BURY 1-2 GILLINGHAM: MATCH REPORT
Gillingham eased their relegation worries as goals from Bradley Dack and Cody McDonald earned them a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Bury at Gigg Lane on Saturday, their first away victory since November 19.
Dack opened the scoring with a low 20-yard effort on 14 minutes, before McDonald doubled his side’s advantage shortly after the break with a header. In-form Bury striker James Vaughan pulled one back for the hosts, which proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
The victory moves the Gills up to seventeenth in the Sky Bet League One table, six points ahead of Swindon Town in 21st position.
Head coach Ady Pennock made two changes to the side that lost at Swindon in midweek, with Dack and Mark Byrne coming in for Josh Parker and the injured Scott Wagstaff.
Bury’s danger man Vaughan looked to add his 20th of the season with just eight minutes on the clock. His shot from distance, however, wasn’t enough to trouble Stuart Nelson in goal and fizzed wide of the upright.
The home side enjoyed most of the possession in the early stages but it was the Gills who took the lead through Dack. Lee Martin used his pace to break following a Bury attack and then held the ball up brilliantly as he waited for his team-mates to join him in the hosts' half. After Dack arrived and received the ball, the midfielder took a touch and shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, giving Joe Murphy no chance in the Bury goal.
Lee Clark’s side looked to get back into the game quickly and should have at least tested Nelson on 17 minutes. Captain Vaughan played a neat one-two with fellow striker Tom Pope on the edge of the area, but the former didn’t hit the target as his shot crashed into the advertising boards behind the goal. Shortly after, left-back Greg Leigh found himself unmarked at the back post and managed to connect with Tom Beadling’s cross, but his effort also missed the target.
Pennock was forced into a substitution on 40 minutes as Ryan Jackson, playing on the right of a defensive three, limped off with a groin strain. Mitch Dickenson came on for his Sky Bet League One debut in his place.
The Shakers had two opportunities to go into the break level with half-time approaching. Cameron Burgess had the first on 42 minutes, heading wide from Callum Styles’s free-kick, before Pope blasted over from six yards.
Bury got the game back underway, but the Gills won quickly the ball back and sought a quick-fire second. McDonald dribbled around two Bury players in the six-yard box but Leigh was able to clear the ball out for a corner just as he was about to shoot.
But it did not matter, as McDonald was rewarded for his efforts seconds earlier as he met Dack’s inch-perfect delivery in the middle of the box to head past Murphy from eight yards.
Nelson hadn’t had much to do in the opening half, but was called into action on 50 minutes as he raced off his line to collect a loose ball under pressure from Pope. However he could only watch Jacob Mellis’ 20-yard effort shortly after the hour, which hit the post and rebounded fortuitously for the Gills defence to clear.
The Shakers were piling on the pressure and halved the deficit on 75 minutes through Vaughan, who acrobatically struck with a bicycle-kick into the bottom corner from 10 yards.
Undeterred, the Gills almost restored their two-goal lead within 120 seconds, but Zesh Rehman’s effort from Dack’s corner was cleared off the line.
Nelson made two crucial saves in as many minutes as the hosts’ pressure began to intensify. First he denied substitute Ryan Lowe at full stretch, and then kept out George Miller’s effort as he tried to scoop the ball over the Gillingham goalkeeper from an acute angle.
Miller had another effort on goal just one minute later, meeting Mellis’s cross at the back-post, but headed against the outside of the upright. Vaughan then came even closer to an equaliser two minutes into stoppage time, however he headed straight at Nelson in the centre of the goal from sub Jermaine Pennant’s curling free-kick.
The Gills are at home to promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United in our Kids 4 A Quid fixture on Saturday (3pm kick-off), before welcoming Bolton Wanderers to the MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Tuesday, March 14 (7.45pm kick-off).
Bury: Murphy, Leigh, Burgess, Pope (Miller, 58), Vaughan, Mellis, Barnett, Moore (Pennant, 75), Styles, Beadling, Caddis (Lowe, 65)
Unused subs: Lainton, Maher, Walker, Hope
Gillingham: Nelson, Jackson (Dickenson, 40), Ehmer, McDonald, Martin, Osadebe, Quigley (Parker, 59), Dack, Rehman, Byrne, Wright
Unused subs: Holy, Hessenthaler, List, Cundle, Muldoon
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 3,203 (199 away)