Gillingham move out of relegation after crucial victory.
A first half strike from Mark Byrne was enough for the Gills to claim the spoils at the Medway Priestfield Stadium on Saturday and move out of the League One drop zone and up to 17th position.
An excellent first half showing proved the difference between the two sides and Gillingham led Scunthorpe at the break after Leo Da Silva Lopes’ trickery had bamboozled the Iron’s backline before laying off to Mark Byrne who slammed home.
The second period was tense but the Gills defended resolutely to claim a clean sheet and a vital 1-0 victory in the battle against the drop.
Gillingham Manager Steve Lovell, as promised, made changes to the starting XI with Luke O’Neill coming in for Gaby Zakuani in the back line with the Gills skipper out for the rest of the season following an ankle injury picked up last week.
Elsewhere, Billy Bingham came in to provide the anchor for the diamond formation while Lopes made his first start for the Club – Billy King and Josh Rees the players to drop out.
After a tight start, the visitors created the first chance when a set-piece was swung in from the right hand side and was met by Rory McArdle unmarked in the area but Holy got down quickly to tip his header around the post.
Graham Burke had Gillingham’s first effort of the game as he picked the ball up 30 yards from goal following neat inter-play in the midfield and tried his luck but his effort didn’t have enough curl to bring it back on target.
That seemed to lift the hosts who were unlucky not to capitalise on a corner, won after a mazy dribbling run from Bingham, with the Iron able to hack clear a goalmouth scramble.
Then, a superb cross field ball was taken down by Burke who got to the by-line and delivered a low cross that a Scunthorpe defender just managed to get a toe, doing enough to confuse Brandon Hanlan and stop him tapping into an empty net at the far post.
Just after 20 minutes, the Gills thought they had the lead when Mark Byrne got a left-footed cross in which found Tom Eaves at the far post. His header back across goal was smashed home by Captain Max Ehmer however the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations.
Scunthorpe came back at the Gills with Pearce smashing what appeared to be a speculative effort from 35 yards however Holy had to be alert to prevent the ball arrowing into the top corner. From the corner, McArdle was first to the ball at the near post but his header didn’t have enough on it and the ball dribbled out for a throw in on the far side.
Just before the half hour, Gillingham did take the lead. After a spell of possession, Lopes bamboozled the Scunthorpe defence with his pace and trickery gliding past a defender before laying the ball off to MARK BYRNE who fired a low shot from 25 yards into the bottom left corner.
The Gills were controlling the game with the Iron struggling to get much possession in dangerous areas, and relying on set pieces to cause a threat. Another ball in from the right was well dealt with by Eaves allowing the home side to clear.
As the game ticked into one added minute, Holy was called into action as van Veen had space on the area to curl a shot first-time towards goal, however it was straight at the giant Czech who gobbled up the ball to send the Gills into the break a goal to the good.
H/T: 1 – 0
Gillingham started the second period on the front foot with the impressive Lopes doing well to win a free-kick 25 yards from goal. O’Neill took the honours but his free-kick went straight in to the wall.
Byrne had the next opportunity after another good move from the Gills left the midfielder in space on the edge of the box. A quick touch forward and snapshot sent the ball just wide of the post with the keeper rooted to the spot.
The closest the Iron came in the first ten minutes was a header from Wootton after he got ahead of Connor Ogilvie but could only divert it wide.
Lovell made his first substitute just after the hour with Darren Oldaker replacing Bingham in the anchor role.
The game was tense and combative, with Wootton failing to test Holy after turning on the ball on the apex of the box and sending a hoiked shot well wide.
The Gills weren’t enjoying the same level of domination as the game entered the final 15 minutes with a free-kick finding Hanlan but the striker just couldn’t get enough on it under severe pressure.
Callum Reilly replaced Lopes who had put in a great shift, with little over ten minutes to go. Hammill, a sub for the Iron, then went close with a shot from the edge of the area as the nerves began to grow.
Scunthorpe were now piling on the pressure as the in-form team looked for an equaliser, getting balls into the box on a regular basis. Lovell combatted this by bringing on the pace of Elliott List, looking for a goal on the break to finish the game off.
List was immediately causing trouble driving into the box and getting a shot away which was well blocked. Eaves was lurking with danger at the far post as the ball flew up in the air but a Scunthorpe defender just managed to kick the ball away.
Four minutes were added by the fourth official for the Gills to see out.
The Iron continued to throw men forward but the Gills resisted to claim a crucial win and move out of the relegation zone.
F/T: 1 – 0
The Gills are on their travels next week when they go to the Stadium of Light to take on promotion-chasing Sunderland on Tuesday before a trip to Wycombe on Saturday.
Gillingham: Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Ogilvie Fuller; Bingham (Oldaker, 62), Byrne, Lopes (Reilly, 78), Burke (List, 84); Hanlan, Eaves
Unused subs: Hadler (GK), Parrett, King, Charles-Cook
Scunthorpe: Alnwick; McMahon, McGahey, McArdle Burgess, Pearce (El-Mhanni, 78); Ojo, Sutton, Thomas (Hammill, 73); Wootton, van Veen (Olomola, 62)
Unused subs: Flatt (GK), Webster, Lewis, Butroid
Referee: Mr Lee Swabey