Gillingham’s goal-starved fans were treated to a few on Saturday as new boss Stephen Clemence won in his first league game at Priestfield.
Connor Mahoney netted from the edge of the box to put the Gills infront but it was all-square at the break after Matt Smith levelled with a powerful header. Tom Nichols restored the lead after the interval and Dom Jefferies headed in a third as the home side bossed the second half.
The Gills went into the game as the division’s lowest scorers - something Clemence had been tasked to change.
Nichols was one of three changes for the Gills, promoted to the starting XI at the expense of fellow striker Macauley Bonne.
Clemence, describing this match as the start of a new era, received a warm reception as he took his seat in the Gills dugout.
It was a tame start to the game and a strangely quiet home crowd. Salford’s Ryan Watson and Smith went close with early efforts before the Gills took a 22nd minute lead.
Max Clark’s ball to Jonny Williams was played into the box. Tom Nichols couldn’t get a shot away but when the ball broke to Mahoney he skipped past the challenge from Declan John before guiding a shot home from the edge of the box.
Gillingham were unable to build on that advantage and with half-time closing in the visitors levelled.
Smith - with 13 league goals already leading into the game - was the obvious dangerman for the Gills. He once scored seven goals against Gillingham in one season.
A couple of crosses into the box had already been directed towards the 6ft 6inch striker without success before he got the better of Shad Ogie and powered in Ryan Watson’s cross.
Both sides went close to taking the lead before the break with Curtis Tilt slicing a clearance just over his own bar before Smith nodded another chance wide for The Ammies.
Conor McAleny shot wide early in the second half for Salford while Nichols headed over for the Gills after Mahoney had directed the ball into his path.
The Gills were back infront after 54 minutes when Jonny Williams - named captain for the day - crossed for Nichols and he glances in a header. The striker was starting his first league game in a month and that was his first league goal of the season.
Eight minutes later and Clemence’s side had a third. Not since beating Ipswich 3-1 at Priestfield in March 2021 had the Gills scored more than two in a league game at ME7. That was the Covid season without fans. Prior to that was a 3-1 win over MK Dons in December 2019.
Jefferies rose highest to meet Cheye Alexander’s cross and score the third.
The Gills looked to capitalise on the space opening up for them as they went in search of a fourth. Jayden Clarke was introduced as was Ashley Nadesan, back from injury.
Shad Ogie and Tim Dieng went close in quick succession with the first effort hitting the bar and the follow-up blocked on the line.
Gills keeper Jake Turner had earlier saved well to deny Smith in a one-on-one situation and also denied McAleny in stoppage-time to ensure there would be no late drama.
Gillingham: Turner, Alexander, Clark, Masterson, Ogie, Coleman, Jefferies, Mahoney (Clarke 75mins), Lapslie (Bonne 89mins), J Williams (Dieng 81mins), Nichols (Nadesan 81mins). Subs not used: Morris, Ehmer, S Williams.
Salford: Cairns, John, Garbutt (McAleny 34mins), Vassell (Mariappa 63mins), Tilt, McLennan, Watt, Mallan, Watson, Lund (Nmai 63mins), Smith. Subs not used: Wright, Dackers, Humbles.
Referee: Paul Howard
Attendance: 6,431 (98 away)