Gillingham 2 Wigan Athletic 0

Gary Caldwell
Gary Caldwell

TWO goals from Bradley Dack were enough to bring Wigan Athletic back down to earth with a bump - and give Gillingham a deserved 2-0 victory in the sunshine at Priestfield.

Latics had sent out a real statement in midweek with a crushing 3-0 win over Scunthorpe to kickstart their campaign.

But it was more frustration down in Kent as Gary Caldwell’s charges slipped to their third defeat of the season in all competitions.

Dack scored the opening goal eight minutes before half-time, slotting home coolly from the edge of the area after good work from Brennan Dickenson.

Will Grigg almost levelled at the start of the second half only to see his close-range effort brilliantly saved by Stuart Nelson in the Gills goal.

The home side then went right up the other end and nearly doubled their advantage, only for Luke Norris’ shot to strike a post.

Despite edging the possession, Latics didn’t really do enough to threaten the home goal further.

And they were put out of their misery with eight minutes remaining when Dack was tripped in the area by Donervon Daniels for a stonewall penalty.

Dack regained his feet, placed the ball on the spot and beat Rich O’Donnell to send Gillingham top of the League One table.

Latics at least have a full week with no game to prepare for Saturday’s visit of Crewe.

And they showed clear signs at Priestfield that they could benefit from some sustained work on the training ground under the watchful eye of their manager.

The visitors had received a warning inside the opening minute when Dack tested O’Donnell in the Wigan goal.

Rory Donnelly then nearly got on to the end of a dangerous cross from the flank, with Dickenson firing wide from a good position.

It was the 20-minute mark when Latics had their first sight of the Gillingham goal.

A clever free-kick from the right picked out Chris McCann at the far post, but the Irishman’s header failed to hit the target.

Grigg saw a shot easily saved by the Gills goalkeeper, and the striker’s subsequent attempts to lead a breakaway from a Gills corner were thwarted when he didn’t notice Michael Jacobs in acres of space on the opposite flank.

With the sun baking down, it was no surprise to see both sets of players taking a drinks break just after the hour mark to replenish valuable fluids.

Unfortunately for the visitors, it was Gillingham who took advantage shortly after the resumption of play.

Dickenson fed the lively Dack, whose cool finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the area was so precise that O’Donnell hardly moved.

Wigan’s attempts at an equaliser before the break saw them at least register their first meaningful shot on target, although Craig Davies fired straight at the goalkeeper.

The visitors were further hampered when Kevin McNaughton - making his first start - limped off to be replaced by Jonjoe Kenny at right wing-back.

There was chance for Kenny to make an immediate impact, the on-loan Everton man getting to the byline with time to pick a pass.

Unfortunately for the visitors, he couldn’t find team-mate Francisco Junior and the ball was cleared.

Kenny did much better on the stroke of half-time, when his cross was nodded back by Davies towards the incoming Grigg.

However, the £1million man was unable to sneak in at the far post and provide an effective finish.

Wigan’s task almost become doubly difficult with the home side twice coming close to adding a killer second goal.

Luke Norris was played clean through on O’Donnell’s goal, but the striker seemed to want an eternity to pick his spot and he was dispossessed by Craig Morgan in the nick of time.

There followed an incredible 30 seconds of play, when Grigg forced a super save from Nelson off substitute Sean Murray’s cross in front of the Wigan supporters behind the goal.

Barely 30 seconds later, the ball was up the other end with Norris seeing his low shot beat O’Donnell, only to bounce back off the far post.

Norris came close again when he swung a boot at a deep cross and saw his shot flash through the goalmouth and out for a goal-kick.

Latics, too, were asking questions with Jacobs coming into the game more and more.

The ex-Wolves man saw a cracker of a snapshot blocked by a defender, before he released Murray with a gem of a flick only for the midfielder to run into trouble.

Lastics went all in with 12 minutes to go, Caldwell withdrawing wing-back James and sending on a third centre-forward in Billy Mckay.

But before the Northern Ireland international could have a meaningful touch, the game was out of Wigan’s reach.

Dack bore in on goal only to be hauled down by Daniels, with referee Trevor Kettle doing the big centre-back a favour by only brandishing yellow when it could easily have been red.

The Gillingham midfielder exacted the perfect revenge with a clinical penalty that O’Donnell couldn’t keep out.

Daniels’ afternoon then went from bad to worse when he was helped off in the closing stages following a clash of heads, leaving his team-mates down to 10 men and unable to muster even a consolation.

Gillingham: Nelson; Jackson, Egan, Oshilaja, Dickenson; Hessenthaler, Dack, Houghton, Wright; Donnelly, Norris.

Subs: Morris, Garmston, Ehmer, Williamson (for Norris, 72), McDonald, McGlashan (for Donnelly, 90), Oldaker.

Latics (3-4-1-2): O’Donnell 7; Daniels 5, Morgan 7, McCann 6; McNaughton 5, Perkins 7, Francisco 6, James 6; Jacobs 6; Grigg 6, Davies 5.

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Kenny (for McNaughton, 42) 6, Barnett, Pearce, Power, Murray (for Francisco, 46) 6, Mckay (for James, 78).