Butler's hat-trick lifts Gillingham to top

SIMON O'HAGAN

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).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones