Promotion chasing Preston claim narrow 1-0 win over Gillingham at Priestfield StadiumA second half strike from Paul Gallagher prevented Gillingham from clinching at least a point at MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday following a 1-0 defeat.
The former Premier League forward headed the visitors in front on 59 minutes and despite Gills best efforts, Jamie Jones ensured his clean sheet remained intact after a couple of fine saves.
Manager Peter Taylor made five changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Rochdale on Saturday with Stuart Nelson returning between the sticks in place of Stephen Bywater who dropped to the bench.
Gavin Hoyte, Jermaine McGlashan and Joe Martin were all recalled with Danny Kedwell starting up front alongside Cody McDonald – the striker featuring for the first time since late August.
The game started fairly quietly with neither team grabbing the bull by the horns but on eight minutes Jones was forced into a brilliant save when Kedwell came in with a flying header following a brilliantly drilled cross by Martin.
The left back caught the ball well and only the acrobatics of the Preston number one denied the Gills number nine the opening goal.
Three minutes later and it was the Lilywhites who created their first opening. A cross from the left wing was headed away by Legge, but Joe Garner was onto the rebound quickly and with Nelson unsure whether to come or stay, the forward struck the crossbar with a decent header.
John Egan was unlucky on 15 minutes not to score, a corner kick by Hessenthaler was whipped in towards the penalty spot and the centre back got a firm headed connection. With Jones not getting there he was saved by his defender covering the post who cleared away.
Efforts by Gallagher and Garner were off target before Nelson thwarted Chris Humphrey at close range.
On 34 minutes Dickenson was denied what could have been a goal of the season contender. Josh Pritchard found the winger in space with a brilliant pass, the ball was trapped perfectly and Brennan looked up to spot Jones off his line.
On his weaker right foot Dickenson attempted a delicate chip which beat Jones, but sadly for the home faithful came back off the crossbar and away to safety.
Preston started the half slightly better – an early effort by Kilkenny was blocked by Legge before a strong solo run from Dickenson saw him run over half the pitch before blazing a shot over.
Martin produced a brilliant diving header to prevent a goal at the other end shortly after, but on the hour mark he nor Nelson could do anything about the opener.
A cross from the left hand side found Gallagher in a yard of space towards the back post and he headed across goal to find the bottom corner.
After a decent spell of pressure the visitors finally found a breakthrough having hit the post seconds before, and Gills immediately went in search of an equalizer.
However they came up against a resolute Preston back four who were not going to surrender their clean sheet without a fight, and Gills had to work hard to create the openings they needed.
However a Hessenthaler set piece shortly after 70 minutes nearly produced an equalizer. Legge got to the ball first unmarked and had chance to pick his spot from 10 yards but Jones remained untroubled with the ball a yard over the bar.
The keeper had to be alert shortly after though to deny McDonald, the striker found half a yard of space inside the area but the Preston stopper was down quickly to keep the effort out with his left leg.
The visitors struck the woodwork four times during the game; Gallagher narrowly missing out on a second goal after his right footed effort came back off the far post with Nelson beaten.
The winger came close again with a free kick as normal time came to a close, with Gillingham unable to find a way through before the whistle.
Gills: Nelson, Hoyte, Egan, Legge, Martin, McGlashan (German 77), Hessenthaler, Pritchard (Dack 71), Dickenson, Kedwell (Norris 77), McDonald
Unused subs: Bywater, Staunton, Hare, Fish.
Preston: Jones, Wiseman, Humphrey (Reid 73), Kikenny, Gallagher, Garner, Buchanan, King, Huntington, Robinson (Davies 85), Browne.
Unused subs: Stuckmann, Laird, Holmes, Welsh, Brownhill.
Referee: Mr J Linnington