Gills kick off the New Year with historic victory at local rivals Charlton Athletic
Gillingham recorded a famous victory at The Valley, their first ever, as they triumphed two-one against local rivals Charlton Athletic and secured their first league double of the season in front of more than 1,400 raucous travelling fans from Kent.
Josh Parker latched on to a Tom Eaves cross to give the Gills the lead before provider turned goalscorer with the big striker turning home Luke O’Neill’s cross to double the advantage. Charlton got back into the game through a Joe Aribo header, but the Gills clung on to a precious three points.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made three changes to the side that drew against Wimbledon just two days ago. Lee Martin recovered from illness to lead the team out, while Tom Eaves also came into the starting line-up after an impressive second half cameo versus the Dons.
Bradley Garmston was also fit enough to start at left back with Greg Cundle, Connor Ogilvie and Conor Wilkinson the players who dropped to the bench.
Gillingham had a golden chance to take the lead after just three minutes when Mark Byrne lofted a brilliant ball in behind the Charlton defence. Eaves latched on to the ball, controlling it instantly, but Ben Amos was out quick to make a crucial block.
The visitors were making the early running at The Valley with O’Neil next to try his luck, but he got under his shot from 30 yards and the ball sailed high into the stands.
The Addicks had their first chance after eight minutes as Ricky Holmes got to the byline and delivered a cross from the left. The ball just cleared the head of Magennis, but landed at the feet of Reeves however he snatched at his shot which ended up in the side netting.
A deserved opener for Gillingham arrived after 11 minutes. Eaves did superbly well to hold the ball up before beating both centre-backs to get to the byline and deliver a low cross which JOSH PARKER as able to slot past Amos at the back post.
Responding quickly to falling behind, Charlton nearly grabbed a leveller as a corner caused chaos in the Gills box, but Luke O’Neill was able to clear following the pin-ball in the box. A free-kick on the right hand side gave the home side another chance to load the box but the Gills managed to clear the 19th minute set piece.
However, the Gils were not content to sit back and when Eaves won a free-kick down by the right corner flag, the visitors had a good chance to put a cross in. Garmston whipped it in left-footed and it just beat the head of the Max Ehmer coming in at the near post.
Martin then looked poised to break through the defence as a quick press took advantage of some sloppy Charlton play, but he was cynically brought down by Forster-Caskey near half-way who was booked.
The Gills doubled their lead after 32 minutes in a swift counter-attack saw O’Neill played in down the right flank. He took his time to measure a cross which found TOM EAVES perfectly in the centre who was able to divert past Amos as he slid in.
Sloppiness from the hosts was bringing a hostile atmosphere from the home faithful as Gillingham looked to capitalise on the hosts’ nervousness. O’Neill curled a free-kick from 30 yards towards goal however his effort just cleared the bar.
Set pieces appeared to be the hosts best chance of getting back into the game, and another Holmes corner caused carnage but was flicked away by Gaby Zakuani at the vital time.
The Addicks piled on the pressure as the half drew to a close but the Gills managed to hold out and the whistle drew a cacophony of boos from the home support.
H/T: 0 – 2
The home side were out of the traps quickly and Holmes did well down the left to somehow get a cross in which Magennis managed to get his head on but couldn’t keep his effort down.
A great cross from the right hand side then went right through the Charlton box to Best who prodded an effort just over the bar as Gills appealed in vain for handball.
Holy then had to be at his best to deny Best who was already making a big difference for the Addicks however in the aftermath of the block he went down injured and had to be replaced for the home side’s third and final substitution.
Charlton were then inches from getting a goal that would bring them back into the game as Holmes volleyed a cross into the box after his initial cross was cleared and Magennis beat Holy to the ball but his header clipped the top of the bar and went over.
From a Gillingham corner, Charlton threatened again as they countered at pace but Ahearne-Grant’s delivery across the face of goal just evaded all those in red.
The hosts were ratcheting up the pressure and Garmston had to be very alert at the back post to clear a cross behind, taking a whack against the post for his troubles.
Time and time again, Charlton were putting quality balls into the box but the Gills were defending valiantly with Holy getting a great touch on the ball to deny a certain goal from Magennis.
Finally the Charlton pressure told with Aribo getting up to nod in a Holmes corner and get the hosts back in the game.
Eaves went close to a third for the Gills but his long-range effort flew over the corner of the goal. Charlton then went close to an equaliser when Aribo got on the end of a Magennis knock-down but snatched his shot wide.
The Gills so nearly won it when Byrne found Eaves with a great through ball but his left foot shot hit the post and went wide, before Holy had to make a save from Marshall and then moments later the winger blazed well over the bar.
Charlton continued to throw the kitchen sink at the Gills defence throughout six minutes of added time, but the Gills hung on to record a famous victory.
F/T: 1 – 2
The Gills have the upcoming weekend off due to their exit from the FA Cup, but return to action against Rochdale at MEMS Priestfield on Saturday 13th January.
Charlton Athletic: Amos; DaSilva, Sarr, Lennon, Kashi; Marshall, Reeves (Best, 46 (Ahearne-Grant. 53)), Konsa, Forster-Caskey (Aribo, 46), Holmes; Magennis
Unused subs: Phillips (GK), Bauer, Dijksteel, Jackson
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Garmston (Ogilvie, 73); Byrne, Clare, Hessenthaler, Martin (Oldaker, 75); Eaves, Parker (Wilkinson, 73)
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), Lacey, Oldaker, Cundle, Nash
Referee: Mr Oliver Langford
Attendance: 11,979 (1,424)