Football: Gillingham 2 Bournemouth 1 - Lisbie lifts Gillingham

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The Independent Online
KEVIN LISBIE timed his arrival to perfection. With 17 minutes remaining of Gillingham's live home debut on Sky, the on-loan striker from Charlton entered the fray to use his pace to devastating effect before being on hand at the near post to convert John Hodge's right-wing centre in the final minute of a bruising yet thrilling encounter.

Lisbie, also coveted by Bournemouth, has now scored four goals for his temporary club and added fresh impetus as Gillingham, now with the successive victories under their belt, have strengthened a promotion challenge that was wobbling. Wembley should shudder if these two rivals meet in the Second Division play-off final next month. Yet for all Gillingham's occasionally physical approach, they deserved a victory that enabled them to leapfrog their more cultured rivals into fourth place, with automatic promotion a possibility. The quality of Andy Hessenthaler's goal, his eight from midfield this season, was something to behold.

There is clearly no love lost between these two sides. Their spicy 3- 3 draw at Dean Court in October ended in a post-match confrontation between the two managers that led to Gillingham's Tony Pulis, who still lives in Bournemouth where he was in charge for two years before Mel Machin took over, collecting a month's touchline ban.

Last night Pulis's men were in pugnacious mood though it was the visitors who delivered the first serious blow in the 18th minute. Mark Stein held the ball up with typical skill before laying it off for Neil Young, arriving on the right flank. His centre was glanced into the far corner by Steve Robinson with a deft header.

Saunders was the fourth home player to be booked in the first 50 minutes, for an unnervingly high challenge on Mark Rawlinson. Claims that the challenge was for a 50-50 ball ignored the inherent danger. The Gillingham players surrounded referee Andy Hall and the official was evidently feeling the pressure.

Gillingham increased the more orthodox brand of pressure, upping the tempo with a high-paced, high-ball onslaught. This paid off for them on 69 minutes in quite magnificent style. Their captain, Andy Hessenthaler, who had earned his 13th caution of the season for a late tackle on Richard Hughes, showed the more attractive side of his game when he turned on to Bob Taylor's square pass 25 yards out from goal and drove the ball into the far top corner.

Gillingham (5-3-2): Bartram; Patterson, Ashby, Pennock, Butters, Southall; Hessenthaler, Saunders (Hodge, 54), Smith; Asaba (Lisbie, 73), Taylor (Carr, 90).

Bournemouth (5-3-2): Ovendale; Young, Howe, Cox, Hughes, Warren; Hayter (Lovell, 90), Robinson, Rawlinson (Tindall, 73); Stein, Fletcher. Substitute not used: O'Neill.

Referee: A Hall (Harlow).