Gills go second after defeating Bradford
Gillingham opened the 2016 calendar year in style by clinching their fourth straight win in a convincing 3-0 victory over Bradford City on Saturday afternoon.
The hosts were two goals up inside the first 15 minutes thanks to Bradley Dack and Rory Donnelly, and having resisted some heavy pressure Gills finally wrapped it up in the 90th minute as skipper Doug Loft came off the bench to score a superb third.
Bradford were reduced to ten men late on when Nathan Clarke brought down Elliott List with the sub through on goal.
Manager Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged line-up to the side that beat Colchester 1-0 on Monday.
Max Ehmer kept his place in the centre of defence alongside John Egan with Donnelly partnering loanee Dominic Samuel in attack.
In awful conditions it was the visiting side who tried their luck at goal first, a Tony McMahon free kick was cleared as far as Billy Knott and his effort was blocked inside the area from 20 yards.
And within a minute Gillingham had taken the lead. A long ball down field made its way to Ryan Jackson, Dack allowed the ball to run past him and guided a left footed effort into the opposite corner.
It was the perfect start for the Gills and their afternoon got better just minutes later – Donnelly cut in from the left hand side, looked to have run out space for a shot but he produced an excellent strike towards the opposite corner which struck the inside of the post before rolling in.
The Gills faithful had plenty to cheer about in the opening stages, and they were nearly on their feet again with moments of the re-start.
Donnelly found plenty of space on the right hand side and with a defender drawn in he was able to latch on to a pass and advance on goal.
His chipped effort was excellent but at the last moment a defender got back and was able to clear before the ball crossed the line.
At the other end Stuart Nelson did brilliantly to claw out a Gary Liddle header when he found space behind Aaron Morris to meet another McMahon delivery.
On 25 minutes it appeared the Bantams had got a goal back when McMahon’s corner found Knott at the back post, his header was somehow cleared on the line by Egan before a second effort was gathered on the goal line, this time by Nelson.
Seven minutes later and Bradford saw another chance go begging – Kyel Reid charged down a clearance from Jackson and suddenly found space on the left for a cross, he picked out Devante Cole but the forward was off balance and missed the target from six yards.
Morris and Ehmer both missed the target within the next five minutes, the first a volley which was fired over before the centre-back saw a curling effort go well wide.
As the bad weather conditions returned to Priestfield it made fluent Football difficult for both sides with neither keeper majorly tested early on.
Gillingham were rarely threatened in the opening 20 minutes of the half and looked well in command, although a Rory McArdle header did have the Rainham End holding their breath momentarily as he found space inside the penalty area but missed the target.
Cole failed to capitalise on a half clearance following Reid’s low cross on 83 minutes before Samuel was unfortunate not to do better with a solo run which saw him evade a challenge on the byline.
Moments later and sub Billy Clarke, on for Knott, had Bradford’s best chance of the half. He had space just outside the box on the left hand side, Nelson was well placed to make a save but he wasn’t required as the forward drilled his shot beyond the far post.
Having soaked up a small amount of pressure the Gills finally wrapped the game up with 90 seconds to play. Dack, having been voted `Man of the Match,` flicked a ball over the top of the defence for Jackson, he produced a terrific low cross and Loft was in the right place at the right time to tuck the ball home.
However the drama didn’t end there. Nathan Clarke, on for Reece Burke, fouled Elliott List with the youngster through on goal and the referee, following brief consultation with his Assistant, had no choice but to send him off which proved to be the last action of the game.
Gills: Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmer, Garmston, Wright (Loft 77), A Morris, Hessenthaler, Dack, Donnelly (Norris 66, List 90), Samuel.
Unused subs: G Morris, Oshilaja, Osadebe, McGlashan
Bradford: Williams, Darby (Marshall 79), Meredith, Burke (N Clarke 53), McMahon, Liddle, Knott (B Clarke 61), Reid, McArdle, Hanson, Cole
Unused subs: Cracknell, Leigh, Routis, James
Attendance: 6446 (Bradford 361)