Richard Day reports from MEMS Priestfield Stadium
Gillingham manager Martin Allen thankfully avoided the curse of the Manager of the Month award and watched on as his team looked four-midable in a convincing victory over a struggling Rovers side.
Mark McGhee's team were taken apart, especially in the first-half thanks to goals from Danny Kedwell (2) and Charlie Lee which were finally added to in the closing stages by substitute Chris Whelpdale.
This result of course means the Gills remain top of the league and now sit three points clear of Port Vale, our opponents next weekend, at the top, having extended their best ever start to a season to six games unbeaten, five of these being wins.
The Gills boss made just one change to the team that started the victory at Barnet with new signing David Wright replacing Whelpdale.
The home side got off to a great start when they opened the scoring in the fifth minute from a penalty conceded by Tom Parkes for a challenge on Kedwell.
Referee Gary Sutton pointed to the spot immediately, before booking the defender, and the leading scorer dusted himself down and quite literally thumped home his sixth goal of the season giving on loan Chelsea keeper Sam Walker no chance.
Despite going behind to the early goal it was the visitors that seemed to settle the better, they retained the ball well, passed neatly and pressed the Gills back but without testing Stuart Nelson.
However in the 15th minute it was 2-0 to the table-toppers. Charlie Lee put in a long throw from in front of the Medway Stand, Kedwell and Jim Paterson rose and it looked like it was the Pirates defender that got the important flick which Adam Virgo could only help into the net as he tried to clear off his own line. The P.A announcer gave the goal to Kedwell and I am sure he will be wanting to claim it.
The Gills should have gone further ahead in the 32nd minute, a reckless tackle on Lee by Matt Gill saw a free-kick awarded around 25-yards out. Deon Burton didn’t strike the ball cleanly but it bounced away from Kedwell to Charlie Allen who inexplicably poked wide from six yards.
Rovers day didn’t get any better in the 34th minute when experienced striker Matt Harrold was eventually forced to limp off following an earlier challenge with Nelson. Fabian Broghammer replaced him.
David Clarkson went into the book for a foul on Lee but it was the Gills midfielder that was smiling, instead of grimacing, when he scored goal number three in the 44th minute.
Joe Martin saw a long range effort deflected inches over the top and from Allen’s resultant right-wing corner, Lee threw himself forward to net with a diving header from around six yards to send the Gillingham fans, who were marvellous throughout, went into the break very happy.
H/T: 3 – 0
The Gills first change of the afternoon came at the break, Myles Weston took over from Burton up front and this meant a change in style, relying on the pace of the replacement.
Before the first 60 seconds of the second-half had ticked by, a Weston corner was almost met by debutant Wright at the near post but his slight touch took the ball away from skipper Adam Barrett who was coming in behind.
Although the Pirates had played with three men in attack, their first real attempt on goal didn’t come in the 52nd minute, Wayne Brown’s low strike being punched away by Nelson.
Back to the other end and both Jack Payne, Lee and Kedwell were all off target with efforts before Ben Strevens replaced the latter in the 58th minute.
The next attack, in the 62nd minute, saw sheer brilliance from the Gills. Great touches from Weston, Strevens and Allen saw the lively Weston, who’d continued his run, clear on goal but his low strike was clutched low to his right by Walker.
Martin had to clear from in front of his own goal after Rovers sub Oliver Norburn had weaved his way through to get in a shot which Nelson half-blocked.
Payne was denied when his goalbound shot was headed away by Virgo then Weston slipped at in-opportune moment, as he was about to shoot into an unguarded net.
In between these two efforts Wright picked up an innocuous yellow card and it was the Crystal Palace loanee who became the Gills third change in the 71st minute.
To their credit the struggling West Country side kept going and began to threaten, Virgo glanced a header across the face of goal and wide before a neat move ended with Matt Fish blocking Broghammer’s shot. The 209 travelling fans didn’t have a lot to cheer about.
Gillingham were playing keep ball and in doing so opened up the visitors rearguard again in the 80th minute, Allen finally sent Weston through but he drilled his shot across the face of goal.
A fourth goal did come in the 82nd minute, Weston skipped past Wayne Brown and crossed perfectly for Whelpdale to stoop and plant a firm header beyond Walker.
Weston again fought his way through in time added-on but Walker managed to block his shot and when Strevens fired the loose ball towards goal defender Parkes got in the way to deny Gillingham a fifth goal in the game.
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Payne, Lee, Kedwell (Strevens 58), Allen, Davies, Burton (Weston H/T), Barrett, Wright (Whelpdale 71) Unused subs: Flanagan, Frampton, Montrose, Forecast
Rovers – Walker, Smith, Paterson (Norburn H/T), Parkes, Clarkson, Gill (Lund 66), Harrold (Broghammer 34), Richards, L.Brown, Virgo, W.Brown Unused subs: Anyinsah, Gough, Clarke, Clucas,
Attendance: 4,768 (209 Rovers)
Referee: Gary Sutton
Assistant referee’s: Michael Blackledge & John Busby
Fourth Official: Robert Hodges