Gills clinch victory over CoventryA late 40-yard strike from Jake Hessenthaler summed up a terrific night for Gillingham as they defeated ten man Coventry City 4-2 at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Two penalties from Bayo Akinfenwa, the first of which resulting in a straight red card for Captain Dan Seaborne, and a looping header from Myles Weston ensured the Gills always remained in front, but a spot kick apiece from Callum Wilson and substitute Carl Baker made the hosts sweat for all three points.
However with seconds remaining of normal time Hessenthaler took advantage of Joe Murphy’s decision to come for a 50/50 ball with Cody McDonald, and the midfielder did brilliantly to score from distance.
Peter Taylor made two changes for the game with Craig Fagan and Joe Pigott being replaced by Bayo Akinfenwa and Charlie Lee, who scored the winner in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Crawley.
Amine Linganzi returned to the subs bench in place of Adam Birchall, with Joe Pigott and Gary Borrowdale also available to change things around.
The early stages proved to be a midfield battle with neither team dominating play, although the Gills enjoyed the better of the possession.
An early McDonald effort was drilled just wide, before Akinfenwa was booked on nine minutes after preventing keeper Murphy from taking a free kick.
Leon Legge headed just over the bar ten minutes later, prior to the first real talking point of the game unfolded when Seaborne brought McDonald down inside the penalty area as the last man.
The striker hassled the centre-back and eventually won the ball before the defender mis-timed a challenge which saw McDonald hit the deck.
The referee awarded a penalty kick but initially decided not to take any action before his assistant called him over and, after a brief discussion, the Coventry player was sent off.
Akinfenwa stepped up confidentially and sent the keeper the wrong way to open the scoring. With Danny Kedwell absent the big forward accepted spot kick responsibility, and he didn’t need a second invite as he calmly slotted beyond Murphy.
Bayo nearly made it two on 31 minutes but his header was off target while Nathan Delfouneso, on loan from Aston Villa, saw his near post effort fail to trouble Stuart Nelson.
The second half came to life almost immediately with Coventry being awarded a spot kick on 50 minutes.
Legge was adjudged to have fouled Wilson inside the box, and he dusted himself off to bring the scores level with a good penalty of his own.
Nelson went the right way but was unable to get any contact on the effort as the Coventry fans celebrated their ten men getting back on level terms.
However their joy would last only six minutes as Weston restored the advantage courtesy of a great finish.
Charlie Lee used his long throw to his advantage and found Legge who got enough on it to divert the ball towards Weston, he controlled his header and placed it up and over Murphy who was helpless to do anything about it.
The effort dipped at the last moment and Gills found themselves 2-1 up.
On 75 minutes it became 3-1 when the referee pointed to the spot for the third time – Cody McDonald was brought down inside the box as he attempted to cross for Akinfenwa, the Gills number eight hit the post but the referee pulled the advantage back and gave the penalty.
Bayo stepped up and tucked away his second spot kick of the evening.
However Darren Sheldrake gave a fourth penalty on 83 minutes when Legge, for a second time, brought down Callum Wilson and substitute Carl Baker reduced the deficit to just one goal with less than ten minutes to play.
With Coventry looking for the equaliser they left themselves exposed at the back, and a long ball forward was contested by both Murphy and the relentless McDonald who forced a short clearance.
Hessenthaler read the situation and shot from 40 yards – the effort was on target and hit the underside of the bar before going in.
It was Jake’s first ever goal in a Gillingham shirt, and it guaranteed the points with just a few minutes of added time to play.
The Sky Blues continued to press forward but the hosts ensured they were not beaten for a third time, and the result sees Peter Taylor’s men go eight points clear of the relegation places.
Man of the Match – Bayo Akinfenwa
Gills: Nelson, Hewitt, Legge, Barrett, Martin, Gregory, Hessenthaler (Davies 90), Weston, Lee (Linganzi 70), McDonald, Akinfenwa (Fagan 77).
Unused subs: Baxter, Borrowdale, Dack, Pigott
Coventry: Murphy, Webster, Thomas, Fleck, Delfouneso (Baker 70), Moussa (Marshall 82), Seaborne, Willis, Wilson, Clarke, Petrasso (Adams 27).
Unused subs: Christie, McGeouch, Burge, Barton
Goals: Akinfenwa pens 25 & 75, Weston 56 & Hessenthaler 90. Wilson Pen 53, Baker Pen 80
Referee: Mr D Sheldrake
Attendance: 5,447 (268)