Match Report: Gillingham 0 - 2 Port Vale
Ajay Leitch-Smith and Carl Dickinson scored within two minutes of each other as Port Vale claimed an impressive away win at promotion hopefuls Gillingham.
Both goals came in a first half which the Valiants dominated and they were enough to secure a victory which moves the Burslem outfit onto 62 points in the Sky Bet League One table.
Manager Rob Page made just one change to the team that thrashed local rivals Crewe 3-0 the previous week.
Ryan McGivern replaced Sam Kelly, which saw the Valiants switch to a 3-5-2 formation with Carl Dickinson and Ben Purkiss as wing backs.
It was Gillingham who had the first chance of the game, though, as John Egan’s header from a Bradley Dack corner was turned round the post by Jak Alnwick after around 50 seconds.
Vale’s first opportunity didn’t come until the 18th minute when Ben Purkiss delivered a pinpoint cross to Louis Dodds but the forward’s header was saved comfortably by Stuart Nelson.
In their very next attack, though, the visitors did take the lead. Purkiss played a long ball over the top for Ajay Leitch-Smith before the striker fired clinically across Nelson and into the top corner for his 13th goal of the season.
Just moments later it was 2-0 as Rob Page’s wing backs combined to full effect. Purkiss played a diagonal to Carl Dickinson, who was unmarked in the area.
With more than enough time to think about the finish the Valiants skipper kept his cool and slid the ball calmly beneath the on-rushing Gills goalkeeper to double the lead.
A period of pressure from the home side followed but Vale’s defence stood strong and dealt with a succession of dangerous Dack deliveries from corners.
The Valiants thought they had scored a third just before the break in a swift counter attack but the linesman flagged Leitch-Smith offside before Purkiss nestled the ball into the net.
Following the interval, Gillingham were determined to start with a high tempo but first half substitute Brennan Dickensen’s shot from a free kick went high over the bar and did little to appease the frustrated home fans.
In the 52nd minute the hosts created another opening. Cody McDonald received the ball in space on the far side of the box but his curling, right-footed effort missed the target.
On the hour mark Vale cut through the Gills defence once again. O’Connor dug out a cross from the right to find Purkiss but the 32-year-old’s fierce shot was parried by Nelson.
The hosts responded with an excellent chance of their own just moments later. Dickensen made his way into the box on the left and cut the ball back for Dack.
The League One Player of the Year nominee fired low but Alnwick got a crucial glove to it and Richard Duffy cleared off the line to maintain the lead.
The Gills continued to apply pressure, forcing Alnwick and the Vale defence into a few scrambling clearances as the away side dropped deeper.
An injury to Dodds with around a quarter of an hour left saw the forward leave the pitch as he was replaced by Byron Moore.
The remaining 15 minutes were nervous for Vale but they remained tight at the back and saw out the game.
Attendance: 5,887 (153 away fans)
Port Vale starting line-up: Alnwick, Streete, Duffy, McGivern, Purkiss, Grant, Dickinson, O'Connor, Foley, Dodds, Leitch-Smith. (3-5-2)
Port Vale substitutes: Boot, Birchall, Hooper, Yates, Brown, Kelly, Moore.
Gillingham starting line-up: Nelson, Jackson, Egan, Ehmer, Oshilaja, Wright, A.Morris, Crofts, Dack, Donnelly, McDonald. (4-4-2)
Gillingham substitutes: G.Morris, Hessenthaler, Garmston, McGlashan, Norris, Osadebe, Dickensen.