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Gillingham 2 Notts County 1

Chris Whelpdale opens the scoring for Gills. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Chris Whelpdale opens the scoring for Gills. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Gillingham claimed a crucial League 1 victory at the expense of Notts County on Tuesday night.

Two goals in the space of five first-half minutes put the Gills in the driving seat with Chris Whelpdale and Danny Kedwell the men on target.

Celtic loanee Callum McGregor pulled a goal back for County with 11 minutes left to set up a tense finish.

Gills, with only two wins before the match at Priestfield, saw the game out to claim maximum points.

Peter Taylor made just one change to his starting XI, with Myles Weston replacing Cody McDonald on the right side of Gillingham’s midfield five.

County, starting the game just one place off the bottom of the table, looked like their own worst enemies as they made several mistakes at the back early on.

And it was from one of these that the Gills took advantage of to take the lead. Whelpdale scored the opening goal after 23 minutes and it was a goal made by two former County players.

Keeper Stuart Nelson’s throw found Weston, after County defender and captain Gary Liddle slipped, and from his cross Whelpdale controlled before firing home past keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

Weston looked to be enjoying a rare start, having come off the bench in Gillingham’s last four games, and he almost added a second with a curling effort that went narrowly wide.

It wasn’t long before Gillingham fans were celebrating a second. Whelpdale won an aerial challenge and Kedwell latched on to the ball before smashing an effort past the startled County keeper.

The visitors finished the half having had plenty of possession and with a shot from their dangerman Jemal Campbell-Ryce that had cannoned off the bar, but the 2-0 lead remained intact.

The Gills had a couple of early second-half chances, with Leon Legge stabbing an effort from a corner wide and Weston shooting at the keeper after following up a blocked Michael Harriman shot.

County withdrew Campbell-Ryce with 66 minutes gone and the lively frontman got a warm reception from the home fans, who reacted with a chant of “you don’t know what you’re doing” to the visiting management staff. He had been County’s chief threat.

Kedwell was continuing to be a real handful at the other end for County’s defence who just couldn’t handle the Gills frontman. His presence alone created two chances, both for Whelpdale, and both which were saved by Bialkowski.

The Gills had a lucky escape with 15 minutes left as Manny Smith’s glancing header was held by Nelson. Anywhere else and it would have been a goal. County may have looked weak in defence but created enough going forwards to keep the hosts busy.

The visitors finally got some reward for their second-half pressure as McGregor took matters into his own hands. With time and space he took aim from 25 yards and saw the ball fly past Nelson, who was at full stretch.

County put the pressure on in the final minutes but the Gills hung on for the points.

Gillingham: Nelson, Harriman, Martin, Legge, Barrett, Gregory (Linganzi 60mins), Hollands, Lee, Whelpdale, Weston, Kedwell. Subs not used: Howard, Davies, Dack, McDonald, German, Akinfenwa

Notts County: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Sheelan, Liddle, Smith, McGregor, Arquin (Haynes 66mins), Campbell-Ryce (Bell 66mins), Fotheringham (Haber 73mins), Tempest, Boucaud. Subs not used: Coombes, Thompson, Spiess, Hollis.

Attendance: 5,161

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