Fleetwood Town 1 Gillingham 0: Early Vassell penalty makes it three wins on the spin for Grayson's men

A second-minute penalty from Kyle Vassell proved enough for improving Fleetwood to secure a third straight League One victory.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 10:05 pm

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Dan Batty thrives on manic match schedule at Fleetwood Town

Visitors Gillingham couldn’t carve out an equaliser as the hosts notched only a second Highbury victory since November.

Town’s latest win lifted them to 14th and within a point of their opponents, and with just six points now separating Town from the play-off zone a late charge could just be on the cards.

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Kyle Vassell converts the winning penalty early in the game against Gillingham

Ahead of the game Town boss Simon Grayson decided on a tweak to his team despite those hugely impressive back-to-back wins on the road at Lincoln City and then Shrewsbury Town.

There was a return to four at the back, with Janoi Donacien earning a recall, while Harrison Holgate was also back in to partner skipper Callum Connolly at the heart of the defence.

Wes Burns – rather surprisingly - and youngster Ryan Rydel dropped down to the bench for the clash against a Gills side who had also won their previous two. Former Town midfielder Kyle Dempsey skippered Steve Evans’ Gills.

There was an explosive start to the game, with the hosts going in front from the spot with less than two minutes on the clock.

Sixty seconds had not been played when Gills’ defender Connor Ogilvie shoved Ged Garner in the box, leaving Vassell to fire home from the penalty spot, rather fortunately in off the right-hand post.

It was almost two for Vassell in the sixth minute. The Town hitman found space on the left and let fly with a left-foot strike which took a deflection before hitting the crossbar.

It had been a whirlwind start to the game, though by the quarter-hour mark the Gills had at least found a little rhythm and began to have the Town defence on their toes.

Garner was beginning to impress at the other end, and he fired a low strike straight at keeper Jack Bonham after meeting Vassell’s tidy through-ball.

As the half-hour mark passed, Grayson’s men were comfortably in control, though a second goal was still out of reach and the Gills were looking a potential threat on the break.

The closest either side came to scoring in the run-up to the interval was when Gills’ midfielder Thomas O’Connor curled a 25-yard effort just off target.

There was a positive start to the second period from Town, and some early probing culminated in Dan Batty cracking a low 20-yard drive a couple of feet wide.

Vassell also headed wide direct from a James Hill long throw.

Just before the hour mark a brilliantly audacious effort from Jordan Rossiter so nearly doubled Town’s lead.

The combative midfielder spotted Bonham off his line only for his shot from the halfway line to thump the crossbar and bounce to safety.

As the 70-minute mark passed Town’s lead remained intact, but the game was still on something of a knife-edge.

Gills’ sub John Akinde twice tested Town keeper Alex Cairns in the closing stages, while the hosts ought to have done better when Batty blazed a shot over the top from 12 yards.

Sub Paddy Madden also missed a very presentable chance in the dying minutes as Town held on for another notable victory.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Hill, Connolly, Holgate, Andrew, Donacien, Rossiter, Camps (Finley, 83), Batty (Biggins, 83), Garner (Madden, 66), Vassell; Subs not used: Coleman, Burns, Rydel, S Morris.

Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson (McKenzie, 46), O’Keefe, Tucker, Ogilvie, Graham (MacDonald, 69), Dempsey, Lee (Willock, 65), O’Connor (Akinde, 51), Oliver, Cundy; Subs not used: Bastien, Morton, Johnson.

Referee: Marc Edwards

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