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Crawley Town 1 Gillingham 2

Jo Kuffour
Jo Kuffour

Gills on the attack at Crawley with Jo Kuffour Picture: Barry Goodwin

by Luke Cawdell

Jo Kuffour smashed in two second-half goals as Gillingham enjoyed a Boxing Day win over League 2 leaders Crawley on their own turf.

Matt Tubbs’ first-half penalty put 10-men Crawley in front at a packed Broadfield Stadium, but the game was turned on its head by Kuffour’s quick-fire double at the start of the second half.

Crawley played for more than 70 minutes a man short after Claude Davis was sent off0 for chopping down Kuffour as he looked to race clear on the home goal.

The Gills ended the game a man down themselves after Luke Rooney, who was making his return to the side, was sent off for two cautions. It was his second dismissal of the season.

Kuffour, who took his goals tally for the Gills to seven, was back in the side after sitting out last week’s 4-1 win over parent club Bristol Rovers.

In all, Gills manager Andy Hessenthaler made four changes to his starting XI. Joining Kuffour were midfielder Chris Whelpdale and defenders Matt Fish and Matt Lawrence.

There was also a surprise on the bench as Rooney, banished from the first-team after refusing to sign a contract extension, returned to the squad for the first time since the FA Cup game at Bournemouth on November 12. He joined the action just before half-time to replace Fish.

However, despite the Gills having the man advantage, they found themselves second best to a Crawley team who started the afternoon four points clear at the top of the standings.

In the opening 45 minutes the visitors failed to register a shot on target, although they twice went close when a free-kick from Danny Jackman sailed just wide and a prodded effort from Danny Kedwell bounced the wrong side of the post.

The hosts took the lead after 34 minutes when Tubbs converted after Lawrence was adjudged to have fouled Kyle McFadzean in the area, but Gills needed just seven minutes early in the second half to turn things around.

Kuffour tucked in Whelpdale's cross on 50 minutes to make it 1-1, and, moments later, the same player ran at the defence, after latching on to Rooney’s ball forward, before slotting past Scott Shearer.

The home side looked to get back on level terms and had their chances. Ross Flitney had to claim Tyrone Barnett’s long shot at the second attempt with 15 minutes left, Josh Simpson saw an effort deflected wide and Pablo Mills sent his shot into the arms of the Gills keeper.

Crawley went close again with two minutes remaining as Lawrence hacked Tubbs’ header off the line, and the drama continued in stoppage time when Rooney received a second booking and was sent off.

The Gills had to hang on for five minutes of injury time as Crawley desperately went in search of an equaliser. Hessenthaler’s men held on, though, to the delight of the 1,301 travelling fans.

Crawley: Shearer, Howell, Mills, Davis, McFadzean, Torres (Neilson 83mins), Hunt, Bulman, Doughty (Simpson 59mins), Barnett, Tubbs. Subs: Kuipers, Akpan, Akinde.

Gillingham: Flitney, Fish (Rooney 42mins), Martin, Lawrence, Richards, J Payne, Jackman, Weston (Oli 70mins), Whelpdale (King 89mins), Kuffour, Kedwell. Subs: Gazzaniga, S Payne.

Attendance: 4,255.

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