Gills move five points clear at the top after home victoryAntonio German and Chris Whelpdale both scored to help secure the three points for the Gills in a convincing victory over a battling Plymouth Argyle.
The result, in front of a season best crowd of over 10,000 who gave the side marvellous backing throughout, was far more comfortable than it may actually look although the Gills were made to hang on in the closing stages after the struggling Devon side pulled one back with around 15 minutes remaining.
It was a confidence boosting home performance which was played at a very high tempo.
With Port Vale losing at home, Martin Allen’s side have now moved five points clear at the top of the League Two table and have the luxury of a game in hand.
There were two changes to the Gillingham starting XI from last week’s draw at Aldershot, in came Bradley Dack and Antonio German, the latter for his full debut, and they replaced Charlie Lee and Deon Burton.
The Gills had a great chance to open the scoring in the fourth minute, German broke down the right before Dack took over. He crossed perfectly to the far post where Chris Whelpdale was waiting but the winger couldn’t keep his header down.
Moments later a long Whelpdale throw was glanced on by Danny Kedwell but Jake Cole was alert in the Argyle goal to collect at his near post.
Gillingham, backed by a big crowd, had the better of the opening exchanges, breaking forward at every opportunity and with Dack, Kedwell and German working hard, they won a couple of corners. Half chances fell to both Dack and German but neither were able to hit the target.
Then in the 15th minute a speculative snapshot from around 30-yards from German forced Cole into a sprawling save low to his right.
Martin Allen’s side continued to press although the visitors did look threatening on the break.
Ten minutes later some parts of the crowd thought that Anton Robinson had scored following another Whelpdale throw, but unfortunately his angled drive flew into the side netting.
A 30th minute foul by Maxime Blanchard on Dack proved costly as from the resultant free-kick the Gills went ahead. Dack took the kick which deflected off Pilgrims skipper Hourihane at the near post and when the ball dropped German was able to hook the ball home from inside the six yard box.
He became the 20th different player to find the net for the Gills this season.
Just a couple of minutes before the break the home side went close to increasing the lead. A measured left-wing cross from Joe Martin was met by a diving Dack who unfortunately headed straight at Cole from around eight yards.
H/T: 1 – 0
The first shot of the second-half came from Onismor Bhasera which was blocked but then at the other end Matt Fish fired an effort over the top.
Stuart Nelson, who had seen little action previously, was forced into a brilliant tip over in the 55th minute when a Jason Banton strike struck a Gills defender and looked to be looping over the keeper who did well to backpedal and touch the ball over.
Martin saw a fierce drive blocked but the Gills did go two up in the 61st minute. Whelpdale’s perfectly timed pass sent German through the middle, he rounded the advancing Cole but saw his shot come back off the post. Whelpdale however had continued his run and was in the right place to tap home his seventh goal of the season from close range.
Before the restart Deon Burton replaced German and five minutes later Whelpdale was withdrawn with Newcastle United loanee Michael Richardson being given his debut.
This week’s new arrival Danny East then came on for his debut in the 73rd minute, he replaced the hard working Dack. Argyle boss John Sheridan also played his last card at that point by making his third substitution of the half.
Adam Barrett went close with a rising shot but it was the Devon outfit that did find the net. Luke Young had just tested Nelson with a low free-kick when from the resultant corner the deficit was reduced in the 76th minute.
There were appeals for a penalty against Leon Legge as Young’s corner dropped but these were waved away. However when the ball was only half cleared Jason Banton drilled a low, angled shot through a crowded area and beyond the diving Nelson into the corner of the net.
The Gills got back on the attack with Richardson looking lively, fellow new boy East then struck a low shot goalwards only to see it blocked.
Banton had another chance for the visitors in the 87th minute, the Crystal Palace loanee cut inside from the left-wing but this time blazed his shot way over the top.
The lively winger had the next Argyle effort too, right at the start of the four minutes added on, this one crashed into the side netting.
Hearts were in the mouth when former Ebbsfleet United striker Gozie Ugwu went down in the area under a challenge from Legge but referee Craig Pawson once again waved away the visitors appeal.
The final whistle went shortly afterwards and there was a massive cheer from three-quarters of the ground.
Gills – Nelson, Fish, Martin, Legge, Barrett, Whelpdale (Richardson 67m), Gregory, Robinson, Dack (East 73), Kedwell, German (Burton 62) Unused subs:, Lee, Davies, Birchall, Forecast,
Argyle – Cole, Blanchard, Branston, Hourihane (Young 73), Cox, Bhasera, Banton, Reid, Charles (Cowan-Hall 62), Gurrieri, Murray (Ugwu 55m) Unused subs:, , Chadwick, Chenoweth, Wotton, Richards
Attendance: 10,260 (404 Plymouth fans)
Referee – Craig Pawson
Assistants - Nicholas Cooper & Christopher Powell
Fourth Official – Lee Venamore