Gills clinch maximum points at Priestfield.
Gillingham came from a goal behind to claim a scrappy but vitally important three points against Rochdale on Saturday afternoon at MEMS Priestfield Stadium and move up to 14th position in Sky Bet League One.
Andy Cannon put Rochdale ahead in the first half with a powerful strike from outside the area, but the Gills hit back to go into the break level through a brilliant Bradley Garmston strike. Lee Martin gave Gillingham the lead with a left-footed volley from inside the area and then the hosts defended valiantly to secure victory.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made one change from the side that defeated Charlton at The Valley for the first time in the Club’s history. Sean Clare, who was recalled by Sheffield Wednesday and took part in the Steel City derby on Friday night, was replaced by Scott Wagstaff in the Gills midfield.
The visitors made a bright start to the game, but it was the Gills who created the game’s first chance as Lee Martin picked out Wagstaff on the top right corner of the box and his shot looked to be sneaking in the top corner but the keeper just managed to get a finger on the fierce drive to divert it onto the post and to safety.
That chance sparked the Gills into life and they so nearly took the lead when a corner was half-cleared by Rochdale but played into the path of Bradley Garmston. His cross was eventually hacked away to Mark Byrne on the edge of the area and his first-time shot was blocked by a Dale defender, nearly wrong-footing the keeper who recovered to claim the ball.
Neat play down the right hand side saw the Gills fashion another opportunity but Tom Eaves wasn’t able to get enough power on his header after Wagstaff stood up a cross to beat Lillis in the Rochdale goal.
It took 16 minutes for Rochdale to carve out their first opportunity as a dangerous Joe Bunney free-kick was just about dealt with by the Gills defence before Tomas Holy caught Henderson’s shot from outside the area, with the away fans posed to celebrate.
That chance appeared to give the visitors renewed confidence and they began to exert some dominance on the game, looking to get down the flanks on every occasion.
Gillingham still looked a threat though, with Eaves far quicker than McNulty in the Rochdale back-line and he managed to get beyond him but could only blast wide after cutting the ball onto his right foot.
The spell of pressure from Dale eventually lead to the opening goal after the Gills gave the ball away on the half-way line. The visitors broke clear through Done and he laid it off to Cannon whose powerful shot from the edge of the area appeared to take a deflection as it flew past Holy and into the net.
Immediately the visitors nearly doubled the lead as Done had a chance in the area but his first shot was blocked by Gaby Zakuani and then he pulled his effort on the rebound into the ground and Holy was able to claim.
Having been pinned on the back foot, the Gills were soon able to begin pressurising Rochdale with Wagstaff winning the ball off a Dale defender in a dangerous area and bursting into the box but his cross was blocked behind for a corner.
The ball was then flicked through to Eaves who again had the beating of the Dale defence for pace but his snap shot flew into the side netting. From a Rochdale corner, Andrew found space in the box but his flicked header went comfortably wide of Holy’s right post.
A high boot from Nlthe gave Gillingham a good opportunity on the edge of the box as the referee gave the home side a free-kick. Martin tapped the ball to BRADLEY GARMSTON and the left back blasted home a brilliant, low shot from the edge of the box, beating Lillis at his left post.
With the wind in their sails, the Gills were knocking the ball about with more confidence after the goal, shown by Luke O’Neill who went on a dazzling run, beating about five defenders before he was eventually fouled 30 yards from goal. O’Neill took the set piece but the Rochdale wall did its job, taking the sting out of the shot which rolled through to Lillis.
The visitors were still in the game as Henderson jinked into the box before lifting a shot inches wide of the post, reminding the Gills of the threat they still possessed.
Two minutes were added on at the end of the half but neither side were able to make use of it and it was level going into the break.
H/T: 1 – 1
Following an uneventful start to the second half, Rochdale were inches from taking the lead as a long ball was flicked on by Andrew into the path of Henderson but his lob landed on the roof of the net, a huge let off for the home team.
Martin then delivered a teasing free-kick for Gillingham which was only headed as far as O’Neill, however his low shot was blocked well by a Dale defender. Camps then blasted wide after a corner was partially cleared the Gills defence.
The Gills felt they should have had a penalty after 55 minutes as Martin picked out Garmston before charging into the box where he felt he was impeded as he tried to get on the end of Garmston’s brilliant delivery.
After establishing some good pressure on the Rochdale back-line, Gillingham took the lead after 62 minutes through skipper LEE MARTIN. Substitute Elliott List did well to get a cross in from the right and Martin was in the right place at the right time to hammer a left-footed volley past Lillis and into the net.
List was a real live-wire for the Gills and another jinking run from the young winger earnt the Gills a free-kick in a good position. O’Neill curled it over the wall but Lillis got down exceptionally well to push it away.
After 73 minutes, Rochdale nearly grabbed an equaliser as Daniels got up highest to head powerfully towards goal but Holy made the save and held on.
The visitors were putting pressure on the Gills, however the hosts nearly sealed it on a rapid counter-attack but as Josh Parker attacked the last defender his shot was blocked behind. Kitching then sliced a shot well wide for Dale as Gillingham continued to defend.
Another chance came the way of Rochdale when they were given a free-kick thirty yards from goal after 80 minutes. The wall stood firm though to block the pile driver from Camps.
The visitors were now completely dominating the game as they looked to salvage something in the closing stages.
Billy Knott had a golden opportunity to equalise in added time as a lofted ball was nodded back into the danger area by Andrew, but the ex-Gills midfielder blazed his volley over the bar.
Rochdale continued to throw the kitchen sink at the Gills but the home team held out to claim a vital three points.
F/T: 2 – 1
Next weekend, the Gills make the long journey to Glanford Park to take on promotion-chasing Scunthorpe United.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Garmston (Ogilvie, 68); Byrne, Hessenthaler, Wagstaff (List, 46), Martin; Eaves, Parker
Unused subs: Nelson (GK), Lacey, Nugent, Oldaker, WIlkinson
Rochdale: Lillis; Nthle (Inman, 69), McNulty, Daniels; Bunney (McGahey, 83), Kitching, Cannon, Camps, Done (Knott, 69), Henderson; Andrew
Unused subs: Moore (GK), Rafferty, Rathbone, Adshead
Referee: Mr Lee Swabey
Attendance: 4,352 (109)