Jackson proves to be league apart with Gills' golden goal

Gillingham 1 Shrewsbury Town 0: Kent side are promoted with winner from a striker likely to attract plenty of interest this summer
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The Independent Football

The Gillingham manager, Mark Stimson, was clear about what his side's victory in yesterday's League Two play-off final means. "It's massive financially," he said. "There are several local teams we can attract and with Leeds staying down and Norwich and Southampton coming down, we will have some big gates. We brought over 30,000 fans to Wembley today and we need to attract as many of them as we can every week.

"We had already arranged meetings with some players for next week regardless of what league we were going to be in. We need to improve the squad and we have to try and become a good League One side."

Simeon Jackson was the Gills' hero when he buried a header from a Josh Wright corner as the game looked destined for extra time. Gillingham had dominated the first half and were only kept at bay by the outstanding Luke Daniels in the Shrewsbury goal, but Paul Simpson's side improved after the break and looked more likely to break the deadlock. Gillingham mounted one last attack and when they fortuitously won a corner Jackson was left free to squeeze a header from Wright's delivery in between full-back Neil Ashton and the post and send the Gills back into League One.

Stimson admitted Jackson could become a transfer target for bigger clubs after his match-winning performance but is confident of keeping him in Kent. "He's a goalscorer," Stimson said. "He's got 21 goals now but we have not had one phone call about him. I'm sure managers have watched him this season but he would cost a lot of money. He might need another year before he can play in the Championship so I am confident we can keep hold of him.

"When the opportunity came up he was on hand to score and he deserves all the praise in the world. He's a serious pro and always wants to improve. Hopefully he can take this club forward."

Simpson refused to dwell on the reward of the decisive late corner and challenged his players to come back stronger next season for another promotion challenge. Television replays showed the corner should not have been given as the ball went out off Gills winger Andy Barcham but Simpson admitted his side were ultimately beaten by the better team.

"It wasn't a corner but if we look at things like that we will be clutching at straws," he said. "The referee had a decent game and if we deal with the corner then there's no problem.

"There are no words anyone can say in a situation like this. It's a horrible feeling and it's difficult but we have to pick ourselves up and move on. Football is a business which keeps evolving and we have to go back in on Monday morning and prepare for next season. We must get stronger and make everyone better for it.

"We didn't play as well as we could have done and gave the ball away too often and came up short. We had some half chances but over the 90 minutes they passed the ball better and created the better opportunities."

The Shrews' best chance fell to Kevin McIntyre but he headed wide, while Daniels kept his side in it at the break with fine saves from John Nutter and Wright. Shrewsbury's first real effort came 10 minutes before the interval when Garry Richards fouled Nick Chadwick and Ben Davies, from 30 yards, sent the free-kick just wide.

Gillingham goalkeeper Simon Royce made his first save of note early in the second half when a long Graham Coughlan free-kick was headed on by Kelvin Langmead for Davies to strike, but Royce clung on. Langmead caused problems with another towering header across goal, but McIntyre's diving header was well wide.

Shrewsbury were notably better after the break. A smart move gave Davies a clear run at goal, but his touch was heavy, allowing Barcham to get back and make a saving challenge, and Royce saved Langmead's header from the resulting corner.

After weathering the storm, the Gills took the lead as stoppage time approached despite the efforts of Ashton on the line. The Shrews threw everyone forward and Davies crossed for Coughlan, but he headed over the top and Gillingham held on.