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Gillingham 2 Hartlepool United 0: Debutant Tom Nichols scored the opener at Priestfield and made an assist for Dom Jefferies to win League 2 match

Gillingham clinched a crucial three points against fellow strugglers Hartlepool with a much-improved performance at Priestfield.

The Gills looked much brighter upfront - helped by three attacking additions - and impressive debutant Tom Nichols put the home side infront before playing Dom Jefferies in for the second.

Tom Nichols opens his account for Gillingham against Hartlepool United (61848715)
Tom Nichols opens his account for Gillingham against Hartlepool United (61848715)

Man-of-the-match Nichols was one of four new signings who started for Gillingham and a fifth - Mansfield midfielder George Lapslie - was presented to the home fans ahead of kick off and completing his move.

The game with Hartlepool was huge. The visitors sat five points infront of the Gills, who started the day bottom of League 2. With new signings in the team, this was the start of the survival bid.

There was certainly a feel-good factor around Priestfield on Saturday and there were early chances for Max Ehmer - with a low shot saved - and Dom Jefferies - denied as the visiting defence scrambled the ball clear. Robbie McKenzie was cursing his decision to pass rather than shoot as things opened up for him.

While manager Neil Harris had kept faith with his regular defenders, there was a fresh look in attack as newcomers got their chances. Timothee Dieng played in behind big Oli Hawkins and the lively Nichols. Glenn Morris returned in goal after sealing a permanent switch the club.

Nichols’ running was creating problems for Hartlepool early on. He got in on goal with a deft header that took him past two defenders before shooting narrowly wide.

Alex MacDonald appeared to be thriving off having quality around him, picking Nichols out with a couple of weighted passes and also slipping in Hawkins, with the striker firing over under pressure.

Dom Jefferies takes aim and puts the Gills 2-0 ahead (61848940)
Dom Jefferies takes aim and puts the Gills 2-0 ahead (61848940)

It was an excellent free-kick that led to Gills’ 40th minute opener, MacDonald whipping a ball in that just needed a touch and it was Nichols - who had drawn the foul leading to the set-piece - who got it.

Hartlepool made a double change at the break and came close to levelling just moments before the Gills added a second.

Substitute Mark Shelton’s effort looked goalbound but Josh Umerah felt he needed to get a touch anyway, from an offside position, and the flag went up. Gillingham went straight down the other end and made it 2-0.

Jefferies was played in by Nichols and he ran in on goal before finishing crisply past keeper Ben Killip. It was the first time this season Gills had scored two goals in the league this season.

Fans sang the name of their new owner Brad Galinson and “we’ve got our Gills back.”

It was certainly a refreshing afternoon after a first half of the season that had been difficult to watch in the league.

Umerah went close for the visitors with 20 minutes gone, hitting the post with a header, but there was no way Gillingham were going to let this slip.

There was a moment when David Ferguson had half a chance for Hartlepool, Max Ehmer dispossessed Nicky Featherstone late on and Umerah shot over from six yards but Gills took the points to close the gap on their relegation rivals.

Gillingham: Morris, McKenzie, Tutonda, Wright, Ehmer, Williams, Dieng, MacDonald (Adelakun 79mins), Jefferies (Alexander 87mins), Nichols (Kashket 79mins), Hawkins. Subs not used: Turner, O’Keefe, Baggott, Gbode.

Hartlepool: Killip, Tumilty (Shelton 46mins), Menayese, Ferguson, Dodds, Sylla, Dolan, Featherstone, Grey (McDonald 81mins), Umerah, Hamilton (Hastie 46mins). Subs not used: Boyes, Missilou, Niang.

Referee: Robert Lewis

Attendance: 6,003 (255 away)

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