Stoppage-time Tom Eaves penalty gives Gills fourth win in a row.
A late penalty from Tom Eaves in added time secured a deserved 2-1 victory for the Gills in terrible conditions at MEMS Priestfield Stadium against Fleetwood Town and moves the hosts up to 10th in the Sky Bet League One table.
Paddy Madden gave Fleetwood a half-time lead, but a corner from Luke O’Neill was flicked home as Eaves challenged a visiting defender at the near post to level the game up shortly after the break.
Despite intense Gillingham pressure, the game appeared to be wandering to a draw before the outstanding Callum Reilly was brought down in the box and Eaves slotted the penalty home in front of a jubilant, and packed, Rainham End to earn a fourth consecutive win, and the double over Fleetwood.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell named an unchanged line-up from the side that recorded a third consecutive win away at Scunthorpe with Reilly making his home debut for the Gills. New signing Franck Moussa was named among the substitutes with Lovell also bringing Liam Nash into the match-day squad.
The game kicked off in terrible conditions with a swirling wind and heavy rain making conditions treacherous for both teams.
The hosts managed to carve out the first chance of the game, after Jake Hessenthaler beat his man on the edge of his own box and burst forward. His ball found Josh Parker on the edge of the area but his powerful effort flew wide with Neal never in trouble.
Set pieces were always going to be key in the game and from a free-kick, Fleetwood nearly got the opener. The ball was delivered from the right flank and headed clear, before Reilly did superbly to get the block in.
However, from the resulting corner the visitors did take the lead. Tomas Holy initially pulled off a wonder save to deny Madden what seemed like a certain goal, but when the ball was smashed across the goal-line, Madden was there to get a touch on the ball and divert it home.
Fleetwood had their tails up following the goal and Holy had to be alert again to beat away a shot from Hunter and concede a corner. Bolger rose highest to get his head on the resulting set piece but could only divert his header wide under severe pressure from Gaby Zakuani.
The Gills were pushing forward when they got the chance, and their best opportunity of the opening 20 minutes came when Luke O’Neill fed Lee Martin through but his attempted chip didn’t have the elevation to beat Neal.
Soon after, a floated ball from Hessenthaler found Tom Eaves but his flicked header didn’t generate enough power to trouble the Fleetwood keeper who could claim comfortably.
Gillingham had their first meaningful effort on target just after the half hour as brilliant interplay on the edge of the Fleetwood box resulted in Reilly finding the space to unleash a left footed shot but Neal got down well to palm it away and O’Neill’s follow up cross was just cleared.
The hosts were dominating but the final ball was just letting them down as first Parker and then Bradley Garmston wasted good opportunities in the Fleetwood box.
Despite huffing and puffing, the Gills were unable to cut through the Fleetwood defence and went into the break behind.
H/T: 0 – 1
The Gills got an early chance to test the Fleetwood backline as good work from Parker and Martin earnt the Gills a free-kick level with the box. The initial set piece was kept out but when Martin delivered another cross into the box O’Neill looked likely to score before his header was brilliantly deflected wide by a Fleetwood block.
The early pressure eventually paid off for the Gills as O’Neill whipped in another testing corner for the Fleetwood defence to deal with and TOM EAVES challenged a defender at the near post with the ball flicking into the far corner of the net.
Just before the hour mark, a scramble in the box nearly led to the Gills taking the lead with the ball pinging around but unfortunately the ball refused to fall to a man in blue to get a clean shot away and Fleetwood scrambled it clear.
Yet another corner from O’Neill caused trouble again as it was flicked on at the near post but Parker’s effort at the back post flew over after a Fleetwood defender managed to apply good pressure.
The Gills were dominating proceedings as they looked to find a second goal; Reilly in particular was doing a great job in the middle of the park, putting himself about and winning the ball for the hosts on a number of occasions.
A super counter attack led by Martin so nearly gave the hosts the lead as Eaves took the ball on, but his shot was blocked.
A quickly taken corner then saw the hosts in all sorts of trouble as a Reilly shot was blocked with the deflection causing Neal to spill the ball and Martin’s follow up shot was, again, somehow blocked behind. From another corner, O’Neill’s shot from the apex of the box looked to be sneaking in at the far post but was headed away off the line by a defender in red.
Gillingham continued to pile on the pressure with Fleetwood happy to sit back and play on the counter as the game entered the climactic stages.
A great break from Mark Byrne nearly gave the Gills a late winner as he slipped Eaves in down the right side of the box. The big striker dragged the ball back onto his right foot, clipped a cross in which was headed away before Martin scuffed his shot from the edge of the box well wide of the post.
Despite the Gills’ dominance, Burns was inches away from giving Fleetwood the lead after 88 minutes as he met a floated cross but Holy did superbly well to tip it away from danger. The following corner was played short to Grant rushing into the box but he got under his effort to send it miles into the Town End.
The Gills were handed a golden chance to win the game after 90 minutes as Reilly burst into the box and was brought down. TOM EAVES stepped up and placed his penalty past Neal and into the right hand corner of the net, to send a packed Rainham End into wild celebrations.
Fleetwood immediately got on the attack and Connor Ogilvie had to be at his very best to reach Hiwula’s cross first and divert the ball away from danger, just nicking in ahead of Burns.
The visitors continued to pump the ball into the box, but the Gills defence stood firm to claim all three points.
F/T: 2 – 1
Next weekend, the Gills travel to the DW Stadium to take on table-topping Wigan Athletic.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani (Ogilvie, 60), Garmston (Lacey, 84); Byrne, Hessenthaler, Reilly, Martin; Eaves, Parker (List, 82)
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), Moussa, Nash, Wilkinson
Fleetwood Town: Neal; Coyle, Eastham, Bolger, O’Connor; Dempsey, Diagouraga, Glendon (Grant, 69), Hunter (Burns, 76); Madden, McAleny (Hiwula, 76)
Unused subs: Cairns (GK), Rodgers, Schwabl, Jones
Referee: Mr Brett Huxtable