent broadcasts of the international rugby scores, in a second half that was as dull as ditchwater. The labouring Terry Nicholl was replaced by Tony Funnell after 64 minutes in a bid to thject fresh life into an attack sorely missing the pace. of Danny Westwood. But to no avail. Exeter, a mediocre side, finally rubbed salt into Gillingham's wounds with a third goal in the 79th minute after the defence had been caught square. Peter Rogers scampered on to a long headed clearance from Jimmy Giles and gave Hillyard no chance. Mickey Barker and Price were cautioned late on in separate incidents as Gillingham finished utterly dejected, with too many players for whom the end of the season cannot come quick enough.

"I was very disap. pointed with the overall performance," the Gills' boss summed up afterward. "Exeter played the right stuff on a pitch like that, whereas we were too intricate."

Brian Godfrey, Exeter's manager, added:
"If it's any consolation, Gillingham are a far better side than Millwall and I wish Ken Price played for us. I was very impressed with the way he battled away."

Exeter: Main; Mitchell, Gills, Hore, P Roberts; Delve. Hatch, Pullar: Neville, L Roberts (Bowker 65 minutes), Rogers.

Gillingham: Hillyard; Sharpe. Weatherly. Bruce, Barker; Nicholl (Funnell 64 minutes), Walker, Duncan, Crabbe, Richardson, Price.

Referee: V Callow (Solihull).

Attendance: 3,466.



Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>