Ben Pringle pulls the strings as the Gills suffer a heavy defeat at the New York Stadium
An early injury to John Mousinho sparked a difficult afternoon for the Gills as Rotherham’s three first half goals set the visitors on course to defeat.
Elliot Hewitt and Craig Fagan both picked up injuries in the week, so Peter Taylor was forced to make three changes for the trip to the New York Stadium. Charlie Lee and Chris Whelpdale returned to the midfield and Cody McDonald joined Danny Kedwell in attack.
After containing the home side in the opening stages, the Gills first chance fell to Charlie Lee in the fifth minute. McDonald cleared a Barrett header to Kedwell, who in turn found the run of Lee, but his drive from distance drifted the wrong side of the keeper’s top right corner.
Four minutes later the Millers took the lead with their first chance of the match. A ball forward found Nouha Dicko lurking on the left edge of the area, he cut inside, and shot across Stuart Nelson to curl the ball into the far corner and put the hosts in front.
Lee Frecklington chanced his arm from long range, without success, Dicko curled another fierce effort wide from the left angle of the box before the Gills were dealt a cruel blow in the 20th minute. John Mousinho raced onto a ball behind the defence, only to pull up clutching his right hamstring, to be replaced shortly after by Myles Weston.
Before the visitors could make the change the home side netted their second goal of the game on 23 minutes. A deep cross from Ben Pringle was headed back across goal by Alex Revell, it was partially cleared to Kieran Agard and the Rotherham striker slotted home from 12 yards out.
Adam Barrett went close with a header from a 25th minute corner, while Revell hooked a loose Pringle corner wide of the mark, then the Millers extended their lead ten minutes from the break. Ben Pringle collecting a pass in the centre circle and racing at goal before rolling a sublime finish into Nelson’s bottom left corner.
Agard saw another shot deflected wide from a Pringle free-kick, then a box to box run from the latter saw Dicko fire into the side-netting. Two minutes from the break Nelson pulled off a stunning save to deny Millers full-back James Tavernier’s powerful strike.
Barrett was on hand to cut out another rasping drive from Frecklington in time added-on at the end of the first half, but three goals down at the break, the Gills were left facing an uphill battle to take anything from game.
The home side continued to look sharp after the restart, Daniels doing well to cut out Agard’s low shot across goal from Pringle’s neat through pass. Then Nelson was called into action again to save acrobatically from Tavernier’s powerhouse finish from the left edge of the area.
Gills were unlucky not to pull one back on 52 minutes, Cody McDonald shooting goalwards at the near post, only for Kari Arnason to deflect behind with a block tackle. From the resulting corner, a well worked routine gave Danny Kedwell space to shoot but his effort cleared the crossbar.
More stalwart defending denied further efforts from Pringle and Dicko as the home side continued to dominate, whilst Gillingham probed for a route back into the game on the counter attack, spurred on by some outstanding support from the 250 travelling fans.
In the 65th minute Peter Taylor sent on Bayo Akinfewa for Danny Kedwell and with his first touch the big man created a goal for Cody McDonald. Bayo flicked on Nelson’s long goal kick to send Cody one-on-one with Adam Collin, and the striker tucked a deft finish beyond the keeper’s reach for 3-1.
Revell and Dicko spurned further chances for the home side but the Gills were finding space in the opposition half and drew another save from Collin with a Chris Whelpdale chip from the right hand edge of the area.
Sadly the Gills good spell of pressure was ended 15 minutes from time as a ball out wide found Rotherham loanee James Tavernier, he took a touch and cut in from the left before smacking a rising drive over the Gills custodian to secure the points for the home side.
For the final five minutes of the match creative midfielder Jake Hessenthaler came on to make his senior debut at the expense of Whelpdale but there was no route back into the game for the Gills.
Attendance: 7152 (Gillingham 248)
Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Chris Whelpdale (Jake Hessenthaler 85), Danny Kedwell (Bayo Akinfenwa 64), Cody McDonald, Danny Hollands, Michael Harriman, Adam Barrett, Charlie Lee, Donervon Daniels, John Mousinho (Myles Weston 24).
Subs not used: George Howard, Callum Davies, Bradley Dack, Joe Carter.
Rotherham United: Adam Collin, James Tavernier, Kari Arnason, Craig Morgan, Joe Skarz (Richard Brindley 38), Kieran Agard, Michael Tidser (Matt Tubbs 88), Lee Frecklington, Ben Pringle, Nouha Dicko, Alex Revell (Haris Vuckic 83)
Subs not used: Scott Shearer, Claude Davis, Pablo Mills