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Gillingham 1-0 Charlton Athletic: Eaves’ strike gives Gills their first win

Gillingham v Charlton Athletic

Gillingham 1-0 Charlton Athletic: Eaves’ strike gives Gills their first win

Gillingham earned their first win of the season with Tom Eaves’ strike giving them all three points after a battling performance at Priestfield

It took them eight games to get one, but Gillingham Football Club finally celebrated their first win of the League One season as they put on a gutsy performance to earn a 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic at Priestfield.

Tom Eaves netted the crucial goal mid-way through the second half as Adrian Pennock’s side produced a display full of effort, endeavour and energy to

Gillingham lined up with a team packed with defenders, with FOUR centre halves named in the starting XI.

The team lined up in a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Max Ehmer in an unfamilar role as a deep-lying midfield anchor man ahead of centre backs Gabriel Zakuani and Ben Nugent, with the fourth central defender in the team, Alex Lacey, starting the game at left back (he would eventually switch to right back in the final minutes of the game). Luke O’Neill slotted in at his familiar position on the right hand side of the Gills’ defence.

Credit: Kent Pro Images

New role: Max Ehmer impressed in an unfamiliar role as a midfield anchorman (Kent Pro Images)

The first half was tight, with Gillingham looking noticeably more solid than in recent games, with Ehmer offering extra support for the two centre backs. But as a result the Gills had to play a longer game, playing long balls up front to Tom Eaves, who was a willing runner all day.

The main creativity of the side came from young loanee Sean Clare, whose pace and willingness to run at defenders proved a refreshing – and essential – change to previous Gills home games. Clare’s involvement very nearly brought about the first goal of the game as his superbly-struck free kick was tipped onto the crossbar by Addicks’ keeper Ben Amos, who looked wobbly throughout. Zakuani headed the rebound home, but was adjudged to be offside.

Charlton will wonder how they didn’t manage to score, with a combination of wasteful finishing, excellent goalkeeping and last-ditch Gillingham defending keeping the visitors at bay.

Goalkeeper Tomas Holy had a standout performance between the sticks for the Gills, as he produced a string of blocks and saves to deny Charlton, whose relentless pressure throughout the game was denied by the big Czech in goal and the committed defenders in front of him.

Credit: Kent Pro Images

Man of the Match performance: Gills keeper Tomas Holy (Kent Pro Images)

Bodies were thrown in front of shots and crucial saves were made as Gillingham snuffed out Charlton’s attacks, often with a goal looking certain.

With Gillingham’s defence bending, but refusing to break, at the back, there was always the possibility of a goal on the counter and that’s eventually what happened, as Eaves struck in the 53rd minute to put the Gills ahead.

Matchwinner: Gills striker Tom Eaves

Clare drove down the left flank and played in Ehmer, who had drifted into an advanced position wide on the left. He kept his composure, looked up and found Eaves with his cutback, leaving the striker with the task of sweeping the ball past Amos and sending Priestfield wild.

There were more Charlton attacks to fend off as the game drifted into an extended period of stoppage time, caused by a combination of injuries, time-wasting and a host of smoke bombs thrown onto the pitch from the Charlton end.

But Gillingham kept going until the final whistle to secure a hard-earned, and long-awaited, first victory of the campaign.

The win not only lifted the Gills off the foot of the table, it took them up and out of the relegation places.

There’s still much to address – better sides than Charlton could have scored a hatful today – but the biggest takeaway for Gillingham fans was the battling spirit of the players.

Gills team vs Charlton

Holy, O’Neill (Ogilvie 72), Lacey, Zakuani (Hessenthaler 78), Nugent, Ehmer, Byrne, Wagstaff (Parker 45+4), Clare, Wilkinson, Eaves

Unused subs: Cundle, Arnold, Nash, Starkey

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