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4 February 2013

Richard Day looks back at the Gills appearances on TV

When you start to look back at things it is amazing what you can actually find out if you search deep enough.

With the Gills game against Wycombe Wanderers being televised live by Sky Sports tonight I thought I’d look back at the previous times that the club’s games have appeared on the box whether it is live or match highlights from shows like the Big Match or Match of the Day.

In fact this is not the first time that a game between tonight’s two teams has been televised by Sky.

They first showed an FA Cup First Round tie at Adams Park back in November 1995 and that night the cameras showed all the action from an entertaining 1-1 draw.

Gary Patterson put the home side ahead but then, around ten minutes from time, David Puttnam went on an excellent run and crossed perfectly for Dennis Bailey to convert from around six yards and send around 1,500 travelling supporters, in a crowd of 5,064, into raptures to earn a replay.
The Gills line-up that night was – Stannard, Micklewhite (Puttnam), Naylor, Smith, Harris, Green, Martin, Ratcliffe, Rattray (Freeman), Bailey, O’Connor.

The first ever time that the Gills featured on television was way back on November 13 1948 when the BBC covered our FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round tie away at Romford.

In those days it was just black and white television of course and it was some time before floodlights were introduced.  Apparently transmission of this game at Brooklands had to cease late in the second-half as the light began to fade with it goalless at the time. Despite Jackie Briggs netting for the Gills it was the Essex side that ran out 2 – 1 winners after extra-time.

On November 16 1963 the BBC show Saturday Sport, a fore runner to Grandstand, showed John Arnott scoring for the Gills in a 4 – 1 loss at Q.P.R in an FA Cup First Round tie.

The last game of the 1965-66 season at Brentford was shown on BBC2’s relatively new football programme - Match of the Day with Kenneth Wolstenholme the commentator at Griffin Park. It proved to be the Gills first win on the box, Tony Weston and Charlie Rackstraw netting in a 2 – 0 win.

This was followed on November 12 1966 when Southern Soccer showed Charlie Rackstraw convert a penalty as the Gills beat Swindon 1-0 at Priestfield.

Some four months later they covered the 2-2 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground, Brian Yeo and Brian Gibbs getting the Gills goals.

The same two sides were then featured on December 30 1967, this time Dennis Hunt was on target in a 1-1 home draw with the Seagulls.

Anglia’s Match of the week on December 7 1968 then showed Luton Town winning an FA Cup Second Round game at Kenilworth which saw the Hatters win 3-1 - Brian Yeo scoring.

Southern Soccer then continued their coverage with Derek Woodley netting in a 1-1 draw against Mansfield Town (September 28 1968), a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth - David Peach scoring on 22 November 1969 and then both Graham Knight and Dick Tydeman scorering in a 2-1 victory at Reading on 13 November 1971

It was on April 10 1971 that Gillingham were first shown on The Big Match where Brian Moore, later to be a director of the club commentated, but it was Fulham that ran out 3-1 victors here at Priestfield - Mike Green getting the consolation.

During the 1973-74 promotion season they showed the highlights of the Division Four game with Exeter City (February 23) where Brian Yeo and Alan Wilks goals helped the Gills to a 2 – 1 win.

That season also saw Anglia covering the Gills top of the table clash against Colchester United at Layer Road on April 20, Yeo hitting both in a 2-0 triumph.

Early the following season the Big Match cameras returned to Priestfield for the ‘local derby’ with Charlton Athletic, unfortunately a solitary goal from a certain Keith Peacock saw the SE7 outfit win.

A goalless home draw with Wrexham (April 1977) followed but then it was Match of the Day that covered a 3-2 home defeat by Elton John’s Watford in September 1978 - John Overton and Danny Westwood scoring.

January 23 1982 saw highlights of the WBA cup defeat on the Big Match when Derek Statham netted a heart-breaking last minute winner for the top flight outfit and at Easter 1982 goals from Steve Bruce and Paddy Powell earned a 2 – 0 home win over Fulham on MOTD.

