Deon Burton celebrates putting Gillingham in front against Port Vale Picture: Barry Goodwin
by Luke Cawdell
Gillingham stretched their unbeaten start in League 2 to eight games after beating second placed Port Vale on Saturday.
Goals from Deon Burton and Chris Whelpdale put the Gills two goals ahead at the break at Vale Park and defended solidly in the second half to keep the lead intact.
Vale had scored 21 goals in their opening seven games but found no way through the Gills’ back-line, which was able to boast a third successive clean sheet.
It was a fourth straight win for Martin Allen’s table toppers as they finished the afternoon six points clear at the top of the division.
Allen made changes to his team once more with the surprise decision to drop eight-goal leading scorer Danny Kedwell to the bench.
Callum Davies and Charlie Allen were also left out with the manager preferring to bring in Tom Flanagan to central defence, Lewis Montrose and Danny Jackman to midfield and new signing Robbie Findley into attack.
Forest loan man Findley was causing plenty of problems in the early stages and it was his pin-point cross that led to the opening goal, which was headed home by Burton – for his third goal of the season - in the 11th minute.
The Gills continued to dominate and grabbed a second when Whelpdale took one touch to make some space and as the defence stood back he unleashed a great shot into the roof of the net.
Towards the end of the half Vale began to finally look like a team sitting second in the table, with Sam Morsy and Jennison Myrie-Williams both narrowly missing the target.
Vale – who won their last home match 6-2 against pre-season title favourites Rotherham - started the second half as they finished the first, with the Gills defending in numbers.
Findley, who was making his first start of the season, was replaced early in the second half for Kedwell.
Stuart Nelson’s first save of the match came with 53 minutes gone as he scooped up a low effort from Morsy.
A chance at the other end on the hour saw home keeper Chris Neal beat away a long-range shot fired in by Matt Fish.
Vale winger Myrie-Williams came close with a thundering free-kick with 20 minutes left but it took a slight deflection on route and skimmed off the top of the crossbar. The home pressure continued and moments later the same player put a shot just wide.
The chances were mounting up for the hosts with Doug Loft and Ashley Vincent both coming close but with 15 minutes remaining the two goal advantage remained. And the Gills kept the hosts out to claim another win.
Port Vale: Neal, McCombe, Loft, McDonald, Vincent, Pope, Shuker (Burge 55mins), Morsy (Taylor 64mins), Duffy, Myrie-Williams, Dodds (Williamson 64mins). Subs not used: Johnson, Owen, Yates, Lloyd.
Gillingham: Nelson, Fish, Martin, Flanagan, Barrett, Wright, Whelpdale, Montrose, Jackman (Allen 79mins), Burton, Findley (Kedwell 51mins). Subs not used: Forecast, Davies, Frampton, Strevens, Birchall.
Attendance: 6,924 (366 Gills)