Published: 16:51, 26 April 2014
Gillingham’s League 1 safety was finally secured despite defeat at Preston on Saturday.
Results elsewhere mean that their points total is enough to keep them out of trouble with a week of the season remaining.
Home captain John Welsh put Preston ahead early on but it was all-square at the break as Cody McDonald buried his 17 goal of the season.
Paul Gallagher restored Preston’s advantage after the break and substitute Neil Kilkenny added a third.
There were two changes to Gillingham’s starting XI with Craig Fagan and Bradley Dack dropping to the bench. In came Connor Smith and Charlie Lee.
Preston had won their previous four games at Deepdale, scoring eleven in the last two. They were keen for points to ensure a top half finish inside the play-off pack and a home game as the second leg of their semi-final.
The Gills had all-but secured their League 1 safety but were hoping to make it mathematically certain.
Welsh’s early opener made it an uphill task for the Gills, after he finished a fine attacking move, that ended with a backheel from Paul Gallagher and a tap-in past Stuart Nelson.
Gills keeper Nelson needed to be alert for the rest of the half, as Preston looked odds-on to grab a second.
Gallagher had one chance saved and rolled another wide, as he twice got the better of Gills’ defence. Nelson also made a great one-handed block to deny Lee Holmes after he had beaten Elliott Hewitt to a ball over the top.
It wasn’t a great period for the Gills. Joe Martin and Chris Whelpdale had to be pulled apart after squaring up with each other.
As half-time approached Gillingham began to see more of the football themselves. A minute before the break they levelled.
A header from a Preston defender looped towards his own goal, Leon Legge nodded it down into the path of McDonald and the Gills striker powered home.
The early second half chances fell Preston’s way, with Joe Garner heading harmlessly wide and Welsh coming a little closer with a shot from distance.
A long shot from Chris Whelpdale was mopped up by home keeper Declan Rudd and soon afterwards Preston retook the lead.
Gallagher collected the ball on the edge of the box from Keith Keane and curled a shot away from the reach of Nelson, making it 2-1 with 57 minutes gone.
Six minutes later and Preston extended the lead. A cross from the right was diverted goalwards by Garner, forcing Nelson into a save, but when the ball ran free Kilkenny slotted home just seconds after coming on as a substitute.
Gills sub Adebayo Akinfenwa headed a chance just over for the Gills with 11 minutes left but Preston went straight down the other end and tested Nelson again. A low save denied Craig Davies.
Gillingham: Nelson, Hewitt, Martin, Barrett, Legge, Gregory, Hessenthaler (Dack 78mins), Lee (Akinfenw 70mins), Smith, Whelpdale (Weston 57mins), McDonald. Subs not used: Linganzi, Harriman, Fagan, Baxter.
Preston: Rudd, Keane, Laird, Wright, Beavon, Holmes (Humphrey 62mins), Gallagher, Garner (Davies 75mins), Welsh, King, Browne (Kilkenny 62mins). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Davies, Buchanan, Huntington.
Attendance: 11,591 (323 Gills)