Cheye Alexander comes off the bench to score the winning penalty as Gills clinch victory on the road against promotion chasing Salford.
Cheye Alexander’s late penalty proved to be the winner as Gillingham ended their 2022/23 season with a 1-0 win against Salford City at the Peninsula Stadium.
Alexander replaced Robbie McKenzie during the second half and took the penalty after Lewis Page, who had replaced David Tutonda seconds earlier, was fouled inside the penalty area.
The right-back stepped up and kept his composure as he placed the ball into the right corner of the net, sending Alex Cairns the wrong way.
Neil Harris made four changes to the starting XI for the final game of the 2022/23 season as Jake Turner started in goal. David Tutonda started at left-back, while Oli Hawkins returned to lead the line alongside Tom Nichols.
Jayden Clarke made his first Gillingham start on his 22nd birthday. Glenn Morris, Alex MacDonald and Cheye Alexander were named among the substitutes, while Tim Dieng missed the fixture due to injury.
Elliot Watt had a half chance in the 13th minute when a loose ball made its way towards him. He was presented with an opportunity to shoot, but his speculative effort cleared the crossbar, leaving Turner untroubled.
Gills had a golden chance moments later through Nichols. Robbie McKenzie crossed the ball into the box, where Hawkins flicked the ball into the path of his strike partner. The striker made contact with the ball but not sufficiently, as the oncoming Alex Cairns gathered the ball at the second attempt.
In the 21st minute, Steve Mallan tried his luck from distance. It had plenty of power, forcing Turner to get down to palm it away from danger. Matt Smith got to the second ball, but nothing came of it.
Turner did brilliantly denying Louie Barry in the 31st minute. Barry cut inside on his right foot before firing goalward. It took a deflection on its way and Turner did well in reacting quickly to push the ball over the goal for a corner, which came to nothing.
Gills had another good chance from a McKenzie cross. Conor Masterson played a great switching pass to send McKenzie away down the right. He then curled a cross towards Hawkins, who could not make clear contact.
Hawkins and Dom Jefferies then went for the second ball, but neither could send it goalward before a foul was given in favour of the hosts.
McKenzie continued to have joy down the right as he created another opportunity for Hawkins. He did well to get beyond a defender before playing the ball into the box. The striker managed to flick the ball towards the goal but could not hit the target as it went wide of the post.
Mallan came close from 30 yards after the hosts were awarded a free-kick. Mallan curled the ball towards the right side of the goal, where it bounced just in front of Turner, who did well to palm it behind the post for a corner.
HALF-TIME: Salford City 0-0 Gillingham
Gills started the second half brightly, and Hawkins came close to giving them the lead. Masterson played the ball into the box, where it was flicked on towards the former Mansfield man, who thumped a header over the crossbar.
Matt Smith forced Turner into a brilliant save in the 58th minute. The ball was played into the striker’s feet before he turned and directed a low-driven effort towards the far corner. Turner did well to get down and got a solid hand on the ball to push it away before Gills eventually cleared their lines.
Mallan came close with a free-kick again, this time from 25 yards. He curled it towards the top corner at the near post but missed the target, with Turner diving to ensure he had it covered.
In the 67th minute, Gillingham made their first two substitutions, with Alexander and MacDonald replacing McKenzie and Clarke respectively.
Five minutes later, Nichols came close after Ethan Coleman played the ball to the striker inside the penalty area. Nichols brought the ball inside on his right foot before getting towards a central position and shooting. Unfortunately, he could not hit the target as he fired over the crossbar.
In the 74th minute, Josh Chambers came on to replace George Lapslie, who went off with what appeared to be a knock.
In the 81st minute, Lewis Page replaced Tutonda and made an immediate impact as he won the Gills a penalty. Page received the ball and made his way into the area before being hacked down by Liam Shephard. The referee took a moment before pointing to the penalty spot.
Alexander took the spot kick and kept his composure as he placed the ball into the right corner of the net, sending Cairns the wrong way.
In the final moments of stoppage time, there was a moment of panic when Smith beat Turner to the ball. Fortunately, his header looped straight into the hands of the Gills keeper.
FULL-TIME: Salford City 0-1 Gillingham
Salford City: Cairns, Shephard (Morton 90’), Vassell, Mariappa, Touray, Watt, Mallan, Bolton, Hendry (McAleny 73’), Barry (Lund 73’), Smith
Unused Substitutes: Bellagambi, Galbraith, Leak, McLoughlin
Gillingham: Turner, McKenzie (Alexander 67’), Ehmer, Masterson, Tutonda (Page, Coleman, Jefferies, Lapslie (Chambers 74’), Clarke (MacDonald 67’), Hawkins, Nichols
Unused Substitutes: Morris, Wright, Gbode
Referee: Rebecca Walsh
Attendance: 3519 (754 Gillingham supporters)