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Gillingham 2 Fleetwood 1 match report

By Matthew Panting

Striker Tom Eaves scored a stoppage-time penalty to make it four league wins in a row for Gillingham on Saturday.

They had to come from behind to beat Fleetwood at Priestfield on a bitterly cold afternoon.

The visitors led at the break through Paddy Madden but an own goal early in the second half levelled the scores before Eaves struck.

Tom Eaves and Luke O'Neill celebrate Gills' equaliser. Picture: Andy Jones
Tom Eaves and Luke O'Neill celebrate Gills' equaliser. Picture: Andy Jones

Gills boss Steve Lovell named an unchanged starting line-up from last week's victory at Scunthorpe, with midweek signing Franck Moussa on the bench.

His team came into the game on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run, which included a 2-0 success at Fleetwood just before Christmas.

Gills started the day 12th with the visitors one place and one point behind them - although they had won their three previous away games in League 1.

The wet and windy conditions made it tough for both sides although Fleetwood made the brighter start and were rewarded with a 13th-minute opener.

Luke O'Neill did well to fly himself in the way to block Kyle Dempsey's shot behind for a corner.

But when Gills failed to clear the resulting ball into the box, Tomas Holy's excellent initial save was unrewarded as the ball was finally turned in by Madden.

Holy then turned behind Ashley Hunter's shot before Gills started to come into the game.

Gills' Callum Reilly on the attack against Fleetwood. Picture: Andy Jones
Gills' Callum Reilly on the attack against Fleetwood. Picture: Andy Jones

Jake Hessenthaler led a break from inside his own half and found Lee Martin, who rushed his shot and found keeper Chris Neal.

It was a familiar theme for Gills who seemed to rush their decisions once they got within 25 yards of Fleetwood's goal.

More neat play around the half-hour mark saw the on-loan Callum Reilly's long-range effort beaten away by Neal.

A few crunchy challenges added to the first-half bite, Hessenthaler becoming the only played cautioned though after a late challenge on Fleetwood left-back Kevin O'Connor.

It took Gills just eight minutes in the second half to get back on level terms. O'Neill's near-post corner appeared to be turned in by Madden for an own goal but Eaves was in close attendance and got credited with the touch on the public address system.

Gills went on to dominate much of the second half. Their busy midfield four of Hessenthaler, Martin, Byrne and Reilly looked inventive, won their tackles and broke with speed.

Gillingham's Josh Parker tries to get the better of Kevin O'Connor. Picture: Andy Jones
Gillingham's Josh Parker tries to get the better of Kevin O'Connor. Picture: Andy Jones

They had three chances in just over a minute with 20 minutes remaining. Gills broke from a Fleetwood free-kick and when Byrne found Eaves, his low shot was blocked by the body of Neal.

The visiting keeper then fumbled the ball inside his six-yard box but was up smartly to deny Martin, before Lewis Coyle was back in the right place to head clear O'Neill dangerous cross-shot.

Holy needed to tip over Wes Burns' header in the 89th minute before there was late drama in front of The Rainham End.

Reilly went down in the box under the challenge of Burns and Eaves kept his cool to fire home from the penalty spot.

It needed a fine defensive clearance by substitute Connor Ogilvie a minute later to clear Jordy Hiwula and Gills held on during four minutes of stoppage time to make it four league wins in a row.

Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Garmston (Lacey 85mins), Ehmer, Zakuani (Ogilvie 61mins), Hessenthaler, Byrne, Reilly, Martin, Parker (List 83mins), Eaves. Subs not used: Nelson, Nash, Moussa, Wilkinson.

Fleetwood: Neal, Coyle, O'Connor, Eastham, Dempsey, McAleny (Hiwula 77mins), Bolger, Diagouraga, Madden, Glendon (Grant 68mins), Hunter (Burns 77mins). Subs not used: Cairns, Rodgers, Jones, Schwabl.

Attendance: 6,332 (76 away).

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