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Portsmouth 0 Gillingham 2 - League 1 match report

By Luke Cawdell

Gillingham ended Portsmouth’s unbeaten start to the season by pulling off a surprise win at Fratton Park.

The league leaders were 11 without loss before Saturday’s game but the Gills put in a determined effort to protect a two-goal half time lead.

A stunning strike from Tom Eaves had put the Gills ahead and Alex Lacey doubled the lead before the interval. It was Gills’ first league win in nine.

Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633462)
Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633462)

Eaves returned to the starting eleven for Gillingham after his last minute equaliser at Shrewsbury the week before, replacing Josh Parker upfront, while Barry Fuller was preferred at left-back to Bradley Garmston.

The Gills claimed their first ever win at Portsmouth towards the end of the previous season, scoring some special goals, but the one from Eaves which put the visitors infront on Saturday was of equal quality.

It was nothing less than Steve Lovell’s side had deserved, having soaked up some early pressure, before taking the game to the league leaders. Luke O’Neill and Mark Byrne both had shots blocked before Eaves’ moment of magic after 26 minutes.

Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633454)
Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633454)

The recalled striker took a touch to control Max Ehmer’s header into the box, used his other foot to hook the ball over his head before spinning and volleying the ball into the roof of the net beyond keeper Craig MacGillivray.

Prior to that the Gills defence had kept the home side at arm’s length, with Holy punching clear from a corner and watching on as the follow-up from Brett Pitman was blocked.

The Gills soaked up more pressure for the remainder of the half, defending solidly to deny the hosts any clear-cut chances, and the visitors were in dreamland before half time when Lacey slotted home their second. Dean Parrett hit a corner low into the box, missing everyone but Lacey, who arrived just in time to side foot the ball home.

Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett made a double change at the break, having heard boos from his own fans as the whistle went for half time.

Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633456)
Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633456)

Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis had early shots blocked as Portsmouth put the Gills under pressure from the restart. Lowe also tried his luck from distance but Holy got a hand to the shot on the stretch and Fuller hooked the ball clear.

With the hosts pushing men forward, the Gills looked to attack on the break, but a great chance went begging when outnumbering Portsmouth three on one, with Hanlan straying offside and then missing the eventual chance anyway.

It was backs to the wall defending for large parts, but the Gills coped well, blocking shots, diving into challenges and playing for time whenever they got the opportunity.

Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633464)
Portsmouth v Gillingham match action Picture: Ady Kerry (4633464)

Ronan Curtis tried to find the top corner for the home side, but his curling effort was tipped over the bar by Holy. Tom Naylor also had an effort from distance but fired the ball well over.

Eaves put a low effort into the side netting for the Gills late on and Elliott List hit one at the keeper as they looked to seal the points, allowing the defence a brief respite.

Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Brown, Clarke, Whatmough, Naylor, N Thompson (Hawkins 75mins), Evans (Wheeler 46mins), Close (B Thompson 46mins), Curtis, Pitman, Lowe. Subs not used: McGee, Walkes, Burgess, Mason.

Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Fuller, Ehmer, Zakuani, Lacey, Reilly, Byrne, Parrett, Eaves, Hanlan (List 80mins). Subs not used: Hadler, Garmston, Parker, Nasseri, Simpson, Rees.

Attendance: 18,158 (542 away)

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