Clinical Gillingham cruised to their first win of the Sky Bet League 1 season with a dominant performance to beat Crewe at Gresty Road
Following last week’s frustrating defeat to Bradford City, Martin Allen made four changes to his starting XI, Callum Davies replaced Legge in defence, Chris Whelpdale and Steven Gregory came into midfield for Weston and Linganzi, while Danny Kedwell partnered Cody McDonald up front, Bayo Akinfenwa dropping to the bench.
The Gills started positively and fashioned the games’ first opening after just 80 seconds, Chris Whelpdale pouncing on a weak clearance to pull back a centre, from the left of goal, which Adam Barrett helped on to Danny Kedwell, sadly the striker was flagged offside before he could test the keeper.
The opening exchanges were dominated by the visitors with Callum Davies drawing a save from Steve Phillips with a deflected shot from Whelpdale’s seventh minute corner. Unfortunately Crewe defender Harry Davis was injured making the block tackle, leading to his substitution soon after.
Danny Hollands was next to try his luck with a low effort wide of Phillips’ far post, then Cody McDonald went desperately close with a long range shot that cannoned off the back of Mark Ellis, before drifting just wide of the keeper’s right hand upright.
Gillingham continued to dominate and on 16 minutes McDonald showed good vision to pick out the run of Kedwell with a neat cross field pass, the Gills forward fired a low centre across goal, that Whelpdale managed to connect with, but could not get enough power into his finish to divert it goalwards.
Visibly lacking in confidence, after a difficult start to the season, the home side offered little in reply, save for a couple of corners which were comfortably dealt with. Whilst at the other end, ten minutes from the break, Steven Gregory collected Whelpdale’s pass, before firing a low drive into the arms of the Crewe custodian from the edge of the box.
Moments after the referee had waved away half-hearted appeals for a penalty, from the hosts, following Max Clayton’s theatrics in the box, Gillingham got the breakthrough their efforts deserved. A long pass down the left channel sent Cody McDonald clear, the centre forward cut in from the touchline and sent a low shot in, from a tight angle, that Phillips got a hand to but could not keep out.
Then, on the stroke of half-time the Gills were unlucky not to extend their lead as Whelpdale ran onto a Harriman cut back from the right of goal, his deflected shot caught the keeper wrong-footed but he recovered well to make the save, low to his right. Harsh but perhaps not surprisingly, the home side left the field to a chorus of boos.
Not surprisingly Crewe started the second half with renewed purpose and went close to scoring from a well worked corner routine in the 48th minute. Leitch-Smith pulled the ball back to meet the run of Oliver Turton, who struck a rising drive from 25 yards but fired high and wide of Nelson’s top right corner.
They paid the price for their profligacy just two minutes later as Joe Martin stepped up to take a free-kick from just outside the Crewe penalty area and struck a goal of the season contender, straight into the top left corner, to make it 2-0.
In the 55th minute Gillingham were denied a third goal by the woodwork after Charlie Lee disposed Thierry Audel, wide on the right touchline. The midfielder raced down the flank, with McDonald and Kedwell in support but chose to go alone, blasting a low drive beyond the keeper, only to see it ricochet wide of the foot of Phillips’ right hand upright.
Danny Kedwell headed inches over the bar from a Whelpdale corner on the hour mark, prompting a double substitution for the Alex. And it was one of those new arrivals, Vadaine Oliver that almost scored with his first touch, racing clear of the Gills defence, only to be denied by an excellent block from Stuart Nelson.
The changes breathed new life into Crewe and Nelson was called into action again with two great stops, in quick succession, to first deny Oliver from the right of goal and then push a long range effort round the post moments later. In an effort to counter the hosts resurgence, Martin introduced Myles Weston for McDonald.
Within seconds Gillingham found themselves three in front after skipper Adam Barrett was on hand to force home a 70th minute corner. Chris Whelpdale’s ball from the left was helped back across goal by Danny Hollands and Barrett was on hand at the near post to lift the loose ball into the roof of the net.
With less than 15 minutes remaining, Martin sent on the fresh legs of Charlie Allen and Bradley Dack to strengthen the midfield for the closing stages and with home fans already heading for the exits Crewe were restricted to hopeful efforts from distance.
At the other end, Charlie Lee seemed to determined to round off the day with a goal to his name, and, after twice pulling efforts wide of the mark, was denied by a great diving stop from Phillips, who pushed his rising strike over the far corner with five minutes remaining but by then the points were comfortably in the bag.
Attendance: 4254 (Gillingham 245)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Michael Harriman, Joe Martin, Callum Davies, Adam Barrett, Chris Whelpdale (Bradley Dack 76), Steven Gregory, Danny Hollands (Charlie Allen 76), Charlie Lee, Cody McDonald (Myles Weston 68), Danny Kedwell
Subs not used: George Howard, Leon Legge, Amine Linganzi, Bayo Akinfenwa
Crewe Alexandra: Steve Phillips, Harry Davis (George Ray 8), Mark Ellis, Max Clayton (Lee Molyneux 61), Abdul Osman, Ajay Leitch-Smith (Vadaine Oliver 60), Byron Moore, Bradden Inman, Jon Guthrie, Oliver Turton, Thierry Audel
Subs not used: Ben Garrett, Chuks Aneke, Ryan Colclough, Anthony Grant