Gills topple League One leaders in a Christmas cracker at Medway Priestfield Stadium.
Gillingham completed their first league double of the season at the first opportunity, beating Portsmouth by two goals to nil for the second time in a row to bring festive cheer to ME7 in a vociferous Medway Priestfield Stadium.
Having absorbed Portsmouth pressure for much of the first half, the Gills grabbed a goal just before the break with Josh Parker heading home following great play from Dean Parrett and Elliott List.
In the second half, the Gills defence stood firm against an onslaught from the league leaders before an injury to Nathan Thompson reduced Portsmouth to ten men for the final segment of the game with all substitutions utilised, taking the wind out of Pompey’s sails.
List made them pay with a driving run completely deceiving the Portsmouth defence, eventually drawing a foul in the area as the board went up from the fourth official for five extra minutes. Callum Reilly converted the penalty sending the keeper the wrong way to secure the victory and three crucial points.
There was even time for a League debut for Gills youngster Noel Mbo, introduced for man of the match Josh Parker in injury time.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made one change from the side that fell to defeat at The Valley as Reilly replaced Darren Oldaker and Mark Byrne moved to the holding role in the diamond.
Pompey made a fast start, pinning the Gills defence back immediately and winning a couple of corners in succession which were defended well.
Seven minutes in and Portsmouth went very close to taking the lead when Brown was slipped in down the left-hand side of the Gills box. In acres of space and time he dragged the ball back to Evans who hammered a shot towards goal but a last-ditch block kept the hosts on terms.
Pompey were breaking forward quickly and in big numbers when winning possession in midfield. A good ball set Lowe in on the right and Hawkins met his dinked ball but he could only flick it agonisingly wide of the goal with Lowe unable to reach it in time for a simple tap in.
Gillingham’s first shot in anger came from Reilly as he found himself in space 35 yards from goal but his optimistic effort was mis-timed and didn’t trouble the keeper.
Another counter-attack from the visitors brought the game’s first yellow card with Byrne hacking down Lowe as he burst into space down the right.
Hawkins then got up well from another Portsmouth corner to meet the ball but under good Gills pressure he was unable to divert the header on target.
Gillingham were finding joy down the left flank with Connor Ogilvie proving an ever-willing runner. He delivered a good ball in which was met by Brandon Hanlan but with the ball slightly behind him he couldn’t get the angle on the header quite right and it flew over the bar.
A Byrne slip in the middle of the park nearly proved costly as Pompey broke, but the Irish midfielder did brilliantly to get back and pressurise Lowe who couldn’t pick out a man with his ball in. A Thompson shot from 25 yards after spinning on the edge of the box was again blocked by a man in blue as the visitors continued to dominate the game.
Tomas Holy, who had been untroubled for much of the first half, pulled off a great save to deny Curtis after the ball had been pulled back to the winger ten yards out.
From the corner, Hawkins got up highest to divert the ball towards goal but Fuller was well positioned on the line to make the clearance.
Having soaked up pressure all half, Gillingham took their first clear cut opportunity of the game to go into the lead. Parrett played a great ball for List to run on to, before holding up play and picking out JOSH PARKER who arrowed a header past MacGillivary to give the Gills the lead at half-time.
H/T: 1 – 0
Portsmouth were on the attack straight away and were somehow denied from an almighty goal-line scramble from a corner before a low flashing cross was not turned in as two attackers ran in at the far post.
But the Gills reminded the visitors they were still a threat when a curling Parrett free-kick eluded everyone in the box and the keeper had to be very alert to tip it behind.
Another great chance came and went for Pompey with Brown yet again on the overlap pulling it back for Evans, but the skipper hammered his shot a foot or so over the bar and into the visiting fans. A minute later Holy comfortable snaffled a deflected Curtis shot before gathering a powerful 25 yard drive from Evans.
A great ball in from Curtis after 56 minutes picked out the target man Hawkins but his header was inches wide of the post to keep the Gills’ lead alive.
After an hour, Pompey had a good chance from a set piece with Fuller bringing down Curtis on the apex of the box but the shot was well-blocked.
Portsmouth were piling on the pressure now, with the Gills struggling to get out of their own half or keep the ball for any length of time. Another low flashing cross eluded white shirted attackers as the hosts continued to cling on to the slender lead.
With 73 minutes gone and having used all three substitutes, Pompey had a scare when Thompson went down clutching his hamstring and was forced off leaving the visitors with just 10 men.
Substitute Billy Bingham immediately had a good chance to double Gillingham’s advantage as the ball fell to him inside the area fortuitously but his stabbed shot was saved by the keeper.
Holy continued to perform when called upon, this time making a sharp save low down after Pitman had swivelled in the area.
With the board going up for five additional minutes of time a superb driving run from List won the Gills a penalty. List picked up the ball on half way and bamboozled his man twice before finally drawing the foul.
CALLUM REILLY took responsibility sending the keeper the wrong way to double the lead and guarantee the three points would be staying in Kent.
Noel Mbo was introduced for his league debut by Lovell in added time replacing man of the match Parker.
Reilly nearly got his second a moment later after more superb play from List holding up a high ball before placing it into his path but his curling shot was just wide.
F/T: 2 – 0
Gillingham are back at the Medway Priestfield Stadium for their next fixture when they play Doncaster Rovers on Saturday afternoon.
Gillingham: Holy; Fuller, Zakuani, Lacey, Ogilvie; Byrne, Parrett (Bingham, 68), Reilly, Parker (Mbo, 90); List, Hanlan (O’Neill, 75)
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Garmston, Charles-Cook, Rees
Portsmouth: MacGilliviray; Brown, Whatmough, Clarke, Thompson; Naylor, Thompson; Lowe (Green, 68), Curtis (Wheeler, 68), Evans; Hawkins (Pitman, 58)
Unused subs: Bass (GK), Walkes, Burgess, Close
Referee: Mr Nicholas Kinseley
Attendance: 6,940 (1,637)