Gills return to the top after win at Priestfield...
Gillingham returned to the top of npower League Two after a convincing 2-0 win over third placed Northampton at MEMS Priestfield.
Goals from Cody McDonald early in the first half and Myles Weston late in the second were enough to seal all three points as Gills went two points clear at the top of the league.
Firstly, on-loan striker McDonald took advantage of the weather conditions to hook on to a long ball from Matt Fish after keeper Lee Nicholls had been deceived by the wind, the ball flying over him to allow the centre forward to convert from close range.
After a competitive second half Weston produced a piece of individual brilliance to place a shot beyond Nicholls in to the bottom corner to put the game beyond Adrian Boothroyd’s side.
Northampton had chances with Clive Platt and Ben Harding coming close, but the entire Gills team defended as a unit and ensured their opponents didn’t work a way back in to the game.
Martin Allen made four changes to the side that drew with York – Charlie Allen, Adam Birchall, Danny Kedwell and Chris Whelpdale making way for Matt Fish, Myles Weston, Deon Burton and Cody McDonald.
Ben Strevens returned to the substitute’s bench with Allen, Birchall, Whelpdale and Kedwell keeping him company.
Charlie Lee was deemed fit for a starting place despite his nasty head injury which temporarily forced him off on Saturday – Frampton and Gregory lined up in the centre.
The game itself didn’t take too long to get going with the very first opportunity resulting in a goal after three minutes. A long ball forward from Matt Fish, aided by the ever increasing wind, got the better of advancing keeper Lee Nicholls and McDonald was left with the task of tapping in to an open net.
It was the striker’s second goal in as many games after signing on loan from Coventry and got the hosts off to the best possible start. The Gills full back used the conditions to his advantage and the goalkeeper was wrong footed as the conditions progressively worsened.
Chances for Clive Platt and Luke Guttridge passed for the visitors shortly after the re-start before McDonald struck over the bar on 14 minutes as he looked to double the advantage at the earliest opportunity.
Five minutes later and Stuart Nelson had to look alert to deny Platt for the second time with his header being clawed away before Leon Legge put his body on the line to prevent Ben Harding from following up.
Jake Robinson tried his luck from 25 yards just moments later but could only find one of the spectators in the Rainham End. He tried again via a Ben Tozer throw on 27 minutes but could only find another supporter as he scuppered another chance.
A minute later and Burton attempted a spectacular overhead kick at the far post from a tight angle following a long throw from Lee. The veteran striker watched it all the way and very nearly placed it in the bottom corner, but sadly for the fans who naturally applauded the effort, it only found the side netting.
A midfield battle thereafter ensued with both teams wanting to take control. A Joe Martin corner very nearly deceived Nicholls as it swung in towards the far post, but the keeper was equal this time and caught well before the whistle sounded for the interval.
The second half started quietly although both sides enjoyed good spells of possession. Chances were few and far between in the opening quarter of an hour as the weather continued to make playing conditions awkward.
On 63 minutes the Gills faithful welcomed back Adebayo Akinfenwa who replaced Luke Guttridge to give the visitors more of an attacking option, his presence immediately noticeable as his team-mates used him as the obvious target man.
A couple of corners soon followed as Northampton began to apply some pressure, but the centre-half pairing of Barrett and Legge seemed impenetrable as the back four did their utmost to preserve a clean sheet.
McDonald nearly prospered from a similar long ball which gave him his goal – Langmead just about clearing his lines before the striker was able to put him under too much pressure.
The home side refused to settle for a one goal advantage and continued to attack, however Northampton were going for broke and brought on Ishmel Demontagnac with 10 minutes to go in the hope of achieving at least a draw.
With seven minutes left to play Chris Whelpdale replaced goal scorer Cody McDonald, and just seconds later the home side doubled their lead.
Weston latched on to a goal kick from Nelson, he took on a couple of defenders and launched a left foot shot across Nicholls which hit the inside of the post and then nestled in to the back of the net to signal an eruption around the stadium.
The finish was first class from the midfielder and he deservedly received a standing ovation when he was subsequently replaced by Danny Kedwell. Charlie Allen was introduced soon after as he took to the field in place of Charlie Lee.
Despite late efforts from the visitors to snatch a goal, they were unable to break down a stubborn Gillingham who deservedly returned to the top of League Two after a solid, professional display.
Gills: Nelson, Fish, Legge, Barrett, Martin, Lee (Allen 90), Gregory, Frampton, Weston (Kedwell 86), Burton, McDonald (Whelpdale 82)
Unused subs: Forecast, Davies, Strevens, Birchall.
Northampton: Nicholls, Widdowson, Guttridge (Akinfenwa 63), Langmead, Harding, Platt, Hackett, Tozer, Robinson (Demontagnac 80), Hornby, Carlisle.
Unused subs: Johnson, Snedker, Wilson, Moult, Oyeleke.
Referee: Mr G Salisbury
Attendance: 5,600 (183 Northampton)
Goals: McDonald (3), Weston (83).
Bookings: Barrett (12), Carlisle (16), Widdowson (90+5)