The Gills continued their impressive pre-season form on Saturday afternoon, defeating Championship side Ipswich Town at MEMS Priestfield Stadium, with goals from Tom Eaves and Scott Wagstaff maintaining Gillingham’s unbeaten record.
After a goalless interval, Gillingham took the lead in the second half when Captain Lee Martin was brought down in the area and Eaves slotted home the penalty. Wagstaff doubled the lead with a brilliant left-footed strike from 25 yards and although Rowe pulled a goal back for Ipswich after 80 minutes the Gills stood firm to claim another victory.
Gillingham Head Coach Ady Pennock selected a strong starting XI for the game with Martin taking the Captain’s armband and Liam Nash, fresh from joining the Gills on Thursday, making the match-day squad. The Gills lined up with a three across the back allowing Ogilvie and Wagstaff to get down the flanks from left and right wing back respectively.
The hosts started brightly but it was Ipswich who went close to scoring early on when Sears’ chipped cross almost caught Tomas Holy out, but the Gills stopper was alert to the danger and just managed to flick the ball over his crossbar.
The Gills were dominated possession throughout the first ten minutes but only had one shot from Eaves to show for their efforts which was blocked by an Ipswich defender.
The Tractor Boys should have taken the lead after 15 minutes but were denied by a spectacular O’Neill block. Gillingham failed to clear a corner and as the ball bobbled around an Ipswich player managed to get an effort away which the outstretched O’Neill cleared at full stretch off the line, before the rebound was prodded wide.
Bru blasted wide for Ipswich with 20 minutes gone as the visitors regained the momentum and started to put the Gills defence under pressure. Holy made a comfortable save minutes later as Ipswich broke through the home midfield but Garner directed his powerful shot right at the goalkeeper.
The Czech had to make another important save after 25 minutes as Bru was played in down the right hand side of the box but could not beat Holy from close range and Wagstaff was on hand to block the follow up attempt as the Gills struggled to contain the Championship outfit.
Gillingham nearly took the lead soon after as Eaves latched on to a long ball, outmuscling the defender, before attempting to lob the goalkeeper but Bialkowski, backpedalling furiously, just managed to get a glove on the ball, diverting it wide.
As the clock ticked past the 30 minute mark Josh Parker had a golden opportunity to open the scoring as Lee Martin delivered a great ball from midfield over the top of the defence. Parker turned his man inside out but chose to cut back one final time and an unfortunate slip meant the chance went begging.
Another fluid Gillingham attack ended with Wagstaff played in on the right by-line and his cross caused chaos in the Tractor Boy’s defence. Neither Parker nor Eaves were able to latch on to the loose ball as it pinballed around inside the box and the ball was eventually hacked clear.
Ipswich were still a threat and Garner managed to get on the end of a corner but could only head at Holy although the referee had already blown for a foul. A Martin corner nearly caught out Bialkowski, catching a gust of wind, and had to be tipped over the bar.
That was to be the last meaningful action of an even and well-fought first period
H/T: 0 – 0
After a short but sharp thunderstorm during the break, the teams re-emerged unchanged for the second period.
The Gills were awarded a penalty after 52 minutes as Ogilvie found Martin with a slick pass inside the box and he was tripped by Chambers as he bamboozled the Ipswich defender with a stepover. TOM EAVES stepped up to take the penalty and he slotted home, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Zakuani went close to doubling Gillingham’s lead when he leapt highest from a Martin corner but his header ricocheted off a Town defender, and looped over the bar.
The visitors hit the post after 66 minutes as Downes cut in from the left side and fired a spectacular effort towards goal which had Holy beaten, but clipped the woodwork and went behind.
Martin was having an impressive game and the Gills had another chance when he was cynically brought down 30 yards from goal. Billy Bingham took the responsibility and curled over an effort over the wall but the Ipswich keeper was equal to his effort.
Ipswich rotated their team after 70 minutes, while Gillingham brought on their substitutes after 75 minutes.
The Gills doubled their lead with 78 minutes on the clock with SCOTT WAGSTAFF scoring a magnificent goal. Running towards goal from the right wing-back, he beat one man before bringing the ball onto his less-favoured left foot and lofting a stunning strike over Bialkowski and into the top left corner.
Minutes later, however, Rowe grabbed a goal back for the Tractor Boys as he arrived late at the back post, stooping low to head home a dangerous cross from the right and halve Gillingham’s lead.
The substitutes had stopped the flow of the game and the final ten minutes passed without major event despite plenty of application from the fresh players
F/T: 2 – 1
The Gills host Belgian outfit Patro Eisden.at MEMS Priestfield on Tuesday night, their second and final home pre-season game.
Gillingham: Holy (Nelson, 75); Ogilvie (Garmston, 75), Ehmer, Zakuani, O’Neill; Martin (Chapman, 75), Bingham (Wright, 75), Byrne, Wagstaff (O’Mara, 81); Eaves (Nash, 75), Parker (Cundle, 75)
Ipswich Town Starting XI: Bialkowski; Spence (Smith, 70), Knudsen (Webster, 70), Chambers (McDonnell, 70), Smith (Kenlock, 70); Ward (Rowe, 65), Downes (Morris, 70), Bru (Nydam, 70), Celina (Iorfa, 70); Garner (McKendry, 70), Sears (McGoldrick, 70)
Unused subs: Gerken (GK), Crowe (GK), Fowler, Crowe, Patterson
Referee: Craig Hicks