Match 59
21st April 1990
Gillingham (a)

REPORT: Tony Hudd

PETER BEADLE may yet answer Gillingham's prayer for a home grown striker with a predatory instinct.

That priceless, uncoachable quality of being in the right place at the right time brought this assured 19-year-old a first goal in the Barclays League plus the hint of more to follow. It was as much the aplomb with which the Walderslade lad took his chance after his arrival as a 68th minute substitute that endorsed his potential in this tale of the unexpected.

Seventy seven minutes had elapsed when Beadle gate crashed leaders Exeter's promotion party. In need of victory to end six years of Fourth Division exile, they clung precari ously to Richard Young's 72nd minute goal while Gillingham spirits began to wilt. The premature celebrations of Exeter's 800 supporters were suddenly muted when midfielder Tony Eeles slung over a deep cross into the visitors' goalmouth. Peter Heritage rose to head the ball down into the path of Beadle who despatched it to the back of the net in style. Beadle's heart then skipped a beat, fearing that his moment of glory might be dashed from his grasp as referee Keith Cooper consulted a linesman over a possible infringe ment. Once satisfied that there had been no offence, he allowed the goal to stand.

From that moment, Beadle displayed an insatiable appetite for more goals. Three minutes later, the flying spindle, whe, accord ing to his manager, has not a muscle in his body, was hurtling through Exeter's defence in search of a second. His shot on the run swerved wide when perhaps a pass inside to the astutely positioned Eeles would have been more productive. Eeles cursed and together they put the episode down to experience, or lack of it. Suddenly, Gillingham were responding with a sprint rather than their earlier trundle. Beadle, top scorer with both the reserves and youth team, was holding the ball up and laying it off as he led the line with panache. Beadle, who earlier in the month had been consigned to Margate for a short, sharp lesson in the facts of footballing life only to be recalled within a week, may be worth persevering with. From him could come a remedy to Gillingham's achilles' heel up front where lack of potency has condemned the club to a longer than anticipated stay in the Fourth Division. With Eeles both imaginative and industrious in midfield and Lee Palmer re stored to the left flank at the back, youth is providing endeavour and exuberance in making sure there is seldom a dull moment as the season winds down. Not that Gillingham needed motivation for the visit of the leaders whose 3-1 success at St. James' Park in December was shrouded in controversy. Manager Terry Cooper, probably with December's events uppermost in his mind, sprung a major surprise by relegating 17-goal Steve Neville to the role of substitute for what he described as "tactical reasons." Neville's ducking and diving had infuriated Gillingham players and a potentially explosive situation had been avoided when visiting supporters chose to ignore a gesture made after scoring. With Neville on the bench and 30-goal top scorer Darren Rowbotham out of the reckon ing with a knee injury, Cooper pledged faith in young Ben Rowe to partner Young. Exeter were, however, limited up front and created little against a three-man Gillingham defence of skipper Alan Walker, Tony Pulis and Peter Johnson. Both Paul Haylock and Palmer pushed forward into attacking positions, adding weight and numbers to Gillingham's ad vances into the Exeter half. Johnson, back to his best, played like a man possessed, breaking up Exeter attacks and sending Gillingham forward with a stream of passes out from the back. Top scorer Steve Lovell, sharper than of late, prised the ball away from Exeter goal keeper Kevin Miller as early as the fourth minute and crossed for Haylock. But he was unable to cleanly connect and Tom Kelly tidied up. Lovell was out of luck with a seventh minute shot on the turn that struck centreback Jim McNichol in the face and then three minutes later curled a shot over. Palmer's presence on the left flank offered fresh options and in the 28th minute he rolled a chance wide of the far post after Bran McDermott and Scott Hiley had collided to leave him with a clear path to goal. The loss of McNichol through injury after 41 minutes came as a blow to Exeter who had been showing anxiety in coming to term with the importance of the occasion. But Gillingham's season-long failing of being unable to stress supremacy with goals undermined their confidence. Haylock and Walker were cautioned for heavy challenges on Exeter midfielder Richard Dryden whose pace on the left threatened to unhinge the home defence. Then Young made the breakthrough with a near post header from Hiley's cross and suddenly the previously muted ranks of the Exeter fans were in full voice, only to be stifled by Beadle. Though Haylock cleared off the line from Rowe's lob in the 83rd minute. Gillingham went closest to winning the game three minutes from time when Miller saved courageously at the feet of Heritage.

Gillingham: Hillyard; Haylock, Walker Pulls O'Shea 72 mins), Johnson, Palmer, Docker, Eeles, Lovell (Beadle 68 mins), Heritage, Kimble. 

Exeter City: Hiley. Taylor, McNichol (Rogers 41 mins Whitehead. Bailey, Kelly, Dryden, McDermott, Young. Rowe



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