Published: 00:00, 08 March 2014
| Updated: 14:44, 08 March 2014
Charlie Lee scored a dramatic late winner as Gillingham beat Crawley 1-0 at Priestfield on Saturday afternoon.
Substitute Lee stabbed home Leon Legge’s flick from a Jake Hessenthler corner in the 88 minute to clinch a crucial victory in Gills’ fight for League 1 survival.
Peter Taylor made four changes to the side beaten at Bristol City last weekend, with Hessenthaler, Myles Weston, Craig Fagan and Joe Pigott coming in for Amine Linganzi, Connor Smith, Bradley Dack and Adebayo Akinfenwa.
There was an early let-off for Gills when Joe Martin lost possession just past halfway, triggering a Crawley counter-attack that saw Matt Tubbs overhit his cross with Billy Clarke lurking.
Legge blazed over at the far post for after Hessenthaler’s cross was touched on by Piggott as Gills threatened for the first time.
But Taylor’s side were lucky to stay on level terms on 15 minutes when Paul Connolly’s cross picked out the unmarked Clarke, who volleyed wide.
Gillingham enjoyed a good spell midway through the first half without threatening keeper Paul Jones in open play.
They should have scored when another Hessenthaler corner was met by Legge and dropped for Pigott who missed from 10 yards.
But Crawley finished the first half strongly, with Crawley striker Jamie Proctor growing into the game.
He had a shot blocked from Elliott Hewitt when well placed, then collected a neat pass from Clarke and saw his deflected strike whistle past the post.
Tubbs fired over and worked Stuart Nelson as Crawley made a bright start to the second half.
It took a smart low save from away keeper Paul Jones to deny Pigott after he made room for a shot from Weston’s cross.
But the visitors looked the more likely scorers, with Gills captain Adam Barrett pulling off a goal-saving block from Clarke, then Tubbs’ effort hit Legge.
Just when it looked like Gills needed to make a change, they found themselves on top.
McDonald was denied by Jones in a one-on-one from Fagan’s through ball.
Fagan then had a shot parried by Jones, with Weston’s follow-up curled wide, before McDonald had a fierce strike beaten over by Jones.
Unmarked Proctor somehow missed the target from Mike Jones’ cut-back as Crawley went back on the attack.
The change did follow as Akinfenwa replaced Pigott and the big man was soon involved, flicking on a long ball into McDonald’s path but Jones made the save.
Crawley went close twice in a matter of seconds, with Joe Walsh’s header from a corner touched on to the post by Gregory on the line, then Clarke headed wide when he should have scored.
But substitute Lee had the final say.
Gillingham: Nelson, Hewitt, Martin, Gregory, Barrett, Legge, Fagan (Lee 81mins), Hessenthaler, Pigott (Akinfenwa 72mins), McDonald (Birchall 90), Weston. Subs not used: Davies, Dack, Borrowdale, Baxter.