Gills seal crucial win in Bristol.
Goals from Elliott List and Callum Reilly helped Gills to a dramatic 2-1 win at the Memorial Stadium on Tuesday evening.
List gave the Gills the lead before Reilly struck midway through the second half as the Gills looked set to take home the three points but a red card for Reilly saw the game turn. Liam Sercombe struck a free-kick with five minutes to play to set up a nervy last few minutes but the Gills held on for a vital three points in Sky Bet League 1.
Gillingham made four changes to the side that Lost to Luton Town on Saturday with Darren Oldaker, Callum Reilly, Connor Ogilvie & Josh Parker all returning to the starting eleven. For the hosts, former League 2 title winner, Joe Martin, started while there was a place on the bench for ex-frontman Stefan Payne.
Gills, lining up in the blue home shirt, blue shorts and yellow socks started brightly, Elliott List getting on the end of a Mark Byrne cross, but the forward saw his header roll wide. List was starting at the top of diamond with Parker partnering Eaves up front.
The hosts first chance of the game fell to Tom Nichols but the forward shot over Tomas Holy’s bar without too much trouble.
It took only eight minutes for Gills to take the lead. After Eaves and Reilly initially had been shut out by the Gas defence, List and Parker produced a neat interchange, with the latter finding space to stroke home from the edge of the area. A classy goal from the Gills forward, who netted his fifth goal of the season.
The hosts went about an immediate response, but Alex Rodman shot wide from the edge of the box after neat build up down the right-hand side.
In the 15th minute Gills were forced in to an early change, Captain Gabriel Zakuani limping off after a heavy challenge, with Bradley Garmston taking the place of the Gills skipper who walked off holding his back.
The visitors were getting the ball down and passing it extremely well and from the next flowing move, Parker played in Fuller who delivered back to the forward who saw his header deflected over the bar for a corner.
Rovers were beginning to enjoy more of the ball but the Gills defence, supported by the midfield, were holding firm. Only a speculative effort from Alex Rodman really tested Tomas Holy’s goal before the same player fired over from the edge of the box just moments later.
The referee’s half-time whistle blew to boos from the home fans, a sign of the impressive nature of the first-half.
Bristol Rovers made the only change at half-time; Stefan Payne replacing Alex Rodman as Darrell Clarke’s side looked for a way back into the game. Although they were immediately forced into another change when keeper Jack Bonham went down off the ball, the Gas keeper being replaced by Adam Smith in the sticks.
The first real chance of the second-half went the way of the hosts; Payne dispossessed Parker before firing straight at Holy, the keeper getting down well to deny the former Priestfield striker.
Steve Lovell’s men were to double their lead in the 58th minute. Reilly, back in the team after an injury lay off picked up the ball 25 yards out before letting off a thunderous low drive with his weak foot in to the bottom corner right in front of the 200 Gills fans.
Again, Rovers looked to respond immediately and in the 62nd minute Holy was forced in to a wonder save. A ball in from the left-hand side evaded everyone and Bradley Garmston inadvertently turned the ball towards his goal but Holy was on hand to produce a huge stop.
With the two goal advantage Gills were soon down to ten men. Reilly mis-timed his tackle and referee Ollie Yates was left with no choice but to brandish a red card to the scorer of Gills’ second goal.
The Rovers tails were up and the noise levels inside the Memorial Stadium were rising; Holy on hand to deny Tom Nichols from close range as the momentum of the game turned.
Gills players and management were up in arms just minutes later when Josh Parker slipped Connor Ogilvie through on goal, the defender was brought down and much to the amazement of everyone in the ground the referee didn’t see it a foul, which would have surely have led to a red card.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Billy Bingham and Luke O’Neill were bought on to freshen things up for the Gills, Elliott List and Darren Oldaker the men replaced.
Bristol Rovers pulled a goal back with five minutes to play. After Chris Lines was fouled outside the box, Liam Sercombe brilliantly curled the ball in to the top corner from a free-kick 25 yards out to cut the deficit to just one.
Bristol Rovers very nearly got another from their next attack, Holy having to be on hand to deny Stefan Payne from a corner.
As the referee indicated there would be eight minutes of injury time, Sercombe struck the post with Holy stranded in his goal, before one final attack led to Max Ehmer producing a sublime block as the final whistle blew and the Gills players sunk to the floor, a colossal effort rightly rewarded with three crucial points.
A hugely impressive rear-guard display in the last 20 minutes but the work had been done before that. Two clinical strikes sealed an almost perfect away day for Gills effort as they sealed an impressive three points on the road.
Bristol Rovers: Jack Bonham; Joe Partington, Tom Lockyer, Tony Craig, Joe Martin, Stuart Sinclair (Sam Matthews 69), Liam Sercombe, Chris Lines Kyle Bennett, Alex Rodman (Stefan Payne 45), Tom Nichols.
Unused subs: James Clarke, Ed Upson, Gavin Reilly, Daniel Leadbitter.
Gillingham: Tomas Holy Conor Ogilvie, Gabriel Zakuani (Bradley Garmston 15), Max Ehmer, Barry Fuller, Darren Oldaker (Billy Bingham 80), Mark Byrne, Callum Reilly, Josh Parker, Tom Eaves, Elliott List (Luke O’Neill 80).
Unused subs: Tom Hadler, Brandon Hanlan, Noel Mbo, Josh Rees
Referee: Mr Ollie Yates
Attendance 6583 (192 Gills fans)