Gillingham slipped to defeat at Meadow Lane but can count themselves unfortunate after hitting the woodwork twice and looking the more threatening side for much of the game.
Following last weekend’s defeat at Rotherham and the hamstring injury suffered by John Mousinho, Peter Taylor opted to make three changes to his starting XI.
Whelpdale and McDonald dropped to the bench as Jake Hessenthaler came in for his first senior start, together with Myles Weston and Bradley Dack. Gillingham lining-up in a 4-5-1 with Dack and Weston supporting Kedwell from out wide, and Lee making supporting runs through the centre.
The home side went close to opening the scoring inside the first two minutes as a free-kick routine from the left saw Kieron Freeman swing a dangerous ball in to the Gills box. It fell at the feet of Danny Haynes but Gills midfielder Danny Hollands was well placed to cut out the danger.
Gillingham were in no mood to roll over though and gave their hosts a scare five minutes later as Michael Harriman fed Myles Weston on the right touchline, he beat the full-back for pace and lofted a teasing cross onto the head of Charlie Lee who nodded his finish just over the keeper’s top left corner.
They went closer still in the fifteenth minute as only a layer of paint on the post prevented the visitors from taking the lead. Stuart Nelson’s free-kick was flicked into the path of Bradley Dack, whose deft touch beat the keeper, only for the ball to comeback off Bialkowski’s left hand upright.
Arguably County enjoyed the balance of possession but failed to really threaten their visitors, indeed the Meadow Lane faithful became increasingly tetchy as the first half wore on, with the Gills looking by far the likelier to score.
Ten minutes before the break another Nelson free-kick unsettled the Magpies defence, Barrett’s header being cleared behind for a corner. Jake Hessenthaler delivered the flag-kick, into the heart of the County box but Dean Leacock was on hand to head clear.
Then with five first-half minutes remaining the home side took the lead with their first real effort on goal. A ball down the right found Jamal Campbell-Ryce who squared inside to Callum McGregor, the Magpies top scorer took his time before placing his finish perfectly inside Nelson’s far corner to give his side an unlikely lead.
Gills were denied by the woodwork again, moments later, as Harriman’s throw was touched on by Barrett and Kedwell into the path of Dack, he fired goalwards only for Bialkowski to push his finish onto the post, a County defender clearing the loose ball behind for a corner as the home side held on to their lead at the interval
Gillingham made the perfect start to the second half, equalising inside 90 seconds of the restart. Lee’s long throw was flicked on at the near post by Barrett and Bradley Dack slid in to stab his finish under the County keeper and into the far corner.
Just three minutes later the visitors had the ball in the net once more, as Charlie Lee headed home from a Hollands free-kick which the home defence failed to deal with, but the goal was chalked off by the referee for a hand-ball in the build-up.
On 53 minutes the Magpies retook the lead and it was Callum McGregor on target again for the hosts. Gary Liddle delivered a sensational cross from the right to find the midfielder in space in the Gills box and McGregor blasted into the roof to make it 2-1.
The visitors continued to look dangerous though, Lee twice going close from distance before Donervon Daniels saw a header from a Hessenthaler corner hacked off the line. It proved to be the youngster’s last contribution to the game, as he was replaced by Bayo Akinfenwa soon after, but Jake can be justifiably proud of his performance.
The big man made an instant impact, meeting a 71st minute Lee throw to draw a fine reflex save from Bialkowski as Peter Taylor’s men went in search of an equaliser. Meanwhile at the opposite end Stuart Nelson kept his side in the game with a great block to force Callum Ball’s effort over the bar after the County sub was put clean through with only the keeper to beat.
With 15 minutes remaining the Gills switched to a three man attack with Cody McDonald coming on for Danny Hollands. He won his side a corner in the 80th minute which saw the Gills come painfully close to squaring the scores as Dack’s delivery carried through to Akinfenwa but the powerful forward’s low strike was cleared off the line by McGregor.
Two minutes later a timely block from Daniels prevented McGregor from completing his hat-trick but there was nothing the defence could do to keep out Jack Grealish’s effort three minutes from time as the midfielder raced out wide to the left of the area before smacking an unstoppable effort across goal and into Nelson’s right hand corner.
There was still time for Adam Barrett to head a corner onto the roof of the net but the Gills could not find a way back into the game.
Attendance: 3,607 (Gillingham 267)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Danny Kedwell, Jake Hessenthaler (Bayo Akinfenwa 66), Myles Weston, Bradley Dack, Charlie Lee, Danny Hollands (Cody McDonald 75), Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett, Donervon Daniels.
Subs not used: George Howard, Amine Linganzi, Callum Davies, Leon Legge, Chris Whelpdale
Notts County: Bartosz Bialkowski, Alan Sheehan, Gary Liddle, Dean Leacock, Jack Grealish, Callum McGregor, Danny Haynes (Callum Ball 63), Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Kieron Freeman, Andre Boucaud, Morgan Fox.
Subs not used: Fabian Spiess, Manny Smith, Enoch Showunmi, David Bell, Ronan Murray, Mark Fotheringham.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Assistants: Michael D’Aguilar and Robert Merchant
4th Official: Stephen Martin