GILLINGHAM 3-0 ROCHDALE: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham roared to a fantastic 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon against Rochdale at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium, making it three wins out of four in Sky Bet League One
A deflected Frank Nouble strike gave the Gills the lead early on in the second half, leading to a fantastic rear-guard action form the home side, before late goals from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Mark Bryne secured Gillingham all three points.
Gills manager Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged starting XI to the team that was narrowly defeated away at Oxford United on Tuesday, while Rory Donnelly came into the matchday squad in place of Greg Cundle.
The game started cagily and Rochdale had the first chance of the game after Bradley Dack’s clearance was closed down. The ball fell to Joe Thompson, who cut inside to get away from Max Ehmer, but could only prod tamely towards goal from 10 yards out.
The Gills were unfortunately forced into a substitute after just 12 minutes following an injury to Billy Knott, with Frank Nouble replacing the midfielder.
The home side had their first effort of the game after 15 minutes with Dack winning a free-kick on the top of the penalty area. After a long consultation, Emmanuel-Thomas struck the set-piece, but his low drive was deflected to safety by the Rochdale defence.
Nat Mendez-Laing went close for Rochdale a minute later. The winger drove into a pocket of space and past a couple of Gills defenders before firing towards goal and drawing Stuart Nelson into a comfortable save. Matty Lund was next to try and break the deadlock but the midfielder shot high into the Rainham End.
Gillingham were looking lively when going forward with most attacks flowing through Emmanuel-Thomas, and he was next to go close for the home side after 24 minutes. The Gills striker cut out a crossfield ball, played a neat one-two with Cody McDonald but dragged his right-footed shot from 25-yards wide of the goal.
The Gills continued to press and nearly went ahead following a deep cross from Scott Wagstaff, who was getting forward well down the right hand side. The clearance fell to Dack, whose cross was headed away from McDonald in the six yard box by a Dale defender.
Baily Cargill thought that he had opened the scoring for the Gills, heading home Dack’s free-kick, but he was denied by the linesman’s flag.
Gillingham were looking the more likely to get the opener and McDonald nearly did get the first goal of the game, but he just failed to reach a wonderful cross from Paul Konchesky, and the first half finished goalless.
The second-half started off much as the first half has proceeded, as both midfields fought hard to get the upper hand.
Gillingham took a deserved lead after 53 minutes, following a spell of sustained pressure. A long-throw into the box was controlled by Nouble, who turned and shot to see his powerful effort deflected into the net to make it 1-0.
The Gills nearly doubled their lead soon after as Dack fed McDonald in down the left hand side of the penalty area. The striker rounded the keeper before turning on the by-line but his shot was blocked by a desperately recovering defence.
The home side were firmly in the ascendancy and Cargill went close to his first Gillingham goal on the hour, but Conrad Logan did brilliantly to get across his goal and tip the defender’s header round the post before Cargill, again, rose highest from a corner but placed his firm header onto the bar.
Rochdale were posing a threat on the counter and substitute Steven Davies tested Nelson for the first time in the period with a curling left-footed shot on the apex of the box, but the Gills stopper was alert to the danger and caught the ball.
The visitors were so close to an equaliser after 75 minutes as they began to pile the pressure onto the Gills. A good team move from Rochdale ended with a cut back to Lund but Wagstaff just managed to get a block in to prevent a certain goal, before a Lund volleyed inches wide of Nelson’s goalpost from 25-yards minutes later.
Gillingham were showing brilliant resilience in defence to keep the Dale at bay, with Cargill and Ehmer robust, as long balls continued to pepper the defence.
The Gills were rewarded for their defensive solidity with a goal in the 88th minute. Emmanuel-Thomas latched onto a defensive mistake to gather the ball in the area, give the Rochdale keeper the eyes, before placing the ball into the corner of the net in front of a jubilant Rainham End.
Gillingham made it three in added time with a wonderful bit of forward play. Substitute Rory Donnelly brought the ball down in the box, composed himself, and played a delightful ball with the outside of his right foot into the path of Mark Byrne. The substitute slid home into an empty net to secure all three points for the Gills.
Gillingham: Nelson; Wagstaff, Ehmer, Cargill, Konchesky; Wright, Hessenthaler, Knott (Nouble, 14); Dack (Byrne, 80), Emmanuel-Thomas, McDonald (Donnelly, 88)
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Oshilaja, Herd, Osadebe
Rochdale: Logan; Rafferty, McGahey, McNulty, Tanser; Lund, Camps, Rathbone (Henderson, 51), Mendez-Laing (Odelusi, 67); Bunney (Davies, 51), Thompson
Unused Subs: Lillis (GK), Canavan, Noble-Lazarus, Cannon
Attendance: 5,409 (148 away supporters)
Referee: Trevor Kettle