Early second-half strike enough for Blackpool to clinch victory at Priestfield.
Gillingham were denied a hat-trick of home wins by Blackpool on Tuesday evening at the Medway Priestfield Stadium as they failed to turn possession into goals and were made to pay as the visitors nicked a scarcely deserved 1-0 victory.
Connor Ogilvie hit the bar after ten minutes and Elliott List was denied in injury time by a great save, but a Nathan Delfouneso header just after the break gave the Tangerines all three points.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made just one change to the starting eleven with Connor Ogilvie coming into the team in place of the injured Billy Bingham and Josh Parker coming onto the substitute’s bench.
After a quiet first ten minutes, Gillingham nearly took the lead as a good move found Mark Byrne in space on the right flank. His cross was cleared as far as Ogilvie who struck first time from the edge of the box but his effort cannoned off the bar and behind.
The Gills were looking confident after two successive home wins and another good passage of play saw Darren Oldaker in space 30 yards from goal but his effort was drilled wide of goal.
Tom Eaves was putting in a a typically combative performance and he did well to win a free-kick near the byline on the right hand side. A training ground routine saw Luke O’Neill drag the ball back for Oldaker and he struck sweetly but a Blackpool player managed to get a crucial block in.
Tomas Holy’s first save of note came from a corner when Heneghan rose highest but the Gills stopper was able to punch clear.
The Tangerines were looking most threatening from set pieces and thought they should have had a penalty when a corner was whipped in as players grappled in the box, but the referee was unmoved.
Charles-Cook had the first Gills shot on target just before the half hour as he took aim from 25 yards with little else on from the apex of the box but Mafoumbi was able to claim.
Blackpool were finding joy through the middle of the pitch and Nottingham was picked out in space on the right flank, delivering a great ball into the box that no white shirted player was able to get on the end of. The resulting corner caused carnage but again the Gills survived.
With 38 minutes on the clock Gillingham had their best effort of the game after Brandon Hanlan did well to win a free-kick 30 yards from the goal near the corner of the box. Oldaker struck a fierce drive that was swerving in front of the keeper who did well to get enough on the ball to keep it out then recover to tip over Mark Byrne’s header.
Hanlan was next to threaten the visitors goal as Eaves did well to win the ball out wide before threading a ball into Hanlan whose shot was always sliding wide as the half dribbled to a goalless conclusion.
H/T: 0 –0
Seconds after the half-time whistle the Tangerines were inches from taking the lead as a well crafted move released Marc Bola down the left in space and Cullen was inches from diverting the ball home.
The Gills were soon back onto the front foot and patient build up play eventually allowed Charles-Cook to dink a ball in towards Eaves but his control just let him down and he was unable to get a shot away.
That let-off proved crucial as the Tangerines immediately took the lead when a ball in from the left by Taylor found Delfouneso in space at the back post and he headed past Holy.
The hosts were pressing hard as they looked to get back on terms but they were being frustrated by a stubborn defensive performance.
Blackpool slowed it down throughout the second period with the closest the Gills came to an equaliser coming from Barry Fuller after he cut onto his left foot and shot from a marauding run, but the keeper did enough to keep it out.
As the game ticked into four minutes of added time, Gills had a glorious chance to equalise as Byrne picked out List with a through ball and he raced towards goal and blasted on target but Mafoumbi made himself big to make the save. Byrne followed up well to collect the ball but skied his shot.
One final chance came to the Gills with a free-kick 30 yards from goal – Oldaker took responsibility but attempting to blast the ball into the top corner got under it and his effort flew into the Rainham End.
F/T: 0 – 1
The First Round of the FA Cup comes to Kent on Saturday when Gillingham entertain Hartlepool of the National League.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill (List, 76), Zakuani, Ehmer, Fuller, Ogilvie (Parker, 87); Oldaker, Byrne, Charles-Cook (Parrett, 76); Eaves, Hanlan
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Simpson, Nasseri, Mbo
Blackpool: Mafoumbi (GK); Bola, Heneghan, Tilt, Nottingham; Spearing, Turton, Guy, Taylor (Thompson, 60); Delfouneso, Cullen (Pritchard, 84)
Unused subs: Boney (GK), Doodoo, McLaughlin, Feeney, O’Sullivan
Referee: Mr Craig Hicks
Attendance: 4055 (90 Blackpool)