Tom Eaves strikes a hat-trick as Gills dominate Plymouth at Priestfield.
A hat-trick from Tom Eaves powered Gillingham to victory against Plymouth Argyle in an exciting game that gave the Priestfield faithful the best possible sign-off to the Sky Bet League One Season.
A goal from Josh Parker and then two from Tom Eaves put the Gills in command at the break despite Grant grabbing an equaliser for Plymouth midway through the half.
In the second half, Eaves secured his hat-trick and Elliott List scored a brilliant goal to follow up his first for the Club last Saturday – with a Bradley header pegging the Gills back inbetween – as the hosts romped to victory in the summer sunshine.
Steve Lovell named an unchanging starting XI from the side that secured League One safety away at Bristol Rovers a week earlier with the Gills looking to take a win into the close season.
After a sedate opening, the visitors had the first opportunity of the game as Sawyers found space on the left flank and delivered a ball into the centre of the box where Grant controlled and stabbed towards goal but it was well blocked by the Gills defence.
But from that attack the Gills took the lead following a smooth counter-attack. The ball was cleared and Lee Martin drove forward at the heart of the Argyle defence before slipping in JOSH PARKER who steadied himself before blasting past Matthews into the net.
The hosts were looking the brighter team with Plymouth perhaps jaded from their long, disappointing trip to Scunthorpe in the week. However, they were nearly level from a corner which was headed back across goal yet there was no player in green to make the decisive touch and Luke O’Neill was on hand to hack clear after a quarter of an hour.
Argyle were level just after twenty minutes when a free-kick into the area caused chaos in the box with the Gills unable to clear the lines and Grant managed to prod over the line at the second time of asking despite the valiant efforts of Max Ehmer to scramble it clear.
Parity did not last long as Vyner misjudged a long ball forward from Ehmer leaving TOM EAVES in acres of space to gallop free and slot past Matthews and give the Gills the lead for a second time.
The game was incredibly open as Argyle looked for the goals that could regain a play-off spot but the Gills were now looking the more likely as Callum Reilly saw a goal blocked behind for a corner.
From that corner, Gillingham did extend their lead as a great delivery in was met by TOM EAVES at the far stick who managed to squeeze his header in off the post.
With no pressure on them, the Gills were playing some lovely football as Wagstaff was released by a superb ball from O’Neill, but his cross was missed by inches as Parker came sliding in.
With the game entering two minutes of stoppage time, Carey had a chance from a free-kick thirty yards out but the wall did its job to block the effort.
A minute from an almost identical position, Fox chipped the ball into the box but Tomas Holy came out to claim the ball and the Gills went into the break with a two goal advantage.
H/T: 3 – 1
In their hunt for quick goals, Argyle were playing some frenetic football and were guilty of giving the ball away in dangerous positions early on in the second half. However, the Gills were unable to capitalise with a Gaby Zakuani header at the far post from a corner the closest they went but the effort was narrowly wide.
But Gillingham weren’t denied for long as a long throw from Mark Byrne was flicked on by Ehmer at the near post and TOM EAVES was unmarked in the middle to nod past the keeper and claim his second hat-trick of the season.
Irresistible in attack, Gillingham nearly had a fifth with Parker running through on goal but denied by Matthews and Reilly’s powerful effort was drilled into the side netting.
A great run from Byrne gave Gills another chance but Eaves fluffed his lines as the ball was pulled back to him and Bradley Garmston’s thunderous effort from just over 25 yards was straight at Matthews who nonetheless did very well to claim at the second attempt.
The closest Plymouth came was a flicked header that was straight down the throat of Holy as they struggled to come to terms with the hosts’ vibrant performance. A sliced Holy clearance then looked to have gifted Argyle a golden chance but Ehmer was quickly back to clear.
With Gillingham comfortably in the lead, the game was drifting in the evening sunshine with Steve Lovell bringing on Jake Hessenthaler for Martin who looked to have taken a slight knock on the ankle.
Songo’o had a chance for the visitors after 72 minutes but his header was, again, straight at Holy who was able to make a simple save.
A minute later, Eaves was withdrawn to a rapturous reception and replaced by Conor Wilkinson.
With 75 minutes on the clock, the Gills had another opportunity to extend their lead with Parker released down the left before cutting in and feeding Reilly, but the loan midfielder’s arrowed shot was inches over the bar.
Argyle were back in the game seconds later as a long throw was headed past Holy by Bradley at the near post with the Czech given no chance.
Despite the goal pegging Gillingham back, they were still on the hunt for goals. Another misplaced pass found Parker in space and he fed Byrne in the box but under pressure, the Gills midfielder shot over.
Gillingham’s final substitution saw last week’s goal-scorer Eliott List replace Parker up front after 82 minutes.
With the game ticking into three minutes of injury time, the Gills were still not finished as a long ball down the channel from O’Neill found the substitute ELLIOTT LIST running through and he powered a low shot into the corner of the net.
The goal marked his second in as many games and put five on the board for the first time this season for Gillingham as they headed in to the summer break on a high.
F/T: 5 – 2
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Garmston; Byrne; Wagstaff, Martin (Hessenthaler, 64), Reilly; Parker (List, 82); Eaves (Wilkinson, 73)
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Nugent, Ogilvie, Nasseri
Plymouth Argyle: Matthews; Miller, Bradley, Vyner, Sawyer; Carey, Fox, Songo’o; Lameiras (Taylor-Sinclair, 56), Fletcher (Sangster, 56), Grant (Battle, 77)
Unused subs: Letheren (GK), Law, Rooney, Lolos
Referee: Mr Brendan Malone
Attendance: 6,269 (1,461)