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
Manchester United can learn lessons from the transfer template of rivals Manchester City
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea top the list of the Premier League's most expensive squads
Cyprus vs Wales match report: Gareth Bale's bullet header has Welsh on brink of Euro 2016
Bayern Munich 'training camp' to supply refugees with food, footballs and German lessons
Anthony Martial: Manchester United's new signing received Patrice Evra's boots as a kid
- 1 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...
£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...