Gillingham 5-2 Plymouth Argyle
Gillingham 5-2 Plymouth Argyle

Tom Eaves had joked in midweek that he still longed for a twenty-goal season even if he needed five on the final day to hit that target, especially as the season’s finale was against a side still dreaming of post season football.

So, you can only the unbridled joy around three sides of Priestfield when the big striker stooped to complete a memorable hat-trick 21 minutes either side of half time after Josh Parker had gloriously given the Gills the early advantage with a fine finish.

Despite Argyle scrambling an equaliser at 1-1 and pulling a second back through a Carey header, the icing was well and truly put on the Gills season as Elliott List drove home magnificently from an acute angle in stoppage time to seal the biggest win of what has been a bizarre season – going form being relegation favourites to Play Off chasers and back again!

But in the scorching May Day Bank Holiday weekend sunshine there wasn’t a single Gills fan who was going to leave early despite the lead being what it was as they know, as boss Steve Lovell does, exactly what this group of players have achieved since October and what exactly they might again next season once the Welshman is allowed some summer dealing in the transfer market.

Yes in the cold light of day, it was “only” a 17th place finish, but for the first time in a number of seasons, the Gills finish with more positives on their sheet than negatives, and with the players already on contract for next season, which includes the top scorer and last day hat-trick hero, and a brand new sponsorship deal with Medway Council that was announced after the game, the future really does for a while at least, look encouraging.

Lovell had said in pervious weeks that his side owed the Priestfield faithful a performance and that his side hadn’t scored enough goals – in the 810 minutes of football since winning 3-1 at Portsmouth where three had been scored in 45 glorious minutes, only three more had been scored in that time.

So, what a day to turn in arguably your best performance of the season…

The Gills were ahead inside six minutes when Parker raced onto Lee Martin’s delightful through ball to drill home from the edge of the box for his twelfth goal of the season, only for Plymouth to level at the half’s midway point when Carey’s free kick was almost smuggling in by Grant despite Max Ehmer’s best efforts to keep the ball off the line.

The Gills needed a hero – step forward Eaves who remember started his scoring season with a treble against Southend on August Bank Holiday weekend – must be something about Bank Holiday’s that the giant striker likes!

Anyhow, Ehmer’s long clearance was missed by the defence and as keeper Matthews tried to narrow the angle, Eaves ruthlessly drove the ball home to restore the lead on the half hour.

The lead was increased nine minutes from the break as the big target man did what he does best and made room for himself at the back post to power home a downward header to send the Gills in at the break 3-1 ahead.

Indeed, had Parker been an inch taller, he may have been able to reach Scott Wagstaff’s driven cross just before half time but on this day, complaining was the last thing on the faithful’s mind as the Gills were signing off in style1

The only question now, with Plymouth’s slim Play Off chances in tatters was would Eaves end his most productive season as a professional with the match ball?  Priestfield didn’t have to wait long as six minutes into the second half, he was in the right place at the right time to power home another header – this time from Ehmer’s flick on of Mark Byrne’s long throw.

The Gills were rampant – Callum Reilly fired into the side netting from Parker’s deft touch whilst Bradley Garmston stung Matthews hands from distance – how Lovell must be hoping that his young left back has a clearer run of injury next season.

Credit though must go to the Devon side as they showed why they’d rocketed up the table from bottom in December to knocking on the Play Off door on the final day and Carey, undoubtedly one of the reasons for the rise, gave the Pilgrims a slither of hope when he headed home with thirteen minutes left.

But this was the Gills day, and what a fitting way to end the season than with the clubs 50th League goal of the campaign in stoppage time as substitute Elliott List – who’s only been on for just over five minutes – raced onto Luke O’Neill’s long ball down the line and drove his angled shot beyond Matthews and into the bottom corner of the Argyle net for his second goal in two games to bring down the curtain on a campaign when Gillingham certainly had their moments and the future could be very promising indeed!

 

GILLINGHAM – Holy, O’Neill, Garmston, Ehmer, Zakuani, Wagstaff, Eaves (Wilkinson 74), Martin (Hessenthaler 65), Parker (List 84), Reilly, Byrne

Subs not used– Ogilvie, Nugent, Hadler, Nasseri.

Goals: Parker (7)Eaves (303651′)List (91).

Booked: Zakuani (45+2) , Wilkinson (85).

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE – Matthews, Miller, Sawyer, Songo’o, Carey, Lameiras (Taylor-Sinclair 58), Bradley, Grant (Battle 79), Vyner, Fox, Fletcher (Sangster 57)

Subs not used– Letheren, Law, Rooney, Lolos.

Goals: Grant (23)Carey (77).

Booked: Songo’o (85).

Referee: Mr Brendan Malone

Attendance: 6,269

 

 

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