Gills secure comfortable win at Homelands
The Gills rounded off a positive start to their pre-season campaign after defeating Ashford United 2-1 at Homelands on Saturday afternoon.
Aiden Blanchard and Leon Legge got the goals for the hosts, and despite Ashford getting one back before the interval they were unable to break down a stubborn Gills back line for a second time.
Manager Martin Allen named the teams for both of Saturday’s games on Friday afternoon, so as expected new signing Amine Linganzi lined up for the Gills in midfield during the first half with Joe Martin starting at left-back having recently signed a new two-year deal.
First year scholars were given the opportunity to show what they could do in the second half after training with the senior players all week, but Chris Whelpdale lined up alongside them to lend a helping hand.
Martin Allen’s side burst out of the blocks and nearly went a goal up within two minutes.
Myles Weston found some space on the left hand side and delivered a terrific ball in to the path of Nathan Nyafli – he attempted a header in to the far corner but was narrowly off target with the keeper well beaten.
However within 60 seconds the visitors showed the difference in class and went a goal ahead.
Weston again sprinted down the left flank to receive the ball from an advancing Joe Martin, and although his cross was half cleared it found its way to Aiden Blanchard who struck well beyond the keeper to give the fans something to shout about early doors.
Ten minutes later and Gowan was called in to action for the first time when Buster Smissen forced a fine save from the Gills stopper before Jack Parter got back to concede only a corner.
From that Adam Cuthbert struck just over the bar after a decent delivery from Ollie Finch – Gowan had it covered all the way but wasn’t called upon to make a save.
Gills got back on top quickly and Martin scampered forward again on 16 minutes to support Weston on the wing.
The full back managed to pick out Tom Derry but his effort forced a comfortable stop for Joe Mant.
Six minutes later and Nyafli, who scored his first goal for the club in the Gills last game of the season against Burton in April, scuffed an effort at the near post before Derry nearly doubled the lead with some clever footwork before producing a powerful effort which Mant did well to keep out.
Charlie Allen was next to come close – Martin picked out a fantastic long ball for the energetic midfielder, he did his best to beat the keeper in to the top corner but he was slightly off target.
Ashford drew level on the half hour mark against the run of play. Liam Whiting attempted an audacious effort from all of 25 yards which deceived Gowan who was off his line by a couple of yards and could do nothing to prevent the ball going past him.
However the Gills continued to play in the same way and Amine Linganzi showed some strength and power in the middle of the park to play in Nyafli.
The striker did the correct thing in dinking Mant who had once again come to collect but luckily for him the ball went over the bar.
The recently promoted Kent League side very nearly took a surprise lead a couple of minutes later when Gary Micklebournough went through one-on-one with Gowan.
The keeper narrowed the gap well and the striker was unable to convert and when the ball came back to him Martin was on hand to clear the danger.
Allen went close again on 40 minutes before Leon Legge gave the Gills a deserved lead. Weston again the architect as he delivered a superb ball to the back post and the defender rose highest to make the half time team talk slightly easier.
The second half started very quietly with neither side having a chance on goal until the 56th minute, and that opportunity fell to the Gills.
Devante McKain found Mahlon Romeo on the right hand side who advanced forward before picking out Jack Sellens in the box.
His effort was just wide but it very nearly rounded off a great team effort with three of the younger players in the squad showing their pedigree.
A minute later and Charlie Webster decided to get in on the act – he had a shot from just outside the area but failed to trouble Mant between the sticks.
Ashford hit the crossbar on 66 minutes after McKain had given the ball away in a dangerous area of the pitch.
The striker forced a great save from Gowan, and this miss nearly proved costly for the hosts as Derry found himself in some space on the left flank.
He pulled it back to Sellens whose shot hit the bar before coming off the keeper and away to safety.
Webster tried again on 73 minutes to extend the lead but this time found his shot well saved by Mant who got his fingertips to the curling shot to prevent a third goal.
Two of the Ashford subs then forced two decent saves from Gowan. The first was straight at him but he got up well to get to a weaker second effort, but by this time the defence had got back to try and eliminate a potential equalizer.
The Gills saw out of the rest of the game with relative ease to record a solid win.
Martin Allen will be hoping for more of the same when his team travel to Bromley next weekend after seeing his first match squad defeat Faversham 4-2 at Salters Lane earlier in the day.
Gowan, Parter (Webster 45), Legge (McKain 45), Freiter (Dickinson 45), Martin (Romeo 45), Linganzi (Hessenthaler 45), Blanchard (Cundle 45), Allen (Leonard 45), Weston (Whelpdale 45), Nyafli (Sellens 45), Derry. Gills:
: Mant, Cuthbert, Whiting, Jordan, Wallace, Finch, Clark, Cuthbert, Smissen, Micklebournough, Byrne.Ashford