Accrington Stanley moved into the play-off places in League One on Tuesday evening - at least temporarily - after defeating Gillingham 2-0 at Priestfield Stadium.
Goals in each half, from Colby Bishop and Dion Charles, ensured the visitors got their league form back on track, but it was the second loss in a row for Gillingham.
Story of the match
Accrington started the game the better side and put Gills goalkeeper Jack Bonham under immediate pressure with a neat corner from Sean McConville. The ball was eventually cleared, and the game died down.
There was a moment of horror on 20 minutes when Gillingham forward Dominic Samuel hit the deck. It looked serious, and, after some treatment, the stretcher arrived, and Samuel was taken off and replaced by John Akinde.
A couple of dangerous Accrington crosses went amiss as Gillingham tried to get a foothold in the game – the Blues’ first chance fired over acrobatically but Vadaine Oliver.
Accrington had half a penalty appeal turned down on 37 minutes when Declan Drysdale clashed with Dion Charles, but the referee waved away appeals. Joey Pritchard then saw a smart cross go astray, but it wasn’t long until Accrington were ahead.
Despite a half of few chances, Stanley were well worth their lead. It was as simple as it gets, too. A corner was floated in, and Colby Bishop lost his man to fire his side ahead. Accrington too ended the half threatening, and a late Oliver header couldn’t change Gillingham’s fortunes.
Gillingham started the second half well and good link up play involving Drysdale and Josh Eccles saw Kyle Dempsey’s floated cross cleared. The play resulted in a rebound falling nicely for Oliver, but the big forward fluffed his lines and fired wide.
Half time substitute Tom O’Connor then went the closest the Gills had come with a volley from distance, but saw his effort fly narrowly wide.
Gillingham were in control of the game as the hour mark ticked by, by not in control of the score.
Akinde set Oliver well soon after but the forward dragged his shot wide, and Akinde himself then forced a fine save out of Nathan Baxter when one-on-one with the Stanley ‘keeper.
A sucker punch followed after for Gillingham. Stanley finally got forward, and good work from Pritchard resulted in a low cross. There were calls for offside, but the flag stayed down and Dion Charles poked home to double his side’s lead.
Charles had the chance to kill the game on 71 minutes when he got the better of Drysdale, but he dragged his early shot well wide.
Gillingham tried to push as the game entered the last 10 minutes. O'Connor had a header blocked that looked on target, and Accrington stood firm.
Jack Tucker had to block Charles' effort late on as Accrington played on the counter. Push as Gillingham did, however, there was no way through and Accrington took the three points back to Lancashire.
Takeaways from the match
Formation change sees Gills fall flat
Gillingham started the game with a back three, perhaps in an attempt to mirror Wigan’s success against Stanley at the weekend and match their visitors, but it limited their play going forward and didn’t seem to benefit them defensively either.
The system was ditched at half time, and the Gills looked much better in the second period.
Game plan perfect for visitors
Accrington set up with their usual back three and remained solid throughout. They played some good football without producing anything spectacular, but pounced on their opportunities when they came.
John Coleman will be more than pleased.
Charles hasn’t always been the most prolific for Stanley but he remained a threat throughout on Tuesday and took his goal well – a proper poachers finish. He should’ve had another when he fired wide in the second half, but he and everyone else at Accrington will be hoping he can take a huge confidence boost from this performance.
Coleman changed his goalkeeper for the game, replacing Toby Savin with Chelsea loanee Nathan Baxter, and it more than paid off.
Though perhaps nervy at times, Baxter showed confidence in commanding his box and making some impressive saves. Most importantly, he kept a clean sheet - he will now be looking to build on his positive start to League One life.
Bonham, McKenzie (MacDonald 77), Drysdale, Tucker, Jackson, Eccles, Dempsey, Ogilvie, Mellis (O’Connor 46), Samuel (Akinde 21), Oliver (Robertson 77).
Subs not used: Walsh, Medley, Woods.
Baxter, Nottingham, Hughes, Burgess, Butcher, Pritchard, McConville, Rodgers, Bishop, Conneely, Charles.
Subs not used: Savin, Russell, Cassidy, Uwakwe, Barclay, Sama, Fenlon.