Filed: Saturday, 20th September 2003
By: Graeme Howlett
Trevor Brooking's unbeaten run as caretaker manager of West Ham United came to a crashing end at the Priestfield Stadium today thanks to two second half goals from Marlon King and Trevor Benjamin.
And the Hammers second defeat of the season was compounded by an abject display from Brooking's men who showed none of the swagger and confidence evident in recent games.
Brooking's side - who went into today's game on the back of four straight wins - were never at the races today, having been outmuscled - and, quite frankly, outclassed - by a determined Gills side bent on recording their first competitive league win against West Ham.
To add insult to injury the Hammers had striker Jermain Defoe sent off late on for a petulant outburst that will win him few friends amongst Hammers fans already concerned with the level of commitment shown by the striker since announcing in the summer his wish to leave the club.
The only surprise was that it took Gillingham so long to open the scoring; the home supporters had to wait until the 57th minute for Marlon King to break the deadlock with a finely struck free-kick.
That came after Tomas Repka - who was otherwise faultless - was penalised for dissent, with referee Armstrong moving the ball forward the stipulated 10 yards thus allowing King a shooting opportunity - one which he accepted gratefully.
The Gills made certain of the points by adding a second just three minutes from time; Trevor Benjamin's strike taking a massive deflection off Christian Dailly which wrongfooted David James, who was conceding two goals in a game for the first time this season.
In between the goals the under-fire Defoe saw red after verbally abusing the linesman for giving an offside decision against him. That earned him a straight red (despite him having already been booked for unsporting behaviour in the first half) which will ensure he missed three of the Hammers forthcoming games.
Caretaker boss Brooking was scathing of his teams performance in the post-match press conference; he said:
"What the defeat illustrates is that we are going to face a difficult season because everyone will have a full-house when we play them.
"We take a lot of fans ourselves and it was a cup-tie atmosphere. But they had a greater desire than us and in the end we wilted.
"That's why we wanted Alan Pardew to come because he knows this division and will know that you have to come to places like this and scrap.
"We cannot afford to have inconsistent days like this. We knew how Gillingham would play and nothing that happened in both games here and at Crewe on Tuesday was a surprise.
"We coped ever so well with the physical side then but today we didn't - and we have to cope with that, otherwise we won't be in a promotion place next May."
Meanwhile Gills player-boss Andy Hessenthaler was somewhat happier with the result; after the game he told reporters:
"It's not just about the result because I was very pleased with our performance over the 90 minutes.
"We didn't scrape a win, it was convincing against one of the best sides in the league, and its good news because we have not been playing particularly well over the last two games.
"We know that is the level that we have got to try and maintain for the rest of the season, which won't be easy, because I think we played at our maximum today."
You can read KUMB's full in-depth match report by visiting our fixtures section.
West Ham United: James, Repka, Dailly, Pearce, Lee, Etherington, Horlock (Noble 74), Quinn, Alexandersson (Ferdinand 74), Connolly, Defoe.
Subs not used: Bywater, Kilgallon, Sofiane.
Booked: Defoe (44), Repka (56).
Sent off: Defoe (80).
Gillingham: Jason Brown, Nosworthy, Cox, Hope, Wayne Brown, Hessenthaler (Perpetuini 45), Saunders, Spiller, Shaw (Smith 39), King, Sidibe (Benjamin 69).
Subs not used: Bossu, Hills.
Booked: Brown (31), Nosworthy (44).
Goals: King (57), Benjamin (87).
Referee: P Armstrong (Berkshire).
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