With Gillingham coming to Sincil Bank tomorrow night, I thought I’d look back to the last time we beat them on our own patch, back in 2008/09, the season otherwise known as the Magnificent Seven season.
2008/09 was a year we met Bournemouth in League Two, the year now-Championship side Luton were deducted 30 points and relegated, but also won the EFL Trophy, and the year Peter Jackson signed seven players he believed would fire us to promotion. Whilst we certainly didn’t start in the rich vein of form that the manager had built up, we did go into the October 28th game against the Gills in fine fettle.
After just one win from ten in all competitions, fans had begun to see through the thin veneer of rhetoric that Jackson had laid out before the season begun. However, three wins a row preceded the Gills visit, 3-1 v Chesterfield (Oakes, Patulea, Kovacs), 2-1 at Macclesfield (Beevers, Frecklington) and 1-0 at Bournemouth (John-Lewis). Goals were suddenly in plentiful supply an in terms of defeats we hadn’t suffered one in eight matches. That left us 11th in the table on 19 points, just four away from Bradford City in fourth. Above us, Gillingham had 21 points from 13 matches and were on place outside the top seven.
The teams that afternoon were R Burch, D Hone, J Kovacs, L Beevers, P Green, S Oakes, L Frecklington (65), D N’Guessan, S Kerr (70), L John-Lewis
and A Patulea (81). From the bench, S Clarke (65), F Sinclair (70) and B Wright (81) with K Gall unused. For Gillingham, future Imps Mark McCammon, John Nutter and Albert Jarrett all appeared. Apparently, the Magnificent Seven had already become a trio, with only Kovacs, Burch and Oakes starting. Aaron Brown was injured, Gall and Sinclair were on the bench and David Graham was likely in the pub.
The Imps were tow goal up early doors in a game which threatened to run away from the visitors. Despite the Gills starting brightly, it was City who set fire to the game, warming up a desperately cold Sincil Bank, with a header form our own Boy Wonder (at the time) Lee Frecklington. A smart move down the attacking right resulted in a cross which Freck nodded home, putting him level with cult hero Adrian Patulea at the top of the club’s goalscoring charts.
Minutes later, the game was over as a contest, with a moment of pure excellence from Dany N’Guessan. The powerful French attacker picked the ball up in midfield and burst forward, unchallenged as he entered the box. He needed no second invitation, lashing a vicious shot past the Gills keeper. Seconds later, Patulea should have made it three, but he dragged a great chance wide.
Gillingham weren’t at the races, with one shot going wide of Burch’s post, but it was the Imps who could have gone further ahead. Freck and Patulea broke free in a two-on-one situation. Freck found the Romanian forward, but he shot wide first time. Freck was again in the middle of the action just before half time as City were seemingly awarded a penalty for a foul on N’Guessan. The referee pointed to the spot and Freck, in what would be his final season with the Imps, looked as if he was taking the responsibility. Sadly, the linesman had already flagged for offside, with Freck eager to extend our lead.
Patulea struggled to show the reasons the fans loved him in the second half, dragging another shot wide of the goal. It was often the case that he looked strong when coming off the bench, but not as impressive when starting matches. Still, that was the only chance of a drab second half, in which Gillingham dictated play but couldn’t break down a strong Imps rearguard.
The win meant a Happy Halloween for Imps fans, but we only climbed one place, leapfrogging the Gills. Results didn’t go our way, although three points separated us and Darlington in third. However, with four wins from four and plenty of goals going in, everything looked rosy ahead of a visit from port Vale the following week.
It wasn’t. Vale beat us 1-0, then we went to Kettering in the cup and struggled to a draw. We only won two more matches before we visited Gillingham on January 27th, and dropped to the mid-table mediocrity that sadly came to define that season. However, we did do the double over the Gills, the last time we achieved such a feat, hopefully, something we can correct this season.