Steve Lovell guides Gills to first away league win of the season.
A stunning strike from skipper Lee Martin in the first period and valiant backs-to-the-wall defensive display in the second half gave Gillingham their first away win of the season against high-flying Peterborough United at the ABAX Stadium.
Steve Lovell made several changes to the Gillingham side that fell to defeat against Portsmouth in front of the cameras on Sunday. Bradley Garmston returned from injury to start at left back – his first competitive appearance this season – while Gabriel Zakuani was also back from international duty to slot into the centre back role. Elliott List started up front for the Gills and Mark Byrne went straight back in to the centre of a midfield diamond after serving a one game suspension.
Gillingham played with pace, fluency and drive in the first half and were deservedly in front at the break after Martin curled in a great strike from 30 yards while Josh Parker and Elliott List were denied by stunning saves from Bond in the Peterborough goal. In the second half, Peterborough threw the kitchen sink at the Gills but a brilliant defensive performance and crucial saves from Tomas Holy secured the away team the victory.
Peterborough started the stronger of the two teams, and the Gills had to be alert to clear their lines from a couple of early set pieces. Holy claimed particularly well from one corner and immediately looked to use the pace of List on the counter.
Edwards down the left hand side of the Posh attack was causing the Gills defence headaches, on one occasion getting beyond Byrne and Sean Clare but he overhit the cross with Miller lurking in the middle, before another jinking run earned him a shooting opportunity that was wasted.
The Gills were posing a threat of their own, however, with neat interplay between Martin and Byrne, finding the former free in the box on the right byline, but his cutback towards List was too close to Bond who just managed to claim the ball.
A Gillingham free-kick was then cleared by the Peterborough defence to Jake Hessenthaler but his speculative shot from 30 yards was blocked and dribbled through to Bond harmlessly. Josh Parker then had an effort blocked from slightly closer which suffered from an identical outcome as the Gills established a stranglehold on the game.
The away side were by far the better of the two teams and spurned a good chance on the counter with Hessenthaler just holding the ball a second too long before feeding Garmston, and then as the Gills recycled the ball Parker blazed over the bar from a very tight angle.
Peterborough were struggling to find any fluency in the final third. Maddison fired comfortably over the bar from the edge of the box after 27 minutes as they looked to get on the front foot again but a scrappy Gillingham defence was keeping them at bay.
Hassling and harrying at every opportunity, the Gills had the upper hand but the final ball was just lacking as they looked likely to open up the Posh defence on a number of occasions.
Just after the half hour, Parker had a great chance to open the scoring for Gillingham after Hessenthaler beat his man down the left flank and cut the ball back to the striker but he failed to control his shot which flew inches over the bar.
The Gills took a deserved lead after 35 minutes through a wonder strike from the Captain, LEE MARTIN. A neat ball from Hessenthaler found Martin in space and he bent a wicked, dipping shot past a despairing Bond from 30 yards, rebounding off both posts before nestling in the net.
Despite taking the lead, the Gills continued to press Peterborough relentlessly with Byrne firing over from the edge of the box after Martin’s free-kick was blocked. Up the other end, the ever-menacing Edwards fired over again from the edge of the box as Gillingham’s defence stood firm.
Gillingham were so close to a second goal as they broke from a Posh attack as the first half neared a close. Martin delivered a superb diagonal ball to Parker who took it perfectly in his stride but his effort was somehow deflected wide by the toenail of Bond despite looking destined to find the net.
The game was now incredibly open with Holy forced to make a stunning save frim Miller, his first meaningful contribution to the game. Then, on the counter-attack, List was up against Baldwin who he beat easily but his left footed shot forced another brilliant save out of Bond with the Gills desperately unlucky not to double their advantage.
As the half ticked into the one added minute of time, Maddison went down easily to gain a free-kick wide on the left but his wicked cross was headed wide and the Gills saw out the remainder of the half to take a deserved lead into the break after an excellent performance.
H/T: 0 – 1
Lovell introduced Connor Ogilivie in place of Garmston in the second half, as Peterborough flew out the traps with Marriott heading wide of the post from five yards out.
The Posh were a different prospect early on as they looked to bounce back from a poor first half; Shephard twice had space down the right hand side of the Gills box but Max Ehmer did superbly well to intercept the first and the second was sliced into the fans.
Breaking play up in midfield, Billy Bingham started a counter attack for Gillingham which went to feet through Martin and Parker before Bingham’s final ball was slightly too heavy and ran through for a goal-kick.
A quickly taken free-kick from the Gills gave Ogilvie space to deliver a cross but List just failed to control his attempt which ran wide.
Holy was then forced to make another save to deny Lopez, the Posh substitute, who swivelled and shot with his first touch of the game.
The game was a bittier affair than the first half with the Gills doing well to stifle the home side, with Holy forced into action again by Lopez but his drilled shot was straight at the Czech keeper. Minutes later, Zakuani did superbly well to clear from under his own crossbar after Miller had played the ball across goal.
Holy then was forced into a brilliant bit of a keeping after a Madison free-kick from wide on the right caught everyone by surprise as it looked to sneak into the far post, but Holy got across his line quickly to punch the ball off the line. From the resulting corner, Holy then managed to deny the Posh again by pushing a header on target away from danger.
Gillingham were being forced onto the back foot and Marriott was inches away from the equaliser when his powerful free-kick beat Holy but smashed into the cross-bar to keep the away team ahead. Posh substitute Lloyd then volleyed well over the bar after a neat piece of skill.
As the game ticked into the final ten minutes, Peterborough continued to press and the Gills continued to repel their attacks, putting bodies on the line to protect the slender lead. Holy made another save to deny Maddison as the lively winger cut in to shoot with his right foot.
The fourth official indicated four minutes of extra time as Holy continued to make the necessary saves to keep the Posh onslaught at arms reach and Gillingham managed to see out the time to claim a superb victory and celebrated joyously in front of the tremendous away fans.
F/T: 0 – 1
The Gills return to MEMS Priestfield for two home games next week against Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night before taking on Northampton Town on Saturday afternoon.
Peterborough United: Bond; Shephard (Kanu, 75), Taylor, Baldwin, Hughes; Edwards, Forrester, Grant (Lopez, 59), Maddison; Marriott, Miller (Lloyd, 75)
Unused subs: O’Malley (GK), Tafazolli, Anderson, Penfold
Gillingham: Holy; Clare, Zakuani, Ehmer, Garmston (Ogilvie, 46); Bingham, Byrne (Wagstaff, 62), Hessenthaler, Martin; Parker, List (Wilkinson, 68)
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), O’Mara, Oldaker, Cundle
Referee: Mr Dean Whitestone