Butler's hat-trick lifts Gillingham to top
Gillingham 3 Chester 1
The Third Division's top-of-the-table meeting produced an emphatic winner last night when a hat-trick in 17 second-half minutes by Steve Butler enabled Gillingham to leap-frog over Chester City into first place.
Butler, 34 in two weeks, was bought from Cambridge United for pounds 100,000 just before Christmas. It looked a lot for a player of his age, and Gillingham fans who remembered him best from the 1980s, when he played for the club's hated rivals Maidstone United, needed convincing that he was the man for the job. But he scored on his home debut to give Gillingham an important win over Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day, and his single-handed dismantlement of Chester City, who were proving tough to crack, underlined the seriousness of the Kent club's challenge for promotion.
On the brink of extinction last summer, Gillingham's resurgence has been remarkable. While the supporters who have returned in their thousands may still be dreaming, the manner in which the team has gone about business has been nothing if not pragmatic. Tony Pulis, formerly the manager of Bournemouth, has built the team round so solid a defence that Chester's goal, a largely academic one late on, was the first Gillingham had conceded at home in the League since 2 September. Their record of eight goals against is by some way the best in any of the four divisions.
Chester played more of a passing game on the rare occasions when Gillingham relaxed their grip. Had Chris Priest and Stuart Rimmer not wasted good opportunities towards the end of the first half events might have turned out very differently.
But with the pace of Leo Fortune-West forcing the Chester defence to back-pedal repeatedly, and Butler's ability to hold the ball up and bring team-mates into the game, Gillingham were well worth a goal before the first arrived three minutes after half-time. A throw-in from the left was headed on by Mark Harris and Butler stabbed the ball in from a couple of yards.
In the 56th minute, Butler chased down a huge clearance by his goalkeeper Jim Stannard before lobbing Billy Stewart. His third, 10 minutes later, was presented to him when Spencer Whelan slipped as he thought about a back-pass. Jon Kenworthy's 86th-minute strike for Chester took only a little of the gloss off the victory.
Gillingham (3-5-2): Stannard; Green, T Butler (Micklewhite, 48), Harris; Smith, Martin, Ratcliffe, Bailey, Naylor; S Butler (Puttnam, 71), Fortune- West. Substitute not used: Glass (gk).
Chester City (3-5-2): Stewart; Burnham, Whelan, Alsford; Priest, Richardson, Fisher, Noteman, Rogers (Kenworthy, 57); Regis (Milner, 70), Rimmer. Substitute not used: Murphy.
Referee: I Hemley (Ampthill, Beds).
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: The best memes as the internet reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Sami Khedira to Arsenal? Arsene Wenger reveals the Gunners are still in the market for defensive midfielder
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal tried and failed to sign German stars Thomas Muller and Marco Reus this summer
Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...