Gillingham take massive step to League One safety with win.
Gillingham took a major step towards securing League One football next season after a superb second half performance secured all three points at the Medway Priestfield Stadium against Plymouth Argyle.
A sloppy first half performance was punished with Freddie Ladapo putting the Pilgrims one up at the break, squeezing the ball home after driving at pace at the home defence.
However, a double sub at half time spurred the Gills into action and the lead was soon reversed. First, Elliott List ran at lightning pace at the visitors and dragged out a great cross from the byline that was bundled home by Regan Charles-Cook between the sticks before Mark Byrne headed home a corner two minutes later to give the Gills the advantage just ten minutes or so into the second period.
After that, the hosts dominated possession and as Plymouth committed men forward late on to try and snatch a point, Brandon Hanlan killed the game off as he slipped the ball under Letheren when played through in acres of space to clinch the victory.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell made just one change from the team that slipped to defeat against Shrewsbury last week with Charles-Cook replacing Graham Burke in behind the front two.
The first ten minutes played out as a midfield in the glorious conditions at Priestfield with both sets of fans giving vocal backing, however little was created despite Gillingham managing to get a couple of balls into the box.
Carey had the first attempt of the game after 20 minutes as the Pilgrims broke on the Gills and a ball played in to the top of the box was collected by the playmaker and curled towards goal immediately, but a deflection took the sting out of the effort allowing Tomas Holy to make a simple stop.
Two minutes later, Gillingham were inches from the lead as a corner from Luke O’Neill caused mayhem in the six yards with Connor Ogilvie closest to hooking it in before a deflection took the ball just wide of the post.
With the game now opening up, Argyle punished the Gills for giving the ball on halfway as Ladapo surged forward and bamboozled Max Ehmer before squeezing a powerful shot past Holy and put the visitors in front.
In a near repeat of the game away against Wycombe, Hanlan did brilliantly to get the ball on the apex of the box before driving to the byline and dragging a ball back but Billy Bingham couldn’t get it out of his feet to convert.
The next half chance for the hosts came on 42 minutes as a long ball forward was held up well by Tom Eaves who allowed it to bounce onto his left foot but from a tight angle his scuffed angled bounced wide with Hanlan unable to get on the end of it.
With two minutes added on to the half, Gillingham managed to win a final corner after battling work from Eaves but the Argyle keeper did superbly well to pluck the ball out of the air from O’Neill’s whipped delivery.
H/T: 0 – 1
The Gaffer made two half-time changes with Tahvon Campbell and List coming on in place of Bingham and Eaves.
Gillingham started the half strongly with some good play ending in another scramble in the box but List’s bycicle kick was blocked and Argyle hacked clear. The ball fell to Ladapo who again drove powerfully at the Gills defence but he dragged his shot wide from 25 yards.
The Pilgrims had a golden chance to double the lead as a cross came all the way through the box to Edwards who jinked inside Ehmer but from just outside the six yard box his curled effort cleared the bar.
With 55 minutes on the clock, the changes paid dividends for the hosts as List did superbly well to drive to the byline and dig out a drilled cross that REGAN CHARLES-COOK managed to get on the end of and bundle home to draw the Gills level.
The crowd was now rocking and just two minutes later the Gills had another goal! After Ehmer had won a corner, O’Neil delivered a peach of a ball that found MARK BYRNE unmarked in the middle of the area and he headed home to complete the turnaround.
Another corner brought a chance for the Gills just after the hour with Ehmer getting on the end of the cross but his effort went into the side netting.
A great counter-attack for the Gills unleashed the hosts down the right and Campbell was pulled back as he charged in towards the box with the ball floated in to him. O’Neill took the free-kick from 25 yards and hit the wall before Dean Parrett blazed the rebound over.
Gillingham were all over the visitors as they looked for a third killer goal which O’Neill again went close to supplying as a drilled cross/shot flew across goal and just wide with the ref pointing for a corner.
The cross came in and was recycled with Letheren doing superbly well to get a finger on a Hanlan header before Ehmer tapped home, but the linesman’s flag was up.
Argyle then gave Gills a huge fright as they produced a lightning counter attack with Sarcevic putting the ball wide under no pressure as a pass came across goal. A golden opportunity to equalise.
That chance spurred Plymouth on and they were now in the ascendancy with ten minutes to go. Another slipped ball got Jones in down the right but his cross was hacked behind before the corner bounced up kindly for Holy with the ball pinging around the box.
A free-kick on the left flank gave the visitors another chance to get the ball into a dangerous area. A powerful cross was met by Edwards but he couldn’t keep his header down and it looped onto the top of the goal.
Having soaked up the Plymouth pressure, the Gills delivered the killer blow as Byrne intercepted a ball on halfway and sent BRANDON HANLAN clean through on goal. The striker took his time in acres of space before slotting under the keeper to secure three crucial points.
F/T: 3 – 1
The Gills have just a few days rest before travelling to Bradford on Easter Monday to take on the relegated Bantams.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Ogilvie Fuller; Parrett, Byrne, Bingham (List 46), Charles-Cook (Rees, 72); Hanlan, Eaves (Campbell, 46)
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Garmston, Lacey, Oldaker
Plymouth Argyle: Letheren; Sawyer, Edwards, Jones, Smith-Brown (Canavan, 76); Sarcevic (Taylor, 76), Ness, Fox; Carey, Ladapo, Lameiras
Unused subs: Macey (GK), Songo’o, Anderson, Moore, Fletcher
Referee: Mr Antony Coggins
Attendance: 5,987 (836)