Gills seal 4-1 win at Folkestone.
Three second-half goals helped seal a comfortable 4-1 for Gillingham on Tuesday night against Folkestone at Cheriton Road.
Bradley Stevenson opened the scoring just before the interval with Emmanuel Fernandez and sub Leroy Hlabi appearing to put the result beyond doubt.
Johan Ter Horst gave Folkestone late hope as his goal sparked a late surge, but Roman Campbell headed home with two minutes to play to ensure victory.
Jason Lillis and Ian Cox took charge of the game and fielded a slightly younger side in comparison to the team that defeated Faversham Town 3-1 a week prior.
Miquel Scarlett slotted in at right-back with youth team colleague Emmanuel Fernandez partnering Jack Tucker in the heart of defence.
Jude Arthurs started in the centre of midfield with Noel Mbo joining Conor Wilkinson in attack.
Folkestone, under the management of the ever present Neil Cugley, named former Gills right-back Jack Evans on the bench with Callum Davies rested.
Gillingham had the better of the opening exchanges and created the first meaningful chance on eight minutes when Scarlett, who had done well to hassle Kieron McCann and intercept, found Wilkinson in space on the right side. He spotted the run of Mbo who tried a clever back flick to beat the keeper at his near post only to see a defender get the final touch and concede a corner.
Five minutes later and Folkestone very nearly caught Gills on the counter when McCann managed to get around Scarlett who did his best to put in a challenge, went to ground and the winger attempted to find the top left corner but Hadler at his near post covered to make the stop.
Darren Oldaker was forced off after 20 minutes and was replaced by striker Roman Campbell which allowed for a slight reshuffle with the visitors going 4-3-3 in attack and 4-5-1 when defending. Chapman did well to block an effort from Ronnie Dolan before Gills came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock.
A great run from Wilkinson, coming from the right hand side to the centre, allowed others to join the attack; Stevenson peeled off to his right and immediately tried to find space for a shot; from 18 yards he pulled the trigger on his left foot and struck the inside of the post with Mbo’s follow up well blocked by a recovering defender.
Wilkinson was denied courtesy of a decent sliding block, but Gills finally did break the deadlock just before the interval. Stevenson, who had progressively become more influential during the game, received the ball from 25 yards, decided to shoot. The keeper appeared to be deceived by the bounce on the turf, it struck him but then bounced over him and he was unable to claw the ball out before it crossed the line.
The ball was in the net six minutes following the restart but the flag went up against Noel Mbo. However, that was irrelevant as a few moments later the second goal was finally scored. A corner from Wilkinson was delivered right into the heart of the penalty and Fernandez got a couple of touches to beat Shaw who again tried to back track but couldn’t keep it out.
Gillingham dominated for the next 20 minutes and it was only a matter of time before a third was scored, and it came on 69 minutes when a low corner from the right was played into the path of Hlabi who made a good connection with his favoured right foot; the effort took a deflection on the way through but the striker claimed it to put the result beyond doubt.
However Folkestone pulled one back with a quarter of an hour left to play; Kane Rowland’s initial effort was well saved by Hadler to his right hand side, but sub Johan Ter Horst was first to react and he beat the recovering keeper from just a few yards.
Hadler had to be alert soon after as Ian Draycott’s shot was aiming for the far corner before the keeper acrobatically kept his effort at bay before making a more routine save from Rowland who didn’t connect as well as he would have liked to from just six yards.
Draycott had another effort saved by Hadler before Gills scored on the counter; an excellent cross from the right was played towards Campbell and he converted from close range to clinch a fourth goal for the visitors.
From the restart, Folkestone went straight up the other end and a perfectly weighted through pass split the Gills defence; Hadler came out to narrow the gap and the home number seven put his shot inches wide of the right post.
Folkestone: Shaw (Coleman 79), Aboagye, Starkey (Baker 79), Newman, Vincent, Everitt, Draycott, Dolan, Rowland, Paxman, McCann (Ter Horst 64).
Unused subs: Evans.
Gills: Hadler, Scarlett, Fernandez, Tucker, Simpson, Oldaker (Campbell 20), Stevenson, Arthurs (Noyelle 69), Chapman, Wilkinson, Mbo (Hlabi 64).
Unused subs: Catherall, Morrell, Allen
Referee: Mr J Packham