Richard Day reports from Adams Park
A 55th minute goal from Joe Martin saw ten man Gills continue their winning start to the new campaign at Adams Park and go 2nd in the npower League Two table.
It was the stuff ‘Dreams’ were made of for the travelling Gillingham supporters (they were situated in the Dreams Stand!) who gave the side excellent support throughout the 90+ minutes as their side recorded a rare win in Buckinghamshire.
Despite winning against Bradford City at the weekend Gillingham manager Martin Allen made no fewer than five changes to his starting line-up and it proved a correct decision.
Adam Barrett came in for his debut, Bradley Dack and Myles Weston made their full debuts while the other two fresh faces in the side were Jack Payne and Chris Whelpdale.
The Gills lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, Barrett took over from Andy Frampton in central defence, Payne had the midfield holding role, Whelpdale was right side, Dack in the middle while Weston was up front with Danny Kedwell.
There were five members of the Wycombe squad with a Gillingham connection, Leon Johnson, Stuart Lewis, Lee Harrison and Dennis Oli have all played for the first-team while Grant Basey was on trial at one point.
After a relatively quiet opening it was the home side that had the first effort of the night. A quick free-kick found Sam Wood on the left, he found Stuart Beavon on the edge of the area but his shot on the turn took a deflection on its way over.
A rapid response by the Gills, backed by 500 or so noisy supporters, saw Weston breaking down the right but when he crossed it was Johnson who blocked Whelpdale’s close range effort.
Another chance came soon afterwards, a neat Whelpdale cross was aimed towards the far post where Kedwell rose ahead of the onrushing Charlie Lee, who had instigated the move, but the striker put a weak header wide.
Then in the 14th minute Lewis broke down the right for Wanderers and his cross found former Bromley defender Wood, he enjoyed a bit of luck with the run of the ball before curling a shot inches wide of Stuart Nelson’s left-hand post.
Three minutes later a Lee pass isolated Weston with Wycombe’s experienced defender Gary Doherty. It was a no-contest as the home skipper was left on his rear but Weston’s strike smacked into Johnson at close range.
The excellent Weston then left both Matt Spring and Leon Johnson in his wake as he broke forward from half-way but after moving into the area his fierce near post strike was beaten away by Nikki Bull.
Barrett saw a header saved and Whelpdale put an effort wide before Tom Flanagan received the first yellow card of the evening for a mis-timed challenge on Matt Bloomfield in the 25th minute.
The resultant Spring free-kick started a spell of Wanderers dominance and a few worries in the Gills area. Nelson had to get out quickly to deny Beavon at close quarters, Barrett blocked a Spring shot and Joel Grant first smacked a shot across the face of goal before badly shanking another.
For a while The Gills struggled to get out of their own half, in fact it wasn’t until the 42nd minute when Weston set up Joe Martin to cross which was deflected and forced Bull to back pedal frantically before touching over his own bar.
Oli was given an run-out probably a lot earlier than expected when Wood was forced to limp off just before the break, ironically he received a louder reception from the Gills fans.
The half ended with Gary Waddock’s side in the ascendancy, a long-range Spring free-kick spilt from Nelson but although Oli seemed to fire into the side netting a corner was given. Thankfully Doherty put his header wide from the resulting flag-kick.
There was one Gillingham change at the break, Charlie Allen replaced Dack.
The first chance of the second-half fell to Allen in the 48th minute. A square Whelpdale pass sent the young midfielder into the area, Bull parried his first shot and Allen then put the loose ball across the face of goal.
Five minutes later Jack Payne played a delicate ball into the area and Flanagan forced Bull to back-track once again and help it over the bar.
Then in the 55th minute the Gills went ahead following a foul on Kedwell around 25 yards out. Lee touched the ball off for Weston to drill a low strike through the crowded area and although it beat Bull the ball came back off the post, thankfully it fell perfectly for Martin to stroke into the empty net.
A heavy challenge on Lee went unpunished before Grant became the first Wycombe booking in the 62nd minute for a late challenge on Matt Fish.
Two minutes later the Gills went close again, Weston dinked a cross to the far post where Whelpdale rose to meet it but put his downward header agonisingly across the face of goal.
Whelpdale went closer moments later, this time his cracking 30-yarder forced a flying Bull to push the ball aside for a corner which unfortunately came to nothing.
A burst forward from Grant proved that Wanderers still posed a threat, it ended with a swerving shot from distance that Nelson was forced to parry before the ball was cleared.
The Gills had a great chance to go two up in the 77th minute when Payne played Weston through but he was driven wide by Bull and Doherty was able to block the shot.
Almost immediately the Gills were reduced to ten men when Flanagan received his second yellow card for a tackle on substitute Richard Logan just inside his own half. It was the assistant that flagged and the MK Dons loanee looked distraught as he headed down the tunnel.
Two Gillingham changes came in a short space of time, first Callum Davies went on for Whelpdale and, after Weston had fired over the top, Danny Jackman replaced Kedwell.
Not surprisingly the sending off changed the flow of the game and the Chairboys looked to make the man advantage tell by pushing more and more men forward, they often had six men strung across the pitch up front.
Four minutes were added on by the fourth official but all the home side could muster was a hooked Oli effort that flew over the top.
Wanderers – Bull, Stewart, Basey (Angol 84), Johnson, Doherty, Spring, Lewis, Bloomfield (Logan 63), Grant, Wood (Oli 45), Beavon
Unused subs: Harrison, Winfield, Kewley-Graham, Hause
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Flanagan, Barrett, Dack (Allen H/T), Lee, Payne, Whelpdale (Davies 79), Weston, Kedwell (Jackman 84)
Unused subs: Forecast, Strevens, Frampton, Burton
Assistant Referees: N.Lugg & D.Treleaven
Fourth Official: P.Kelly