Richard Day reports from MEMS Priestfield StadiumMartin Allen’s table-toppers extended their lead at the summit of League Two with a resounding four-goal thumping of a struggling Aldershot side.
In an exhilarating first-half Gillingham raced into a three-goal lead, Charlie Allen put them ahead with his first goal for the club, Danny Kedwell moved into double figures for the season with a penalty then Myles Weston drilled home a third.
After the break the Gills played the possession game rather than go gung-ho for more goals before Chris Whelpdale rounded things off with a deserved fourth.
There was just one change to the Gillingham starting XI from the previous week’s draw at Oxford, Charlie Allen replacing Deon Burton.
The Gills had a great chance to make a third minute breakthrough after Ben Herd and Guy Branston got in a pickle in clearing, from Weston’s left-wing corner Whelpdale headed over from six yards.
A minute later at the other end Danny Hylton rose highest to head over from a right-wing Danny Rose corner.
Gillingham took the lead in the 10th minute from another Weston corner. It eventually fell invitingly to Whelpdale and his fierce effort was beaten out by Jamie Young but it fell straight to where Allen was lurking.
He was able to ram the ball over the line despite desperate attempts from Young and Aaron Morris to clear. In his post-match press conference the Gillingham manager called it a ‘magical moment’.
The home side were very much on top and there was another opening in the 18th minute when Jack Payne found Weston with a superb pass and Weston cut inside before forcing Young to save low to his left with a shot from the edge of the area.
In the 26th minute referee Mark Haywood awarded a penalty (assistant Adrian Sannerude had flagged) when Sonny Bradley handled Kedwell's driven cross. After yellow carding the on-loan Hull City defender, Kedwell hit his tenth goal for the season by thumping home from the spot.
Seven minutes before the break the Gills opened a three-goal advantage, Kedwell played the ball inside to Weston who drove towards the area, held off his marker and fired a great low shot inside Young’s near post.
Martin became the first Gills booking in time added on for fouling Adam Mekki. From the resultant free-kick Craig Reid’s volley was excellently saved by a stretching Stuart Nelson high to his right.
Almost immediately Weston broke away down the left but his low strike flew across the face of goal.
H/T: 3 - 0
The Gills made a change at the break, Andy Frampton replacing Martin at left-back.
As the home side kept pressing forward and dominating, the chances continued. Ten minutes into the second-half Matt Fish was in the right place to block Danny Hylton’s shot on the turn from a low Mekki ball in.
David Wright saw a shot from distance deflected for a corner before Jack Payne harshly went into the book for a foul on Herd just after the hour mark. It was the young midfielder’s last involvement as he replaced by Ben Strevens.
It was 4-0 in the 66th minute, Weston played a short corner to substitute Frampton, he played a low cross-field ball into the feet of Whelpdale and he took a touch before striking a low left-foot shot past the full length dive of Young.
The third Gillingham change came in the 68th minute with on-loan Nottingham Forest forward Robbie Findley replacing Weston. Almost straight away the USA international forced a save from the Shots keeper with his first touch.
Whelpdale smacked a low free-kick just wide and Kedwell saw a shot loop over via a deflection before Aldershot, fighting at the wrong end of the table, showed some resolve for under-fire boss Dean Holdsworth, finishing the game on the front foot and finally giving the 188 travelling Town fans a little something to cheer.
Troy Brown’s deep cross found Peter Vincenti at the far post, his downward header went wide of the far post with other players arriving in the middle.
A rare piece of loose play at the back by skipper Adam Barrett saw Mekki steal the ball but Hylton dragged his shot wide of goal. Moments later Tom Flanagan was in the right place to clear from in front of his own goal as Shots broke down the right.
The Shots extended Nelson twice in the last couple of minutes, first Danny Rose’s strike was turned aside then the Gills keeper clutched a low effort from late sub Michael Rankine.
With second-place Port Vale not playing until Monday and Fleetwood Town succumbing to a home defeat against Wycombe Wanderers, the Gills have opened up a six-point lead at the top of the table and face another home game against Burton Albion next Saturday.
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin (Frampton H/T), Payne (Strevens 61), Flanagan, Whelpdale, Kedwell, Allen, Weston (Findley 68), Barrett, Wright Unused subs: Montrose, Dack, Burton, Forecast,
Shots – Young, Herd, A.Morris, Brown, Hylton, Vincenti, Branston, Mekki (Payne 79), Reid (Rankine 85), Bradley, Rose Unused subs: Lancashire, Bergqvist, Anderson, Donnolly, G.Morris
Attendance: 5,039 (188 Shots)
Referee: Mark Haywood
Referee Assistants: Nigel Lugg & Adrian Sannerude
Fourth Official: Robert Whitton