GILLINGHAM 3-2 SCUNTHORPE UNITED: MATCH REPORT
Midfielder Josh Wright hit a nine-minute hat-trick of second-half penalties to memorably help the Gills come from behind to beat promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United 3-2 in front of a packed MEMS Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
The Iron looked on course for a comfortable victory following an early goal from Paddy Madden and a long-range effort from Harry Toffolo on 73 minutes. However, Wright's late heroics from 12 yards earned the Gills a hard-fought and previously-unlikely win on a beautiful day in ME7.
He is the club's first hat-trick hero since Jo Kuffour scored three times against Northampton Town in November 2011, and the victory makes it back-to-back wins in the league for the first time since mid-November.
Deji Oshilaja and Chris Herd both started for the Gills in place of Ryan Jackson and Emmanuel Osadebe, easing Ady Pennock’s injury concerns in defence. Gillingham lined up as a three across the back with Oshilaja and Lee Martin operating as wing-backs.
Scunthorpe took the lead after just four minutes as the Gills struggled to get to grips with the Iron early on. A neat team move on the right ended up with a low ball played into the box which Madden swept home to give the visitors an early lead.
Gillingham were finding it hard to get on the ball and a miscommunication in defence allowed Madden in again but the striker could only drill wide.
Slowly, the home side established a foothold in the game and Max Ehmer was unlucky to be denied on the goal line as he forced a chipped corner towards goal.
The Gills were denied a penalty after 17 minutes as Cody McDonald rushed onto a great through-ball from Josh Wright and was brought down as he prepared to shoot, but the referee deemed it a fair tackle. Immediately after, Oshilaja and Bradley Dack combined down the right with the later rushing into the box but his cross was deflected behind.
The fixture had developed into a stalemate with both sides cancelling each other out in the Spring sunshine, with neither team able to develop any sustained pressure.
Joe Quigley was inches away from equalising for Gillingham as he got in behind the defence, cut on to his left foot and curled towards goal, however David Mirfin just managed to get the slightest of touches on the shot which flicked the ball just wide of the far post.
From the resulting corner, Wright volleyed towards goal as the clearance header fell to him on the edge of the box, before the referee waved away a penalty shout for handball.
Stuart Nelson had to be at his best to deny Scunthorpe a second goal after 40 minutes, getting off his line quickly to smother Madden before Jordan Clarke snatched at a shot to send it well wide from just outside the box.
The referee blew for half time to end a tetchy half with the Gills still very much in the contest.
H/T: 0 – 1
The Gills were immediately on the front foot in the second period and thought they should have had a penalty when a Scunthorpe defender appeared to control the ball with his arm in the box, but once again the referee waved away Gillingham appeals.
Minutes later, a dangerous free-kick from Dack just eluded Ehmer at the far post before the German defender headed another wide, with the home side looking to get an equaliser early on.
Nelson was called into action though as the visitors continued to threaten on the counter with the Gillingham keeper making blocks from Kevin van Veen and Madden in quick succession. After 57 minutes, a sublime turn from Madden gave Scunthorpe another opportunity to double the leader but Stephen Dawson screwed his shot wide when well placed in the box.
Scunthorpe were posing serious questions of the Gills defence and Wright had to get back and make a great block to deny Madden after the striker beat Zesh Rehman in the area.
Toffolo scored the second goal of the game for the Iron beating Nelson from thirty-yards after 73 minutes and leaving the Gills with a mountain to climb.
Pennock’s side almost immediately had a great chance to get a goal back when Dack was felled in the area having got the wrong side of his man after substitute Jake Hessenthaler threaded him in to the box. Wright grabbed the ball and slotted expertly past the Scunthorpe keeper to get the Gills’ opening goal.
With 82 minutes gone Gillingham were awarded another penalty for handball as Mark Byrne’s long-throw bounced around the area. Wright again took the honours but this time went the opposite direction to equalise for the home side.
Just four minutes later Gillingham were awarded a third penalty when Wright was brought down by a late van Veen tackle within the area. The confident Wright picked up the ball once again and slotted past the keeper to bring up a ten-minute hat trick and take the Gills into a dramatic lead.
Scunthorpe threw everything at the Gills in the closing stages, peppering the Gillingham box with crosses but the home side resisted to secure a scarcely believable victory and three more points.
F/T: 3 – 2
The Gills return to MEMS Priestfield on Tuesday night when they host Bolton Wanderers before making the trip up North to take on Rochdale on Saturday.
Gillingham: Nelson; Oshilaja, Rehman, Herd (Osadebe, 45), Ehmer, Martin (Hessenthaler, 74); Wright, Byrne, Dack; McDonald, Quigley (Parker, 68)
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Dickenson, List, Muldoon
Scunthorpe: Daniels; Clarke, Wallace, Mirfin (Davies, 90), Toffolo; Ness (Bishop, 75), Dawson, Crooks, Hopper (Toney, 87); Madden, Van Veen
Unused subs: Anyon (GK), Wiseman, Holmes, Goode
Attendance: 6,859 (326)
Referee: Robert Lewis