Gillingham 0-4 Ipswich Town: Class Town blow hosts away
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Ipswich Town had far too much for Gillingham as the Blues ensured Kieran McKenna begins his Portman Road reign with back-to-back victories.
The visitors blew their hosts away inside the opening half hour of the game, with James Norwood (9), Wes Burns (12) and Macauley Bonne (24) all finding the net to cap an opening period in which McKenna’s side had completely dominated.
The Blues were brimming with confidence, clearly enjoying being in possession of the ball and looking to quickly use it whenever they got it. It allowed them to move the ball and their opponents around the pitch with ease, was extremely pleasing on the eye and produced three excellent goals to which Gillingham had no answer before the break.
Their beleaguered hosts, winless in 12 heading into this game, never truly posed a threat to Town as the Blues closed this game out in a second half which didn’t reach the high standards of the first but was still dominated by McKenna’s visitors.
Steve Evans’ side’s cause certainly wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Daniel Phillips, midway through the second period, at which point any chance what was already an extremely unlikely comeback was gone.
Substitute Conor Chaplin then applied the gloss, firing home a penalty with five minutes to go after fellow replacement Joe Pigott had been dragged down by Max Ehmer at a corner.
Victory moves Town up to 10th in the League One table and closes the gap to the play-offs to eight points, heading into next weekend’s visit to Bolton Wanderers.
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McKenna, taking charge of just his second game as Ipswich boss, despite being in charge for the best part of a month, named an unchanged side from the victory over Wycombe, with one exception.
That saw goalkeeper Christian Walton return to the team in place of Vaclav Hladky, having missed the victory over the Chairboys due to a positive Covid test.
The Town boss lined his side up with a back three, a midfield four and then deployed Sone Aluko behind the attacking pair of Norwood and Bonne.
And the latter of those two strikers was involved almost immediately, popping off a clever first-time pass which freed Wes Burns into the box. Sadly, though, the Welshman tripped over the ball and hit the deck, meaning the penalty appeals from the away terrace were fruitless.
Gillingham’s first chance was headed wide by big striker Vadaine Oliver, who had connected well with Ryan Jackson’s long throw into the box, but the hosts soon found themselves behind as an incisive Ipswich move saw the hosts open the scoring.
George Edmundson and Janoi Donacien were both involved early to help move the ball up the pitch, before a clever lay-off from Bonne found Sam Morsy in acres of space, with the skipper’s drive across the box turned home expertly by Norwood.
Within three minutes it was 2-0, with Bonne a key contributor again as he dropped off and turned Daniel Phillips in order to drive towards the Gillingham goal. His next move was to lay the ball off for Burns, who beat Jamie Cumming in the Gillingham goal for pure power.
Town’s second was applauded in the home areas of Priestfield, as was their third as Town continued to stroke the ball around the pitch, oozing confidence.
Another good spell of possession came before Aluko split the Gillingham defence from deep with an expertly-weighted ball to play in Penney, who kept his cool to lay the ball across for an equally composed Bonne to finish into an empty net.
The Blues were three up and cruising, continuing to play on the front foot and with confidence for the remainder of the opening period, while not being overly troubled by a Gillingham side who were booed off at the break.
Town picked up where they left off after half-time, with the game surely wrapped up at this points, before Edmundson headed the first chance of the half wide as he connected with a Lee Evans corner and saw it fly behind with the aid of a deflection.
The former Rangers centre-back tried his luck from 25 yards just after the hour, with a low drive which Jamie Cumming had to beat away as he dropped to his right, with Town more than comfortable with their commanding lead but looking the most likely to score the game’s next goal.
Any chance of an almost impossible Gillingham comeback was extinguished on 73 minutes, as Daniel Phillips was shown a second yellow card for a midfield trip on Lee Evans, having been booked for dissent just a few minutes earlier.
By this point, McKenna had withdrawn Bonne and Norwood and replaced them with Kayden Jackson and Pigott, with the latter soon involved as he fired wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Chaplin was the next off the bench, with the attacker completing the convincing victory with a well-taken penalty after Pigott had been dragged to the floor, before skipper Morsy so nearly made it five, only for his shot to bounce away off the top of the bar.
Gillingham (4-2-3-1): Cumming; Jackson, Ehmer, Bennett, McKenzie; Tucker, O'Keefe; Carayol (Lloyd, 78), Phillips, Tutonda (Dickson-Peters, 46), Oliver
Subs: Chapman, Sitole, Reeves, Lee, Lintott
Sent off: Phillips, 73
Ipswich Town (3-4-1-2): Walton; Donacien, Woolfenden, Edmundson; Burns, Morsy, Evans, Penney; Aluko (Chaplin, 79), Norwood (Jackson, 70), Bonne (Pigott, 70)
Subs: Hladky, Burgess, Vincent-Young, Carroll
Att: 6,401 (2,073 Ipswich fans)