Gills leave Sixfields empty handed as the Cobblers strike late to boost their promotion hopes.
Will Hondermarck’s late stunning strike proved to be the difference as Northampton beat Gillingham 2-1 at the Sixfields Stadium on Easter Monday.
Hondermarck tried his luck with a powerful effort from over 20 yards in the last ten minutes which found the top left corner, leaving Glenn Morris with no chance of keeping it out.
Louis Appere gave Northampton the lead in the first half with a low-driven effort from inside the Gillingham penalty area. Aiden O’Brien had brought the Gills level in the 63rd minute, seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Tom Nichols beat Lee Burge to a 50/50 ball, and the loose ball fell to Oli Hawkins. He squared to O’Brien, who slid the ball into the back of an empty net.
Gills boss Neil Harris made three changes to the starting XI that beat Doncaster on Good Friday. Will Wright, George Lapslie and Dom Jefferies came into the line-up, while Aiden O’Brien and Alex MacDonald dropped to the bench.
Conor Masterson missed out due to the head injury he suffered against Doncaster. Max Ehmer started at the heart of the Gillingham defence, making his 350th appearance for the club in the process.
Mitch Pinnock tried his luck in the second minute from nearly 25 yards out. Fortunately, his effort went wide of Glenn Morris’ goal, leaving him untroubled.
Ehmer had the first half-chance of the game for the Gills. Wright curled a free-kick from the right into the penalty area, and Ehmer flicked it goalward. However, it was a simple save for Lee Burge, who comfortably gathered it.
Sam Hoskins had a good opportunity in the 28th minute. Louis Appere managed to get down the left and pulled the ball back towards Hoskins, who was inside the penalty area. The ball made its way to the forward, who struck it goalward, but Robbie McKenzie was on hand to make the all-important block.
In the 32nd minute, Appere fired Northampton in front. Gills could not get rid of a ball into the penalty area, and it dropped to Appere, who found the bottom corner with a low driven effort.
Morris made a massive save to prevent the hosts from doubling their lead. Marc Leonard lofted a cross towards the back post, which Jon Guthrie got on the end of. He headed the ball down towards the near post, but Morris did brilliantly to get down and push it away before the Gills cleared their lines.
HALF-TIME: Northampton Town 1-0 Gillingham
Gills made a change at half-time with Lewis Page replacing Jefferies, meaning they would operate with a back five in the second half. Page played at left wing-back, while McKenzie played as a right-sided centre-back.
Pinnock’s cross from the left needed a touch from a Northampton player to double their lead in the 59th minute. The ball into the Gillingham penalty area was a testing one, which flashed across the face of the goal with a player trying to head it home. Fortunately, it missed him before bouncing out for a goal-kick.
In the 62nd minute, Gills made a trio of substitutions. MacDonald, Ethan Coleman and O’Brien replaced Cheye Alexander, Timothee Dieng and Lapslie respectively.
That proved to be an inspired decision, as O’Brien brought Gillingham back level with his first touch of the game. Wright lofted the ball forward, and Nichols did well to time his run to beat the offside trap. With the ball bouncing inside the penalty area, Nichols went into a 50/50 with Burge, which the forward won. It sat for Oli Hawkins, who squared the ball across the goal for O’Brien to slide in and score with his first touch of the game.
O’Brien came close to scoring his second in the 74th minute. The ball sat nicely for the forward to shoot on the half-volley, but his strike went just wide of the far post.
Will Hondermarck restored Northampton’s lead in the 82nd minute with a stunning strike. The opportunity to shoot from over 20 yards opened up for the midfielder, and he thumped the ball goalward. It flew into the top left corner, leaving Morris with no chance of keeping it out as he was at full stretch in his attempts.
In the final minute of stoppage time, Nichols had a great opportunity. MacDonald curled a ball in from the right, and the striker found himself unmarked. He glanced his header towards the goal, but it went narrowly wide of the post with Burge rooted to his spot.
FULL-TIME: Northampton Town 2-1 Gillingham
Northampton Town: Burge, Lintott (Sowerby 46’), Guthrie, Norman, Haynes, Hondermarck, Leonard, Pinnock, Bowie (Yengi 87’), Appere (Hylton 77’), Hoskins
Unused Substitutes: King, Wright-Phillips, Tomlinson, Osew
Gillingham: Morris, Alexander (MacDonald 62’), Ehmer, Wright (Abrahams 88’), McKenzie, Williams, Dieng (Coleman 63’), Jefferies (Page 46’), Lapslie (O’Brien 62’), Hawkins, Nichols
Unused Substitutes: Holtam, Tutonda
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 6904 (847 Gillingham supporters)