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17:44 28th December 2010

Josh Gowling in action against Vale


A tremendous all-round team performance saw the Gills end 2010 in style as they comfortably beat promotion-chasing Port Vale at Priestfield Stadium.

It was a fourth win on the bounce for Andy Hessenthaler's side who have now risen up to ninth-place in the League Two table.

It was not a happy return for ex-Gill Micky Adams whose second-placed side struggled to cope with the power and finishing of Gills front pairing Adebayo Akinfenwa and Cody McDonald who registered all three goals between them. At the other end the Valiants failed to test Alan Julian throughout the entire 98 minutes and were disappointing for a team that would have gone top had they won.

The Gills were returning to action following a weather-enforced 17 day lay-off and hadn't played a home game since November 13 when Crewe Alexandra were the visitors to Priestfield Stadium.

They certainly didn't waste any time getting back into the swing of things either, striking with just 32 seconds on the clock.

A John Nutter pass was deflected into the path of McDonald who struck a half-volley beyond Stuart Tomlinson from the edge of the area. It was his seventh goal of the season and that took him to the top of the Gills scoring chart.

This was of course the first game for Gillingham since the departure of Peterborough United duo Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale. Those two were replaced by Curtis Weston and Joe Martin in the only changes from the win at Macclesfield, the latter came into the side to make his full debut on the left-side of midfield.

Gradually Micky Adams side found their feet and started to play some nice football. Chances, or even half-chances, were at a premium though, a Robert Taylor shot, that flew wide, and a Lee Collins cross that drifted narrowly wide of Alan Julian's left-hand post were the visitors closest efforts in the opening 20 minutes.

The Gills went close in the 23rd minute, Nutter played in a great ball from the left but a stretching Akinfenwa, who'd got ahead of his marker, fired an angled shot over the top.

A great build-up led to the Gills second goal in the 37th minute. Akinfenwa held off Gareth Owen in the centre-circle, the ball was played down the right-hand side for the marauding Barry Fuller to run onto. The skipper played a low ball across the face of goal to McDonald at the far post who prodded home from close range.

H/T: 2-0

Five minutes after the break the Gills went close to adding a third. Fuller drove forward once again and played a one-two with McDonald but when the Gills captain got dispossessed the ball ran loose to the Norwich City loanee who struck a low shot beyond Tomlinson only to see the ball come back off the keepers left-hand upright. The rebound fell invitingly to Akinfenwa who drove his shot across the face of goal but wide of the far post.

Martin's debut ended in unfortunate circumstances in the 54th minute when he received what looked like a cut forehead in an aerial challenge. Andy Barcham was warmly applauded when he came on as his replacement for his first appearance since getting injured at Southend back at the end of August..

Just before the hour mark the Gills went three-up. A long throw from Weston found its way to Matt Lawrence who saw his shot from around ten yards blocked but the ball fell perfectly for Akinfenwa to lash home his sixth goal of the campaign.

Weston was replaced shortly afterwards by another of the Gills injured stars who were returning to first-team action, Mark Bentley. Danny Spiller moved in one to a central midfield position with Bentley going wide right.

Port Vale made all three available substitutions in quick succession but it was the home side that continued to create chances, Spiller chipped over the top, Akinfenwa headed wide and Barcham dragged a great chance into the near-post side-netting after skinning Adam Yates down the left-flank.

Eleven minutes from time, from yet another great move, the Gills went close again. Akinfenwa and McDonald combined brilliantly to send Spiller through the middle, but the Gills midfielder was denied by a terrific last-ditch tackle by Anthony Griffith.

To their credit the visitors kept going until the final whistle and almost pulled a goal back late on. First Louis Dodds fired over then Doug Loft's cross was headed over the top by substitute Tommy Fraser.

It shows how much things can change in a month in football, in that last home game against Crewe which the visitors won 3-1 the Gills left the pitch to a chorus of jeers, today they were cheered off by the second largest league crowd at Priestfield this season.

While the Gills can look forward to 2011 with re-newed confidence, now constantly looking upwards in the table, but it was a miserable end of the year for Vale and it will be a long journey back to the Potteries for their 163 travelling supporters.

Gillingham: Julian, Fuller, Gowling, Lawrence, Nutter, Spiller, Maher, Weston (Bentley 62), Martin (Barcham 56), McDonald, Akinfenwa (S Payne 83).

Unused subs: Cronin, King, Rooney, Jackman

Port Vale: Tomlinson, Yates, R.Taylor (Dodds 57), Griffith, McCombe, Owen, Loft, M. Richards, J. Richards (Speight 56), Collins, Roberts (Fraser 64)

Unused subs: Johnson, K.Taylor, Haldane, Rigg, Sutton

Attendance: 5364 (163 Port Vale)

Match Officials:

Referee: Fred Graham
Assistants: Lee Betts & Elliott Kaye
Fourth Official: John Hopkins


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