The Gills top of the table clash at eventual champions Bradford City was shown in March 1985 which ended all-square at 1 – 1. Dave Shearer may have hit the target for Keith Peacock’s side but it was heroics from goalkeeper David Fry that helped to earn a point. In fact one of his saves was shown on the Match of the Day credits the following season.

Gillingham’s first game on Sky came on Monday 18 November 1991 when they selected our FA Cup First Round tie at Brentford and it proved to be a cracker. Two goals from Alan Walker and another from Neil Smith helped the Gills recover from two down to earn a replay following this 3 – 3 draw.

There were various highlights of a number of League Cup and FA Cup games shown on varying channels against the likes of top-tier teams Sheffield Wednesday twice, Coventry City, Bradford City, Chelsea and Arsenal but I believe the next live game shown was a 3-0 reversal against Fulham in November 1997.

In February 1998 the Gills made a journey to Vicarage Road on a Sunday to face champions-elect Watford on Sky. It turned out to be a great day for the Gills as Ade Akinbiyi hit both in a 2-0 victory.

Of course both unforgettable Play Off Finals against Manchester City (May 1999) and Wigan Athletic a year later were of course both shown live as was a league win over Bournemouth.

It took extra-time for Manchester City to record a 4-2 Worthington Cup triumph here in September 2000 and two months later a Jack Lester hat-trick helped Nottingham Forest to a 3-1 win here at Priestfield, Iffy Onuora getting the Gills goal.

Then on January 28 2001 they showed a great FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Chelsea. The Gills hit back from 3-0 down through Paul Shaw and Onuora again before eventually succumbing 4-2.

Various ITV companies were then able to show live Championship games from Priestfield. On November 18 2001 ITV Sport showed the goalless game with Watford and later that month the pay-per-view channel ITV Sport Select were here for the 1-1 draw with Birmingham City. A Darren Purse own goal put the Gills ahead in the 16th minute but Marcelo later equalised for the visitors. 

On Sunday March 24 2002 the Gills 1-0 victory over Millwall was shown live by Meridian - Marlon King getting the winner while the now infamous ITV Digital featured the Gills 3-1 (Iffy Onuora) defeat to Manchester City in April 2002

Since then there have been a large number of games shown live by Sky Sports over the years, in various competitions.

The 1-1 FA Cup Fourth Round tie with Leeds United in January 2003 and the following month’s 2-1 league loss at Reading was next. That night Rod Wallace put the Gills ahead after 10 minutes but Luke Chadwick quickly equalised before John Salako hit an 88th minute winner for the Royals

On September 29 2003 the away game at Walsall was televised by Sky. Wayne Brown equalised from the spot for the Gills following a Matias goal but Andy Hessenthaler’s own goal six minutes from time won it for the Saddlers.

After home defeats by Sheffield United (January 2004) and QPR (August 2004), the next televised game saw Gillingham record a 3-2 victory over top-flight Portsmouth in September 2005. The Gills twice came from behind to win 3-2 through goals from Darren Byfield, Jamie Ashdown (og) and Crofts

Then in January 2007 a Chris McCready own goal was added to by Andrew Crofts as Tranmere Rovers were beaten 2-0. However the next outing on TV, away at Yeovil on November 18 2007, proved to be a nightmare early in Mark Stimson’s reign as manager.

The Sunday fixture was initially under some doubt due to rain but when given the go-ahead first Ian Cox, then his replacement Efe Sodje had to be replaced in the opening half-hour because of injury. Chris Dickson equalised for the Gills after Lloyd Owusu had put the home side ahead only for James Walker to win it for the Glovers two minutes from time.

ITV were back here in January 2009 for the superb FA Cup Third Round tie with Aston Villa. Simeon Jackson scored an absolute cracker past Brad Friedel but the visitors won 2-1 thanks to a James Milner double.

Sky then covered the two play-off semi-finals against Rochdale as well as the 1-0 final victory over Shrewsbury Town in May 2009 while the last game covered by them was the home loss to Southend United on February 13 last season.

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