THE last time they filmed a siege like this, John Wayne starred in it.
Indeed, Gillingham’s back four (usually eight strong, even nine and often everybody) should have been wearing Davy Crockett hats.
The difference here was that whilst The Alamo fell, Gillingham didn’t. Be it by fair means or foul but also with a nod to that famous film, by some heroics as well, they repelled all raiders, And, boy, did Rotherham swarm all over them.
The Millers did just about everything they could. But couldn’t pull it off. The harder they tried, the harder Gillingham defended.
In the end, from their point of view, it was a fantastic win achieved by a redoubtable backs-to-the-wall effort and some great defending. And a perfect smash-and-grab - three chances (one self-made) two goals.
All Rotherham had to show was a stunning 25-yarder and no end of mounting frustration as Gillingham kept them out at all costs. When they didn’t, Rotherham weren’t able to produce the decisive finish.
Gillingham were happy to retreat and concede space (or were they constantly pushed back?) and then defend the centre of their penalty area where central defenders Adam Barrett and Andy Frampton were magnificent. Others dug in too and, invariably, a Gillingham head made a crucial intervention on an afternoon of resilient defending from them.
It’s the sort that wins tough matches (they now have now seven away wins) and whilst they were, shall we say, pretty rugged at times, then if you try it on and get away with it, then you’ve done your job.
A sharper-eyed ref would surely have given two penalties. Alex Revell was hauled down rugby-tackle style by Matt Fish and also Liam Ridehalgh was knocked over by Charlie Allen who was the wrong (ie touchline) side of him. For me, it is a cert foul outside the area so why not inside and a penalty?
But Rotherham, whilst reckoning they did enough, will analyse why they didn’t do it amidst all the difficulty of finding a way through the massed ranks of blue.
When Daniel Nardiello was out on the left teasing and beating right back Fish early on, who was in the area? Well, lots of blue shirts and, too often, too few red ones.
There were times the ball could have gone in a bit earlier. And whilst getting a bit carried away in a frantic and frenzied drive for a goal is understandable, there was a need for extra composure at times.
But, whatever Rotherham did, whenever they put it in from wide areas, Gillingham always had men deep in their box - as if to say “we’re going to be here because it has to come in here at some stage.”
In the end, Rotherham couldn’t have done any more in terms of pressure and possession. The truth is, they needed to, but how many League Two sides would have survived such an onslaught?
From the start Rotherham made stylish inroads but Gillingham got that all important first goal after just 11 minutes. Deon Burton poached it when Rotherham didn’t clear a long throw.
A few minutes later, Ian Sharps was removed with a suspected broken nose (Burton the opponent involved in the aerial duel) and a back four already first time out (Mullins-Sharps-Arnason-Ridehalgh with groin victim Bradley absent) saw 18-year-old Blackburn Rovers loanee Jack O’Connell thrust in amongst them.
Gillingham survived when Nelson pushed out O’Connor’s free-kick. Then O’Connor went through and rounded the keeper but couldn’t squeeze the ball in from a narrow angle, the midfielder complaining he’d been unbalanced by a touch from the ‘keeper.
Taylor had a volley turned over as the visitors, in survival mode, held on.
Barely able to exit their own half, their one other meaningful threat saw Payne scoop a chance over right on half-time.
Revell won plenty in the air and headed on for Nardiello who spotted the opportunity but then blazed his 20 yarder high over.
Gillingham had produced one or two attacking moments by the time Burton, as he has done often in his time, took in a ball low and in one movement ‘rolled’ his marker (in this case the otherwise sound O’Connell) before making it 2-0 on 57 minutes.
Revell’s point-blank header was kept out by a fantastic reflex save from Nelson just before Jason Taylor’s stunning 25-yarder (following one of Rotherham’s 15 corners) breathed new hope into the side and extra noise into a raucous crowd who sensed an equaliser with just over 20 minutes left.
Nardiello headed a whisker wide of the near post from a free-kick and the increasingly influential Frecklington was a similar distance away on the other post.
However, the six minute stoppage for the concussed Vincelot came with Rotherham having real momentum and the atmosphere cranked up and it rather took the sting from both.
Arnason hooked a volley off target and young O’Connell put a header onto the bar and, in the 11th extra minute, Frecklington looked on for the equaliser but his 14 yard volley got a deflection over the top from Montrose’s last ditch challenge which typified Gillingham’s defending all afternoon.
A big game indeed and the Millers knew it was a chance to go within four points of Gillingham who, instead, moved ten clear of them. But forget Gillingham’s gap, what really counts now is the other four point gap... to third place.