Gillingham 2-1 MorecambeA stunning last gasp effort from substitute Deon Burton gave the Gills all three points in a thrilling encounter at MEMS Priestfield to earn a 2-1 win.
The striker controlled effortlessly and smashed beyond Morecambe keeper Barry Roche to seal all three points in the final two minutes of the match.
Before that the Gills had put endless pressure on the visitors, and their character showed as they extended their lead at the top of the league table to seven points courtesy of a cracking finale.
Lewis Montrose had put the home side in front in the first half, but Jack Redshaw equalised with 20 minutes to play and this began a fantastic Gills fight back as they dominated proceedings until the whistle.
Martin Allen made four changes to the side that drew 2-2 against Plymouth Argyle with Burton, Charlie Lee, Jack Payne and Tom Flanagan all missing out.
Danny Kedwell, Lewis Montrose, Callum Davies and Andy Frampton came in as their replacements with Adam Birchall and Myles Weston among the seven named substitutes.
The first attack of the game nearly resulted in a goal for the home side – Matt Fish let fly with a strong left foot effort which keeper Barry Roche could only tip over for a corner.
Callum Davies and Adam Barrett very nearly took advantage of resulting set pieces but the visiting defence were able to prevent an early setback.
Kevin Ellison very nearly made the Gills pay for their missed chances; he tried his luck with a powerful half volley which narrowly cleared the crossbar before Ben Strevens’ headed effort from a free kick was off target just moments later.
Stuart Nelson had to be alert in the 10th minute when Richard Brodie went within inches of opening the scoring. A cross from the right by Izak Reid was put in to a dangerous area and the keeper had to smother the ball at the striker’s feet as he attempted to convert from close range.
The game calmed down slightly as the half progressed- the Gills certainly having more possession and opportunities from set pieces, but nothing clear cut was created by either side in the first 25 minutes.
However just shy of the half hour mark there was major controversy with two incidents for the referee to deal with in quick succession.
Firstly a strong penalty shout was waved away. A cross from Frampton was making its way to the back post and Kedwell was on hand to attempt a header, however Andrew Wright had both hands around the striker and took him to ground.
The forward claimed a spot kick but the officials were un-moved and gave a corner instead. From the set play Barrett had two chances to give Gills the lead – the first was blocked on the line with a question mark surrounding whether or not it had crossed the line, and the second was again blocked as the visitors somehow resisted intense pressure.
Soon after Romain Vincelot tried his luck from 25 yards, the keeper seemed unsure whether to make or save or not but it just glided beyond his right hand post and in to the Brian Moore stand. Whelpdale had a go from a similar distance in the 33rd minute but his shot went well wide.
The home side deservedly took the lead in the 37th minute. A Jackman free kick was planted between the back four and the keeper – Barrett got a touch and Roche could only flap at the effort. Fenton fumbled his clearance and Montrose kept his shot low and hard to fire in to an empty net.
Martin Allen’s side immediately searched for a second and an audacious overhead kick from Davies looked like it might trouble Roche before it was deflected for a corner.
Strevens then went on a surging run before playing in strike partner Kedwell, he returned the compliment and a high cross found Whelpdale with an accurate header but Roche back pedalled quickly and was able to catch it before the ball looped over him.
Morecambe very nearly grabbed an equalizer within the first few minutes in the second half when Ellison’s back post header looked like it may be creeping in the bottom corner, but Nelson got across quickly and got both hands to it before it crossed the line.
In the 53rd minute substitute Myles Weston got his first taste of the action. Whelpdale had troubled the Morecambe defence once more with a solid run before playing in the winger, Myles took on one defender before unleashing a left foot effort across the face of Barry Roche.
However the keeper got down quickly and managed to hold the ball with Gills players looking to pounce on any kind of rebound.
On 63 minutes Nelson had to produce the best save of the match to deny Gary McDonald. Gills lost possession in the last third of the pitch and he had chance to slot the ball beyond the keeper.
However Nelson was out quickly to block his effort before watching a subsequent Reid free kick go wide of his right hand post.
However he was finally beaten on 69 minutes. Substitute Jack Redshaw struck from close range after Ellison’s clever work on the left hand side gave him the opportunity to pick out his strike partner and he made no mistake from little over six yards.
As ever the Gills battled on in their typical resilient self and threw everything they had at the visitors to force a winner as the clock began to tick down.
With 87 minutes on the clock Charlie Allen had a golden opportunity to win the game. Myles Weston cross was met by substitute Deon Burton at the back post and as the ball came to him he adjusted his body and attempted a powerful right foot shot in to the bottom corner.
It was cleanly struck but sadly for the Rainham End was agonisingly wide of the post.
Kedwell came even closer moments later. Roche had come to intercept a ball which Burton got to first, he picked out the Gills number nine but his header was just inches past the upright.
However with just seconds left to play Burton did finally beat Roche for a second time to win all three points for the Gills. Matt Fish provided a stunningly accurate cross to the back post, Burton’s control was superb and he smashed it beyond the Morecambe keeper to win all three points with the last chance of the game.
Gills: Nelson, Fish, Barrett, Davies, Frampton (Burton 76), Montrose, Vincelot (Allen 64), Whelpdale, Jackman, Strevens (Weston 45), Kedwell.
Unused subs: Forecast, Essam, Lee, Birchall.
Morecambe: Roche, Fenton, Reid (Alessandra 90), Wright, Brodie (Redshaw 67), Ellison, McCready, Drummond, Fleming, McDonald, Parrish.
Unused subs: Threlfall, Parkinson, McGee, Arestidou.
Referee: Mr T Robinson
Bookings: Strevens (38), Fenton (40), Wright (90)
Goals: Montrose (37), Redshaw (69), Burton (93)
Attendance: 5,402 (21 Morecambe)