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17:46 13th November 2010

Chris Whelpdale heads goalwards


It doesn't rain, it pours!

The Gills, already without seventeen players through loan, injury and suspension, were dealt another blow when debutant defender Callum Davies, the youth team skipper, was harshly dismissed before 30 minutes were on the clock against Dario Gradi's side.

It made what already looked like being an uphill struggle even more mountainous but they certainly gave it their all in a spirited performance before the visitors sealed the three points with a third that killed off the game.

Gillingham manager Andy Hessenthaler was forced to make six changes through injury and suspension from last weekend which included no fewer than four debutants. The three loanees brought in this week, Callum Kennedy (Swindon), Peterborough duo Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale plus the aforementioned Davies.

The Gills went 4-4-2 with Barry Fuller, Tony Sinclair, Davies and Kennedy forming the backline in front of Alan Julian, Whelpdale, Kevin Maher, Lee and Chris Palmer were across the middle with Cody McDonald and Adebayo Akinfenwa the front two. There were only five players left to be named on the bench which included Danny Jackman who has not had any games to get anywhere close to match fit.

The visitors looked bright straight from the kick-off and were unlucky not to open the scoring in the second minute. Luke Murphy beat Julian with a speculative chip from around 20 yards, only to see it come back off the face of the bar.

The visitors went close again in the 10th minute when Byron Moore crossed from the left and Clayton Donaldson stole in but failed to keep his header down.

Keeper Julian went into the referees notebook in the 14th minute for a foul out wide on Donaldson. From the resultant Murphy free-kick David Artell was denied at point blank range by Julian.

Crewe then had another two chances in quick succession. Lee Bell first fed the ball through to Miller but Sinclair made a perfectly timed challenge to slide clear. From the corner, taken by Murphy, Artell rose at the far post but headed over the top.

In the 24th minute the Gills were indebted to another great challenge, this time from impressive youngster Davies on the pacey Donaldson.

Unfortunately Davies' game came to an abrupt end in the 26th minute. Yes he fouled Donaldson on the edge of the area but the Alex striker was not directly in on goal and left-back Kennedy looked to be in close attendance. Unfortunately referee David Phillips thought otherwise, harshly adjudging the young defender to be the last man and brandished a red card.

Naturally the defender looked inconsolable as he departed but it was nice to see numerous players from both sides trying to have a word and ease his feelings.

The reshuffle saw Akinfenwa play as the lone striker with McDonald dropping to the right of midfield and Lee reverting to centre-half.

Akinfenwa then had a half-chance controlling a ball in just before the half-hour but his shot on the turn flew over the top.

Just when you thought Andy Hessenthaler's day couldn't get any worse, Crewe took the lead in the 35th minute. Murphy crossed from the right and Moore put a well-placed, downward header wide of Julian.

The ten men looked to respond quickly, McDonald had a 'goal' ruled out for offside, Palmer miscued with a volley before Chelsea loanee Rhys Taylor was called into action.

First he beat out a fierce shot from Whelpdale and then just moments later turned aside a Maher drive from the edge of the area.

Going in one-down may not have been to bad but deep into time added on Alex went two up. Moore broke down the left before finding Donaldson with a low ball and he was able to turn on the edge of the six yard box and drill home a low shot through the legs of Julian.

H/T: 0-2

Despite having conceded a second so late in the first-half and reduced in personnel, it was the Gills who came out fired up at the start of the second-half.

Taylor made a good stop to deny Whelpdale in the first minute after the break but within sixty seconds the Gills did pull one back. Palmer sent over a corner from the right and Whelpdale rose at the far post to send a header back across the keeper and into the roof of the net via a defender trying to clear off the line.

Akinfenwa again went close in the 52nd minute when his header, from Whelpdale's long throw, was tipped over by the back-tracking keeper.

There was plenty of pressing from the ten men who certainly had the momentum and the crowd right behind them but Crewe seemed happy to try and soak up the pressure and play at their own pace.

After a spell of Crewe possession though, the Gills got forward again in the 70th minute when Whelpdale had a shot blocked and the ball fell invitingly to Maher who cracked a fierce strike across the face of goal.

In a rare threat on the Gillingham goal in the 71st minute, Ashley Westwood drilled a low effort from distance straight at Julian.

Then, almost against the run of play Alex added a third. A 77th minute ball forward caught out Lee and it allowed Miller to race through and finish well, clipping his shot wide of the advancing Julian from the edge of the area.

That was game over. All three substitutes were quickly introduced with Bruce Inkango, Danny Jackman and Stefan Payne replacing McDonald, Maher and Akinfenwa respectively.

The only noteworthy moment in the closing stages was an 88th minute booking for Charlie Lee for a heavy challenge on Moore.

This result and others elsewhere in League Two saw the Gills drop to 22nd in the table but only goal difference keeps them out of the bottom two.

Gillingham: Julian, Fuller, Davies, Sinclair, Kennedy, Whelpdale, Lee, Maher (Jackman 78), Palmer, McDonald (Inkango 78), Akinfenwa (S Payne 83).

Unused subs: Cronin, A.Miller

Crewe Alexandra: Taylor, Dugdale, Ada, Artell, Tootle, Murphy, Westwood, Donaldson, Moore, Bell, S.Miller (Grant 86)

Subs: Phillips, Blanchett, Powell, Shelley, Davis, Short

Attendance: 5292 (180 Crewe)

Referee: David Phillips
Assistants: Ian Crouch and Michael Bull
4th Official: Paul Kelly


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.