Richard Day reports from Beechings CrossA young Gillingham side twice came from behind before eventually running out deserved 4-2 winners in an entertaining encounter against Luton Town at Beechings Cross this afternoon.
It was a good, all-round team performance by Mark Patterson’s team which was capped off by goals from Aaron Millbank, Nathan Nyafli (2) and Alfie Coates.
Despite having started brightly, with Coates, Millbank and Nyafli all going close in the early stages, it was the Hatters that opened the scoring in the 12th minute. JJ O’Donnell curled a free-kick into the area for Jemale McKenzie-Lowe to glance a header in off the post.
Town keeper Dean Brill, who made eight appearances for the Gills on loan from Luton back in the 2006-07 season, then denied Millbank again before Ashley Miller played a dangerous ball across the face of goal after linking up well with Stephen Butcher.
At the other end Arel Amu, McKenzie-Lowe and Jake Woolley all went close for the visitors before the equaliser came almost right on the break.
Left-back Jack Parter nipped in to intercept a poor pass and drove into the area, he then cut the ball back perfectly for Millbank to calmly slot past Brill.
Having ended the first-half on a high the Gills were caught napping in the opening minute after the break when Luton, watched by first-team boss Paul Buckle, re-took the lead as Matt Robinson smacked a dipping volley past Luke Nalder from the edge of the area.
Sam Muggleton and Charlie Webster were introduced on the hour and the pair went on to unsettle the visitors in different ways. Sam with his set piece deliveries and pin-point long throws and Charlie with his pace.
It was from a Muggleton corner that Josh Staunton earned himself a blow to the face as he bravely tried to get onto one at the far post.
Webster had a great chance to level matters when another stray pass put him clean through but unfortunately he stroked the ball wide of both the keeper and the post.
A quick throw from Jake Hessenthaler led to the 73rd minute equaliser, it found the hard-working Millbank in space but when the young striker was unable to get in a shot he laid the ball off nicely for Nyafli to fire home.
Millbank should then have put the Gills ahead but his effort cleared the bar while Parter and a deflection off Alasan Ann both forced Brill into saves from Muggleton throws.
The Gills went ahead for the first time with six minutes remaining. Webster’s neat footwork took him into the area and he set up Nyafli who gleefully struck a fierce shot inside Brill’s right-hand post.
Then in the 87th minute Coates completed the scoring, ramming home from close range after a Muggleton corner ricocheted into his path.
Gills – Nalder, Butcher, Parter, Coates (Blanchard 88m), Hare, Staunton, Hessenthaler, Miller (Webster 60m), Nyafli (Sellens 88m), Millbank, Haysman (Muggleton 60m)