Gills seal opening day win over BladesGillingham kicked off the new season in superb style with a 4-0 win over Sheffield United at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Luke Norris, Deji Oshilaja, John Egan and Bradley Dack were all on target as Gills stunned League One with a thrilling display against a team strongly tipped to be league champions.
Justin Edinburgh gave five players their Gills debuts with Oshilaja, Ryan Jackson, Ben Williamson, Jordan Houghton and Emmanuel Osadebe all given the nod in the starting XI.
Norris, Dack and Egan were also included with Stuart Nelson given the nod between the sticks. Brennan Dickenson operated in a left back position with Jermaine McGlashan, Rory Donnelly and new signing Josh Wright providing options from the bench.
It took just seven minutes to get a 7500 strong crowd to get Priestfield rocking, a long throw from Ryan Jackson looked to have crept straight in but Luke Norris appeared to have got the final touch to divert the ball beyond George Long.
Dack had a half chance a few minutes later when Osadebe managed to retain possession on the edge of the area, his pass was slightly behind his midfield colleague and as a result the effort was off target.
Sheffield United struggled to contain Gillingham as the hosts continued to press with constant regularity, but on 18 minutes they could have snatched an equaliser when Billy Sharp got across Oshilaja inside the box, the defender recovered and slid in which proved enough to put the forward off who scuffed an effort wide.
Ten minutes later and Gillingham counter attacked at blistering speed which saw Dack drive into the opposition half and eventually feed Ben Williamson, he cut inside and took a shot which deflected over the head of Long and out for a corner.
Dack whipped it in and found Oshilaja at the back post, his first header was cleared on the near post before a second was cleared off the line as United resisted heavy pressure.
Nelson did very well to thwart any chance of an equaliser when he caught successive corners in tricky situations before Norris headed over the bar following an excellent cross from Dickenson.
And the winger was involved again for the second goal, this time taking a corner on the right hand side which he delivered towards the penalty spot.
Oshilaja was the first on the scene and, via a small deflection, managed to make enough contact to find the net.
The visitors stormed out of the blocks following the interval and immediately put Gillingham under heavy pressure, a string of corner kicks defended well with Nelson tipping over a close range effort from Chris Basham in the process.
Gills began to muscle their way back into the half and on 55 minutes could have increased their lead. Norris held up play in the far corner and waited for the run of Dickenson, his short pass was inch perfect but the shot was off target.
Moments later and a free kick was awarded to Gills just outside the penalty area, Norris decided to take it on and forced a fine save from Long.
The ball ran into the path of Oshilaja but he couldn’t find the net.
With 64 minutes on the clock the Gills could have been home and dry – another excellent corner kick from Dickenson made its way to the far post and Williamson, with a free header, sent his effort inches wide of the upright.
The Blades continued to search for an equaliser but Gillingham always looked the better team in attack and got a third goal on 82 minutes.
Dickenson, whose set plays had caused problems all afternoon, whipped in another brilliant delivery to the penalty spot and Egan got up highest and powered a header home.
The final touch was debated amongst the players but the centre-back appeared to get the last meaningful contact.
And the scoring wasn’t over there as Dack struck an early contender for the `Goal of the Season` award. Pinned in towards the corner flag he used clever footwork to get away from two players, edged towards the edge of the penalty area and unleashed an excellent right footed curling effort which found the far corner.
Priestfield erupted as Gills got their season off to a flyer, with Osadebe announced as `Man of the Match` in his very first game in professional football.
Gills: Nelson, Oshilaja, Egan, Jackson, A Morris (Hessenthaler 46), Osadebe (Wright 89), Houghton, B Dickenson, Dack, Norris, Williamson.
Unused subs: G Morris, Ehmer, Garmston, McGlashan, Donnelly.
Sheffield United: Long, Freeman, Basham, Murphy, Sharp, Baxter (Sammon 46), Collins, Woolford (Reed 69), McEveley, Adams (Scougall 70).
Unused subs: Howard, Wallace, Wallace, Higdon.
Attendance: 7511 (1832 Sheff Utd)
Referee: Mr B Malone