Injury-hit Burnley were forced into a number of changes for this game. With the Skip resting his dodgy knee for a couple of months, Mark McGregor was drafted in to partner King Arthur at the heart of the back-line. Ian Moore was also included in the starting eleven, deputising for the injured Lee Briscoe.
Burnley had the first attack of the game inside five minutes. Gareth Taylor used his aerial presence to nod the ball down to Tony Grant, but the midfielder could not get a shot away. Over the next quarter of an hour, it was pretty much honours even, but the next chance of the match went to the home side, Barry Ashby having his header cleared off the line by Mark McGregor.
But the Gills didn’t have to wait too much longer to open the scoring – just sixty seconds in fact. "Hot" Rod Wallace looked suspiciously offside as he hared onto a long ball over the top. The linesmen disagreed however, and the former Rangers and Leeds hitman slotted home to give Gillingham the first of their quartet of goals. Paul Weller was not slow to point out to the linesman the error of his ways, which resulted in a booking for the player.
Burnley continued to press forward and were rewarded just before the half hour, when Robbie Blake (who else) freed Gareth Taylor who turned and smashed the ball home off the underside of the crossbar. Game on. Minutes later, Burnley should have taken the lead when another excellent pass from Blake put Taylor through on goal, but with only keeper Brown to beat, the Welshman fluffed his lines.
With ten minutes to the interval, Marlon King (making his first home appearance since his release from prison) broke down the left, cut inside and shot. Luckily Beresford was on hand to maintain parity. But Marlon was badly left down just before the interval when Gnohere was guilty of a weak challenge on the edge of the area as Paul Shaw advanced on goal. Shaw became the third former Claret to score against his old club in eight days, poking home beyond the keeper.
Burnley’s only resistance was offered by Blake, whose volleyed free-kick flew straight at Jason Brown.
Right on half-time things got even worse for the Clarets as a flowing Gillingham move saw Saunders find the impressive Paul Smith who shot low past Beresford. This was not what some folk had made a 600 mile round trip for.
Halftime saw Alan Moore replace his name-sake. It will surprise no-one that this substitution did not tilt the game in Burnley’s favour.
It took until the hour mark for the next significant action, as Marlon King was denied a shot on goal following Mark McGregor’s block tackle. Three minutes later Gillingham scored their final goal of the afternoon. Burnley were guilty of failing to clear their lines, and as the ball bobbled about in Burnley’s box, King stabbed home.
Still, Burnley ploughed on trying to get something out of the game. On 68 minutes, the tirelessly inventive Blake fed sub, Dimi Papadopoulos who rounded the keeper, but saw his effort cleared off the line by Barry Ashby. Five minutes later, only Beresford stopped Gillingham from going nap, as he turned a Marlon King shot away.
On 75 minutes, the Clarets were offered a slender lifeline as Dimi was fouled in the area. Despite netting the penalty once, Blake was forced to re-take the spot-kick as referee Hegley disallowed the first effort for encroachment. Blake kept his cool and halved the defecit.
Any hopes we may have had of earning a point were dashed five minutes later when Dean West was sent of for what the ref deemed deliberate handball, as he was adjudged to have prevented Marlon King from putting Paul Shaw through on goal. For Burnley, the game was up, but that didn’t stop Blake persevering. He twice went close in the dying stages - first with a 25-yard free-kick, and another good shot two minutes later, both of which Jason Brown dealt with.
Burnley’s ignominy was complete in the final minute when following a melee, referee Hegley ruled that Gareth Taylor had head-butted Gillingham’s Paul Smith (a charge Taylor later denied), and Burnley had to see out time added on with only nine men.
After the game, a clearly rattled Ternent pleaded with the chairman to release funds for loan signings, or tell the fans that the cupboard is bare. Which was curious on two counts. Firstly, every Burnley fan knows the cupboard is bare. Secondly, Barry Kilby has said on numerous occasions that loan signings will only be made in an emergency. Presumably that means if we are in danger of losing our First Division status, which Ternent insisted we were not, as recently as Saturday evening. Things are a bit rough at present, but the only way out of this is to stick together. Being melodramatic will not get anybody anywhere.