Gillingham 1-0 Wigan Athletic
Gillingham 1-0 Wigan Athletic

Last season Vadaine Oliver was part of the Northampton Town side that won the League Two Play Offs. And courtesy of the big striker’s seventeenth goal of the season, Gillingham’s twelve-year dream of a return to the post season is still very much in focus.

One of the heroes of The Gills run to League One’s top six, Oliver’s header sealed three points, and the League double, over a rugged Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night at Priestfield – a result that means that finally home base is becoming the fortress that Steve Evans has been hoping for as it’s thirteen home points out of the last fifteen available!

After a goal-less first half where The Gills had the better chances, the visitors came more into the game until there was just fourteen minutes left on the clock as Oliver brilliantly met Ryan Jackson’s cross to head past Jamie Jones and into the bottom corner – how the missing Rainham End would have celebrated such an important goal.

The Gills boss named the same starting side that held leaders Hull City on Saturday which meant that the weekend’s goal scorer – Olly Lee – had to settle for a place on the bench.

Early on chances were at a premium – Jack Tucker had a header saved (from a Jordan Graham centre) whilst at the other end, Jack Bonham saved well from Callum Lang’s header at a corner.

The visitors were buoyed by Tuesday’s news that the club had finally been taken over were proving to be as tough a nut to crack as Evans had foretold pre-match and the opening half was a real battle.

As time ticked by, the scarcity of chances continued as the Gills searched for the goal that would propel them into the Play Off zone – Oliver’s shot was held by Jones before the Wigan keeper denied Alex MacDonald after good work from John Akinde, with the visitor’s best chance of the opening forty-five minutes came in stoppage time when George Johnston’s free-kick sailed over Bonham’s crossbar.

Wigan enjoyed a purple patch around the hour but couldn’t find a way through as Thelo Aasgaard fired over, Tendayi Darikwa was denied by a fine Bonham save before Jamie Proctor had three good chances in quick succession – two of which disappeared into the vacant spaces of the Brian Moore Stand.

The all-important goal arrived on seventy-six minutes as Oliver’s header beat Jones and duly nestled in the bottom corner of the net. With every single goal, Oliver’s stature amongst the “virtual” Priestfield faithful surely grows and grows.

Goal Eighteen could have so easily then arrived. On eighty-three minutes the giant striker’s header (this time from Graham’s centre) flashed narrowly wide, and four minutes later, he met Tom O’Connor’s cross only to be denied by Jones.

With the back line looking so secure, Bonham’s fourth Priestfield clean sheet was seldom really in doubt despite the visitors having nearly sixty per cent possession as the charge towards the “promised land” continues a pace as March ends with a haul of seventeen points.

Whether or not the Gills will still be in a Play Off place by the time they kick off at Blackpool on Easter Monday is another thing, but for now, courtesy of “Big Vee’s” heroics, Steve Evans’ side have their eyes firmly fixed on the “other” Golden Mile which could now be just seven games away!

GILLINGHAM: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Ogilvie, O’Connor, O’Keefe, Dempsey, Graham (McKenzie 92), MacDonald, Akinde (Samuel 68), Oliver (Lee 94).

Subs not used – Bastien, Woods, Johnson, Willock.

Goal: Oliver (76).

Booked: O’Keefe (49), Dempsey (73), Samuel (85).

WIGAN ATHLETIC – Jones, Darikwa, Tilt, Johnson, Robinson, Ojo, Evans, Aasgaard (Keane 79), Solomon-Otabor (Gardner 81), Lang, Proctor (Dodoo 77)

Subs not used – Whelan, Clough, Evans, Long.

Booked: Proctor (51), Robinson (93), Tilt (96).

REFEREE – Mr Chris Sarginson 

Picture supplied by Gillingham Football Club.

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