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Published: 00:01, 08 April 2017 |
Updated: 20:37, 08 April 2017
A major security operation was today underway amid fears of violence surrounding Gillingham’s League 1 match against Millwall.
Police were out in force inside and outside the Priestfield Stadium for the 3pm game to prevent clashes between rival fans.
Reporter Luke Cawdell was at the match and reported an incident in the 19th minute where, "Gillingham's Lee Martin was delayed taking a corner kick as coins were thrown onto pitch."
He said: "They didn't hit him but did pass a coin to the referee".
Later in the second half Millwall equalised making the score 1-1 and the ref had to pick up a bottle thrown at Gills keeper Tomas Holy in the 72nd minute.
?? GFC 1-1 MFC: 73'> Amid the celebrations, referee Charles Breakspear collects a bottle thrown at Holy from the away end.— Gillingham FC (@TheGillsFC) April 8, 2017
Trouble flared when the sides last met in the town, with eight fans arrested for a variety of offences, including one for assaulting a police officer.
A number of people were also ejected from the ground and several moved from the home section.
The game is crucial for both teams as the Gills are fighting to avoid relegation and Millwall are chasing a place in the play-offs.
The visitors have been allocated 2,395 tickets for the game, in the Brian Moore Stand, but there could be others in home areas of the ground.
Attendance was tweeted as 7,221, of whom 2,262 are Millwall fans.
Ahead of the game, a police spokesman said: “Residents and businesses in Medway may see an increased policing presence. This should not be any cause for concern.
“Any increase will be to facilitate all parties enjoying the day whilst seeking to minimise any disruption to the community that a large scale event can cause.
“The safety of spectators inside the stadium will be managed by stewards employed by Gillingham Football Club.
“There will also be a small police presence inside the stadium to assist with this role should it be necessary.”
Gills chairman Paul Scally admitted there could be Millwall fans who end up in home areas.
He said: “It is not possible to guarantee that some Millwall supporters will not be in areas generally occupied by GFC fans, especially given we have no control over whether our own supporters invite their Milwall friends to the game.
“It is always a good day [when hosting Millwall] and one to catch up with friends and neighbours, given many of our respective fans live in the Medway Towns and Kent.”
As part of the operation the police helicopter took to the skies but was not needed. The majority of the Millwall supporters left on a train to London Bridge at about 5.30pm.
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