Two goals from man of the match Bayo Akinfenwa helped the Gills to their third consecutive home win of 2014
Peter Taylor made two changes to the side that played against Brentford on Sky last weekend with Bayo Akinfenwa and Bradley Dack starting in place of Craig Fagan and Myles Weston. Both dropped to the bench alongside Gills new signing Joe Pigott, a highly-rated young forward from Charlton Athletic.
Despite heavy rain overnight and a hefty shower prior to kick-off, as well as strong winds to contend with, the home side stormed out of the blocks, with Cody McDonald firing just wide of Chris Neal’s right hand upright just 30 seconds from the first whistle.
Gills had Vale on the back foot again in the fifth minute as McDonald broke free down the right channel, beating full-back Daniel Jones for pace, but no one was on hand to convert his squared ball across the face of goal.
Torrential rain continued throughout the opening period but the hosts continued to look the more threatening, going agonisingly close to taking the lead on 16 minutes, as Bradley Dack squared for Amine Linganzi to fire a curling drive just over the keeper’s top left corner.
The rain finally eased up after 20 minutes and Elliott Hewitt collected the first booking of the game four minutes later for a slight pull on Doug Loft. Chris Lines to the set-piece from the left side of the area and Bayo Akinfenwa was on hand to head clear from under his own cross bar.
Two minutes later the home side were back on the attack with Akinfenwa helping Dack clear on the right side of goal, the young midfielder’s pass to McDonald took a deflection but sat up nicely for Bradley to curl a low effort just wide of Neal’s right hand upright.
A 36th minute foul by Anthony Griffith on Akinfenwa gave Joe Martin a sight of goal but his curling free-kick was a shade too strong and cleared the cross bar. Moments later Michael Harriman made up ground down the right and crossed for Steven Gregory whose half volley also drifted over the goal.
The rain returned with a vengeance for the final five minutes of the half but it didn’t stop the Gills pressure with Gregory winning a corner from a well-struck drive to the keeper’s right. From the corner Gillingham took a well-deserved lead as Dack floated the ball up for Bayo Akinfenwa to nod into the top right corner and earn his side the advantage at the break.
Whatever Micky Adams said to his team at the interval clearly sunk in as Vale looked far more dangerous after the restart, with Gavin Tomlin’s lashing into the side netting on the left of goal before Louis Dodds fired over from a good position.
Their good work was almost undone though in the 54th minute as a foul on Dack gave Gills a fre-kick on the edge of the area. It was rolled short to McDonald who shot found its way through the wall, Neal blocked and recovered to thwart Linganzi’s follow-up and Dack who was first to the loose ball.
On the hour mark the Gills went close once more with Harriman and Hewitt combining down the left for the latter to hit an angled drive that Neal could only push behind for a corner. The initial delivery was cleared but returned into the area by Bradley Dack for Bayo Akinfenwa to head home his second of the match.
Just two minutes later, following a double substitution Gillingham struck again. Hewitt with a cross from the right that was helped back to Dack, he found Cody McDonald on the left of goal who slotted his 11th of the season across the keeper and inside the far post for 3-0.
Within moments of the restart McDonald almost added a fourth from a neat Akinfenwa through pass but after taking the ball wide he could not find the net from a tight angle. That was Bayo’s last contribution as the forward left the field to a 70th minute standing ovation to be replaced by debutant Joe Pigott.
Following an impressive display at the heart of midfield Amine Linganzi also received a warm round of applause when he left the field to be replaced by home debutant Connor Smith 15 minutes from time.
Vale continued to look for a route back into the game and were unlucky soon after as Jordan Hugill broke away down the left, from a suspiciously offside position. He carried the ball to the touch line and squared for Ben
Williamson who could only find the side-netting at Stuart Nelson’s near post.
They did pull one back from the resulting corner though as Chris Robertson rose above he Gills defence to head goalwards. The ball was hooked off the line by Pigott but the near side linesman awarded the goal, Stuart Nelson earning a yellow card for protesting the decision.
The visitors piled on the pressure, in the closing stages, and were rewarded with a second goal three minutes from time, Doug Loft picking out Jordan Hugill in the box who smashed home from close range to set up a nervous finish but the Gills held out the win.
Attendance: 6,356 (Port Vale 202)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Elliott Hewitt, Bradley Dack, Steven Gregory, Amine Linganzi (Connor Smith 75), Michael Harriman, Cody McDonald, Bayo Akinfenwa (Joe Pigott 70).
Subs not used: Callum Davies, Myles Weston, George Howard, Craig Fagan, Jake Hessenthaler.
Port Vale: Chris Neal, Daniel Jones, Chris Robertson, Doug Loft, Louis Dodds (Jordan Hugill 63), Gavin Tomlin, Tom Pope (Ben Williamson 64), Joe Davis, Chris Lines, Jack Grimmer, Anthony Griffith (Billy Knott 72).
Subs not used: Adam Yates, Jennison Myrie-Williams, Sam Johnson, Chris Birchall.