Richard Day reports from the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium
The Gills made it four wins out of four, three in League Two, when they recorded their first ever victory at Dagenham thanks to goals from Deon Burton, his first for the club, and Myles Weston.
It was a stormy affair at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium but that it had nothing to do with the temperament of the players, there was thunder, lightning and torrential rain for much of the 90-odd minutes.
Gillingham manager Martin Allen made five changes to his starting line-up once again for the short trip to Essex, Andy Frampton, Charlie Allen, Callum Davies, Lewis Montrose and Deon Burton all came in with Jack Payne, Danny Kedwell and Bradley Dack dropping to the bench, Tom Flanagan missed out through suspension while Adam Barrett was also absent. Former Dagenham striker Ben Strevens was amongst the Gills substitutes.
The Gills were forced into a change, not in personnel but referee Mr Lewis thought that goalkeeper Stuart Nelson’s maroon top was too close to the all-black kit and he was forced to wear a white training top.
It was the visitors that settled quickly and in the opening seconds Burton was denied by home keeper Chris Lewington. Shortly afterwards Myles Weston was just inches away from getting on to a Burton nod down and skipper Charlie Lee had a shot blocked from the game’s first corner.
Before the ten minute mark the Daggers responded with Billy Bingham, a scorer in the corresponding match last season, having a shot saved by Nelson with Gavin Hoyte firing the rebound over.
A neat move forward saw Myles Weston go close in the 12th minute, a Lee header was helped on to the former Brentford man by Burton, he cut in from the right before seeing a shot deflected into the side netting.
Weston raced clear moments later thanks to a fortuitous ricochet in the middle of the park, Lewington forced him wide and when his clip to the far post was knocked down by Allen there were appeals for a penalty as Chris Whelpdale’s goal bound shot was deflected for a corner.
The home side had a decent chance in the 22nd minute, Whelpdale was robbed on the edge of the area and Luke Howell, the former Gillingham youngster, broke down the left before setting up Sam Williams who failed to make a good connection six yards out.
As the torrential rain returned to East London, after a short break, a nudge by Frampton on Dwight Gayle almost proved costly in the 25th minute. Bingham smacked a fierce free-kick through the wall which Nelson managed to parry and Abu Ogogo failed to get a decent touch on the follow-up.
Then on the half-hour the Gills went ahead. Matt Fish curled in a great cross from the right and Burton threw himself in between two defenders to plant a low header beyond Lewington from around eight yards.
The lead lasted just four minutes however. Howell sent Gayle through the middle and the young striker went down under Nelson’s challenge and referee Rob Lewis pointed immediately to the spot.
After receiving a yellow card the Gills keeper was then beaten as Gayle sent him the wrong way from the resultant spot kick to record the Daggers first goal of the campaign.
Suddenly John Still’s team had their tails up and led by Gayle, they forced the Gills backwards and created a number of openings.
The best of which saw Oluwafemi Ilesanmi headed a chance straight at Nelson and then Williams saw a close range effort blocked by the Gills keeper after Scott Doe headed a Bingham corner back across goal.
Dagenham striker Williams was also perhaps a little fortunate to escape a booking after sliding in on Nelson but was only spoken to by the official.
The Gills had a great chance to regain the lead five minutes into the second-half. Lee crossed from the left, Whelpdale headed the ball down to Weston who controlled and turned but smacked his shot into the side netting.
Then Whelpdale set up Allen who dinked a ball into the near post where a lunging Weston could only stab the ball over the top.
Dagenham responded with Hoyte firing a low ball across the face of the Gillingham goal but neither Williams or Howell managed to get a touch. Then in another move a diving Joe Martin headed a cross clear and Frampton bravely blocked a Howell strike.
The Gills made a double substitution in the 62nd minute with Danny Kedwell and Jack Payne replacing Burton and Whelpdale respectively.
Within a minute Gillingham were back in front, a Fish clearance sent Weston away and although he had Kedwell in acres of space he went past a defender and drilled a shot through the legs of the advancing keeper to send the 988 travelling fans jubilant.
With 71 minutes on the clock Strevens was introduced at the expense of Allen and he went up front alongside Kedwell, Weston moved to the left-side and Lee to the right.
The Gills rearguard suffered a scare in the 75th minute when Medy Elito crossed from the left but Williams, who was again in a great position, failed to get a telling cross around four yards out.
Back to the other end and Kedwell was denied by Lewington who flung himself in front of the strikers fierce effort following Strevens back heel inside the area.
With time ebbing away the Daggers continued to look for an equaliser and created a few nervy minutes as they created a number of chances.
Ilesanmi saw a shot taken by Nelson at the second attempt, the Gills keeper then got his fingers to a daisy cutter from Ogogo and it was the home skipper who then headed an Elito corner wide. Ilesanmi sent another effort heading down Victoria Road.
Two minutes into the four added-on there was a heart-stopping moment when Ogogo met another Elito corner but his diving header was thankfully straight at Nelson.
Daggers - Lewington, Ilesanmi, Doe, Spillane, Williams, Elito, Howell (DJ Green 68), Hoyte, Ogogo, Gayle (Scott 82), Bingham
Unused subs; Seabright, Wilkinson, D Green, Reed, Woodall
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Whelpdale (Payne 62), Lee, Frampton, Allen (Strevens 71), Davies, Montrose, Burton (Kedwell 62), Weston
Unused subs: Forecast, Essam, , Jackman, Dack
Attendance: 2,251 (988 Gills)
Referee: R. Lewis
Assistant Referee’s: C. Brook & G.Evetts
Fourth Official: W. Norcott