Richard Day reports from Vale Park
First-half goals from Deon Burton and Chris Whelpdale saw top of the table Gills take the points from League Two’s game of the day at second-placed Port Vale.
The result means the Gills have extended their record breaking unbeaten start to eight games which includes four straight away wins.
It also saw them also register yet another clean sheet against the previously free scoring Valiants in their own back yard with the Gillingham defence standing firm as the home side pressed forward for lengthy periods after half-time.
There were four changes to the Gillingham side that started against Southend in midweek, Tom Flanagan, Lewis Montrose, Danny Jackman and new signing Robbie Findley came in for Callum Davies, Charlie Allen, Charlie Lee and Danny Kedwell.
USA international Findley, who arrived on a month’s loan from Nottingham Forest on Friday, was up front alongside Deon Burton while leading scorer Danny Kedwell was amongst the substitutes with fellow forwards Ben Strevens and Adam Birchall.
The Gills started the top of the table clash brightly and the American caused the Vale rearguard problems with his pace and movement from the start.
A Clayton McDonald foul on him saw Burton’s deflected free-kick find the hands of Chris Neal while Lewis Montrose put a near post header wide from a Jackman corner.
It wasn’t a shock when the visitors took an 11th minute lead, Findley crossed perfectly from the right for Burton to rise and plant a neat header back across Neal and into the net.
In the 18th minute Findley looked to break through onto a Jackman pass but was unceremoniously dumped on the ground by the challenge of John McCombe which earned the big centre-half the first yellow card of the afternoon. Unfortunately Jackman’s resultant free-kick came to nothing.
The Gills lead was doubled in the 25th minute, Joe Martin beat Jennison Myrie-Williams in a race for the ball down the left and laid it off to Chris Whelpdale. He took the ball round his marker and into the area before smashing a rising shot beyond Neal at his near post.
Micky Adams side, well backed initially by a big crowd up by around 1,500 from their previous home game, looked stunned. Their best effort came just after the half-hour when Sam Morsy’s low drive was deflected inches wide and then from a strangely worked Chris Shuker free-kick, Tom Pope saw a header deflected wide of the far post.
Ten minutes before the break Montrose found himself in the referee’s notebook after colliding with Neal as the keeper collected a ball through and moments later David Wright was spoken to at length by referee Darren Bond for a foul. Myrie-Williams free-kick was fired through the wall but past Stuart Nelson’s left-hand post.
With 40 minutes on the clock the Kent team suffered another scare, a misunderstanding between Nelson and Flanagan saw the ball dropping invitingly for Morsy but the Gills keeper recovered well to block the low shot and the rebound was put over the bar.
Matt Fish got forward to send a low shot wide before, after a succession of free-kicks including another from Montrose, referee Bond spoke to Gillingham skipper Barrett at some length once again presumably in an attempt to calm things down.
H/T: 0 – 2
Ashley Vincent had a shot charged down by Whelpdale in the early stages of the second-half and then Findley, playing his first game of the season, was replaced by Kedwell in the 50th minute.
After Morsy put a weak effort straight at Nelson, the Gills made a second change on the hour withdrawing Montrose with Andy Frampton taking over in the middle of the midfield.
Shortly afterwards Kedwell had a shot blocked and the loose ball was fed to Whelpdale who cracked a low shot at Neal from around 20-yards.
Vale put all their cards on the table with their last two substitutions in the 63rd minute with Robert Taylor and Ben Williamson joining Ryan Burge who had gone on eight minutes earlier. It meant Vale often playing with four in attack and the midfield following up behind.
A terrific save from Nelson denied the home side in the 66th minute following a foul by Kedwell on McDonald around 25 yards out. Myrie-Williams crashed the free-kick goalwards but the Gills shot stopper brilliantly helped it over the top.
In the 75th minute Nelson saved low down to his right to keep out a Doug Loft strike which was quickly followed by Vincent firing over the top.
Two minutes later Jackman joined the list of bookings after pulling back Richard Duffy and the diminutive midfielder was then replaced by Charlie Allen.
Allen drilled a shot wide and Frampton’s attempted overhead kick flew into the travelling supporters who had been in full voice and celebrating remaining top of the league.
Vale almost pulled one back in the 90th minute when right-back Duffy got in on the blind side of the Gills defence but he could only knock the ball across the face of goal without a team-mate looking to get on the end of it.
Vale – Neal, McCombe, Loft, Dodds (Williamson 63), Myrie-Williams, Vincent, Pope, McDonald, Shuker (Burge 55), Morsy (Taylor 63), Duffy Unused subs: Johnson, , Owen, Yates, , Lloyd
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Flanagan, Barratt, Wright, Whelpdale, Montrose (Frampton 60), Jackman (Allen 79), Burton, Findley (Kedwell 50) Unused subs: Forecast, Davies, , Strevens, , Birchall
Referee: Darren Bond
Assistant Referee’s: Richard Martin & Stephen Daly
Fourth Official: Sarah Garratt