Rory Donnelly nets a double as Gills record impressive win at Priestfield
Gillingham staged a remarkable comeback to beat struggling Fleetwood Town 5-1 at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium this evening and extend their perfect home record this season.
After falling behind on 12 minutes, goals from Jordan Houghton, John Egan and Rory Donnelly's first two for the Gills turned the game around, before Cody McDonald completed the scoring late on.
Manager Justin Edinburgh made two changes from Saturday's defeat at Barnsley, as Houghton and Donnelly replaced Emmanuel Osadebe and Ben Williamson respectively.
And Houghton almost scored within the opening 120 seconds, forcing Town goalkeeper Chris Maxwell into a brilliant save from a powerful volley.
Town had two good chances shortly after, but Jamille Matt miscued his header from ex-Gills loanee Amari'i Bell's cross and then headed over from Bobby Grant's corner on 10 minutes.
The visitors then took the lead on 12 minutes: Brennan Dickenson was ruled to have fouled debutant Jack Sowerby, and Grant's curled free-kick beat Stuart Nelson.
But they were ahead for just six minutes: Ryan Jackson's throw was flicked on by Houghton, and Donnelly was at the back post to score his first goal for the Gills. And with the hosts growing in confidence, Luke Norris's spectacular overhead kick on 21 minutes almost put the Gills in front.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued as Grant somehow headed over from six yards when it seemed easier to score, before the Gills went 2-1 up on 28 minutes. Houghton found Jackson on the right wing, he got the better of Bell and the midfielder continued his run to slide onto the cross and head past Maxwell.
And before you knew it, the Gills further increased their lead. Dickenson's free-kick wasn't cleared, and Egan's low shot on the turn passed through a number of players and into the net.
Donnelly wasn't finished there: on 34 minutes he picked up a loose ball in midfield, beat a couple of defenders and brilliantly chipped it over a helpless Maxwell from 25 yards to make it 4-1.
The Gills still had work to do in defence, despite the favourable scoreline: Egan did well to block Lyle Della-Verde's blazed effort, and Stuart Nelson produced a stunning save to keep out Grant's volley on 44 minutes.
Norris nearly made it five for the Gills on 49 minutes: he picked the ball up after Maxwell had fumbled in the process of denying Williamson an opening, but Conor McLaughlin made an important last-ditch challenge to thwart the striker.
The second half was a less-frantic affair, with Fleetwood substitute Jamie Proctor having the visitors' best chance, an effort that was deflected wide by Max Ehmer.
Norris fired a 25-yard free-kick wide, while Donnelly had no clear-cut chances to become the first Gills player in nearly five years to score a first team hat-trick.
Town ended the game with 10 men after Eggert Jonsson was sent off for a second bookable offence on 80 minutes; the Icelandic midfielder was only brought on by Graham Alexander at half time.
Gills substitute McDonald fared better on 87 minutes, blazing home for his first of the season and the Gills' fifth on the night two minutes after replacing Donnelly. Only a Maxwell save with time almost up prevented him from a quick-fire double.
The Gills are at home to Oldham Athletic on Saturday, before Luton Town visit the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday for round two of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson (A Morris 45), Egan, Ehmer, Dickenson (Garmston 45), Loft, Wright, Dack, Houghton, Donnelly (McDonald 85), Norris
Unused subs: G Morris, Osadebe, Hessenthaler, McGlashan
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell, Andrew, Jordan (Jonsson 45), McLaughlin, Sowerby (Ball 66), Della-Verde, Ryan, Sarcevic, Bell, Grant, Matt (Proctor 66)
Unused subs: Arestidou, Nirrenold, Haughton, McManus
Attendance: 5, 231
Referee: Mr T Robinson