Gills bring a bit of Christmas cheer with an excellent away victory at Prenton Park
Gillingham shrugged off their Prenton Park bogey to record a fantastic away win thanks to two goals from Bayo Akinfenwa.
With leading scorer Danny Kedwell and midfielders Chris Whelpdale and Danny Hollands ruled out through injury, Peter Taylor was forced to make three changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Peterborough last weekend. Myles Weston and Steven Gregory came into the midfield while Bayo Akinfenwa started alongside Cody McDonald for the first time this season.
Gills started brightly and bossed the opening stages, carving out their first shooting chance inside 90 seconds. Michael Harriman collected his own throw from Myles Weston’s lay-off, his low cross was cleared to Cody McDonald who drilled a low effort wide of the mark from the right hand side of goal
Two minutes later the visitors were almost given the lead by Bradley Dack after the youngster showed great tenacity to force his way past the challenge of three Rovers defender, only to place his finish wide of Owain Fon Williams, right hand upright.
On seven minutes a long ball from Harriman sent Weston clear only for Fon Williams to push his rising drive behind for a corner, before the keeper was off his line quickly to block Adam Barrett’s far post shot from the resulting flag kick.
Fully 15 minutes of the first half had elapsed before the home side managed an effort on target but when it finally came the Gills were fortunate not to concede, Rovers skipper James Wallace crossing for Ryan Lowe to place a header just wide of Nelson’s right hand post.
Moments later Tranmere threatened again from a quickly taken free-kick that sent Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro clear on the right of goal, Nelson raced out to narrow the angle and was doubtless relieved to see the Rovers forward roll his finish wide of his back stick.
Kristoffer Peterson cut in from the left touchline before curling his finish high and wide of Nelson’s top corner, while Wallace headed a 20th minute effort straight at Nelson before the Gills were forced to make a change, Antonio German coming on for the injured Myles Weston.
On 34 minutes Bradley Dack collected a yellow card for a tackle from behind in the centre circle and the home side enjoyed a prolonged period of possession without managing to seriously test the visitors back four.
Three minutes before the break the home side had arguably there best effort of the half as Ridehalgh teed up Wallace to shoot from the left edge of the box, the ball was heading into Nelson’s far corner but the Gills custodian did superbly well to turn it around the post at full stretch .
Then deep into time added-on the visitors got the goal their first half endeavours deserved. A throw-on found Bradley Dack in the Tranmere area, his shot was charged down but Bayo Akinfenwa was perfectly placed to smash the loose ball into the far corner
Not surprisingly the home side were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half, but it was the Gills who came closest to scoring as McDonald shrugged off his marker to go one on one with the keeper, Von Williams did well to block his drive and even better to deny Jake Hessenthaler’s follow-up.
Seconds later Bradley Dack found himself in space on the right of goal but put his finish over the crossbar, before McDonald blazed a trail to the keeper’s left hand post but stabbed his finish into the side-netting.
On 55 minutes the game swung further in the visitors favour as Cody found himself clean through on goal once again, after a lung-busting run through the Tranmere half, his progress was impeded by Jim McNulty who tugged the forward back, and the referee had no hesitation in producing a red card for the Rovers defender.
The action continued to come thick and fast with Lowe firing wide from a one-on-one for Tranmere, before Akinfenwa saw a shot charged down and from the resulting corner McDonald climbed above the home defence, only to head Hessenthaler’s delivery directly at the home keeper.
The home side were in no mood to roll over but the Gills finally made their man advantage count in the 68th minute. Steven Gregory found Akinfenwa in the box unmarked, the striker’s first effort was pushed onto the keeper’s near post but Bayo made no mistake with the follow up, heading home from six yards to net his second of the night.
It proved to be Bayo’s last contribution of the night as he was replaced by Charlie Lee soon after with German joining McDonald in attack. On 77 minutes Tranmere gave themselves a lifeline after a deep ball out of defence found Ryan Lowe in space, he got between the defence and Stuart Nelson and, with the keeper beaten, had time to pick his spot as he placed his finish into an empty net.
In a tense finish, Lowe headed into Nelson’s hands and needed treatment after a clash of heads with Charlie Lee. Before the midfielder made a great opening for himself with a strong run down the right flank, he cut into the box but his finish rolled agonisingly wide of the keeper’s far post.
The 90th minute brought more nerves for the travelling Gills support as the fourth officials board indicated five minutes of time to be added on but save for a low effort from Wallace that was comfortably held by Nelson, the Gills defence weren't tested.
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Michael Harriman, Myles Weston Antonio German 22), Steven Gregory, Jake Hessenthaler, Bradley Dack, Bayo Akinfenwa (Charlie Lee 71), Cody McDonald.
Subs not used: George Howard, Callum Davies, Craig Fagan, Donervon Daniels, Josh Hare
Tranmere Rovers: Owain Fon Williams, Danny Holmes, Ash Taylor, James Wallace, Ryan Lowe, Jake Kirby (Evan Horwood 57), Jim McNulty, Jason Koumas, Liam Ridehalgh, Kristoffer Peterson (Andy Robinson 72), Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro (Cole Stockton 64)
Subs not used: Chris Atkinson, Max Power, Jon Otsemobor, Jason Mooney