Gills suffer fourth straight defeat as Crewe clinch 3-1 victory at the Alexandra Stadium
Gillingham slipped into the relegation places in Sky Bet League One on Saturday afternoon after a 3-1 defeat to Crewe at the Alexandra Stadium.
Nicky Ajose’s 27th minute penalty was added to five minutes later when Harry Davis latched on to a free kick and sent his header into the top corner.
Bradley Dack reduced the deficit shortly after the break but the points were all but confirmed six minutes from the end when Uche Ikpeaazu slotted home from close range.
The Gills management team made three initial changes to the team that lost 4-2 to Bristol City in the JPT with Max Ehmer, Jermaine McGlashan and debutant John Marquis replacing the injured Joe Martin, Brennan Dickenson and Michael Doughty who returned to QPR on Friday.
However a fourth change was forced upon the visitors when John Egan pulled up during the warm up, giving Josh Hare the chance to impress at right back with Ehmer partnering Leon Legge in the centre.
Gavin Hoyte reverted to left back with Josh Staunton and Mahlon Romeo providing cover from the bench.
Both sides began brightly with the game very open – Marquis firing a shot over the bar inside the first couple of minutes before James Jones drilled a right foot shot wide of the target following some good wing play by Ajose.
A minute later and Marquis nearly marked his debut with a goal, Loft playing a delicate through ball to the striker and he opted to try and lift the ball over Ben Garratt.
The keeper spotted the danger and made himself big to block the effort before the danger was cleared.
The game was fairly even up until the 26th minute when a moment of controversy presented Crewe with a chance to take the lead.
The ball appeared to go out of play just in front of the dugouts, play resumed however and Ikepazu drew a foul just inside the area.
The referee took his time in pointing to the spot, which sparked a confrontation between the players and officials – the Gills players adamant play should have been stopped.
Ajose however kept his cool and calmly slotted the ball beyond Nelson.
The visitors frustration was clear to see and this was added to just five minutes later when a free kick from Ajose found the head of Davis, and he made no mistake in finding the top corner with a powerful effort at the far post.
Gillingham came close to pulling one back right on half time, a cross from McGlashan was played into the path of the advancing Cody McDonald, but he fell just half a yard short of finding the net.
Gills started the second half well with a couple of corner kicks going their way, but it was a cross from open play on 55 minutes that created a path back into the game for the visitors.
Loft floated a ball towards the far post from the left hand side, McGlashan took a heavy touch but McDonald was arriving to drill a shot towards the far corner.
The effort took a deflection before hitting the back of the net with Dack grabbing the final touch.
Gillingham dominated proceedings for the next quarter of an hour but struggled to create anything clear cut. Ikpeazu nearly seized the initiative with two chances on the break, one of which was saved by Nelson with the second striking the side netting.
However when he was presented with a third chance on 84 minutes he put the game beyond all doubt. The striker got the better of Gavin Hoyte and drove into the penalty area, the defender seemed to do enough to put off the striker but as he regained balance the ball clearly struck the arm of the forward.
As a result the ball ran just in front of him and he struck a low left foot shot beyond Nelson who immediately vented his frustration and anger towards the referee who decided no action should be taken. McDonald was shown a yellow card for his part in the protest.
Crewe survived the last few minutes with Ben Garratt untroubled between the sticks, although a 25 yard effort from McDonald only just went wide of his left hand post.
Crewe: Garratt, Guthrie, Davis, Baillie, Jones (Turton 77), Leigh, Ness, Tate, Ikpeazu, Ajose (Dalla Valle 83), Grant.
Unused subs: Dugdale, Cooper, Nolan, Haber, Stewart.
Gills: Nelson, Hoyte, Hare, Legge, Ehmer, Loft, Hessenthaler, McGlashan (Dickenson 73), Dack, McDonald, Marquis (Norris 61).
Unused subs: G Morris, Staunton, Romeo, Galbraith
Referee: Mr M Brown