Gills seal victory at the Crown Oil Arena against Rochdale.
Oli Hawkins scored his second in as many games as Gillingham scored in either half to secure a massive 2-0 win against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena.
Hawkins gave Gillingham the lead in the 23rd minute following an excellent cross from Robbie McKenzie. His curling cross from the left fell perfectly for Hawkins to prod home from inside the six-yard box.
The Gills doubled their advantage with 15 minutes remaining as George Lapslie touched the ball into the back of the net. Tom Nichols did well to make his way into the penalty area before guiding his shot across the goal and towards the bottom corner. Lapslie, who latched onto the shot and got the final touch as the ball found the target.
Neil Harris made three changes to the team that beat Grimsby 2-1 in midweek. Cheye Alexander, whose excellent cross set up the winning goal on Tuesday, came into the starting XI in the place of David Tutonda. Aiden O'Brien and Shaun Williams also came into the line-up as Tom Nichols and Alex MacDonald were named among the substitutes.
O'Brien had a chance in the opening seconds. After the ball was played in the air, it eventually fell to the Shrewsbury loanee in a promising area. He brought the ball under control as a pocket of space opened up. The forward opted to shoot from over 20 yards, but his attempt left Richard O'Donnell untested as it cleared the crossbar.
Dom Jefferies had a great opportunity in the 15th minute. The ball sat perfectly for the midfielder following a blocked shot and he struck it well from around six yards out. He tried to beat O'Donnell with a low-driven effort, but the Rochdale keeper did well to get down and save with his feet.
The hosts had a great chance to go in front as a through ball appeared to be running out for a goal-kick, but Ian Henderson kept it alive and he attempted to prod it beyond Glenn Morris. The Gillingham goalkeeper did well to save it, but the rebound fell into a central area inside the penalty area. Fortunately, a Gills player was the first to it and cleared.
Seconds later, Williams came close with an effort from distance. It had O'Donnell at full stretch as the ball went wide of his right post following an excellent strike from all of 30 yards.
In the 23rd minute, Oli Hawkins put Gillingham in front. Robbie McKenzie's throw into the box came back to him, and he curled a testing cross into the penalty area. The hosts could not deal with it as it fell to Hawkins inside the six-yard box following a flick from Dieng. He did well to adjust himself as he prodded the ball beyond O'Donnell.
Toby Mullarkey came close to giving Rochdale an immediate response. He found himself in space 25 yards from the goal, and he decided to try his luck. His shot had plenty of power as Morris had to get across to keep it out.
George Lapslie came close in the 38th minute. The ball was headed into the path of the midfielder, who struck a left-footed half-volley goalward. Unfortunately, he could not make clear contact with the effort and O'Donnell got down to push it wide for a corner.
From the resulting corner, the visitors came close. Williams curled his corner towards the back post as it caused Rochdale problems. Hawkins and Conor Masterson were both there trying to get the definitive touch, but they were unable to direct it on target.
In the 43rd minute, the hosts were forced into a change in goal as O'Donnell went off with knock and was replaced by Jake Eastwood.
HALF-TIME: Rochdale 0-1 Gillingham
Henderson had a fantastic chance in the opening minutes of the second half. He managed to get on the end of a cross towards the back post and headed goalward. It was at a comfortable height for Morris, who did well to catch the effort. However, it would not have counted as he was in an offside position.
Timothee Dieng had the visitors' first chance of the second half in the 57th minute. Alexander curled the ball into the penalty area, where Dieng got across his man to volley it towards goal. It had plenty of power but proved to be a comfortable save for Eastwood.
Scott Quigley forced Morris into a save seconds later as Rochdale broke forward. Quigley got his shot away from inside the box, but it was too central as Morris palmed it away.
Gillingham's hearts were in mouths as Owen Dodgson's cross almost found the back of the net. His cross from the left was far too close to Morris, who had to back pedal and try to push it over the crossbar. He got a solid hand onto it as he pushed it onto the woodwork. However, instead of the ball going out for a corner, it bounced back onto the top of the crossbar before going out of play.
In the 75th minute, Gillingham doubled their advantage. As the hosts went in search of an equalizer, Gills broke forward with pace in a well-worked move. Tom Nichols, who had earlier replaced O'Brien, made his way into the penalty area before slotting a left-footed effort across the goal.
It left Eastwood rooted to his spot as the ball found the bottom corner. It appeared that Lapslie got the final touch to guide it into the back of the net from inside the six-yard box.
Conor Masterson produced an excellent goal-saving tackle to prevent a nervy ending to the game. A misplaced pass on the halfway line saw the hosts in an advantageous position. The ball was played in the direction of Henderson, who appeared to have plenty of time to shoot. However, Masterson came in with an excellent sliding challenge to take the ball away from the forward.
FULL-TIME: Rochdale 0-2 Gillingham
Rochdale: O'Donnell (Eastwood 43'), Mullarkey, Ebanks-Landell (Kelly 59') Bennett, Lloyd (Rodney 59'), Diagouraga, Keohane (Seriki 59'), Dodgson, Henderson, Quigley, Odoh
Unused Substitutes: Taylor, Mellor, Campbell
Gillingham: Morris, Alexander, Ehmer, Masterson, McKenzie, Williams, Dieng, Jefferies (Tutonda 80'), Lapslie (MacDonald 88'), O'Brien (Nichols 64'), Hawkins
Unused Substitutes: Turner, Wright, Gbode, Abrahams
Referee: Marc Edwards