Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald score vital goals as Gills seal all three points against TranmereSecond half goals from Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald brought Gills a step closer to League One safety after a 2-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Good Friday.
Dack celebrated the signing of a new long term contract by coming off the bench to score a spectacular volley inside the area, before Cody McDonald took advantage of Tranmere keeper Owain Fon Williams coming up for a corner by retaining possession and completing an impressive solo effort in the dying moments.
Peter Taylor made three changes to the side that lost to Leyton Orient last weekend with Craig Fagan, Amine Linganzi and Michael Harriman all being dropped to the bench in favour of Steven Gregory, Bayo Akinfenwa and Leon Legge.
Gills had their first chance of the game in the first couple of minutes when Charlie Lee chested the ball down inside the box before sending his volley goal wards, but Matthew Pennington was on hand to make a well-timed block.
Steven Gregory then had a shot which went wide of the target before Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro had his effort well saved by Stuart Nelson.
Gills built on their good start and had another opportunity to open the scoring in the first five minutes when Elliott Hewitt found Lee at the back post, but the midfielder sent his diving header wide of the near post.
A few minutes later and McDonald broke clear of the Tranmere defence for the first time, but the striker took one too many touches and allowed Rovers defender Ian Goodison to make a last ditch tackle.
Not long after and Rovers nearly took the lead against the run of play when top scorer Ryan Lowe found Jake Cassidy inside the box, but the striker's effort was off target.
On the 20 minute mark Lee split the visiting defence with a cutting pass; McDonald beat the offside trap but couldn’t convert the chance as visiting keeper Fon-Williams blocked his shot down low.
Former Premier League player Jason Koumas then floated a ball into the path of Cassidy, but his shot was well blocked by the recovering Adam Barrett who did well to prevent Nelson from making a save.
Lee, who had a lively first half, was again involved after some great work down the left hand side - the midfielder beat his marker before firing a shot onto the back of Tranmere defender Ian Goodison who did enough to divert it away from Fon Williams.
With half an hour on the clock Rovers went within a whisker of breaking the deadlock when Akpa Akpro picked up the ball on the edge of the Gills box before firing a vicious shot just wide of Nelson’s left hand post when some of the crowd thought it had creeped in.
Three minutes later and Gills deadly strike duo of Akinfenwa and McDonald combined to play in Lee before the midfielder was brought down in the box resulting in a corner, which Leon Legge headed wide at the near post.
Akinfenwa then had the best chance of the half himself when he met Jake Hessenthaler’s cross, only for his powerful header to be well tipped over the bar by Fon Williams.
And just before the break Bayo went even closer when he latched on to searching ball from Hewitt, the striker beat the oncoming keeper to the ball and decided to chip Fon Williams only to see the effort go agonisingly wide of the post.
A slow start to the second half saw Myles Weston produce the first half chance when he whipped in a dangerous cross, only to see Matthew Pennington head it clear.
As the hour mark struck Lee played in Cody McDonald with a chip over the back four but the striker’s shot was well saved by Fon Williams. Less than a minute later Tranmere failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to Weston who fired a curling shot just over the bar.
The visitors began to apply heavy pressure and Gills certainly needed keeper Nelson to be alert – he was up to the challenge however as he made two stops in quick succession.
Firstly he got down low to his right to deny Jason Koumas after he sent a venomous volley goal wards. Then a minute later the Gills number one was called upon again as he saved Akpa Akpro’s curling effort.
The Gills found themselves having to defend for a short period in the second half and on 70 minutes Cassidy was allowed to run at the defence before unleashing a 25 yard shot just wide of Nelson’s goal.
The hosts however weathered the storm and ensured Tranmere didn’t gain any consistent momentum - McDonald breaking clear of the Tranmere defence after great work from substitute Danny Kedwell, but his shot was comfortably saved at the near post.
Then, on 78 minutes, the vital breakthrough came when Joe Martin hung up a cross, which Bradley Dack, another substitute, met as he smashed a volley into the far corner.
The midfielder had been on for just over 10 minutes but clinically found the back of the net after meeting the cross perfectly, and despite the best efforts of a recovering defender, they were unable to prevent the opening goal.
Tranmere rarely threatened after that and Gills went in search of a second - Weston having the next meaningful chance when he took on left back Danny Holmes before firing a low shot across the goal which was comfortably saved.
With time running out the keeper went up for a late corner, and the decision proved costly as Nelson punched away the set piece and McDonald received the ball in his own half.
The striker travelled with the ball, shrugged off a couple of challenges before firing in to an empty net to put the game beyond doubt.
The final whistle came shortly afterwards, with Peter Taylor delighted to secure all three points which could prove to be enough to secure safety in Sky Bet League One.
Gills: Stuart Nelson, Elliott Hewitt , Leon Legge , Adam Barrett, Joe Martin, Myles Weston, Jake Hessenthaler, Steven Gregory, Charlie Lee (Bradley Dack 66) , Cody McDonald, Adebayo Akinfenwa (Danny Kedwell 70).
Unused subs: Sam Baxter, Amine Linganzi, Chris Whelpdale, Michael Harriman, Craig Fagan.
Tranmere: Owain Fon-Williams, Ash Taylor, Ian Goodison (Danny Holmes 28), Ryan Lowe (Stephen Arthurworrey 90), Jake Cassidy, Max Power, Junior Brown, Jason Koumas (Cole Stockton 85’), Liam Ridehalgh, J-Louis Akpa Akpro, Matthew Pennington
Unused subs: James Rowe, Jake Kirby, Antoine Boland, Jason Mooney.
Referee: Mr M Naylor
Goals: Dack 78, McDonald 90
Bookings: Martin 35, Hessenthaler 52, Dack 79