It would have been too much to expect Gillingham to repeat the 4-0 win they achieved over Preston at Priestfield Stadium last December.
It would have been too much to expect Gillingham to repeat the 4-0 win they achieved over Preston at Priestfield Stadium last December. It would have been even more dreamy to suggest that they could do even better. That they did both turned their own limited expectation on its head and showed that Preston's minds were still clouded by bad memories.
For Gillingham, the new season offers another opportunity to consolidate their Fist Division status. It took them half a century to achieve it but the turn of this century has already taken them to heights that older supporters had long thought fanciful, let alone today seeing their team on top of the embryo table. For Preston, of course, this is the season after the season of missed opportunity. Their disappointing capitulation to Bolton in the First Division play-off final is obviously going to be a nightmare hard to erase, although their manager, David Moyes, insisted that the disappointment should have been "consigned to history'' long before yesterday's frightful performance.
The summer spending saw Gillingham being necessarily careful, buying only a defender, David Perpetuini, from Watford for £50,000 while Preston invested £500,000 on Richard Cresswell, from Leicester. Kevin Gallacher, from Newcastle, is on a one-month contract but was absent yesterday with a calf strain.
More relevantly, Gillingham's conspicuous absentee was their leading scorer of last season, the suspended Marlon King, but Iffy Onuora aggressively led Gillingham into a full-blooded introduction to their campaign, urging them into a 14th-minute lead with a shot that rebounded off David Lucas to Marcus Browning, whose right-foot drive swept in. Only three minutes later a centre from Chris Hope flew over most of the hesitant Preston defenders and also Onuora, but dropped to Barry Ashby who threaded a shot in.
Onuora would have been a handful for a defence that had been full of confidence. As it was, he had the luxury of imposing himself on defenders and a goalkeeper lacking composure and construction. In addition, with his powerful running, Guy Ipoua constantly and helpfully diverted attention away from his partner.
Content with their advantage, Gillingham could absorb Preston's slightly improved second-half cohesion, but they hardly had to concentrate. In the 65th minute, Onuora and Ipoua linked brightly after Adrian Pennock played a through pass for Browning to crack in his second.
Now Gillingham were not only in pursuit of emulating their performance of last season, but obtaining their best ever First Division win. Onuora achieved the first target when knocking in a 72nd-minute rebound from Paul Smith's original shot and then Ty Gooden secured the second with a fifth goal, beating Lucas as the ball drifted across the bemused Preston defence. To compound their embarrassment, Preston saw Gillingham substitute Paul Shaw clout a post from an absurd angle. Indeed, the absurdity of the whole day was summed up by Gillingham playing out time with "keep ball".
Gillingham 5 Preston North End 0
Browning 14, 67, Ashby 17, Onuora 71, Gooden 74
Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 9,412Reuse content