March 2018: CITY 1 (Poleon 48) GILLINGHAM 0

AS AND when football is safe to resume, it is likely to be a frenetic rush to get the season done.

A return to games may seem a long while off for now but when it is deemed okay you can still bank on hearing a few grumbles from the usual suspects about fixture congestion.

While football currently remains suspended until April 30, it has been rumoured that the Premier League could be looking at restarting in June, if allowed, with the remainder of their programme crammed into the next month.

Whatever the date the sport can recommence, it’s going to be hectic with matches packed in to get them done.

But for all this talk of potentially playing back-to-back, the players will have to go some to match Colin Doyle.

This week marked two years since City beat Gillingham at Valley Parade; a pretty unremarkable game other than it provided Simon Grayson with the first of his three wins in three months at the helm.

The real drama, of course, was generated by the presence of the man in the home goal – the day after he had done the same for the Republic of Ireland in Turkey.

Nineteen hours and over 2,500 miles after the whistle was blown in the international friendly in Antalya, Doyle was between the sticks again on club duty.

His loyalty to the cause that afternoon was rewarded with City’s first clean sheet for 20 games.

It was a proper throwback effort from the Irishman and provided a much-needed lift in a generally underwhelming slide towards the end of the season following Stuart McCall’s sacking seven weeks before.

Roy Keane may have dismissed Doyle’s efforts on the plane back from Turkey because “keepers don’t do anything anyway” but his Irish team-mates had been amazed at his determination to turn straight back out for City.

“Nothing is out of reach” were Grayson’s pre-match words to a team fast losing ground for a League One play-off place that had looked theirs for sure until Christmas.

Doyle’s application provided a better incentive – even if the result did not have the kick-start effect back up the table that his manager had hoped for.

Tony McMahon, playing in the “quarterback” role to protect the back three, was also celebrating as his 32nd birthday was marked with a first victory since New Year’s Day.

But the stand-out home performer was on-loan Derby midfielder Callum Guy who tackled keenly in a more advanced role.

The state of the pitch made it difficult to play much football – sounds familiar – but Gillingham carried the most threat up to half-time.

Doyle saved from Callum Reilly and showed no heavy legs as he raced out to whip the ball off Gills skipper Lee Martin.

The Kent side had lost only twice in 15 and played with that confidence. City, in contrast, had not scored since Grayson’s first game in charge at Charlton.

But they ended the wait three minutes after the break as Stephen Warnock teed up Dominic Poleon to score from 25 yards, his fifth goal in seven games against Gillingham.

City wasted further chances and enjoyed a huge escape late on when Tom Eaves allowed the ball to run under his foot three yards out.

It was an escape that the jet-setting Doyle deserved.

CITY: Doyle, Kilgallon, Knight-Percival, Warnock, McMahon, Gilliead, Guy, Vincelot, Law (Devine 83), McCartan (Bruenker 72), Poleon (Patrick 89).

GILLINGHAM: Holy, O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Garmston, Hessenthaler (Nash 87), Wagstaff, Byrne (Eaves 67), Reilly (Ogilvie 44), Martin, Wilkinson.

REFEREE: Ross Joyce