Saturday, May 30th, 1987


Swindon Town 2 Gillingham 0
by Clive King

TWO goals from Steve White at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park last night earned Swindon Town a place in the Second Division.

But Lou Macari's side had to battle all the way to beat Gillingham in this Third Division promotion decider.

At the start, it all looked so easy.

Within two minutes, the Town were in front - the first time they had scored first for eight matches - and they threatened to run riot.

Gillingham, seeking their first taste of Second Division football in their history, were staggered by the early goal.

It came from a long free-kick by Phil King after former Town winger Howard Pritchard was caught offside.

Charlie Henry touched the ball on and White, outpacing the Gills' central defender Les Berry, ran through to hammer a shot past his old Bristol Rovers teammate Phil Kite as the keeper came to meet him.

It was the Town's fastest goal this season, and they continued to press forward as though they were in a hurry.

Only three minutes later they might have gone two up after Steve Berry chipped in an intelligent ball to the near post from the right.

Peter Coyne looked favourite to score, but Dave Bamber got a long leg in first and drove a wild shot over.

With still only seven minutes on the watch, Kite made a tremendous reaction save to turn away a White header from close range after Bamber headed the ball forward from a Steve Berry corner.

And so it continued for the first half hour.

Steve Berry drove a shot right across the face of the Gills' goal, Coyne was denied by a bad bounce, then Kite had to go down quickly to keep out a close-in shot from White.

Les Berry and White were lectured and booked in the 36th minute after a flare-up and, with the game being held up for a few minutes, the break seemed to help Gillingham more than Town.

The Kent side steadily raised their game until the Town's lead began to look more and more slender.

And, with Keith Peacock's outfit producing their best football of the three games, it was obvious the Town were going to have to fight hard to keep their advantage intact.

Keeper Fraser Digby had to earn his wages for the first time in the game in the 50th minute, going full stretch to claw down a header from Tony Cascarino.

So close

And a minute later a shot from Dave Shearer, after good work by Trevor Quow, whistled over the Town bar.

In a Swindon counter Coyne looked set to score, but his 55th-minute shot was kicked away by Gills' right back Paul Haylock.

With Dave Smith on as a substitute for Martin Robinson, the Kent side were generally on top now and Karl Elsey, who came through a late fitness test, went close to levelling matters.

But, with Gillingham quite definitely in command, White struck his vital second goal in the 66th minute.


Leigh Barnard, who had a good game, started off a counter raid from just outside his own penalty area with a short pass under pressure to Steve Berry.

He drove the ball down the left flank and Bamber did well to control it under a fierce challenge from his future brother-in-law Colin Greenall.

The big striker then looped the ball across the Gills' penalty area and White tried to chest it down.

For a split second he stumbled as Les Berry made a bid to stop him, but he regained balance and ran the ball across the penalty area.

Before Gillingham could do anything about it he checked, turned back inside and beat Kite with a low drive.


It was brilliantly taken, and he could not have timed his 21st goal of the season better.

Gillingham again looked shattered. But, to their great credit, they refused to accept it was not their night.

After Coyne was booked for a foul in the 70th minute, Digby had to be sharp to pick up a wicked little ground shot from Pritchard.

The Town keeper then did really well to dive and haul down a rising drive from Quow, then punched clear as Cascarino threatened.

Shearer was booked for having a kick at Bamber in the 79th minute as time ran out for the Gills. But still they battled.

Fine save

Digby had to go down among the boots to save in the 83rd, and a minute later Shearer missed a golden opportunity of making it 2-1.

Smith, on the left, drew everybody to the near post and stroked the ball across the empty goal to Shearer. But he somehow sliced the ball wide of the gaping goal.

Swindon, with Henry pulled right back into defence to stave off the tremendous pressure, were having some of their own medicine.

In the two previous games, they had been the ones doing most of the pressing.

Despite the Gillingham onslaught, the Town stood firm, with skipper Colin Calderwood having a tremendous game in the heart of the defence.

And just after Digby made yet another fine save to keep out a shot from Smith, Hampshire referee John Martin blew the final whistle.

For Gillingham it was the signal of defeat. But for the Town and their 10,000 followers, it was just the start of a fantastic night.

Swindon: Digby, Hockaday, King, Coyne, Parkin, Calderwood, Bamber, Berry, Henry, White, Barnard. Sub: Jones (not used).

Gillingham: Kite, Haylock, Pearce, Les Berry, Quow, Greenall, Pritchard, Shearer, Robinson, Elsey, Cascarino. Sub: Smith (for Robinson 59).

Attendance: 20,000