Gillingham's 20 year wait for a win in Carlisle ends as Cody McDonald and a first goal for Joe Pigott earn the visitors a welcome win at Brunton Park
Following the midweek defeat at Stevenage Peter Taylor made four changes to his starting XI, with Adam Barrett and Michael Harriman returning to the back four, in place of Callum Davies and the suspended Elliott Hewiit. Amine Linganzi returned from injury to replace young Jake Hessenthaler in central midfield, and loan striker Joe Pigott earned a first start in attack, alongside Cody McDonald.
Playing conditions weren’t exactly ideal for either team at kick-off, with torrential rain falling in Cumbria for two hours prior to the game and a strong wind gusting at the backs of the Gills players throughout the opening 45 minutes.
The hosts were keen to make a positive start, attacking from the first whistle, and could have taken the lead inside the first minute. Lee Miller forced his way through the back-four and into the box but fired his finish into the side-netting at Stuart Nelson’s near post.
The Gills took a little longer to find their stride, Cody McDonald heading wide from a seventh minute Bradley Dack free-kick after Amine Linganzi had been tripped by Charni Ekangamene midway inside the Carlisle half.
Carlisle skipper Sean O’Hanlon headed a James Berrett corner over, while Steven Gregory and Berrett chanced their arm at either end with efforts from distance that failed to trouble either keeper.
Then as the rain intensified, Stuart Nelson pulled off a superb save to deny Brad Potts a 15th minute opener. Miller teed up the Carlisle midfielder to fire goalwards but the Gills custodian deflected clear with his knee to keep the visitors in the game.
Soon after the Gills were dealt a blow as Connor Smith was hurt in a 50/50 challenge with Berrett, the midfielder looking in some discomfort as he limped off to be replaced by Craig Fagan.
A 25th minute Dack corner saw the home side on the back foot, Michael Drennan twice failing to clear his lines before keeper Jordan Pickford palmed an Adam Barrett strike over the bar. From the resulting corner the Carlisle shot-stopper was well placed to block a Leon Legge shot before United finally managed to get the ball to safety.
Six minutes later Matty Robson let fly from 30 yards, only clearing the crossbar by a foot and Pascal Chimbonda collected a 36th minute booking for swinging an arm at Dack, after the Carlisle full-back had failed to surrender the ball for a Gills free-kick.
Then two minutes from the interval Gillingham took the lead in a move started and ended by Joe Pigott on his first senior start. The on loan front man played a ball out wide for McDonald who cut in from the left and found his strike partner with a return pass that Joe stroked into the bottom left corner for his first goal in Gills colours.
Carlisle came agonisingly close to an equaliser in time added-on, Drennan thundering a drive against Nelson’s left-hand upright from 30 yards, but the Gills held onto their advantage at the break.
Graham Kavanagh’s half time team talk spurred the hosts into action at the start of the second-half and with the wind and rain in their faces Gillingham found themselves firmly on the back foot in the opening exchanges.
The conditions also caused Nelson problems in his attempts to deal with a 52nd minute David Amoo angled effort which squirmed out of his grasp but the keeper recovered quickly to claim at the second attempt.
Five minutes later a neat passing move presented Craig Fagan with a sight of goal, Joe Martin, Dack and Pigott were all involved, helping the ball out to Fagan on the right hand angle of the box, keeper Pickford saving his finish with a diving stop to his near post.
Peter Taylor made his second change of the game on 64 minutes, Bayo Akinfenwa coming on for the goalscorer Pigott. Moments later the visitors were denied a reasonable penalty shout after Pickford appeared to bring down McDonald then at the opposite end Amoo curled a good effort towards Nelson’s far corner, only to see it come back off team mate Drennan.
The chance woke the Brunton Park faithful and they were almost rewarded with a goal in the 68th minute as Miller climbed above the Gills defence to meet Berrett’s corner, only to see his header blocked on the line.
Eight minutes from time Gills fans had a scare as a long clearance from Pickford was flicked on by Drennan to send Miller though on goal but Nelson stood up well to deny his finish.
Six minutes later the visitors wrapped up the points after Courtney Meppen-Walter failed to cut out Dack's lofted pass, Cody McDonald pounced on the loose ball and tucked a neat finish under the advancing Pickfprd tp secure the points.
From the restart Leon Legge inadvertently sliced a cross from the left into his own net to give the home fans late hope but the Gills held out through four minutes of time added on to record a memorable win.
Attendance: 3,584 (194 Gillingham)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Michael Harriman, Bradley Dack, Amine Linganzi, Steven Gregory, Connor Smith (Craig Fagan 20), Cody McDonald, Joe Pigott (Bayo Akinfenwa 64).
Subs not used: Sam Baxter, Callum Davies, Charlie Lee, Josh Hare, Jake Hessenthaler.
Carlisle United: Jordan Pickford, Matty Robson, David Amoo, Lee Miller, Charni Ekangamene (Danny Redmond 70), Brad Potts, James Berrett, Sean O’Hanlon, Courtney Meppen-Walter, Michael Drennan (Sam Byrne 83),Pascal Chimbonda.
Subs not used: Liam Noble, Paul Thirlwell, David Symington, Greg Fleming, Lewis Guy