Gillingham came from a goal down to beat Notts County and leapfrog them into the League 2 play-off positions.
Goals from Oli Hawkins and Max Clark gave Gillingham a 2-1 half-time lead at Meadow Lane after Dan Crowley’s opener for Notts. Conor Masterson headed in a third for the Gills after the break and only the woodwork denied Tim Dieng late on.
County’s goal tally pre-match had dwarfed that of the Gills - 61 to 26 - but it was the visitors who were the ruthless finishers on the night.
The victory put the Gills into the top seven at Notts County’s expense ahead of the rest of the division playing tomorrow (Saturday).
Following a lacklustre home draw last time out, Gills’ head coach brought Jonny Williams back in, while Clark took over from Scott Malone as left wing-back. Tim Dieng also started as Connor Mahoney and George Lapslie were dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
Gillingham had to deal with a Notts team playing a possession-based style, boasting the highest figures with the ball in the division, the highest amount of short passes and the least amount of long ones.
It’s in defence that Notts have struggled this season and the hosts didn’t disappoint as the Gills exploited those gaps, scoring twice in the league during an opening half for the first time in five months. It was the first time in 12 that they had scored even one.
Notts had taken the lead and enjoyed 70% possession during the first half but the Gills led at the break.
Crowley put County ahead on 13 minutes with a strike beyond Jake Turner into the bottom corner, receiving the ball from Jodi Jones who had been gifted possession by Tim Dieng.
It was a goal that came seconds after the Gills wasted a golden chance of their own. Remeao Hutton had raced forward, waiting for a pass from Williams, but when it eventually came the pass lacked the right amount of pace.
Gillingham kept their heads up after going behind and were level just seven minutes after conceding as Conor Masterson’s cross into the box was nodded in by Hawkins.
County responded with another session of keep-ball but they could find no way past the Gillingham defence and both home and away fans were left stunned as Clemence’s men went ahead.
With 35 minutes gone a Dieng cross was helped on by Josh Walker to Clark and he finished well beyond keeper Aidan Stone.
The hosts again knocked it around before the break but again the Gills stood firm. The home side’s best chances had come from when Gillingham had conceded possession, with Crowley netting and Shad Ogie getting away with one earlier in the half after he handed the goalscorer a chance to deliver a cross to David McGoldrick, grateful that the pass was overhit.
County started the second half like they ended the first, with lots of passing but no penetration, and with 53 minutes gone, the Gills went further ahead. Jonny Williams won possession which led to Dieng winning a corner and after Notts cleared, the visitors kept it alive as Ogie nodded the ball back in and Masterson bravely headed home.
Only once before in the season had the Gills scored three goals in a league game. The fans were in dreamland.
County looked for a way back in but seemed to be running out of ideas as McGoldrick dragged a long-range effort well wide. Sam Austin - on as a sub - went closer with a chance at the far post which he fired over. With the Gills happy to let Notts have possession where they could do no damage and Clemence switching to 4-5-1, the home side spent lots of time on the ball without doing any damage.
At the other end, Hawkins had a shot deflected over after a mix-up at the back for Notts.
Home striker Macaulay Langstaff was denied by Turner with 10 minutes left and moments later the Gills keeper was there again to keep out a header from McGoldrick.
In the final minute a free-kick from Hutton was met by Dieng and his diving header somehow stayed out after hitting one post and then the other. Masterson also fired over late on with an acrobatic effort as Gills looked to further extend their lead, settling in the end for a 3-1 win and a well-earned three points.
League 2 table
Gillingham: Turner, Hutton, Clark, Masterson, Ehmer, Ogie, Coleman, Dieng, J Williams (McKenzie 79mins), Hawkins (Hurtado 86mins), Walker (Lapslie 72mins). Subs not used: Morris, Nadesan, Malone, Mahoney.
Notts County: Stone, Cameron, Baldwin, Warner, Jones, Nemane, Bostock (Austin 67mins), Robertson (O’Brien 79mins), Crowley, McGoldrick, Langstaff. Subs not used: Ashby-Hammond, Rawlinson, Macari, Mahovo, Morias.
Referee: Scott Oldham
Attendance: 10,340 (953 away)