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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:02 26th December 2011

Jo Kuffour 640

CRAWLEY TOWN 1-2 GILLINGHAM

Two quickfire goals from Jo Kuffour helped the Gills to a fine victory at league leaders Crawley Town on Boxing Day and extend their great run to nine games.

The table-toppers, previously unbeaten in 15 games themselves, were finally made to pay for an 18th minute red card for Claude Davis - although the Gills also saw Luke Rooney harshly dismissed late on.

It was a niggly affair throughout and this continued afterwards but the game itself was decided by a piece of Kuffour magic.

As a result of the win Gillingham moved up a place to sixth in the Leage Two table and are now just four points off third-placed Southend United and eight behind Crawley, who remain top.

Gills boss Andy Hessenthaler had to make four changes from the side that beat Bristol Rovers so convincingly, Matt Fish, Matt Lawrence, Chris Whelpdale and Jo Kuffour replacing Andy Frampton, Charlie Lee, Lewis Montrose and Frank Nouble. Lawrence took over the captain's armband.

The game started in a lively fashion, Danny Kedwell went down in the area under a challenge from Mills but referee Darren Sheldrake waved away penalty appeals from the Gills striker and the hordes of travelling supporters behind the goal.

Crawley's front two of Matt Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett looked to use their power and pace to unsettle the Gillingham rearguard but their theatrical antics, the former in particular, certainly won them no favours from the Gills fans.

Tubbs got away with a nudge on Joe Martin out wide in the 10th minute and the Gills left-back went into the book for his retaliatory challenge as the Town striker looked to get in the box.

There was no festive spirit around the dugouts with Hessenthaler exchanging words with Red Devils management duo of Steve Evans and Paul Raynor with fourth official Michael Webb having to intervene.

In the 18th minute a loose ball from Kyle McFadzean put Kuffour clean through on goal but a clumsy challenge from Davis ended his run and the referee had little option but to issue a red card to the Town defender - and Danny Jackman was just inches away with the resulting free-kick.

Five minutes later a heavy challenge from Barnett on Jack Payne saw the striker receive a yellow card.

The Gills fans weren't too impressed when home keeper Scott Shearer went down after Curtis Weston had gone in rather harmlessly. The goalie required treatment from the physio.

But despite their man disadvantage, it was Crawley who took the lead with 33 minutes gone, as Kedwell scuffed an attempted clearance from Pablo Mills' free-kick, and when the ball was headed back into the area, Lawrence clattered into McFadzean and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty, which Tubbs thumped home.

With 37 minutes on the clock Jackman played a decent free-kick in towards the near post but Kuffour couldn't steer his header on target.

Just after Kedwell had failed to get a decent touch to a great opportunity, Rooney was introduced for what looked like a limping Fish, the Gills winger's first appearance in more than a month.

With half-time approaching the home side were awarded a free-kick for a Garry Richards foul on Tubbs, and the Town striker's resulting free-kick was well tipped over by the alert Flitney.

Although the Gills had been playing against ten men since the 18th minute they had struggled to create any decent openings with Crawley somehow managing to dominate proceedings.

H/T: 0-0

The crowd of 4,255 at the Broadfield Stadium, which included 1,301 Gills, was a new Football League record for Town.

Just two minutes into the second half a good cross from Martin looked to have set up the on rushing Weston but the midfielder could only manage an air shot.

However that miss was forgotten in the 50th minute when the Gills did equalise. Whelpdale - now operating at right-back - crossed from the right and Kuffour got himself in front of the back marker to divert the ball past the diving Shearer.

The Gills then turned the game completely on its head as they struck again almost immediately, making it two goals in two minutes with an excellent effort. Weston's pass was flicked on by Kedwell and a stretching Rooney touched the ball on for Kuffour who still had a lot of work to do.

The striker took the ball forward on an angled jinking run past two or three defenders towards goal, as the home defence surprisingly stood off he found enough room to drill a low shot inside the near post of a shell-shocked keeper. It was the seventh goal of his loan spell which is due to end after Friday's game at Dagenham & Redbridge.

Suddenly the Gills were finding the space with the extra man that they'd struggled to find in the latter stages of the first-half.

Weston was added to the referee's notebook in the 63rd minute for a foul on Sergio Torres before being replaced seven minutes later by Dennis Oli.

Jackman was poleaxed by a fierce free-kick from Dean Howell but thankully the midfielder, perhaps dazed, returned following treatment.

A rare Crawley strike from Barnett saw a slight fumble from Flitney but the keeper recovered before any home player could pounce.

As the home side began to knock on the door once again a speculative strike from sub Josh Simpson deflected off Lawrence and trickled wide as a slipping Flitney could only watch in horror, then a strike from Mills was straight at the Gills custodian.

On 80 minutes Rooney found himself being booked for a foul on Tubbs, before a high foot from David Hunt on Whelpdale saw him go into the book in the 87th minute.

The home side thought they had equalised when Tubbs placed a downward header past Flitney from Hunt's cross but were denied by a perfectly placed Lawrence, who seemed to appear from nowhere and cleared off his own line.

As the 90-minute mark ticked by Simon King replaced Whelpdale, who had signalled to come off with what was later revealed to be an horrific injury to his testicle, before Rooney received a harsh second booking for a trip on Scott Neilson and a second red card of the campaign.

But the Gills held on with little alarm to spark wild celebrations in the away end.

Town: Shearer, Howell, Mills, McFadzean, Torres (Neilson 83), Tubbs, Hunt, Bulman, Doughty (Simpson 59), Barnett, Davis

Unused subs: Kuipers, Akpan, Akinde.

Gills: Flitney, Richards, Whelpdale, J Payne, Kedwell, Weston (Oli 70), Martin, Lawrence, Fish (Rooney 42) , Jackman, Kuffour

Unused subs: King, S Payne, Gazzaniga


Attendance: 4,255 (1301 Gills)


Officials -

Referee
: Darren Sheldrake

Assistant referee's: Darren Blunden & Gary Evetts

Fourth Official: Michael Webb

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