Gills come out on top in entertaining game at ME7.
Gillingham’s first home game of the 2018-19 Sky Bet League One season ended in a 3-1 victory against recently-relegated Burton Albion at the Medway Priestfield Stadium on Saturday.
The Brewers had taken the lead midway through the first half with Sbarra bundling home from a corner. However the Gills fought back to go into half-time on level terms with Tom Eaves sliding home a finish with his first touch of the game after coming on for the injured Dean Parrett.
In the second half, Gillingham were irresistible going forward. Luke O’Neill curled home a beautiful free-kick just after the break before Eaves secured his brace and the three points smashing home a rebound from point blank range after the goalkeeper could only parry the menacing Brandon Hanlan’s effort into his path.
Gills Manager Steve Lovell kept faith with the same starting XI from the side that recorded the opening day victory away at Accrington Stanley as the home side lined up unchanged.
Sporting the centenary black and white kit, Gillingham started the brighter of the two teams forcing a couple of early corners which were defended by the Brewers.
Burton, however, eked out the first half chance of the game as Boyce did well to hold the ball up on the corner of the Gills box before spinning away from his man and striking towards goal but his effort was well wide.
The pace of the visitors up top was causing the hosts problems and O’Neill had to be at his best to get back and deny Sordell before Tomas Holy got down low to save Sbarra’s shot from 25 yards.
Gillingham were under the cosh with Burton managing to find space between the defence and midfield. Max Ehmer was forced to make a crucial block as Boyce powered towards goal when he found space in the penalty box after 14 minutes.
When Burton were forced into an early change when McCrory pulled up injured, Gillingham were presented with their best chance of the half as a goal-kick cleared the defence and Regan Charles-Cook beat Bywater to the ball but his first time effort was just saved by the keeper.
After 19 minutes, the Gills had another golden opportunity as Charles-Cook did brilliantly to win the ball on the byline and beat the defender. He pulled the ball back to Billy Bingham who struck the ball first time but from nowhere a Burton defender got back to make a sliding clearance off the line.
The visitors were a threat going forward and a neat move saw Sordell with a chance to shoot from 15 yards but Ehmer was again in the right position to make the block.
From the corner though, Burton did take the lead with Sbarra able to divert the drilled corner into the net with Holy unable to claw it off the goal line at his far post.
The Gills were forced into a change of their own shortly after with Parrett pulling up injured so Lovell sent on Eaves to try and get back on terms.
The substitution paid dividends instantly as Hanlan lead a lightning quick breakaway before sliding the ball into the path of EAVES who shot first-time on his left foot to equalise with his very first touch of the ball.
It was an open game with both sides pushing men forward and leaving gaps in defence. Josh Parker looked to profit as he picked the ball up in space 25 yards out but dragged his effort well wide of target.
With the match ticking into injury time Gills were inches from taking the lead as Hanlan latched onto a long through ball from Eaves. The striker held the ball before shifting onto his right foot before striking towards goal but his powered effort hammered off the bar with the keeper beaten all ends up.
H/T: 1 – 1
Gillingham were out of the traps quickly in the second half, with Bingham winning a free-kick just over 25 yards from goal. Bradley Garmston whipped the ball towards goal but Bywater got down to push his effort away.
After 50 minutes, Hanlan won another free-kick in exactly the same location. This time O’NEILL took over duties and curled a fantastic effort over the wall and past a motionless Bywater to give Gillingham the lead.
With the Gills ahead, Burton had to get on the offensive and they won a free-kick of their own 25 yards from goal, in ‘Luke O’Neill territory’. Fraser stepped up left-footed but blazed his shot over the bar.
Gillingham nearly had a third when Charles-Cook burst forward from midfield before playing Hanlan but the striker hit the woodwork for a second time as his shot bounced back off the post and Charles-Cook was denied a tap in by a brilliant sliding tackle.
Up the other end, Burton nearly had their equaliser as Boyce got the better of Ehmer on the byline before pulling a ball back across but Gabriel Zakuani did superbly to make a last ditch tackle and deny Sbarra a certain goal.
Holy was then called upon to preserve the Gills lead as he made himself big to save from Fraser as he was slipped through in on goal down the left hand side of the box.
The pressure was mounting from the away side and they soon won a free-kick on the side of the box; Sordell delivered a teasing ball but Holy got out well to punch clear. Holy was also equal to an Akins effort from a tight angle as the Gills continued to hold on.
With 76 minutes gone, Gillingham grabbed a third goal as Hanlan was slipped in down the left hand side of the box. He controlled the ball and placed a shot across goal towards the bottom corner which was saved by Bywater but EAVES followed up to smash home the rebound.
The Gills had a golden chance for a fourth as Eaves was played in by a looping O’Neill ball over the defence and squared it to Hanlan but Bywater got out quickly to block.
A defensive mix up then gave Hanlan another opportunity as he raced through but on his weaker left foot his effort was straight at Bywater who made the save. A neat back heel from Mark Byrne then got O’Neill in, but his blasted effort from an extremely tight angle was wide of goal.
The game was drifting towards the end but Holy was still alert and got down well to make a straightforward save from Fox’s weak effort.
A late free-kick near the corner flag from Sordell was straight at Holy as the Gills continued to manage the game with ease during the six minutes of injury time and claim all three points.
F/T: 3 – 1
Two away trips now lie in wait for Steve Lovell’s men as they travel to rivals Millwall on Tuesday night in the Carabao Cup before taking on Walsall next Saturday.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Garmston; Byrne, Parrett (Eaves, 32), Bingham, Charles-Cook; Parker, Hanlan
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Lacey, Fuller, Nasseri, Stevenson, Nash
Burton Albion: Bywater; Brayford, Turner, McFadzean (Buxton, 81), McCrory (Hutchinson, 16); Fox, Sbarra, Fraser (Templeton, 77); Akins, Sordell, Boyce
Unused subs: Campbell (GK), Hodge, Harness
Referee: Mr Lee Probert
Attendance: 5,016 (181)