Matt Fish strike clinches three points
Gillingham moved eight points clear at the top of League Two after a stunning Matt Fish strike in the first half was enough to see off Accrington Stanley 1-0 at MEMS Priestfield on Saturday afternoon.
The right back let fly with a 20-yard screamer on his left foot mid-way through the opening half, and although the Gills had opportunities to extend their lead, they had to make do with a one goal victory as they extended their unbeaten run to five games.
Martin Allen made three changes to the side that drew against Rochdale on Tuesday evening, two of which forced upon the Gills Manager.
Andy Frampton was suspended for the game following his dismissal at Spotland so Steven Gregory adopted the holding midfield position.
Bradley Dack hobbled off midweek so Charlie Allen took his place while Deon Burton replaced Antonio German in attack.
Myles Weston returned to the substitute’s bench after his injury layoff with Charlie Lee and Adam Birchall joining him for company.
The opening exchanges belonged to the Gills who enjoyed more of the possession in the first 10 minutes, however the closest the hosts came to opening the score was a blocked free-kick from Deon Burton whose effort cannoned off the wall.
On 16 minutes Allen nearly found the bottom corner with a strike from just outside the box. He tried to place one to the keeper’s left hand side but the shot just went wide with Rachubka struggling to get across.
Just over a minute later and only a goal line clearance prevented the Gills from going a goal up. Allen’s free kick found Leon Legge whose header found its way to Burton, his strike beat the goalkeeper but Tom Aldred got back to clear off the line.
The same player was on hand moments later to deny Danny Kedwell. Joe Martin got to the byline and found the striker at the back post – the forward’s effort was heading goal bound but Aldred once more was alert to the threat to concede a corner which Adam Barrett headed wide from.
This continuous pressure from the hosts finally paid off on 23 minutes. Fish got forward and from just outside the penalty area unleashed a powerful effort on his left foot.
Rachubka failed to get across and the ball hit the underside of the cross bar before crossing the line to give Fish his third goal of the season.
It was a timely goal given the Gills dominance up to that point and eased any nerves that the fans and players may have had during the first quarter of the match.
The hosts maintained a similar tempo following the goal and patiently went in search of a second. Accrington did their utmost to utilise former Arsenal striker Francis Jeffers, but skipper Barrett certainly had that battle under control.
With five minutes remaining until the break a smart move from the Gills resulted in a simple catch for Rachubka. A cross from the left hand side after good work from Allen found Anton Robinson, and although unmarked, couldn’t beat the keeper from close range with a header.
Seconds later Chris Whelpdale found himself one-on-one with the former Manchester United youngster but scuffed his shot straight in to the hands of the Accrington number one.
Martin very nearly beat the stopper a few seconds later but his drilled shot cleared the far post by a matter of inches.
The second half begun like the first with both sides enjoying good spells of possession. Gils produced the best of the chances though - Whelpdale having a shot deflected over the bar before Barrett headed a couple of yards too high.
The visitors nearly equalised against the run of play on 56 minutes when Peter Murphy forced a point blank save out of Stuart Nelson before the rebound was eventually cleared.
The Gills defence stood firm as Accrington began to press and the keeper had to be alert again a few moments later when Jeffers tried to place one in the top right hand corner. Nelson however caught the shot before watching a glancing header from the same player go wide just after the hour mark.
On 64 minutes Gregory tried his luck from range following a corner kick before Myles Weston and Antonio German entered the action in place of Charlie Allen and Deon Burton.
The pace of the two subs had a progressive impact with both stretching the Accrington defence and getting in behind the two centre-backs to create chances – German in particular causing a lot of issues for the visiting back four.
However Accrington nearly levelled up the scores in the 86th minute when Craig Lindfield’s corner was only just kept out by Nelson who got fingertips to the cross which was just enough to get it wide as the clock began to tick down.
Five minutes of added time were awarded and the Gills had to withstand heavy pressure in the dying stages with Rachubka even making an appearance inside the box. Lee Molyneux tried his luck from distance twice but failed to hit the target.
Gills: Nelson, Fish, Martin, Legge, Barrett, Gregory (Lee 84), Allen (Weston 64), Robinson, Whelpdale, Kedwell, Burton (German 64)
Unused subs: Forecast, Davies, East, Weston, Birchall, German.
Accrington: Rachubka, Murphy, Joyce, Winnard, Barnett (Lindfield 44), Hatfield, Molyneux, Alred, Linganzi, Wilson, Jeffers (Beattie 71).
Unused subs: Dunbavin, Liddle, Miller, Clark, Gray.
Referee: Mr B Malone
Attendance: 10,097 (28 Accrington)
Bookings: Barnett (37)
Goals: Fish (23)