Portsmouth produced perhaps their best performance of the season on Tuesday evening to defeat Gillingham 2-0 at Priestfield Stadium.
Early first-half goals from John Marquis and Michael Jacobs gave the visitors early control over the match, and they never looked back, arguably wasting chances to increase their lead further. Gillingham, however, never really got going.
Story of the match
Despite Josh Eccles flicking a Ryan Williams cross just past his own post early on, Gillingham started the game the better side, talisman Jordan Graham seeing a shot blocked for a corner before Tom O’Connor and Jacob Mellis went close with free-kicks.
Despite Gillingham’s bright start, however, it was Portsmouth that took the lead on 14 minutes through former Gillingham man John Marquis. The number nine, replacing the injured Ellis Harrison, drove at the home defence, who allowed him to do so. Marquis welcomed the space, and fired a well-placed, low effort past Jack Bonham to give his side the lead.
And it didn’t take long for the visitors to double their lead. Catching Gillingham on the break, Michael Jacobs found himself one-on-one with a defender. The Pompey man came out on top despite a hard challenge, and poked past Bonham to put Portsmouth well in control.
Portsmouth continued to enjoy space in behind Gillingham’s defence as Marquis had another sniff at goal, and Gillingham really started to struggle to create anything going forward as the half progressed.
Vadaine Oliver headed a Jordan Graham cross over the bar as Steve Evans’ side tried to push further forward, and Graham linked up well with Dominic Samuel towards the end of the half, but the winger could only curl his effort wide.
Portsmouth almost added a third just before half time when Tom Naylor diverted a Ryan Williams cross goalward, but Jack Bonham’s right-hand post was there to save the Gills. Going into the break, Pompey were well in control.
👏 Two goals to the good at Gillingham#Pompey— Portsmouth FC (@Pompey) October 20, 2020
Portsmouth didn’t let up at the start of the second half. Jacobs hunted a second goal of the evening with a low shot which was parried by Bonham, though straight into the path of Ryan Williams. With Bonham out of the game, Declan Drysdale had to make a goal-saving block to keep the score at two.
Jacobs then fired over from a neat Marcus Harness pullback as Portsmouth continued to dominate proceedings, and Steve Evans was the first manager to blink as John Akinde replaced Dominic Samuel before the hour mark.
Lee Brown almost gifted Gillingham a way back into the match on 60 minutes when he headed narrowly past his own post, emulating Josh Eccles’ effort from the first half, but the deficit stayed at two.
John Marquis had the chance to kill the game on 67 minutes, but he headed a deflected cross wide, completely unmarked, before Bonham had to save from Harness after the winger got the better of Chris Maghoma.
Kenny Jackett introduced Ben Close and Ronan Curtis for Portsmouth and Curtis had the chance to score during a scramble in the Gillingham box, but a foul was eventually given.
Josh Eccles forced Craig MacGillivray into action late on as Jacobs was repalced by Cam Pring, but the full-time whistle was soon blown, and Portsmouth were comfortable winners.
Takeaways from the match
Marquis the man
Marquis was probably only playing because of an injury to regular front-man Ellis Harrison, but he certainly took his chance. The forward has struggled for a run of form since joining Portsmouth last summer, but it’s no secret that he enjoys playing at Priestfield.
He scored eight goals from 21 appearances on loan at the Gills back in 2015 and has now scored against them in ME7 for both Doncaster and Portsmouth. He will be hoping he an make the most of his chance to lead the line.
Space in behind for Portsmouth
Gillingham have struggled defensively this season, perhaps missing last year’s captain and experienced campaigner Max Ehmer in the heart of their defence. They have conceded 10 goals from their opening seven league games, and Steve Evans swapped both his centre-backs for this game.
It didn’t make too much of a difference, as Portsmouth found plenty of space going forward, both in behind and on the break. Marquis’ and Jacobs’ goals both could have been prevented, and other chances went amiss. Evans will want to find a settled back line sooner rather than later.
Perhaps an unexpected starter, Jacobs was perhaps Portsmouth’s best player, and should have had more than just the one goal. He found himself in some good positions throughout the game and arguably wasted a few chances, but he took his goal well and deserved to get it.
Born and bred in Gillingham, Raggett put in a more-than-solid showing at the heart of the Portsmouth defence against his old club. The big defender has received a lot of criticism from Pompey fans this season, but his efforts on Tuesday must be plauded as he helped his side to a well-deserved clean sheet.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Maghoma, Drysdale, Ogilvie, Eccles, O’Connor, Samuel (Akinde 55), Mellis, Graham, Oliver (MacDonald 85).
Subs not used: Walsh, Tucker, McKenzie, Robertson, Coyle.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Johnson, Whatmough, Raggett, Brown, Naylor, Jacobs (Pring 90), Harness (Close 74), Cannon (Curtis 74), Williams, Marquis.
Subs not used: Bass, Nicholaisen, Morris, Stanley.