Bayo grabs late consolation as the Lions win at PriestfieldThree first-half goals in a strong performance from visiting Championship outfit Millwall, in which on-loan striker Steve Morison was outstanding, all but decided this pre-season friendly at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
With Stuart Nelson pulling off a number of good saves, to their credit the Gills didn’t concede again after the break and even pulled one back 13 minutes from time when substitute Bayo Akinfenwa netted with decent a looping header.
Gillingham manager Martin Allen made just one change to the team that had started against Ipswich Town on Tuesday, summer signing Amine Linganzi replacing Harry Grant in midfield as they lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Among the nine substitutes was former West Ham defender Bondz N’Gala who was released by Stevenage in the summer.
Meanwhile Lions new boss Steve Lomas brought a strong 21-man squad, in a luminous all-orange kit, that included one youngster and one trialist on the bench. A familiar face included in the starting XI was midfielder Josh Wright who played at Priestfield on loan in 2008-09, his last appearance coming at Wembley in the play-off final victory against Shrewsbury.
In the fifth minute a long ball upfield from Nelson was chased by Cody McDonald that caused confusion for Millwall skipper Danny Shittu and keeper David Forde, as the pair hesitated the ball trickled wide.
Two minutes later Millwall took the lead, Nadjim Abdou was tackled as he broke into the area and the ball fell invitingly for Morison, signed on a season-long loan from Leeds United, gave Nelson no chance as he rammed his left-foot volley home from eight yards.
With a quarter of an hour gone the visitors went close again, marauding left-back Scott Malone crossed from the left and Morison rose unmarked around six yards out but headed wide of Nelson’s left-hand post.
Then in the 19th minute the visitors did increase their lead, Morison finding space to move onto a pass from Liam Feeney to smack home a low, angled drive.
Although not as warm as recently, in fact it was a grey, overcast day, the players took the opportunity to have a water break with 20 minutes gone when Lions defender Jimmy Smith required some treatment.
Another three minutes on and another chance fell for Morison. Feeney saw his deflected cross from the right flicked on by Andy Keogh to his fellow striker at the far post but he somehow steered the ball wide of the far post.
It was 3-0 in the 28th minute though, Morison was the provider this time as his cross from the right was met by Keogh who gave Nelson little chance with a header from around ten yards. The large travelling contingent were certainly happy.
The first real shot in anger for the Gills came in the 31st minute but Chris Whelpdale’s fierce effort didn’t get past Danny Shittu who blocked on the edge of the area. Moments later an angled dipping effort from Matt Fish dropped just over the bar.
In the next attack McDonald found some space but was crowded out, Danny Kedwell and Linganzi also couldn’t manage to get a shot in before Whelpdale saw another strike come back off Shittu and Steven Gregory smacked the loose ball wide.
The Lions were quickly back on the attack and Keogh put a close range header, from another Feeney ball in, straight at Nelson.
A ball from Kedwell saw Bradley Dack cause the Millwall rearguard some problems allowing Whelpdale to fire a low ball across the face of goal.
H/T: Gills 0 – 3 Lions
There were two changes for the South Londoners at the break with Alan Dunne and Jermaine Easter replacing Josh Wright and Andy Keogh.
The opening chance of the second-half saw Gregory put the ball just over the top from the edge of the area.
It was soon back to the other end and Fish saw his attempted clearance blocked enabling James Henry to have a shot turned aside by Nelson. Easter then headed over the bar after Linganzi had blocked another Henry effort.
A Dack corner then fell invitingly for Whelpdale at the far post but the shot was miscued wide before, at the other end, Nelson was called into action once again helping a curling Malone effort over.
The Gills went close again in the 59th minute following a free-kick given for Shittu holding Kedwell. The latter touched the ball for Dack to drill a low strike goalwards but it deflected off the wall to Whelpdale who fired a left-footer into the side netting.
Martin Allen made his first substitutions straight after this with Charlie Allen and Antonio German taking the places of Dack and McDonald.
One of a mass of Millwall changes in the 64th minute, Dany N’Guessan, had just seen a close range effort blocked before he stung the hands of Nelson with a cracking strike and within a minute the crossbar was shaking as another of the former Lincoln man’s shots came back off the woodwork.
Ten minutes later there were six more Gills changes, bringing the number of players to get a run out to 19, as Sam Muggleton, Callum Davies, Kane Haysman, Jake Hessenthaler, Bayo Akinfenwa and Bondz N’Gala all coming on.
It took just two minutes for the Gills to pull one back, Haysman fed the overlapping Martin down the left and his deep cross found former Millwall man Akinfenwa who beat Forde with a looping header that dropped in at the far post.
Once again, just like on Tuesday, Muggleton’s long throws, or weapons, caused the Lions defenders a few problems but unfortunately the ball just wouldn’t drop kindly for a team-mate.
As time elapsed Easter had a shot blocked by Davies, N’Guessan went down theatrically in the area but referee Mike Bull waved away appeals before Easter had another pop. This time his shot on the turn flew wide of the target.
The Gills had late penalty appeals of their own turned down in the 90th minute when Hessenthaler looked to turn the ball back which seemed to hit the hands of Nicky Shorey, they were awarded a corner instead.
Gills – Nelson, Fish (Haysman 74), Martin, Legge (N’Gala 74), Barrett, Gregory (Muggleton 74), Dack (Allen 59), Linganzi (Davies 74), Whelpdale (Hessenthaler 74), Kedwell (Akinfenwa 74), McDonald (German 59) Unused subs: Gowans
Lions – Forde, Smith (Chaplow 64), Malone (Shorey 64), Beevers (Osborne 64), Shittu (Robinson 64), Abdou, Feeney (McManus 86), Henry (Woolford 64), Wright (Dunne H/T), Keogh (Easter H/T), Morison (N’Guessan 64) Unused sub: Bywater
Referee: Mike Bull
Assistants: Stuart Butler & Ian Cooper
Fourth official: Kevin Walsh