An improved performance by the Gills but Palace take the spoils at PriestfieldThe Gills put in a far better performance than at the weekend but were beaten by three clinical goals from Premier League newcomers Crystal Palace at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Unfortunately the home side were unable to take advantage of a superb purple patch at the start of the second-half and were ultimately killed off as the visitors struck twice more in the space of four minutes.
Gillingham boss Martin Allen took the chance to give 19 players varying amounts of time on the pitch as everything gears up towards the League One opener against Colchester United here in just 11 days from now.
There were two changes to the starting XI from the first-half against the Lions on Saturday, Charlie Allen came in for Steven Gregory in midfield while up front Bayo Akinfenwa replaced Cody McDonald.
On the bench alongside fellow trialist Bondz N’Gala was former Charlton Athletic keeper George Howard who kept goal for Bromley in the recent friendly with the Gills at Hayes Lane – he was the only named player not to get a run-out.
Meanwhile Eagles manager Ian Holloway named a 22-man squad, mostly first-teamers but with a couple of trialists and youngsters thrown in. He also brought on a 23rd and un-listed player, trialist Osman Sow, late on just to cause a little confusion in the press box.
It was the visitors, with just one friendly behind them, that almost got off to a great start when within the opening minute Kyle De Silva put Eagles record-signing Dwight Gayle through but Stuart Nelson pulled off a great one-handed save to turn the shot aside. From Jose Campana’s resultant corner Atdie Nuhiu, a giant under-21 Austrian international, saw his header clip the top of the bar.
The Gills first shot of the night came in the sixth minute but Chris Whelpdale’s strike didn’t trouble Julian Speroni in the Palace goal, two minutes later an Allen free-kick was met by skipper Adam Barrett but his back-header cleared the bar.
It was certainly a lively opening and both sets of supporters were in full voice. Within a minute Nelson was making a fine save down low to his left to keep out a downward header from Gayle.
After Leon Legge put a powerful header over the top the action once again reverted to the other end again and former Sevilla midfielder Campana tested Nelson with a long-range strike, which required Barrett to tidy up.
The lively Gayle again tested Nelson in the 17th minute, his low strike from the edge of the area was finger-tipped round the post by the keeper.
Danny Kedwell fired a shot at Speroni from distance but it was the South London side that took the lead in the 21st minute. A left-wing corner was cleared out to left-back Dean Moxey around 30 yards out who smacked a low, first-time shot through the crowded area and just inside the diving Nelson’s left-hand post.
Akinfenwa had a good chance to level matters in the 28th minute when Whelpdale pulled the ball back perfectly but the Gills striker failed to keep his effort down.
Fellow striker Kedwell was the next to have a go, following a touch from Akinfenwa, but unfortunately his shot from just outside the area was also too high.
The Gills were a bit fortuitous in the 40th minute when Moxey got a foot to the ball as Allen looked to usher the ball out of play and knocked the ball across goal but thankfully there was no Palace player to take advantage.
H/T: Gills 0 – 1 Palace
It was jacket off time for Ian Holloway at the break as he changed the entire Palace XI while the Gills didn’t make any substitutions, that seemed to show as Martin Allen’s side got a strong grip on the game.
Former Eagle Matt Fish had the first shot of the second-half for the Gills but Ross Fitzsimons wasn’t troubled at his near post. Then with 52 minutes on the clock Whelpdale struck a fierce effort at the keeper from around 20-yards which the young keeper was able to collect at the second attempt.
The first Gillingham changes came in the 56th minute with Steven Gregory and Cody McDonald replacing Bradley Dack and Akinfenwa.
With the new-look visitors seemingly taking time to settle and it was Kedwell that went close again in the 57th minute, he cut inside from the left but dragged a low shot narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Substitute McDonald then had a half chance, a decent Fish cross was met by the Gills striker but a defender got in an important block.
Joe Martin curled a right-footer just wide of the target in between two chances for Premier League outfit. First Stephen Dobbie fired over following a rapid break from Quincy Owusu-Abeyie and then Yannick Bolasie floated an effort from distance on to the roof of the net.
Suddenly out of nothing the visitors went two-up in the 68th minute when Dobbie was able to move forward and drill a low shot past a static Nelson from long range. The Gills took the opportunity to make another change with Callum Davies taking the place of Legge in defence.
McDonald looked to have a chance to reduce the deficit in the 71st minute when he went clear of the Palace rearguard but young defender Alex Wynter made a great recovery tackle to thwart him.
Antonio German replaced Kedwell moments later but almost immediately the Eagles went three ahead as Owusu-Abeyie went through to slot past the advancing Gills keeper.
Bolasie went close to increasing the lead following another quick break but his fiercely struck shot from the left of the area thundered against the bar.
Sam Muggleton and Stephen Butcher then replaced Allen and Fish, who had been given a torrid time by the Eagles fans in the second-half after a rash challenge on Owusu-Abeyie, in the 83rd minute and at the same time Palace trialist Sow, a Swedish striker, went on for Joel Ward.
Muggleton cracked a shot over the top before Amine Linganzi was substituted by Harry Grant with four minutes remaining.
The only other moment of note was the final change that saw Bondz N’Gala going on for Martin with a minute of normal time remaining.
Gills – Nelson, Fish (Butcher 83), Martin (N’Gala 89), Legge (Davies 68), Barrett, Linganzi (Grant 86), Whelpdale, Dack (Gregory 56), Allen (Muggleton 83), Kedwell (German 72), Akinfenwa (McDonald 56) Unused subs – Howard
Palace (first-half) - Speroni, Taylor, Campana, De Silva, Jedinak, Gayle, Nuhiu, Jonny Williams, Moxey, Delaney, Ramage
Palace (second-half) - Fitzsimons, Ward (Sow 83), Jerome Williams, Bolasie, Owusu-Abeyie, Dobbie, O’Keefe, Nicholson, Wilbraham, Gabbidon, Wynter
Referee: Gavin Ward
Assistants: Paul Kelly & Lee Venamore
Fourth Official: David Smart